Dance in Quebec: Untamed Bodies
This first overview of dance in Quebec will introduce you to the strange or provocative works that have marked the history of contemporary dance, principally in Montreal.
Terms that have often been used to characterise Quebecois dance include "rebellious", "free of tradition", "disobedient" and "eclectic".
Between the 70s and 80s, a few avant-garde dance companies, including the Groupe Nouvelle Aire and the Groupe de la Place Royale, became a breeding ground for a number of independent choreographers who felt an urgent need to develop their own forms of expression. These highly personal and subjective works thus redefined Quebec's choreographic history, all featuring a high-risk face-off of the body, both on a physical and a symbolic level.
Black and Tan - Françoise Sullivan
When choreographing Black and Tan, Sullivan allowed herself to be guided by the music of Duke Ellington and began to take an interest in emerging movements. The dancer gave herself over to the bodily sensations that arose in the process, whether that be a rolling of the eyes or of the toes. The costumes bring a timeless, shamanic aspect to the dance.
Violence - Paul-André Fortier
Choreographed by Paul-André Fortier in 1980, Violence is part of a series of hard-hitting works produced during this decade. It is a fine illustration of the dance-theatre element of Quebecois dance. To emancipate himself from the formalism that characterized modern dance in Montreal, the choreographer uses an unsettling emotive register that explores the sexual and relational tensions of a neurotic couple. The repetition of sequences of movements to saturation point, and the emotional detachment of the characters against a backdrop of anodyne background music create the distance required for the harshness of the piece and bring to mind the work of Pina Bausch.
Un peu de tendresse bordel de merde! - Dave St-Pierre
This extract of Un peu de tendresse bordel de merde! (2006) revisits the theme of the couple. Dave St-Pierre choreographs with urgency, an urgent need to live and to tell. This sense of carpe diem is expressed through a visceral, physical and raw dance. This time, indifference and detachment are no longer evoked by the lightness of the background music but by the silent and impassive presence of a row of dancers seated upstage. The choreographer's same cold and lucid approach is expressed in these heavy, shameless bodies caught up in an unceasing cycle of falling.
Duo 1 - Édouard Lock
Édouard Lock and his muse Louise Lecavalier have galvanised the crowds with a form of body language where risk and velocity grip us in a state of alert. Choreographed in a flash, Duo 1 features an improbable couple. Here, the choreographer subverts the costume codes of the genre and the rules of classic pas de deux. The tutu-clad ballerina displays surprising strength when lifting her partner, and her horizontal pirouettes seem to be drawn towards the floor, destroying the utopia of flight with every movement. We catch ourselves wondering what fragility might be hiding behind all this strength.
Cartes Postales de chimère - Louise Bédard
As a woman travels, the route carved by her dance recounts this journey in space and time. Louise Bédard's copious movement resembles a foreign language whose words we cannot understand but whose meaning and emotive inflections we are able to make out. Performed by the choreographer, who builds this idiosyncratic language with ease, Cartes postales de chimère recalls the freedom of automatist dance and its female roots.
Je suis un autre - Catherine Gaudet
The half-human, half-animal couple that Catherine Gaudet presents in Je suis un autre confounds expectations. Shifting between conflict and embrace, this androgynous couple evolves in fits and starts. The movement is implosive, the dynamism heightened and the energy constant. Even when intertwined, the human forms take on plant-like appearances.
Snakeskin - Benoit Lachambre
Attention to sensations is at the heart of Benoit Lachambre's creative work, which, through its meticulous study of perception, attempts to break down the barriers of the imagination and free the body from preconceptions. Beyond the principle of transformation, the metamorphosis in Snakeskin implies the coexistence of several bodies, the joint presence of multiple states caused by different relationships to the space and live music. By adjusting his relationship to gravity through suspension or resilience, interacting with a network of horizontal wires, Lachambre plunges us into a multi-sensory somatic experience.
To go further :
LINDBERG, Allana. From automatism to Modern Dance, Françoise Sullivan with Franziska Boas. Toronto: Dance Collection Dance, 2003. 157 p.
MASSOUTRE, Guylaine. « L’affirmation du danseur : les solos de Paul-André Fortier », in WEBB, Brian, Ode au corps : Une histoire de danse, Canada, The Banff Centre Press, National Arts Centre, Canada Dance Festival, 2002. 119 p.
TEMBECK, Iro. Danser à Montréal : germination d’une histoire chorégraphique. Montréal : Presses de l’Université du Québec, 1991. 335 p.
DAVIDA, Dena. « L’énergie brute; perspective esthétique de la jeune relève de la danse montréalaise », in Actes du Colloque "Estivales 2000" Canadian Dancing Bodies Then and Now / Les corps dansants d’hier à aujourd’hui au Canada, Toronto, Dance Collection Danse Press/es, 2000.
FEBVRE, Michèle, « Danse insoumise », in Françoise Sullivan, Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, éd. Parachute, 2003, p. 68.
LEVESQUE, Solange. « Les corps glorieux», in GELINAS, Aline (dir.), Les Vendredi du corpslJeu, Montréal, Cahiers de théâtre Jeu, 1993, p. 37-50.
MASSOUTRE, Guylaine, « La douloureuse beauté d’exister » in SAINT-PIERRE, Christian, Cahiers de Théâtre Jeu, n° 108, Cahier de théâtre Jeu inc., septembre 2003, p. 150-155.
Toile-mémoire de la danse au Québec (1895-2000) [en ligne]. Québec Danse. Disponible sur : http://www.quebecdanse.org/rqd/memoire
In more depth
Author’s biography :
A lecturer in the Department of Dance at the Université du Québec à Montréal since 1984, Geneviève Dussault teaches movement analysis, body rhythm and the history of dance. She has a master's degree in dance from York University, Toronto (1991), which deals with the comparative analysis of Baratha-Natyam and Baroque dance. She is also certified in movement analysis by the Laban / Bartenieff Institute of Movement Studies. 1996). She has worked as a choreographer-performer in contemporary and baroque dance and has performed in Canada and Europe with the support of the Quebec Council of Arts and Letters.
The « An overview of dance in Quebec : unreasonable bodies » Parcours was launched thanks to the support of General Secretariat of Ministries and Coordination of Cultural Policies for Innovation (SCPCI)
Selection of excerpts
Text and bibliography selection
Maison de la Danse