Interview: Marie Chouinard Q&A

Monday 20 June 2016 by Carmel Smith

Marie Chouinard, 2016. Photo: Sylvie-Ann Pare

Montreal-based Marie Chouinard, one of the world’s most daring and original choreographers, is at Sadler’s Wells this week with her company. After 12 years as a solo performer and choreographer, Chouinard founded Compagnie Marie Chouinard in 1990 and since then, “evolving slowly and constantly” the company has presented performances all around the world as well as producing with some of the major festivals and institutions in the world of arts, including the Venice Biennale and the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris…

The double bill you present at Sadler’s Wells this week features two works inspired by visual art. Do you see the – dance and visual arts as closely linked?
You could also say the link is the use of video projection – Soft virtuosity, still humid, on the edge with a rhythmic video projection of static images, and HENRI MICHAUX: MOUVEMENTS with a live video projection bringing us very close to the performers.

What’s your usual starting point for a new work?
Silence. A sense of emergency to create. An intuition that is formless, shapeless but somehow I feel it very strongly, and I need to move into the action of creation to discover exactly what it is made of.

You also work very closely with a composer….
Yes, I’ve been working with Louis Dufort for over 18 years now.
As my choreographies don’t have pre-existing music as a starting point. I begin in silence (there are a very few exceptions to this: The Rite of Spring, The 24 Preludes by Chopin). So, towards the end of the process, I call Louis, send him videos, give him some cues on how I feel about the work, the direction I would like the music to take. Then he creates his composition and sends it to me. I usually fall in love with it immediately, readjust my choreography on it, then he readjusts his music according to how I’ve re-developed the choreography… There are a few backs-and-forths like this and then the piece is completed!

Tell us about the book Mouvements by 19th century Belgian surrealist Henri Michaux , the subject of your second piece…
This book was given to me as a gift more than 20 years before I created the work. I looked at it regularly over the years, but one day I realized, oh my god, I was looking at it for the first time as a choreographer, and I saw all those ink drawings as a dance notation, as a gift from Henri Michaux to me! I dove into his “indications”, making the dancers dance one drawing after another, page after page.

Who/what were your earliest choreographic influences?
I had one very strong choreographic influence. It happened before I created my very first piece, when I didn’t know I was going to be a choreographer.

I saw Simone Forti, a choreographer/dancer solo performer, an American of Italian origin, performing in Montreal at the Museum of Fine Arts. She was dancing barefoot, moving a bit like a bear, and she was really into the perception of her sensations, the weight of her body, the kinetic sensation of every detail.

It was a revelation – a revelation that dance could be an art form. I had been training as a ballet dancer for years simply because I loved to move, and suddenly I realized that dance could be an art form. Until then, all the dance shows I had been seeing seemed of no interest to me, whether classical or contemporary, and I never aspired to be a professional dancer, even less a choreographer.

You’ve lived in New York, Berlin, Bali and Nepal, how has this influenced your work? Deeply. Living in Montreal also influences me deeply. Living every day of my life influences me deeply. Breathing influences me deeply. What influences me the most deeply of all is that… I am alive.

What else are you working on at the moment?
Recently I made a new work for the Martha Graham Dance Company, which premiered in New York in April. I’m also working on a new choreography for my own company based on Hieronymus Bosch. It will premiere in August 2016 in the Netherlands.

Marie Chouinard
Sadler’s Wells, 20 & 21 June
Tickets from £12

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