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Interviews, essays and commentary published by The Dance Current.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A “Selfish” Impulse Turned Invitation: Older and Reckless is Ten

By Carol Anderson

Claudia Moore / Photo by Julia Gotz

Older and Reckless, started by Toronto-based dancer/choreographer Claudia Moore, is celebrating its tenth anniversary season in 2009/10. During its first decade, a remarkable roster of “older” artists has participated in the series.

Who’d be a dance artist, where ripeness is already “past it”? Big-spirited Moore saw a way forward. What about a series that would stage the work of senior artists? In an interview, she recalled that the idea was “selfish … I was a performer but I wasn’t getting to perform enough. It’s so expensive to produce work, I thought it was a good idea to start a studio series where we could perform – some of my friends could perform too. There was a need for it. So I started it very selfishly, but opened it to others with similar needs.”


Moore envisioned Older and Reckless as a situation in which dance artists over forty could try out new work in front of an audience, without the financial and artistic risks – and the scrutiny – that often dog established artists. She is community-minded always, and conceived the series as an opportunity for performance practice, observation and exchange among artists and audience members.

Peggy Baker introduced the inaugural O&R performance, on June 26th, 2000, with a gracious and philosophical musing on the importance of older artists to the integrity and beauty of the art of dance. She spoke to an eager audience, who braved extraordinary heat and airlessness at Dancemakers’ old studio above the auto shop at Dupont and Ossington. On this first program was Robert Desrosiers, who sat in front of a portrait he had recently painted and played his guitar, then danced on a carpet. Jan Komarek showed a duet he was working on for Moore and a young dancer named Melina, and Moore danced in her unique version of “Rite of Spring”. This self-described “one-woman warrior dance against the Toronto District School Board” was Moore’s expression, as the mother of two school-age children, of her rage against recent education cuts under Mike Harris’ watch. She danced, some of Stravinsky’s score played, and bits of an angry parent’s letter were read. It’s hard to say no to Moore – she also invited me to take part in that very first O&R, and I performed a nostalgic dance called “Summer Pudding”, reminiscing about being a young dance student in London.

Older and Reckless caught on right away. For a time, it was an annual event; then Moore’s company MOonhORsE Dance Theatre, which produces O&R, began to support two editions per year. As part of the series’ continuing evolution, it became a weeklong event, expanding to include an outside eye and offering a more formalized opportunity for artistic exchange through a forum for discussion about creative process and other creative issues.

Now, artists are welcome to show new pieces, but Older and Reckless is not exclusively for premieres; some previously performed dances are also presented. Over time, Moore has shaped the series to welcome audiences into experiencing dance in several ways. Performances are introduced and animated by Christine Moynihan, executive director of DUO, who manages MOonhoORsE. The cast and the outside eye participate in the post-show chats that always follow performances. The notion of an audience warm-up was introduced several years ago. Moore laughs, “At first just one or two brave souls would go onstage for the warm-up, now the whole audience takes their shoes off and gets down.” Related workshops are a relatively recent addition to O&R activity. To date these have included NIA with Martha Randall, salsa with Miko Sobriera and Tom Brouillette’s body wisdom work. Martha Randall returns in December for another NIA workshop.

While Older and Reckless artists, including Moore, are many and varied, one consistent element is the affection of the audiences, who come to watch, stay to question and linger to party. In true Moore fashion, as if by magic, tables laden with food and drink appear moments after the post-show discussion, and people hang out to eat, drink and commingle. It’s festive. Everyone has a good time at an Older and Reckless show. Says, Moore, “Performances are always intimate affairs.”

MonhORsE’s artistic statement describes the series so: “Older and Reckless unites senior artists with people from all walks of life. Revealing creative process, practicing performance, investigating the development of new work, reaching out to emerging artists and stimulating the public, ‘older and reckless’ artists continue to passionately contribute with their own distinctive voices to dance.”

The series is very popular with established dance artists, and has become a sought-after venue. The December 2009 O&R program includes a new solo by Trish Beatty for Danielle Baskerville, Denise Fujiwara showing a new solo-in-progress which premieres in March, Tom Brouillette and Gerry Trentham in a much-anticipated duet “Tomas and Gerald”, and, by permission of the Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault, a 1999 duet by Perreault titled “E.M.F.” performed by Laurence Lemieux and Mark Shaub. Moore will be watching these shows, having just completed “Dances in a Small Room” at the Young Centre, November 26th through December 5th, performing commissioned works by Tedd Robinson and James Kudelka with partner Dan Wild.

The second O&R anniversary shows take place from March 12th through 14th 2010. Sashar Zarif will show a new solo for Sylvie Bouchard, Old Men Dancing will perform a new work by Marie-Josée Chartier, Maxine Heppner will present a solo and Julia Sasso will perform her solo “accidental dances” to music by Ann Southam. Newton Moraes will teach a Brazilian dance workshop. From Moore’s “selfish” desire to be on stage more often, Older and Reckless has evolved into a series that helps impart a sense of longevity to dance artists, and has become a staple on Toronto’s dance calendar.

Claudia Moore / Photo by John Lauener

Older and Reckless Programming History

#1 June 26, 2000: Robert Desrosiers, Claudia Moore, Carol Anderson, Jan Komarek

#2 Nov. 2000: Tedd Robinson, Trish Armstrong, Elizabeth Chitty

#3 June 16, 2001: Danny Grossman, Holly Small, Maxine Heppner, Grindl Kuchirka/Oliver Schroer, Viv Moore (duet with her mom, age 78)

#4 Nov. 30, 2001: Peter Bingham, Sylvie Bouchard, Gerry Trentham, Claudia Moore

#5 June 28 & 29, 2002: Mitch Kirsch, Terrill Maguire/Helen Jones, Claudia Moore, Vivine Scarlett, Menaka Thakkar

#6 Nov. 22 & 23, 2002: Viv Moore, Maxine Heppner, Michelle Silagy, Claudia Moore

#7 June 2003: Karen Duplisea, Marie-Josée Chartier, Claudia Moore, Carol Anderson

#8 Nov. 7 & 8, 2003: Miko Sobreira, Learie McNicholl, Lin Snelling, Claudia Moore

#9 April 23 & 24, 2004: DA Hoskins/poet Jill Batson, Janice Pomer/musician Barry Prophet, Terrill Maguire, Claudia Moore

#10 Nov. 2004: Karen Jamieson, Elizabeth Langley, Trish Armstrong, Claudia Moore /collaboration with Patti Powell

#11 May 13 & 14, 2005: Karen Kaeja, Grindl Kuchirka, Claudia Moore, Rina Singha

#12 Dec. 13 & 14, 2006: Denise Fujiwara, Gerry Trentham, Tedd Robinson (solo #1 for Claudia Moore), Sashar Zarif (quartet for Carol Anderson, Susan Cash, Holly Small, Terrill Maguire)

#13 March 9 & 10, 2007: Rachel Browne/Odette Heyn-Penner, Brent Lott/Odette Heyn-Penner, Julia Sasso/Ann Southam

#15 Dec 5-7, 2007: Tedd Robinson (solo #1-3 for Claudia), Bill Coleman/John Oswald /and friends, Troy Twigg/Terrill Maguire/Karen Kaeja

#16 Feb 28, 29 & March 1, 2008: Douglas Dunn, Bill James, Keiko Kitano, Dan Wild (solo for Marie-Josée Chartier)
Body Wisdom (first audience workshop): Tom Brouillette

#17 Dec 4-6, 2008: Deborah Dunn, Lina Cruz, Michelle Silagy (solo for William Yong), Claudia Moore (duet for Tom Brouillette and Jennifer Lyn Dick)
Nia workshop: Martha Randall

#18 March 5-7, 2009: Stephanie Ballard/Odette Heyn-Penner, Sylvie Bouchard (solo for Martha Randall), Maxine Heppner/composer Miguel Frasconi, Terrill Maguire/composer
Ann Southam

Carol Anderson has enjoyed a diverse career as a dancer, teacher, choreographer, consultant and dance writer. Her most recent book "Unfold: A Portrait of Peggy Baker" was published by Dance Collection Danse (2008). Anderson is an associate professor in the York University dance department.

Older and Reckless runs from December 11th through 13th at Dancemakers’ Centre for Creation, Toronto.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

ASTUCES POUR PROFESSEURS : Apprivoisez l’hiver, pensez aux Jeux olympiques

De Katharine Harris à l’École nationale de ballet du Canada
Traduction de Marie Claire Forté

Janvier peut être un mois un peu pénible en studio. Après l’escalade d’énergie pour la préparation et la présentation du spectacle des fêtes, il y a souvent un petit creux.


Soudain, on se rend compte que l’hiver et le froid se sont installés et qu’il fait déjà noir à la fin des classes de danse après l’école. La motivation peut traîner de la patte à ce moment de l’année et en tant que professeur de danse, c’est à vous de changer la dynamique du cours. Une tactique utile : créez un projet auquel les élèves peuvent se consacrer, sans aller dans l’envergure d’un spectacle des fêtes ou de fin d’année. Un tel niveau d’énergie est insoutenable pour toute une année et vos élèves ont besoin de récupérer après leur dernier spectacle ! Un projet plus modeste, qui engage les élèves du début à la fin, peut être la solution pour favoriser la concentration en classe.

