Beyond appearances

May 10, 2017

This past Saturday, April 29 was the International Day of Dance. Since 1982, we have acknowledged the degree to which dance, in all its diverse forms and manifestations, is a key to understanding our lives, our bodies, and our feelings. This has inspired me to write about one particular branch of this discipline for which Montréal is bubbling with creativity: contemporary dance.

By Rose Carine Henriquez

There is also the desire to write for contemporary dance amateurs, spectators or non-professional dancers, as well as for those that learn about contemporary dance without giving it a second chance because of the ultimate accusation: abstraction. To experience one’s first contemporary dance performance is to have the impression of knowing nothing. A disturbing feeling for those who are used to being in control and immediately understanding things.

Dancing for the first time in a contemporary workshop means accepting that one’s body exists in a space that is unique to itself and recognizing the right to inhabit this space. Vertiginous for those used to being wallflowers, to making themselves small, invisible. I include myself in this group.

Can there still be a single definition of contemporary dance in 2017, given its history and upheavals? The stability of modern dance, its claimed permanence, according to Sophie Corriveau, a professor at the École de Danse Contemporaine de Montréal“It is the dance of our times. It is nourished by the experiences and personalities of those that live it and build it.” It is also influenced by surrounding art forms (digital arts, visual arts, theatre), acting as a constantly evolving space of hybridization.

Dancers must be sensitive to the versatility of these mediums, as well as to the techniques associated with contemporary dance, which depend on personalized training that varies from one professor to another.

Sophie Corriveau admits that her teaching is based on her own body’s historicity and her classical training. “I teach with the goal of forming dancers with strong bodies. Since contemporary dance is not just a single thing, their bodies must be ready for variation.”

There is no definite, teacher-specific grammar. Rather, it is multiple, influenced as much by the creating person as by the person receiving it. The possibilities to be found in this discipline are infinite, since, as Sophie Corriveau emphasizes, it belongs to everyone – from the child who dances before talking to the dancers in the greatest companies.

“It’s an art, but it’s also a physical activity, states Mrs. Corriveau. It can free the inert creativity that we carry within us. It allows us to express ourselves and develop our artistic sensibilities.” We experiment with spontaneity and letting go. “If we attend a workshop as a non-dancer, we share an energy with the others. It’s an enjoyable space and a social space.” In this space, exit age, its corporeality, its historicity in dance. The possibilities are multiple, a fact which is expressed by the Regroupement québécois de la danse.

As for the public, they must learn to be more indulgent, especially with themselves. “For those who are just discovering, they must not try to understand, but rather put themselves in a state of sense-based reception. The key to interpretation is found within the performance and the public must trust their own instincts and capacity to feel.”

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