13 February 2020
Seeing a compilation show from the ‘Compagnie Marie Chouinard’ was just as deliciously weird as I hoped it would be. Heralded as one of Canada’s greatest dancers and choreographers, hers has been a household name since I donned my first ballet slippers. Growing up, the name Marie Chouinard always held cachet, reverence, and was almost whispered. Those around me that were fortunate to see her work felt inspired, lifted. Chouinard has always been controversial and shocking, and continues to push the boundaries of modern dance and performance art. We used to hear whispered tales about her performances, and pretended to our other pre-teen friends that we “totally got it”. Now, the ‘Compagnie Marie Chouinard’ thrives and is bringing Radical Vitality on a Canadian-European tour. I jumped at the opportunity to see a program that boasts twenty-five different snippets of the company’s work. And this time, I can tell you that I really did get it.
Chouinard has been fascinated with exploring the body in her work. How it moves, how it becomes grotesque, how it can push the boundaries of vulnerability. This program shows a great variety of work with the body. A particularly lovely solo shows a dancer physically moving and palpating her face, stretching and scrunching it, exploring how flesh can be moved by an outside source. Other pieces demonstrate the impact on a body without touch, with fluttering hands and arms that embrace the air. Chouinard also leans right in to humour. The line between vulnerability and comedy is oddly thin, and while some moments onstage elicited pure laughter and joy from the audience, there were also a fair share of moments that brought out that telltale uncomfortable giggle. In classic Chouinard style, Radical Vitality has numerous pieces that are infused with sensuality and sexuality. There is nothing lewd in the work, and the references through dynamic breathing or heaving, thrusting bodies open our minds to the pure physicality of sex. How, through both dance and sex, partners can join in unison in the most natural of ways.
The dancers in the company all demonstrate gorgeous talent onstage. Their bodies are precisely articulated, the movement sensual. Those wonderful creatures on the stage feel so alien at times, but somehow in the most physical, primal, human ways. It must be so wonderful and freeing to work with a group of fellow artists so intimately, with others who are able to throw themselves into the creative boundary-pushing crazy work that comprises the Compagnie. We need more of these beautiful free thinking dancing weirdos. Radical Vitality is an excellent compilation show to get a snippet of Marie Chouinard’s groundbreaking work. It is an overview and deep dive into one of the most creative minds in Canadian dance history, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity sit in awe of one of the masters.