Vancouver accueille les Jeux olympiques et paralympiques d’hiver 2010 ; c’est une occasion spéciale pour tous les Canadiens. Nous nous préparons à recevoir des milliers d’athlètes, d’entraîneurs, de personnel de soutien et d’admirateurs dans notre pays. Pourquoi ne pas vous servir des Jeux olympiques comme projet pour votre classe de danse ? Comprise dans ses devoirs comme ville-hôte, Vancouver présente l’Olympiade culturelle du 22 janvier au 21 mars, une vitrine pour une grande variété de spectacles d’artistes canadiens et étrangers. Un projet idéal pour soulever l’enthousiasme de la classe est de faire semblant que votre classe fait partie de l’Olympiade culturelle. Que présenteriez-vous si vous aviez l’occasion de danser pour le monde entier en représentant le Canada ? Serait-ce une nouvelle chorégraphie ? Une création dansée sur une chanson d’artistes canadiens ? Serait-ce une danse qui met en valeur le patrimoine de la classe ou du studio ? Profitez de l’occasion pour parler aux élèves de ce qu’ils aimeraient partager de leur danse et d’eux-mêmes. Une fois que tous les élèves en discutent, vous verrez que l’enthousiasme est au rendez-vous et qu’ils ont hâte de reprendre le travail.

Pensez à préparer une mini présentation de votre création olympique, juste avant la semaine de relâche. C’est un projet qui fournit un objectif, de l’enthousiasme et de la motivation aux élèves. L’occasion pour eux de faire leurs preuves, à petite échelle, devant les parents est excellente. Le spectacle olympique ne devrait pas être aussi grand et intensif qu’un spectacle de fin d’année ou de fêtes. S’il est présenté comme atelier spectacle, peut-être sans costumes, en studio, les élèves peuvent s’investir et en être fiers sans être stressés. Participer avec votre classe de danse dans l’élan qui mène vers les épreuves olympiques est une occasion unique de se sentir connecté à tout le pays, et même au monde. Et c’est un excellent moyen d’apprivoiser l’hiver.

For the English version of this article, see The Dance Current December 2009/January 2010 print issue. | Pour la version anglais de cette rubrique, voyez The Dance Current December 2009/January 2010 édition imprimé.

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Do Not Resuscitate | Ne pas ressusciter

Interviews by Megan Andrews
Photos by Esther Vincent

Bob Romerein, Brian Ling, Paul Clifford, Rob Steinman, Peter Earle, Jim Angel, Colin MacAdam and/et Chris Lemieux rehearsing Allen Kaeja’s work Unhinged/en répétition pour Unhinged d’Allen Kaeja / Photos by/d’Esther Vincent

Old Men Dancing (OMD) was formed by musician and composer Michael Hermiston and emergency medical technician George Barron in 2002. The group consists of men aged fifty or so who have come together for the love of dance and performance. They have no formal dance training and come from all walks of life. Old Men Dancing is unique in the community and in Canada as a group that creates contemporary dance theatre in the context of what it means to be an older male in our society. The group challenges social norms, while they share and learn together.

In 2005 they began working with choreographer Bill James, artistic director of Atlas Moves Watching, who offered weekly classes. The group has since commissioned and performed choreographic works by several contemporary choreographers including James, Allen Kaeja, Marie-Josée Chartier, Tedd Robinson, DA Hoskins and, most recently, David Earle.

Here James, the choreographers and various group members comment on their experiences working with OMD.


From Bill James, artistic director of Atlas Moves Watching, on working with OMD as teacher, choreographer and director

Bill James
“I have always been fascinated by how people move in natural, unstudied ways. When I was a dancer with Le Groupe de la Place Royale in the 1970s and 1980s I taught theatre students at the National Theatre School, people in workshops on tour, adult beginner classes at our school in Ottawa. I also enjoyed all the instances where we engaged with the community in workshops, classes and residencies. Later on I developed a series projects to bring dance and other art forms to street-involved youth. While, as a choreographer, I love to work with highly trained dancers, I have always included people who are not trained dancers in much of my work. OMD has provided a trove of life experience. I am just beginning to realize how much they have to say as dancers.

“The work with OMD strengthens my abilities as a teacher and as a choreographer. I have developed a more simple dance vocabulary, which is clearer. My teaching has responded to the needs of the men and of the choreographers, so that it is more alive and creative.”

From the commissioned choreographers, on creating work for OMD:

Marie-Josée Chartier

“I happened to have a work in mind for a really long time that I wanted to do with a group of mature men. When Bill asked me, I saw this as a great chance to experiment with the idea. For me the level of skill, the different body types, the different personalities was what made it exciting, and in fact fed me more ideas and possibilities than if I had worked with a more uniform group of professional dancers.

“The only thing that I had to really reconsider was what I could develop with them in the amount of time I had. I have ideas for a full-evening work from my initial concept and had to choose some of those ideas for a twenty-minute work. I went in the studio with the seed idea only and I let myself be inspired by the men, by what they had to offer, which was very rich.”

Tedd Robinson
“I prepare for making work in the same way with each new creation, as I do most of the work in the studio with the performers. I generally see what there is to work with and try to find the most interesting way to get the potential to reality. In the case of OMD I knew that I would work with props but did not know until the last minute whether it would be grapefruits or canvas squares. Basically, this is the same process for everyone that I work with; I come with nothing and find something or I come with something that I have used to see how I can go further with that concept. Because of the time constraints, I knew that I had to be extra clear about the movement from the start. The worst thing I could do would be to change my mind and head off in a different direction. I have also found through the years that no matter the experience of the performer, the first time that a sequence of instructions is transferred from choreographer to performer is the one most deeply ingrained, and Old Men Dancing was no different.

“I discovered quite soon that the spirit in the studio was serious but jovial and I liked that. In fact, during this process we have had a lot of good genuine belly laughs. I think that this has something to do with their well-intended responses to instructions and the fact that they were not the typical responses I was used to. A truly enjoyable experience. Also there is a certain joy when working with people who are secure in the studio because they have nothing to prove, nothing at stake and want nothing but what you can give them today. They are there because of an organic process of coming together under the common bond of curiosity and an inexpressible underlying understanding that this congregation of men dancing is important for them and important for them to share.”

DA Hoskins
“It is integral to absorb the distinction that defines each of my engagements – whether it be commissioned, collaborative or my own independent work. My main objective with this work was to explore aspects of age and innocence. That said, I had no idea how this would play out until we actually got into a room together to play, observe and respond to each other.

“I really thought it was also integral to capture as much of the history of these guys as possible … so I approached my friend and filmmaker Nico Stagias to create a collage of interviews that offered personal insight. We did these interviews at the first rehearsal so it was an intimate and moving introduction to each other. I approached the initial in-studio period as a time to view personal character in action. The first rehearsals were instigated to create a physicality through partnering and solo phrase work. What became most prominent for me was the sense of humor that riddled our time together … not to say it wasn’t serious or discredit the hard work these guys put in … but there was such a celebratory aspect in having us all together.”

Allen Kaeja
“I was first invited to teach a partnering/contact workshop with OMD a year [prior to creating a work]. I didn’t know what to expect, but I found the men to be incredibly curious and willing to try anything. Their sensitivity and sense of self was most surprising. My goal in creating “Unhinged” was to investigate the journey from our perception of stoic, mature and armoured men, to that of vulnerable, caring and powerful yet compassionate men.

“I began by examining sensorial physicalities, both as individuals and within the group. We then moved to their range of partnering techniques that were accessible and fluid. Approaching the qualities and sensibilities of their movement potential really shaped the work.”

From the Old Men, on why they joined, on learning technique and on how the experience of performing is different from their other personal and professional activities:

Jim Angel, chief information officer at Fleming College responsible for libraries and information technology
“I joined back in 2003 out of curiosity. I like the creative process in general and the idea of a group of men getting together, frolicking, playing, experimenting and creating a performance piece sounded like fun, and it was.

“I value the process of seeing something concrete created from nothing but intention and ideas. I value the respectful way that we as men support each other and that thus far “ego” for the most part has been absent from the process.

“I’ve seen a transition from the early days to the present. We have shifted from the wild, partially improv, play-based pieces that I believe were probably ragged to the eye and part of our charm, to much more intentional, deliberate skill-based presentations. Admittedly, at first I thought learning more technique would limit and constrain things. In the end I think our potential repertoire has actually increased and within a more creative, disciplined environment I think we are evolving.”

Ray Barker, writer, performer, gadabout
“I was hosting a dinner party at the Riverview Art Gallery when George Barron and Michael Hermiston asked if I would join with a group of old men to perform dance work. After the laughter subsided I said sure.

“[I value] the camaraderie and the physical intimacy of creating dance together and the integrity and commitment of the members to dance and to contributing to our community and the world.

“As a physically limited individual, I could not accomplish what the others did and missed the first year of training. However I watched with awe the development of the others’ skills and I gained knowledge that allowed me to perform despite my limitations.”

Jose Botero, information technologist
“I attended the latest fundraising event at the Market Hall. I had one more beer than I usually drink, two instead of one. I should have said no but I said yes; then it was too much fun to quit. I have not raked the leaves nor cleaned the house yet this month due to rehearsals.

“I work in IT; I thought IT users were the fastest to change their minds about what they want. Well, apparently I am still doing parts that were removed from the script the first day. Finally, I am getting what a “creative process” is all about.

“Only one reflection so far [on learning technique]: It is very hard to go from dancing to Shakira’s music to dancing to Franz Schubert, especially if you cannot move your hips.”

Paul Clifford, massage and structural integration therapist
“The whole enterprise (and especially the performing) is challenging, in at least the following realms: emotional, psychological, mental, cultural, spiritual and last and possibly least importantly – physical.”

Peter Earle, part-time human resources director, part-time handyman
“I had never danced; didn’t know anything about it. I knew some of the men, friends, and had seen them dance. One day, one of them suggested I join. I had just gone through a rough period, had time on my hands and felt a need to challenge myself, get out of my head and do something that was really, really scary. So I did.

