The fearless explorer
After 30 controversial years in dance, Marie Chouinard eyes the future
Three decades into their careers, most people are in a reflective frame of mind, looking back on their achievements. But then, Montreal dancer and choreographer Marie Chouinard isn’t like most people.
“Bring on the next 30 years!” exclaims the 53-year-old blond dynamo, reached by phone at her Montreal studio. “I’m not one for nostalgia. I don’t dwell in (the past). I’m totally turned toward the future. I’m still passionate about my craft and all I want is to be in the heat of the action!”
From her first solo in 1978, Chouinard has been known for her extraordinary, sometimes provocative invention and originality. Urination. Masturbation. Copulation. Prostitution. She has left few taboos unexplored. First as a solo artist, then at the helm of her own company, Chouinard has won an international cult following and a bookcase full of prestigious awards.
Her bODY_rEMIX/gOLDBERG vARIATIONS, created for the 2005 Venice Biennale and inspired by avantgarde Belgian author Henri Michaux’s drawings and poetry and Glenn Gould’s recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, featured seminude dancers moving around the stage on crutches, walkers and other prosthetic devices. And who can forget 1980’s Petite danse sans nom? Even at the close of the freewheeling ’70s, the sight of Chouinard urinating into a bucket was shocking enough to get her banned from the Art Gallery of Ontario.
In 1990, she formed La Compagnie Marie Chouinard. In 1993, it premiered Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring), her first work to a classical score and still one of her biggest popular and critical successes.
In 2007, Chouinard’s company began a new chapter, moving into new permanent digs in a renovated library in Montreal’s trendy Plateau MontRoyal neighbourhood. The project received $2 million in grants from the Quebec and Canadian governments, indicating that attitudes towards her unorthodox style have shifted over time.
Chouinard says the most sig- nificant change in Canadian dance in the past 30 years has been the audience. “When I started, there was no public for original dance in Canada. The traditional ballet, yes — but not the kind of dance we were doing. Now we’ve developed a public, and an educated one.”
Tomorrow night, Chouinard’s company will perform her latest work, a retelling of the Orpheus myth, to close the 2008 Canada Dance Festival. The company toured it in Europe and Asia earlier in the year. At nearly two hours, it was criticized for being too long and tedious. Chouinard revised it into the one-act, 65-minute version Ottawa audiences will see.
Even now, with the ink barely dry on Orpheus and Eurydice, Chouinard is already light-years ahead.
“Even when I’m working on something new, I already have an intuition of what the next creation is going to be,” she says. “It may not be exactly defined, but I feel it’s almost there. So I don’t really plan the future, it’s just something that constantly happens. I mean, we’re still dancing Le Sacre 15 years later. That’s awesome!” Compagnie Marie Chouinard performs Orpheus and Eurydice, tomorrow at 7:30 at the NAC. Tickets at the box office or through Ticketmaster, 755-1111.