Live From Montreal: CINARS

This week, over one thousand artists, presenters, managements, and representatives from national arts councils came together in Montreal for the 12th edition of CINARS.

CINARS creates a meeting place for the industry of performing arts on tour. Breakfast presentations, luncheon discussions, excerpted performances, and selling are all part of four days and nights. (Of course, the hotel bar is also part of the experience. More on this below.)

The main focus of the day is the convention floor of 130 booths, each with their own instant identity. From a low-tech table with pamphlets, to the video monitors, to laptops and colorful lighting, each booth is trying to get your interest. There is something remarkably old fashioned about the market place. Expectant sellers wait in their booths trying to get the attention of the crowd walking down the aisles. To make it more difficult for the sellers’ morale, not all of the “walkers” are buyers.

I noticed that many walkers adopted the theory that if you provide too much eye contact, it is hard to politely extract yourself. Many adopt a kind of quick nod with a smile, as if to say “I have to be somewhere else, but I will be sure to come back to you, later” even if they have no intention of coming back.

The sellers who appear to have the most fun are the representatives of national arts councils. They can talk about “their” artists, without the kinds of responsibilities/worries/fear of debt that small artist management companies — one guy with two artists, for example — have in pushing forward “their” list of artists.

A key aspect of the art of booth management is to stay standing. This gives the impression that someone has just left your booth and you have not had time to sit; and, you are confident that your selling services will be required, again, at any moment. No one said this was going to be easy.

Still, this is an arts crowd and every single person in that room understands, first hand, just how difficult it is to promote, sell, and make the performing arts happen. So, for the most part, good cheer and warmth pervade the room — no easy task in a hotel conference spread.

From an informal and by no means extensive analysis there was one booth that consistently had the most traffic stop and look more closely. I don’t know how much business they did. I do know why so many stopped. Not only was the booth perfectly positioned next to a coffee station, but it also featured a large screen video monitor showing a completely naked dance company create images of, and well”¦ by, beauty. Some coffee, some nudity; this is work — ah, life in the arts.

One of the most popular features of the conference was the opportunity to see performances (most excerpted, some in full) selected by CINARS, and those local groups who could be a part of “Off CINARS.” Everyone knows Montreal is a great city; what you might not know is that it is also an incredibly fertile ground for the performing arts.

The next time you see a dance group from Canada, there’s a good chance that they are in front of you because of what took place at CINARS. And, if size of a booth and high level of humor, smiles, and fun is any indication — the next time you see an Australian group performing in Canada, you’ll know why.

As for the bar, according to my on-the-ground contact (developed over each night of my stay) this arts crowd was one of the best conventions for the hotel’s bar business. They came early; they stayed late; and, they were having fun.

- Bill Reichblum

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