“Old Men is a very welcoming, open, supportive and fun group. We don’t take ourselves very seriously, but we work hard and want to learn and enjoy. The performance is secondary. I suspect if we never performed nobody would mind. It’s about getting together, exploring a process physically and experiencing the surprising elements that go along with that: learning about ourselves, caring, intimacy, beauty, movement, joy.

“We have worked now with six choreographers. We learn a lot each time, and become physically a little more adept, but it’s not about being great dancers. What’s much more interesting is seeing how each choreographer works, how they engage with an amateur, untrained group and what their experience with us becomes.”

Peter Hewett, social worker
“George Baron called me in the fall of 2001 and asked if I’d be interested in trying to do some dancing with a bunch of other old men. I thought this sounded interesting and at the time was looking for some avenue to explore creativity. Our first meeting as a group was at St. John’s church hall where Michael Hermiston, one of the co-founders with George, arranged for us to wash each others feet, which in one fell swoop challenged our stereotypes and the boundaries of traditional male relationships. The intimacy, openness and quirkiness of the experience had me hooked and excited at what seemed like endless possibilities.

“[I value] the open, expressive, emotional and spiritual connection with a group of men who, without competition or ego, are trying to explore and express themselves through movement.”

Chris Lemieux, natural heritage communications and marketing specialist, Ministry of Natural Resources
“I’ve always wanted to dance and to move. I’ve finally given myself permission to do as I please, everyone else be damned! It’s freeing and fun, and bloody hard work sometimes, but there’s always a huge payback in personal satisfaction when you’ve created something beautiful.

“I spend a lot of my time in my personal and professional activities ‘thinking’. The OMD experience allows me to suspend the thinking and to spend more time ‘feeling and doing’. I value the release and the opportunity to free my mind, as well as my body.”

Brian Ling, retired educator, painter and nature photographer
“It seems that OMD has given me the opportunity to experience a beginning again, not knowing, having no skills in the area and allowing me the space to learn without being judged or compared. This was not true in my professional life. There was an expectation that I was perfect, had it together and so on, which was not true. In some ways I wore the veneer of a mask professionally whereas with OMD I am what I am, and playful at that, which was frowned upon in my professional world.

“Learning greater dance specific skills seemed to take me full circle. I have been very athletic all my life and competed at high levels in many activities. Nevertheless, I see that the journey has taught me to be more playful, be willing to risk more and not be so concerned about technique and outcome. Through all this I then began to ‘become more of a dancer’, whatever that is. Intellectually, it seems reversed to me. I suspect I needed to be freed up first.”

Colin MacAdam, adjudicator who loves to sing and dance
“I joined OMD because of the name. It’s a verb, not a noun. I knew it would be cool. And I joined just when the big project with Bill James began last year.

“I’ve always been willing to perform but OMD has taken me to the deep end of my pool. The choreographers have given us great opportunity to extend ourselves creatively and I think we’ve all wandered beyond safety zones to some great places. It then resonates in different ways in my other lives.”

David McConkey, social worker, ultra-distance trail runner
“I have been moving forward as a runner for years and now adding some new movements in the form of dance as part of the process. One of the positive attributes [of OMD] has been to work on pushing limits beyond how my body is accustomed to move in space and to dedicate time to increasing flexibility in body, mind and spirit. The opportunity to dance with others whom I respect and feel comfortable taking unfamiliar steps with, under the direction of such accomplished choreographers, is a privilege.”

Brian Nichols, retired professor with a private practice as a psychotherapist/play therapist
“My answer initially to the why (eight years ago) [I joined OMD] was that ‘old men dancing’ in a local one-off performance piece sounded like it wouldn’t be a big commitment and it sounded like it could be a blast. Now the why is much different. It is a huge commitment (ten to fifteen hours a week for months on end) but it provides me with such a physical and creative outlet for expression of who I am, and who I want to be, that I cannot give it up. There are options to be in fewer pieces (to not work with each choreographer) but each one (Bill, Marie-Josée, Allen, Tedd and Darryl) provides such an incredible experience that it is hard to choose not to participate. I find myself now building my work and personal life around being available to dance.

“For me the greatest discovery has been the joy of participating in a transparent creative process that involves others and one that leads to public performance. Our work has been really well received not only by our friends in the Peterborough area but also by others who do not personally know us. We have moved from a group of men who got together to eat breakfast and laugh and eventually create a ‘dance’ piece, to a group of committed dancers who are open to explore ourselves through movement that is personal and expressive. Some days I still miss the breakfast part. Our level of ability to move, to hear music and to be aware of each other on stage, because of Bill’s generosity as teacher, has increased dramatically over the past three years and we have not yet peaked! We are getting older and better at expressing ourselves through dance.”

Bob Romerein, engineering consultant and chief technical officer of a cable TV manufacturer
“I have tried not to deconstruct the essence of the group. Whatever it is, it is a rewarding experience to feel the energy.”

Rob Steinman, drama teacher and head of the arts department at a local high school
“Pete Hewett came to my house for dinner after the very first rehearsal of the Old Men Dancing with choreographer Michael Hermiston and described the foot washing ceremony they did. He said that they planned to do a piece for Emergency, Peterborough New Dance’s yearly local dance showcase. I was intrigued and said, ‘is it to late to get involved?’ I joined at the second rehearsal.

“Old Men Dancing has provided a creative outlet in an atmosphere of comradeship, unlike any other group I have performed or worked with. I think because we all began as novices, were involved in a lot of creative play in the early years, and felt that the process was as important as the product, that it evolved as a rather unique group.”

On the most surprising or meaningful discovery from working with OMD:

“The generosity, the setting aside of ego, the depth to which these men commit themselves and really honour and support one another. And the fact that they all really LOVE to dance. They are a funny and irreverent group on the whole, and they put their souls into dancing in a way that is incredibly refreshing. They are truly inspiring!”
– Bill James

“I was pretty amazed at their openness; they will try anything with full generosity and commitment. In my piece they sing, dance, speak, howl like wolves, yap like chihuahuas, perform circus tricks, roll like waves and fly like beautiful birds. What more can I ask for?”
– Marie-Josée Chartier

“A real perspective on the value in engagement.”
– DA Hoskins

“The strength, uncompromising integrity and connectivity of the group. Their honesty and ability to tap into and identify with their vulnerable selves as well as be completely immersed in their respective roles was the most transformative experience for me.”
– Allen Kaeja

“I can ‘do it’, and I love to do it. And ­– for some reason or other – the choreographers all seem to really, really like working with us!"
– Paul Clifford

“That I have ‘presence’ as a performer on stage and that I can create meaningful performance that communicates to the audience. I was also in awe of how Bill James’ training techniques could increase the strength and flexibility of one’s body. One member cured his flat feet.”
– Ray Barker

“I like doing it, even though I still find it intimidating. Even though many of us do not see each other outside of the group, there is a powerful bond that exists among us as a result of doing this work.”
– Peter Earle

“The importance of being sensual.”
– Jose Botero

“I feel we have just scratched the surface …”
– Jim Angel

Atlas Moves Watching presents Old Men Dancing in premieres by Tedd Robinson and David Earle, along with work by Bill James and Allen Kaeja from December 3rd through 5th at Market Hall Performing Arts Centre, Peterborough. OMD’s program Older and Still Gorgeous (Do Not Resuscitate), with choreography by Marie-Josée Chartier, DA Hoskins, Kaeja and James, runs March 26th and 27th, 2010 at the Enwave Theatre, Toronto.

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Demise of Le Groupe Dance Lab: The End of An Era, Part 2

By Michael Crabb

Ottawa’s Le Groupe Dance Lab, for more than twenty years a vital incubator of dance creativity under the artistic direction of Peter Boneham, closed permanently last summer. In making its decision, Le Groupe’s board of directors pinpointed, among many factors, the difficulty of evolving from a founder-led organization to one with new artistic leadership.

Le Groupe Dance Lab had initiated a plan that theoretically would provide for a smooth transition but, as Michael Crabb explains in the second installment of his account of the company’s demise, a concatenation of intricately entwined events conspired to bring Le Groupe down.

Tony Chong, having served a three-year apprenticeship as Le Groupe Dance Lab’s associate director, formally took over the company’s leadership on July 1st, 2008, with Peter Boneham retaining a close involvement as senior artistic advisor. Boneham continued to teach and serve as a “monitor” for visiting choreographers as requested but Chong assumed the responsibility for artistic planning and daily operations. The circumstances in which Chong began his new job, however, were less than auspicious.

On the financial front things had been looking bleak since the spring. A major cash-flow crunch that could have triggered layoffs was only averted by board intervention. Board members covered a bridging loan until the grant money finally arrived. The departure of general manager Anthony Pan that summer meant Chong began his first season without a senior administrator; but then Chong himself, with what can only be judged the most inopportune timing, was initially absent in Toronto, creating Bloodletting and Other Pleasant Things for Dancemakers.

Boneham kept the artistic side running more or less normally but in an atmosphere of uncertainty. Lainie Towell, an independent Ottawa dance artist who began working in Le Groupe’s office four years earlier, was, by 2008, occupying a fulltime position as director of communications. “Without a manager there were a lot of areas where we just didn’t know what was going on,” Towell recalls. “There was definitely a problem.” Eventually, a respected former manager of Le Groupe, Marlene Alt, was brought in on a part-time basis to try to figure out the finances. Meanwhile, the City of Ottawa, in one of its recurrent threats to economize by slashing arts funding, precipitated even greater worries.

