Nightlife » Special Events

Divers/Cité Celebrates 20th Birthday in Vieux Montreal

by Mark Thompson
EDGE Style & Travel Editor
Thursday Aug 9, 2012

With the temperature soaring and a tempest brewing on Sunday afternoon, the massive crowd at La Grande Danse at Divers/Cité danced for rain. And when the rain came in a torrential storm that would have obliterated Kansas along with every one of Auntie Em's farmhands, the stoic kept on dancing, this time for sun.

There are rain dances and sun dances and dances of sheer exultation - and every kind of dance was on display for Divers/Cité's 20th birthday party in Vieux Montreal.

In a partisan world, torn apart by religion, a world where cultural differences are reason enough for war, what we need is an island sanctuary where we celebrate our difference, a multi-cultural place where we're "All Together Different" and different all together.

Founded in 1993 on the principles of diversity, solidarity, and openness, Divers/Cité is one of the most beloved of Montreal's forty annual festivals, a multi-day LGBT music and arts festival with more than fifty hours of free music and performance - and this year, an exercise in community and camaraderie in the face of Mother Nature.

For Divers/Cité’s inaugural festival in Vieux Montreal, La Grande Danse stretched the length of Quai Jacques-Cartier, opening with DJ Alain Jackinsky’s chunky multi-layered set that created a soulful beach house party vibe, perfect for the scorching afternoon.

A ten-hour, open-air dance party, La Grande Danse is the largest free outdoor dance event in North America and this year’s iteration was La Grande Danse’s 10th anniversary celebration, featuring Spanish superstars Chus & Ceballos who gallantly led the rain- and sweat-drenched crowd on a hypnotic musical journey toward light and sun.

For an LGBT community raised on overcoming adversity on an intolerant planet, a little rain is nothing more irritating than a lousy hook-up. And when the skies cleared and the rain ceased and the sun and sound returned, the crowd cheered wildly in jubilation.

What, after all, is more rewarding than an extended climax after lengthy foreplay, which proved to be the modus operandi of New York house icon DJ David Morales who took the boards after sunset.

As Morales had said about his role at Divers/Cité, "I am creating a place for people to forget their troubles for a while, [which] is important in the world we are living in today" - and that was what he gave the crowd in a sexy, soulful set that was marked by seductive and sinuous rhythms that slipped beneath the skin, slithering deep into the loins. Hands in the air, smiling for joy, the crowd surfed the waves of music that washed over their bodies.

Scott Fordham, who had earlier wowed the crowds at Le Grand Bal with his full-length choreographic production "Limitless," proceeded to lead a corps of dancers in a booty-banging free-style free-for-all that kept the crowd cheering as loudly as if they were witnessing Beyoncé and her moneymaker.

None other than Morales joined Fordham and his corps at the lip of the stage in a terpsichorean performance that was as much a testament to Morales’ sexy groove as it was to his sexual persona.

Divers/Cité’s motto "All Together Different" stresses the import of both individualism and community. For the 14th consecutive year, Divers/Cité’s Friday evening event, this year called Ohh La La!, was also the finish line rally for the Friends For Life Bike Rally, the six-day, 600-kilometer journey from Toronto to Montreal that raises funds to help support those people living with HIV/AIDS. And as the cyclists zoomed along the quay, the crowd cheered their favorite heroes across the finish line.

Throughout the festival, massive video screens flanked the stage, projecting a simulcast of the crowd and the performances, interspersed with brilliant videography, perfectly synchronized by the dynamic VJ duo, the Cameron Brothers.

Friday evening’s Ohh La La! party featured a jubilant Ana Paula, the Brazilian bombshell, who played a Latin-inflected euphoric set of tribal house that beautifully complemented the grand finale fireworks of L’International des Feux Loto-Québec on the neighboring isle of Jean-Drapeau.

Recently designated a UNESCO City of Design, Montreal received the award for its citywide emphasis on talent, tolerance, diversity, and technology - all factors that enable a plurality of values and overall inclusiveness of its citizenry.

Throughout its history, one hallmark of Divers/Cité has been its pervasive happy atmosphere. The soulful Alyson Calagna opened Saturday’s Sunset Party with her spiritual Omtronica sound that was as mesmerizing and hypnotic as the sun - and while the heat may have kept some under the shade of trees, there was no denying the irresistible appeal of Calagna’s dazzling set.

Saturday night’s Sunset Party also included a special performance by Toronto’s favorite diva, Sofonda Cox, as well as a brilliantly personal and persuasive set by New York legend Hector Romero.

Romero, now celebrating his 28th year as DJ, opened his heart and soul to the passionate crowd and gave them an uplifting, booty-shaking performance that combined rafter-raising joy with pelvic ecstasy under an almost-full moon. The result was nothing less than complete and total bliss.

In a year notable for Divers/Cité anniversaries, Mascara celebrated its 15th anniversary. Also known as "The Biggest Drag Show on Earth," Mascara is the crowd-pleasing, gender-bending spectacle hosted by Montreal’s tour de force, resident drag diva extraordinaire, Mado, who, this year, served up an ab fab show with over 100 performers that included tributes to Whitney Houston and French singer and legendary diva, Dalida.

Under the inspired leadership of General Director, Suzanne Girard, accompanied by a dedicated and passionate staff of music-lovers, Divers/Cité entered its third decade with a spectacular celebration of diversity in its myriad forms.

Once again, the internationally-recognized arts and music festival revealed that while we are "All Together Different," there are also times when dancing in the glow of love that we are all together one.



Click here for 100-photo Divers/Cité photo album

Divers/Cité website


A long-term New Yorker and a member of New York Travel Writers Association, Mark Thompson has also lived in San Francisco, Boston, Provincetown, D.C., Miami Beach and the south of France. The author of the novels WOLFCHILD and MY HAWAIIAN PENTHOUSE, he has a PhD in American Studies and is the recipient of fellowships at MacDowell, Yaddo, and Blue Mountain Center. His work has appeared in numerous publications.


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