It may sound merely technical but in terms of Le Groupe’s financial management there was a chronic problem with the timing of the city’s grant. The city’s fiscal year matches the calendar year. Le Groupe’s was July 1st to June 30th. Laura Cyr, Cultural Planner – Funding for the City of Ottawa, explains that some years earlier Le Groupe had forgotten to apply for an annual grant. From then on it meant that Le Groupe’s current grant, in terms of the city’s budget, was posted retroactively to the company’s previous fiscal year. For example, because of this six-month accounting discrepancy, Le Groupe applied the city’s 2008 grant of $125,000 to its 2007/08 fiscal year. It was thus unable, given the vicissitudes of city budgeting and recurrent threats of cuts to the arts, to draw up a current operating budget with a dependable estimate of the city’s subvention. With yet another arts funding cut looming, Le Groupe’s board of directors was understandably anxious.

The Ontario Arts Council’s annual contribution, despite modest increases in 2007 and 2008, had been declining for almost a decade – from $96,350 in 1999 to $75,750 in 2006. The Canada Council’s grant remained fairly stable throughout this period, ranging from $205,000 to $210,000.

The board was thus seriously concerned about Le Groupe’s financial situation and was looking to cut costs. The roster of dancers was reduced from six to five. Normand Vandal, Le Groupe’s longtime resident designer – a title that hardly comprehended the range of his activities – was peremptorily let go with only the reassurance that he might be re-engaged as needed on short-term contracts. Boneham was outraged. Vandal was his partner – and he was not well. Le Groupe’s decision could not have come at a worse moment for Boneham.

The termination of Vandal’s fulltime contract may also have been connected to Chong’s desire as the new artistic director to do things differently. Why would he necessarily accept the need for a resident designer? Like the board, Chong was seeking increased flexibility in terms of contracting needed services. Whatever the rationale, however, the decision was unlikely to sweeten relations between Boneham and his successor.

Chong was also mulling various ideas about how to heighten Le Groupe’s visibility. “People had a hard time understanding what we did. It made it difficult to raise private funds.” Chong was prepared to change the mandate if necessary, perhaps even remove Le Groupe to another city with a more developed dance culture. “All the talent had to be brought in,” he explained. “We could have had a more flexible structure.”

Chong was also aware that Le Groupe was at risk of becoming the victim of its own success and of Boneham’s proselytizing. You can copyright choreography but you can’t patent a process. Boneham so conclusively proved the value of the model he conceived – of creating opportunities for choreographers to explore and experiment – that it had spawned if not copies then certainly variations of Le Groupe’s approach in the form of creative residencies.

Chong’s ideas never went anywhere because in early December 2008 he resigned. Le Groupe had become too big a headache and his personal ambitions lay elsewhere. Chong’s decision may have been hastened by the board’s decision to cut the 2008/09 season short, ending it in late January 2009 with the scheduled residency of Toronto choreographer Susanna Hood. It was almost certainly influenced by his belief that any meaningful change would take many years. “I just saw the futility of it,” says Chong.

Boneham, needless to say, was not about to see “his baby” go down the drain; nor could he apprehend that his own desire to remain involved, even if only as a teacher and occasional monitor, might be an impediment to preventing that very calamity. Although, at age seventy-four, he did not want the burden of leadership, Boneham’s personal connection to Le Groupe was part of his identity.

Peter Boneham is a passionate man of single-minded vision; a formidably strong personality. He is also a volatile person who elicits strong and not always positive reactions. Even those who revere him acknowledge that at times Boneham can, as one described it “be very scary”, say dreadful things and then return to his more typical generous self without comprehending the hurt he has inflicted. With Chong gone and the finances uncertain, the issue of Boneham’s continuing place with Le Groupe made the task of finding someone else willing to take over the reins all the more problematic.

For Boneham the solution was obvious. In a proposal he submitted to the board, Boneham would return as interim artistic director in a collaborative arrangement with Tedd Robinson’s own company, 10 Gates Dancing. The board, however, had a counter proposal to consider, submitted by one of its stalwart volunteer supporters, Anika Houle. The board’s acceptance of hers over his, as it struggled to decide the best way forward, was tantamount to a rejection of Le Groupe’s founding genius. At least Boneham saw it that way and made it a war between himself and Houle. In the end both lost and Le Groupe perished.

Montréal-born Anika Houle entered the life of Le Groupe as a beneficent “fairy godmother” – Boneham, she says, dubbed her thus – bearing smiles, cookies and encouragement. Houle, forty, is married to a French diplomat. For some two decades she lived outside Canada, studying, travelling the world and “reinventing” herself, as she explains, in each location. She is a lover of dance and trained in both ballet and modern, but as an amateuse not a professional. Houle describes herself as a designer and event co-coordinator, and through her personal interests, travels and husband’s profession, she is well connected in international diplomatic and cultural circles. With her husband ensconced as cultural attaché at the French Embassy in Ottawa, she decided to take Le Groupe under her wing and help it any way she could.

Before Chong’s resignation and the board’s drastic decision to cut short the season, most people viewed Houle as a benign presence and emphatically positive spirit. Once the board announced in January that it had accepted Houle’s proposal to act, in effect, as interim artistic director (there is still some dispute about what her exact title was to be), stabilizing the organization and implementing Chong’s plans for the 2009/10 season while Le Groupe sought a new artistic leader, there was general bewilderment.

It was known that Boneham had offered to fill the breach. Why would the board put its trust in a woman who, however well meaning, had no apparent credibility in the Canadian dance community? For Boneham, who had previously considered Houle an amiable dilettante, she became a dangerous threat. His life’s work and his own continuing association with Le Groupe appeared to be in jeopardy. It was almost inevitable that his relations with Houle would soon disintegrate into outright hostility, on his part at least. Houle insists she had great sympathy for Boneham and tried to maintain a positive, non-adversarial attitude.

Boneham began badgering. Why had the board not launched an immediate search for a new director? Why was he, the founder – or for that matter anyone else of artistic stature – not being consulted?

Houle says she understands the emotional source of Boneham’s enmity but, with the board’s endorsement, was doing what was necessary to stabilize the organization at the financial and managerial level. There was no point putting out a call for a new artistic director, so she reasoned with board concurrence, unless there was a salary in place and the promise, going forward, of sound management.

Predictably, accounts of what happened over the ensuing months vary according to whom one asks. By raising his battle flag, Boneham had essentially asked the dance community to choose sides. You were either for his cause to save Le Groupe from the clutches of an ambitious but unqualified interloper or against one of the most senior and respected figures in Canadian dance. What Boneham did not comprehend was that there was a grey area in which people who certainly did not want to hurt him or diminish his achievement also felt it was time for Le Groupe to move beyond him. Their concern, however, was whether Houle was the right person to chart that course.

Houle claims to have consulted widely. She made overtures to Yvonne Coutts – not as a potential artistic director but as someone who might be interested in teaching and perhaps monitoring when, all being well, Le Groupe resumed operations in September 2009. Coutts came away unclear of Houle’s intentions.

Houle believed she had put together what she calls “an exquisite season” that only needed the support of government funders to be activated. There was no rush to advertise for an artistic director since with the appropriate line-up of choreographers, dancers, teachers and monitors and her own custodial supervision, Le Groupe would be on a solid footing. The only problem was that the funders were not so confident.

By the time these pressing issues were coming to a tipping point, Boneham had insisted that Le Groupe make clear that he was no longer associated with the organization. A suitable amendment to the website was duly made – and the locks to Le Groupe were changed.

Boneham, who felt humiliated to arrive at Arts Court and be denied access to his old office without advance permission, says he merely wanted to retrieve personal archival material that he intended to donate to the National Archives. Houle says there was some confusion over what rightfully belonged to Boneham and what was Le Groupe’s. The non-relationship had become toxic.

Boneham, by his own admission, had meanwhile orchestrated a write-in campaign from reputable figures in the dance community to protest the course the board and Houle were taking.

Houle still believed her plan could succeed and in late May put out the call for a new general manager. “The position works closely with the Artistic Director and reports to the Board of Directors,” read the posting. But what artistic director? Houle? The posting was perplexing to those still trying to fathom what was really happening at Le Groupe; a manager more important than an artistic director?

Then, as John Manwaring explains, the funding imploded. While the Canada Council remained stalwartly supportive, the Ontario Arts Council delivered what from Le Groupe’s perspective was a double whammy. Not only would the grant for 2009/10 be smaller but, because the organization had not fulfilled the terms of its 2008/09 grant, there would be a claw-back to account for the foreshortened season. The City of Ottawa’s 2009 grant – the threatened across-the-board reduction in arts funding had not materialized – was also reduced by almost fifty per cent. “They’d already stated they were only functioning for six months,” says Laura Cyr, “and the jury acted accordingly.”

Even if the funding had come through, Houle was discovering that some of the artists planned for the 2009/10 season were unwilling to cross the her-or-me line in the sand drawn by Boneham. In a contest of loyalties, Houle was inevitably proving the loser; but then so was Le Groupe. It is not hard to understand why a wearied board of directors, assailed by Boneham and without adequate financial resources, finally decided that effecting a transition of leadership was “too difficult”.

The question inevitably remains. Why did Le Groupe Dance Lab succumb? Can fingers be pointed specifically? Government funders? The board? Anika Houle? Peter Boneham?

There is no simple or conclusive answer. As with most seismic events it was a combination of things. Yet, beyond the predictable dismay of those with close personal attachments to Le Groupe, was it really that seismic?

Admittedly the midsummer closure notice came at a time when most people’s attention was elsewhere. Yet, given the purported value of Le Groupe, it is perhaps worth asking why the dance community – so far as it functions as a community in a country as large, diverse and regionalized as Canada – did not try to save the organization.

There were a few newspaper articles, quite a lot of tears among those closest to the action; then it was almost as if nothing had happened. The world moves on.

As Boneham, who turns seventy-five on November 7th, reflected in the aftermath of Le Groupe’s closure, with perhaps more explanatory resonance than he understood: “Maybe everything has its lifetime.”~

Michael Crabb is a Toronto-based writer, broadcaster and lecturer. He was a CBC Radio producer and on-air host from 1981 through 2000, and is still heard on the Toronto program "Here & Now". He has written about dance for thirty-five years.

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Friday, October 30, 2009


Interview by/Entrevue de Megan Andrews
Translation by/Traduction de Marie Claire Forté
Photos of José Navas and company by/Photos de José Navas et compagnie de Valerie Simmons

Le français suit l'anglais.

Born in Venezuela in 1965, José Navas has been based in Québec since 1991. After having proven himself a talented and charismatic soloist on the international scene, he created a repertoire of striking group pieces. The creator of nearly thirty works as an independent choreographer or as the artistic director of Compagnie Flak (among them "Sterile Fields" (1996), "One Night Only 3/3" (1998), "Perfume de Gardenias" (2000), "Solo with Cello" (2001), "Adela, mi amor" (2004) and "Anatomies" (2006)), he now focusses his artistic research on the essence and purity of movement. Abstraction, sobriety, intensity and depth are the words that he chooses to characterize his current work.


You’ve said your formal training continues to have a strong influence on your work. Having studied with Merce Cunningham, would you say his choreographic approach also influenced you and if so, how? How have you reflected on his passing last summer?

Yes, I studied at the Merce Cunningham Studio for three years and had the opportunity to learn from Merce directly.

Yes, of course Merce’s choreographic approach has influenced me profoundly, and in relation both to vocabulary and to process. In terms of vocabulary, my movement continues to reflect my formal training, so there is still lots of balletic gesture and formal movement derived directly from Cunningham technique. In terms of process, Merce and John Cage relied heavily on chance, and used various devices, such as the “I Ching” (Book of Changes), to channel chance so as to dictate the choice and order of movement and music. I don’t rely on chance quite as fully as that, but I derive from Merce a sense that the initial choices in creation need not be meditated and that there is a beautiful, creative richness that comes from allowing a role for chance. So at the outset of structuring a piece, in the early stages, I will toss up scraps of paper, each representing a phrase, and use the random order of the phrases as a starting point. Later on, I’ll make adjustments, so – unlike much of Merce’s work – I won’t stay faithful to the random order. But I use it to begin, rather than a sense that I can somehow think through a formal structure at the start. And there is also chance in the sense that when I create what I call an anchor phrase, and invite the dancers to create complementary material around it, I am not controlling the material they make, and we are allowing the chance of their reaction to my phrase to have play. Again, I intervene in the process of chance by accepting some such created phrases and rejecting others, but I do sense the influence of Merce here.

I’ve reflected a great deal on Merce’s passing, alone and with friends and members of my community. It was a shock to lose such a pillar of dance, and the same year as Pina Bausch. The shock was in realizing that people we had sort of assumed would always be making dance could, indeed, disappear. But admiration too of course for such a full life and so much creativity, right to the end.

Once you’ve created the core movement material, you talk about a process of refining, organizing, inverting and opening up. Specifically, how do you work in this phase; do you proceed intuitively or do you use specific methods or formal procedures and can you give an example of what you might do with a given movement phrase or set of phrases?

I wouldn’t say it’s an intuitive process, and when I think about your question I realize that it’s quite formal. Much of this process takes place on paper, at home, rather than in the studio with the dancers. Part of that comes from the need to be frugal with studio time: every hour of rehearsal time with the dancers is counted and precious, so I literally can’t afford to be too intuitive by spending a long time with the dancers in the studio without knowing what I want to do. So at home I look at all the phrases I have and I decide how long a segment I need here, or there, and look at source material that I could use. And looking at the phrases on paper – I have names or numbers for each – I know that I’ll need a contrast from a phrase of one feeling to another. In terms of refining or inverting, as I’ve said, I create an anchor phrase, call it phrase 1, and then the dancers will create complementary phrases around it: 1a, 1b, 1c, etc. At some point, phrase 1 itself will be eliminated, and we’ll be left with 1a, 1b and 1c, each of which is the same length as phrase 1 and each of which will have similar movements, at moments, because each fits with the initial phrase. And I work with those. But it’s pretty much all worked out in my notebook at home, so when I show up to the studio, it’s to execute with the dancers.

You use the phrase “pure abstraction” to describe your work. Some would argue that the human body can never be purely abstract. It is always a human body, a human being, and can’t help but carry both personal and cultural meanings implicitly. How do you understand “pure abstraction” with respect to this perspective and in regard to your own work?

I find it frustrating when people think that by abstraction, artists including myself suppose that the elements we use are entirely devoid of meaning, resonance, or emotion, as if to be abstract something has to be cold or meaningless or dead. I don’t claim that the human body itself is purely abstract. I’m referring to my movement, and what I mean by that is just that the movement isn’t telling a story or representing anything but itself. But I’m always fully conscious that putting movement, which per se doesn’t narrate or represent anything, onto human bodies changes it. Doing so allows that movement to touch people, although the reactions or emotions experienced vary a great deal from person to person. I think the beauty of creating purely abstract dance movement is that the body itself carries so much meaning, and we connect to that meaning through movement that is itself abstract. Unquestionably my work would be entirely different if robots were performing it, and that’s not what I do. So I don’t see the body’s implicit personal and cultural meanings as a problem for my project of abstraction, but rather as a crucial element.

If solo work, as you say, keeps your dancer’s self alive, what is the nature of your relationship to the group work you make and to the dancers with whom you work?

My solo work is personal; it’s my body as an instrument, and me as a performer. My relationship to the group work and to the dancers is that of an architect towards his building or an engineer towards her designs. I see the dancers as an extension of my mind and my body; they become my body, executing my ideas. They give flesh and bone to the movement impulses that enter my head or that I do in the studio for them. And they do it with youth and beautiful technique, so nowadays they can fulfill my ideas in a way that I no longer can. As a soloist, I adapt my work to my own limitations. The dancers for the group work can carry out my ideas with fewer limitations.

I recently attended a visual art show in which the artist noted that other people had titled her works. I’m curious about how titles for dances arise, particularly for formalist work such as yours, without narrative or thematic content per se. How, generally, do you come up with titles for your works? How, specifically, did you arrive at the titles for your current works,“S” and “Villanelle”?

Earlier titles for my pieces used to be things I thought might provoke reflection on the part of the audience, make them wonder where the title came from, how it related to the piece – "One Night Only"; "Perfume de Gardenias"; "Adela, mi amor". And sometimes they were things that I could connect to a personal experience or to a text I knew. With the more recent titles, I have begun with a working title and then it has stuck. I am leaning now towards titles that are much less evocative and that really just evoke the work, itself abstract. It’s easier to convince people that the work really is abstract, really isn’t about anything, when there isn’t a figurative title attached to it! So "Portable Dances" referred to a three-part piece, in which the order of the pieces could be changed, and one or two performed without the other. They were also literally more portable than earlier works because of the absence of set or other staging. "Anatomies" came about because I was really exploring anatomy books and investigating the body deeply at that time, and the plural in the title also captures, I think, the five parts of the piece. "S" was a working title I came up with because I was working a lot with silence as well as with music by Erik Satie. And "Villanelle" has a slightly fuller story: I was inspired in part by a poem by Dylan Thomas, “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”, which is written in the form of the villanelle, a tightly structured form with repeated lines.

Having performed solo works to critical acclaim early in your career, how does it feel to return to the form as a more mature artist? What kinds of impulses or reflections does your accumulated experience generate inside the solo creation process?

It’s a funny question: I think I have developed as a choreographer, and so I come back to choreographing solos with a sharpened craft, in the same way that my group choreography is maturing too. But in terms of performing, and here’s why I said the question is funny, I don’t actually feel that I am now a more mature artist, and what I mean is that I actually have the feeling of carrying on right where I left off as a solo performer. I think that those solo performances early in my career showed a mature artistry, and I think it would be unfaithful to those early performances to frame my path as a soloist as a progression from immaturity to maturity. I think you’re born with the capacity to be a solo performer – or not.

If you plan to continue making and performing work as you get older, how do you expect it might change? Do you see a time when you will choose not to perform any longer?

In terms of keeping on making and performing work, I suspect the change in the kinds of material I make for myself and for the group dancers will intensify. Ten years ago, I think the vocabulary and material I made for a group piece and a solo for myself was similar. Already at this point, with "S" and "Miniatures", my solo show from last year, you can sense the difference: the company dancers in "S" can do things that I no longer can, and the new solo, "Villanelle", requires a focus and intensity as a performer that they just might not yet have, although its technical demands may be less.

I honestly don’t know. I’d love to dance as a soloist until I’m a hundred. But I’m open that some day I’ll just decide to stop dance entirely. Who knows? I always want to be an artist who creates things, but I don’t know for sure that I want always to be doing solos and creating group work. I’m enjoying doing this and have the feeling I’ll enjoy doing it until the end of my days, but who knows. I’m open to the possibility that life may change.~

Né au Venezuela en 1965, José Navas est établi au Québec depuis 1991. Après avoir été reconnu sur la scène internationale comme un soliste talentueux et charismatique, il crée un répertoire remarquable de pièces de groupe. Auteur d’une trentaine de créations comme chorégraphe indépendant ou comme directeur artistique de Compagnie Flak, y compris « Sterile Fields » (1996), « One Night Only 3/3 » (1998), « Perfume de Gardenias » (2000), « Solo with Cello » (2001), « Adela, mi amor » (2004) et « Anatomies » (2006), il consacre sa recherche artistique à l’essence et à la pureté de mouvement. Abstraction, sobriété, intensité et profondeur sont les mots qu’il emploie pour parler de ses présentes créations.

Vous avez dit que votre travail est encore très influencé par votre formation technique. Vous avez étudié avec Merce Cunningham ; diriez-vous que son approche chorégraphique vous a aussi influencé et si oui, comment ? Quelles sont vos réactions et réflexions à la suite de son décès l’été dernier ?

Oui, j’ai étudié au Merce Cunningham Studio pendant trois ans et j’ai eu l’occasion d’apprendre directement de Merce.

Oui, bien sûr que l’approche chorégraphique de Merce m’a profondément influencé, autant le vocabulaire que le processus. Pour le vocabulaire, mon mouvement continu à refléter ma formation, alors j’emploie encore plusieurs gestes balletiques et formels directement dérivés de la technique Cunnigham. Pour le processus, Merce et John Cage faisaient énormément appel au hasard ; ils recourraient à différents outils comme le « Yi King » (Classique des changements) pour canaliser le hasard afin de dicter le choix et l’ordre des mouvements et de la musique. Le hasard ne prend pas une telle importance dans mon processus, mais de Merce, j’en tire qu’il n’est pas nécessaire de calculer les choix initiaux en création et que de laisser la place au hasard donne lieu à une belle richesse créative. Ainsi, dans les débuts, lorsque je commence à structurer une pièce, je vais lancer des bouts de papier en l’air. Chacun représente un enchaînement et j’emploie l’ordre aléatoire des enchaînements comme point de départ. Plus tard, je le retravaille, à la différence d’une grande partie du travail de Merce, je ne reste pas fidèle à cet ordre aléatoire. Je commence par cela plutôt que de m’en remettre à l’idée que je pourrais pressentir une structure formelle au départ. Le hasard est en quelque sorte présent lorsque je crée ce que je nomme un enchaînement source, et que j’invite les danseurs à créer du matériel complémentaire. Je ne dicte pas le matériel qu’ils créent et nous valorisons ainsi le hasard de leur réaction à mon enchaînement. Encore, j’interviens dans le processus du hasard en acceptant certains enchaînements et en délaissant d’autres, mais là, je sens l’influence de Merce.

J’ai beaucoup réfléchi au décès de Merce, seul et avec des amis et des collègues de ma communauté. C’était un choc de perdre une pierre angulaire de la danse, la même année que Pina Bausch. Réaliser que nous tenions pour acquis, en quelque sorte, que certaines personnes aillent toujours créer de la danse, mais qu’en effet, elles peuvent s’éteindre : voilà le choc. Mais il y a aussi une admiration à une vie tellement remplie et à tant de créativité, jusqu’à la toute fin.

Une fois que vous avez créé le mouvement de base, vous parlez d’un processus de peaufinage, d’organisation, d’inversion et de déploiement. Comment, précisément, travaillez-vous ? Procédez-vous intuitivement ou employez-vous des méthodes ou des procédures formelles particulières ? Pouvez-vous donner un exemple de votre travail sur un enchaînement ou une série d’enchaînements ?

Je ne dirais pas que c’est un processus intuitif et en pensant à votre question, je me rends compte que c’est surtout formel. Une grande partie du processus se déroule sur papier, à la maison, plutôt qu’en studio avec les danseurs. C’est en partie pour être économe avec le temps de studio ; chaque heure de répétition avec les interprètes est comptée, précieuse. Je ne peux pas, littéralement, être intuitif très longtemps avec les danseurs en studio sans savoir ce que je veux. À la maison, je regarde tous les enchaînements et je décide la longueur du segment ici, où là, et je regarde le matériel dont je peux me servir. Regarder les enchaînements sur papier – je leur donne un nom ou un numéro – me permet de voir que j’ai besoin d’un contraste entre un enchaînement d’une tonalité et un autre. Pour peaufiner ou inverser, comme je l’ai dit, je crée un enchaînement source, soit l’enchaînement 1, et les danseurs créent les enchaînements complémentaires : 1a, 1b, 1c, etc. À un moment donné, nous éliminons l’enchaînement 1 et il nous reste 1a, 1b et 1c, chacun de la même durée que l’enchaînement 1 et chacun avec des mouvements semblables, par moment, puisque chacun découle de la même source. Et je travaille avec ceux-là. Mais c’est surtout réglé dans mon cahier de travail à la maison, alors quand je me présente en studio, c’est pour l’exécuter avec les danseurs.

Vous employez l’expression « abstraction pure » pour décrire votre travail. Certains diraient que le corps humain ne peut être purement abstrait. C’est toujours un corps humain, un être humain, et il ne peut s’empêcher d’être porteur implicite de sens personnel et culturel. Comment entendez-vous « l’abstraction pure » en relation à cette perspective et par rapport à votre propre travail ?

Je trouve cela frustrant quand les personnes croient que par l’abstraction, les artistes, moi compris, présument que les éléments que nous employons sont entièrement vides de sens, de résonance ou d’émotion, comme si l’abstraction doit être froide et vide de sens ou mort. Je ne dis pas que le corps humain est purement abstrait. Je parle de mon mouvement, et je veux simplement dire que le mouvement ne raconte pas une histoire et ne représente rien d’autre que lui-même. Mais je suis entièrement conscient qu’un mouvement qui, proprement, ne raconte pas une histoire ou n’est pas une représentation change lorsqu’il est sur un corps humain. Cela permet au mouvement de toucher les gens, bien que les réactions ou émotions qu’il suscite varient beaucoup selon le spectateur. Selon moi, la beauté de la danse purement abstraite est que le corps est tellement porteur de sens que nous accédons au sens par l’entremise du mouvement lui-même abstrait. Il va sans dire que mon travail serait entièrement autre s’il était présenté par des robots, et ce n’est pas le cas. Je ne perçois pas les sens personnel et culturel implicites du corps comme obstacles dans mon projet d’abstraction, mais plutôt comme élément crucial.

Si le travail solo, comme vous le dites, donne vie au danseur qui vous habite, quelle est la nature de votre relation aux créations de groupe et à vos interprètes ?

Mon travail solo est personnel ; mon corps est l’instrument, je suis l’interprète. Ma relation aux créations de groupe et aux danseurs est celle d’un architecte envers son édifice ou une ingénieure envers ses conceptions. Je vois mes interprètes comme une prolongation de mon esprit et de mon corps ; ils deviennent mon corps, exécutant mes idées. Ils donnent de la chair et des os aux impulsions de mouvement qui traversent mon esprit ou que je leur présente en studio. Et ils le font avec la jeunesse et la beauté de leur technique, alors de ces jours-ci, ils peuvent donner corps à mes idées d’une façon que je ne peux plus le faire. En tant que soliste, j’adapte mon travail à mes limites. Les danseurs des pièces de groupe peuvent réaliser mes idées avec moins de limites.

J’ai récemment été à une exposition d’arts visuels où l’artiste avait noté que les titres de ses œuvres avaient été attribués par d’autres. Je suis curieuse de l’émergence des titres pour la danse, particulièrement pour le travail formaliste comme le tien, sans récit ou contenu thématique explicite. Comment, en général, trouvez-vous des titres pour vos pièces ? En particulier, comment avez-vous choisi les titres pour vos dernières créations, « S » et « Villanelle » ?

Avant, je choisissais des titres pour provoquer une réflexion chez le spectateur, pour qu’il songe à l’origine du titre, au rapport entre le titre et l’œuvre : « One Night Only », « Perfume de Gardenias », « Adela, mi amor ». Il s’agissait parfois de choses liées à une expérience personnelle ou un texte. Avec les derniers titres, je commence par un titre provisoire et il reste. Je penche beaucoup plus vers des titres moins évocateurs, qui renvoient uniquement au travail, lui-même abstrait. C’est plus facile de convaincre les gens que le travail est proprement abstrait, qu’il ne porte sur rien, quand il ne porte pas de titre figuratif ! Alors, « Portable Dances » désigne une pièce en trois volets, dans laquelle l’ordre des volets peut changer ou un ou deux des volets peuvent être présentés sans l’autre. Ils étaient littéralement plus portables que mes créations antérieures par l’absence de décors et de scénographie. Le titre « Anatomies » s’est révélé parce que j’étais en profonde exploration des livres d’anatomie et du corps à l’époque, et le pluriel du titre désigne aussi, je crois, les cinq sections de la pièce. J’ai pensé à « S » comme titre provisoire puisque je travaillais beaucoup en silence et avec la musique d’Érik Satie. L’histoire de « Villanelle » est plus profonde ; je me suis inspiré, en partie, d’un poème de Dylan Thomas « Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night », qui est écrit dans la forme villanelle, une forme très structurée avec des vers répétés.

Après avoir présenté des œuvres solos acclamées en début de carrière, comment vous sentez-vous de revenir à la forme comme artiste plus mature ? Quels genres d’impulsions et de réflexions votre expérience cumulée génère-t-elle dans le processus de création solo ?

C’est une drôle de question. Je crois avoir grandi comme chorégraphe, alors je reviens au solo avec une meilleure maîtrise chorégraphique, qui s’applique tout autant à mes créations de groupe. Mais pour l’interprétation, c’est pour cela que la question me semble drôle ; je ne sens pas, dans les faits, que je suis un artiste plus mature. Je veux dire que j’ai l’impression de continuer d’où j’étais rendu comme interprète solo. Je pense que mes spectacles solos en début de carrière faisaient preuve de maturité artistique, et je pense que ce serait infidèle à ces premiers spectacles de désigner mon parcours de soliste comme une progression de l’immaturité à la maturité. Je pense qu’on est né avec la capacité d’être interprète soliste – ou non.

Si vous planifiez de continuer à créer et à interpréter en vieillissant, comment pensez-vous que cela va changer ? Entrevoyez-vous un moment où vous délaisseriez l’interprétation ?

Pour continuer à créer et à interpréter, j’ai l’impression que les différences dans la nature du matériel que je crée pour moi et pour les groupes vont s’intensifier. Il y a dix ans, le vocabulaire et le matériel que je créais pour une pièce de groupe et pour un solo étaient semblables. Déjà, maintenant, avec « S » et « Miniatures », mon solo de l’an passé, on peut voir la différence. Les danseurs de la compagnie dans « S » peuvent faire des choses que je ne peux plus faire, et le nouveau solo, « Villanelle », exige une concentration et une intensité d’interprétation qu’ils n’ont peut être pas encore, même si les exigences techniques sont moindres.

Honnêtement, je ne le sais pas. J’aimerais danser comme soliste jusqu’à l’âge de cent ans. Mais peut-être un jour, je vais simplement décider d’arrêter la danse complètement. Qui sait ? Je veux toujours être un artiste en création, mais je ne suis pas certain que je voudrais toujours créer des solos et des pièces de groupe. J’y prends plaisir actuellement et j’ai le sentiment que j’y prendrais plaisir jusqu’à la fin de mes jours, mais qui sait ? Je demeure ouvert à la possibilité que la vie puisse changer.~

*A bilingual photo essay on Navas’ creative process for "S" and "Villanelle" appears in the November 2009 issue of The Dance Current.

José Navas/Compagnie Flak presents "S" and "Villanelle" from November 25th through 28th at Centre Pierre-Péladeau, Montréal. | José Navas/Compagnie Flak presente
« S » et « Villanelle » du 25 au 28 novembre au Centre Pierre-Péladeau, Montreal.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

ASTUCES POUR PROFESSEURS : Préparation d’un spectacle des fêtes

De Katharine Harris à l’École nationale de ballet du Canada
Traduction de Marie Claire Forté

Alors que le mercure tombe, de nombreux studios de danse planifient leur spectacle annuel des fêtes. Pour l’élève, c’est l’occasion de se présenter devant sa famille et ses amis, ainsi que la culmination de son travail depuis le début de l’automne. Bien que le plaisir d’un spectacle découle en partie de sa nature imprévisible, il est judicieux de bien se préparer afin que les événements se déroulent dans le calme, autant que possible. Voici quelques conseils.


1. Soyez aussi inclusif que possible. Lorsque vous pensez à des thèmes, discutez-en avec l’équipe du studio, demandez-leur des suggestions et partagez les idées. Cela permet à tout le monde de se sentir concerné, et aide à créer une ambiance effervescente. Souvenez-vous qu’un spectacle des fêtes demande beaucoup de travail ; assurez-vous que l’équipe, les élèves et les parents se sentent engagés.

2. Une fois que vous et vos collègues décidez du thème, faites appel aux comités de parents. Ils peuvent vous aider pour la coordination de détails, comme les costumes, la logistique, la promotion du spectacle ou la supervision en coulisse.

3. Préparez un plan de match écrit pour le spectacle. Commencez par les grandes lignes et allez ensuite dans le détail, du thème du spectacle aux particularités des costumes et à la logistique en coulisse. Si vous l’écrivez, il sera clair et ainsi plus facile à communiquer aux autres.

4. Le lieu de présentation est spécial ; prenez-en soin. Si le spectacle est à l’extérieur de votre studio de répétition habituel, parlez-en à vos élèves. Expliquez-leur le respect qu’exige une salle de spectacle. Si le spectacle est dans votre studio, collaborez avec vos élèves pour le transformer. Vous pouvez le faire avec des accessoires comme des rideaux ou des gradins, mais cela peut être aussi une simple question d’approche. Si tout le monde aborde le lieu différemment, il sera transformé.

5. Le jour du spectacle, l’excitation sera à son comble. Cela fait partie du plaisir des fêtes, mais c’est bien d’avoir des personnes dans les alentours qui peuvent participer au plaisir sans le laisser déraper. Assurez-vous d’avoir des personnes en arrière-scène pour gérer l’énergie des élèves.

6. Pour les écoles qui présentent plusieurs spectacles, rappelez-vous que chaque spectacle est unique. Chaque présentation doit être traitée avec la même considération que la première. Chacun devrait prendre le temps de se concentrer et de se rappeler que même s’il connaît le travail, le public le voit pour la première fois.

7. Un dernier conseil facile à suivre : demandez à tout le monde de prendre soin de leurs possessions : costumes, souliers, maquillage et autres accessoires. Après chaque spectacle, rangez les objets comme il le faut afin que tout soit prêt pour le prochain spectacle.

For the English version of this article, see The Dance Current October 2009 print issue. | Pour la version anglais de cette rubrique, voyez The Dance Current October 2009 édition imprimé.

Pour en savoir plus | Learn more >>

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HEALTHY DANCER: Daal with Autumn Vegetables

Protein: meeting the body's needs
By Nathan Payne

Animal protein delivers all of the essential amino acids our body needs, whereas proteins from vegetable sources are generally missing one or two of the essential amino acids. (An exception is the grain quinoa, which happens to contain all eight essential amino acids.) For those following a vegetarian or vegan diet, eating a variety of foods and combining food items such as legumes with grains or nuts and seeds will ensure that you are meeting your body’s protein needs.

Try this recipe for Daal with Autumn Vegetables: a vegetarian dish with a strong protein component and a punch of flavour.


Daal with Autumn Vegetables

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
2 cardamom pods
2-3 tablespoons of chat masala
2 bay leaves
2 cups butternut squash (1/4 inch cubes)
3 cups Brussels sprouts (washed and quartered)
1 can whole tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock (plus 2 cups water)
1 cup lentils
1 cup brown rice

In a large saucepan, sauté onion, season with salt, and add all the spices (chat masala can be incorporated or sprinkled on top of the final dish). Add the chopped squash and Brussels sprouts, and cook on medium for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Pour in the can of whole tomatoes along with 4 cups of vegetable stock and 2 cups of water. Add the rice and lentils, bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove lid and simmer for an additional 20 minutes or until lentils and rice are tender.

Remove bay leaves before serving and garnish with a bit of plain yogurt if so desired.

Note: This dish will thicken over time. Simply add more water to return it to a soup-like consistency.

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The Demise of Le Groupe Dance Lab: The End of An Era, Part 1

By Michael Crabb

For those not watchful of events at Ottawa’s Le Groupe Dance Lab, the July 31st announcement that it would be closing its doors forever came as a stunning shock.

For more than twenty years – ever since Artistic Director Peter Boneham reinvented his performing company, Le Groupe de la Place Royale, to become a centre for contemporary dance research, experimentation and development – the Lab had been a vital incubator of dance creativity in Canada and beyond. In the late 1980s, as he surveyed the Canadian dance scene, Boneham detected a crucial need for choreographers to explore and hone their craft in a supportive environment, free of the distracting pressure to produce a finished work.


Le Groupe – with rented headquarters at Arts Court in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill district – offered visiting choreographers a resident corps of dancers, technical, design and production support and, most importantly, the outside eye of an experienced mentor, or “monitor”. There were also public showings during which choreographers could engage audiences in constructive conversation – feedback sessions intended to help decipher the sometimes problematic gap between artistic intent and how it is perceived.

In 1988 Boneham’s idea was not entirely novel. Dance workshops and choreographic intensives had been around for years, mostly operating in compressed timeframes, simultaneously involving several choreographers and often without the benefit of monitorial oversight. What was unique and visionary about Boneham’s project was the creation of a permanent, integrated institution where choreographers could be individually nurtured over the course of several weeks in what came to be known as a “process”.

Boneham’s initial assessment of the situation proved accurate and his solution successful. “Peter was definitely ahead of his time,” says Yvonne Coutts, an Ottawa-based dancer, teacher and choreographer whose association with Le Groupe began when it was still a performing company.

Le Groupe Dance Lab became a seemingly indispensable resource, not only for emerging choreographers but for those more seasoned, such as former artistic director of Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers Tedd Robinson, seeking creative revitalization.

“I had a great job,” says Robinson, “but nobody was telling me the things I needed to hear. Peter, on the other hand, does not hold back. He told me I had an innate theatrical sense but that my vocabulary sucked. He made a lot of sense.”

It was not only choreographers who benefited. Although their schedule was onerous, Le Groupe’s dancers had two invaluable benefits. They took daily class with a tough but inspirational teacher – Boneham himself – and worked creatively with a wide range of choreographers. For dancers who were often in the developmental phase of their careers it was an extraordinary experience – a crash course in endurance and versatility – and if they felt a strong urge to choreograph there was also the possibility of undertaking a “process”.

As a senior officer at one of our major public granting agencies recently remarked: “It’s rare in contemporary dance to open an applicant’s file nowadays and not find a connection to Le Groupe somewhere along the way.”

Even last fall, when Le Groupe was in the midst of a serious financial crisis and trying to adjust to new leadership, the work in the studio continued at its usual intensity with visiting choreographers from Canada, France and The Netherlands.

So why did it all unravel?

That July 31st announcement included a prepared statement from Le Groupe’s long-serving – and, one suspects, long-suffering – board chair, University of Ottawa law professor John Manwaring. “Many factors, financial and otherwise, have led to this extremely difficult decision,” Manwaring stated. “It is always difficult to move from a founder-led organization to one with new artistic leadership and while Le Groupe Dance Lab tried determinedly to do this, in the end the transition proved too difficult.”

The choice of words “too difficult” is telling. One might have expected something more emphatic, such as “impossible”. “Too difficult” suggests that perhaps, in other circumstances, there might have been a solution. And, since this was a decision made by Le Groupe’s legal trustees, its board of directors, it also hints at the understandable exhaustion – even exasperation – of those four public-spirited volunteers who had, for so many years, done their best to keep the company afloat.

Few would argue Professor Manwaring’s contention that moving beyond a founder-led organization is difficult. Canadian dance history is littered with examples, from the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in the early 1950s to Toronto Dance Theatre thirty years later.

Choreographer-driven companies present particularly intractable problems since they are essentially founded to serve as platforms for a specific creative vision. When that creative vision appears to dim or loses the confidence of audiences – or the peer-assessment juries that decide who gets public funding – there is no clear way forward. It is no secret, for example, that the Anna Wyman Dance Theatre, Desrosiers Dance Theatre and Danny Grossman Dance Company – albeit in the latter case specifically in its form as a performing organization – suffered the painful death of slow, progressive cuts.

Although it was not strictly a single choreographer-founded company, a similar fate might have overtaken Le Groupe de la Place Royale had it not successfully convinced the funding agencies to support its refashioned mandate – one not only designed to serve the needs of the dance community but tailor-made for a then fifty-four-year-old director/choreographer seeking to redefine his role as a contributing artist.

Peter Boneham was part of Le Groupe de la Place Royale from the start. Its roots lie in the heady cultural milieu of early 1960s Montréal. Québécoise artists Jeanne Renaud and Françoise Riopelle, with a shared aesthetic forged by their youthful involvement with the modernist automatistes, launched Le Groupe de Danse Moderne de Montréal. Vincent Warren, then a principal dancer with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, was intrigued by the fledgling troupe’s intellectually rigorous avant-garde experimentation and introduced fellow Grands Ballets member Peter Boneham to Renaud and Riopelle.

Boneham and Warren, both ballet-trained Americans, had become friends in New York City before either joined Les Grands Ballets. Boneham agreed to dance with Renaud in a piece called “Rideau” at Montréal’s Expressions 65. The two quickly became artistic compadres in launching Le Groupe de la Place Royale. Dance was intentionally excluded from the title because of its founders’ cross-disciplinary, collaborative intentions. Although Winnipeg’s Contemporary Dancers proudly claims its status as Canada’s oldest modern dance company, in 1966 Le Groupe was the first to receive a Canada Council grant.

Renaud was gone within five years but Le Groupe continued under the direction of Boneham and company charter member Jean-Pierre Perreault. Perreault, thirteen years younger than Boneham, began as a dancer, learning as he went along, and by 1972 had begun to choreograph. Le Groupe became known for its boldly innovative approach to dance making, particularly the use of mixed media and new technology.

By the mid-1970s, however, Boneham and Perreault had grown restive. Le Groupe was struggling financially and it seemed that the Québec government was favouring the rival Groupe Nouvelle Aire. Boneham – an English speaker with less than functional French – thought it was time to get out. Initially he proposed moving the company to Toronto because it seemed to be “a happening place”. Perreault demurred. Finally, having sounded out the Canada Council, they agreed on Ottawa. Le Groupe moved its company and school there in 1977.

Perreault, meanwhile, was becoming a choreographer of note. It gradually became clear that his ambitions could not be accommodated in Ottawa or within the company. “Le Groupe didn’t suit his artistic needs,” says Boneham. Perreault formally resigned as co-artistic director in 1981. Dancer and choreographer Michael Montanaro, now chair of the contemporary dance department at Montréal’s Concordia University, served as Boneham’s associate director until 1985.

Le Groupe’s switch from being a touring performance troupe to a stay-put centre for creative development was not an overnight event but was formalized in 1988 with a new name and a new mandate. Whether one regards this as a completely fresh start or an evolution of Le Groupe de la Place Royale, Peter Boneham’s claims as a founding father are unassailable.

The issue then becomes how long the founder can continue to function and what happens when he can not. Although the fire in his belly was never dampened, Boneham’s health was sometimes a concern. And since Le Groupe was not dependent on Boneham to supply it with choreography, it could, as an institution with a clear mandate, reasonably look forward to surviving him – even if the mandate might require some fine tuning for the organization to remain useful and relevant.

Conversations about Le Groupe’s future, both within and without, had begun even in the 1990s. Robinson recalls Boneham asking him if he was interested in taking over at some point. Robinson, who had been Le Groupe’s resident guest artist after leaving Winnipeg in 1990, valued the organization highly and got on well with Boneham but was only interested in the mentoring part of the job. “I can teach if I have to,” says Robinson, “but I don’t enjoy it. It’s not my forte at all.” He identifies an important issue. Boneham was teacher, monitor and artistic director. Under the best conditions it would not be easy to find one person to fill all those roles.

The issue of transition came into clearer focus when the funding bodies Le Groupe depended on for almost ninety per cent of its income (in later years the annual budget was around $400,000) suggested it was time to act decisively.

The premature death of Jean-Pierre Perreault in December 2002 seems to have been a catalyst. Though long separated as colleagues, Boneham and Perreault still had a strong emotional bond. Those close to Boneham witnessed the profound impact of Perreault’s death. “It was devastating for Peter,” recalls Coutts.

Coutts, with as clear a knowledge as any of Le Groupe’s workings because of her former involvement as a dancer and choreographer, offered to help. Coutts could teach, she could monitor; she could even write grant applications. She saw Boneham’s acceptance of her offer as a sign that he acknowledged a need for a planned transition of leadership, but while it occupied his thoughts its exact form was not always clearly expressed.

Hiring extra help, of course, takes money and Le Groupe never had much of it. Cash-flow crunches were a cyclical occurrence that the organization somehow always managed to survive. Adding to the regular payroll would take special funding; and it was forthcoming, thanks to the Metcalf and Ontario Trillium Foundations, but it was specifically tied to implementing a transition of leadership.

Boneham, whose twin passions remain teaching and mentoring, certainly embraced the notion of a diminished role for himself but almost certainly never imagined withdrawing completely. The answer, as he saw it, was team leadership. Tony Chong now enters the story.

Originally from Vancouver, Chong moved as a young dancer to Montréal in 1984. There he became immersed in its vibrant dance scene. Chong performed with, among others, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, Carbon 14, José Navas’s Compagnie Flak and Perreault’s company. He danced in Germany’s Steptext Dance Project and with Belgium’s Ballets C. de la B.

Chong first connected with Le Groupe in 2003 as a visiting choreographer. Boneham was impressed. By late 2004 he’d convinced Chong to join Le Groupe as associate director, working alongside Coutts. “I’m not sure why I was specifically asked,” Chong reflects. “We had a shared idealism but maybe it was because I didn’t have an historical connection and came with a different aesthetic.”

Coutts was completely unprepared for Chong’s arrival in January, 2005. “It caught me quite off guard,” she explains; and probably left her feeling slighted. “I had committed a lot to Le Groupe. I’d developed the skill set to be artistic director.”

From Boneham’s viewpoint, the combination of Coutts and Chong was ideal. “Each had strengths and weaknesses and they kind of balanced out. I never saw Tony as artistic director on his own. He still wanted to be a choreographer.”

The team leadership concept, even if it could have been financed over the long term, was ill-fated. It was a sometimes tense ménage à trois that ended abruptly and unpleasantly in the winter of 2006. Coutts decided to bring in choreographer Ame Henderson, along with her own dramaturge/monitor.

Coutts says she felt Le Groupe needed to find new ways to meet the needs of the dance community, part of which involved bringing in “a different kind of outside eye”. Although for many choreographers a major attraction of Le Groupe was the opportunity to work with Boneham, other visiting choreographers had requested their own chosen monitor. According to Chong, Boneham was open to the need for the organization to evolve. “He knew it would need to change,” says Chong, “but Peter was also concerned about his legacy and his ideals.” For him, process and experimentation were the essence of Le Groupe, whereas visiting choreographers sometimes came to view a residency as a chance to produce a finished work. “At times it was almost becoming a production company,” observes Robinson. “That was not what Peter wanted.”

Henderson’s residency brought things to a head for Coutts. Henderson was inadvertently caught in a fomenting cauldron of conflicting ideas about how Le Groupe should function. “It was three weeks of hell trying to support her. I couldn’t understand what was going on. All I could see was this tightening of the grip.” Coutts decided the situation had become intolerable and quit– leaving Chong as sole heir apparent.

And so Chong’s apprenticeship continued until, on April 29th, 2008, Le Groupe’s board announced the passing of the torch with Chong’s official appointment as artistic director, effective July 1st.

Boneham – who by then had been honored with a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement in 2005 and appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in April 2008 – would assume the position of senior artistic advisor. It was at this point that a concatenation of events, so intricately entwined that it’s hard to follow the threads, conspired to bring Le Groupe down.~

Read the rest of the story in "The End of an Era, Part 2" by Michael Crabb, posted in November 2009 (above).

Michael Crabb is a Toronto-based writer, broadcaster and lecturer. He was a CBC Radio producer and on-air host from 1981 through 2000, and is still heard on the Toronto program "Here & Now". He has written about dance for thirty-five years.

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