CPH STAGE 2022: Crystallisation of a choreographer

Marie Chouinard: more than 40 years of making magic through dance

With a purpose to create and offer a space for inner liberation, choreographer and dancer Marie Chouinard has created fulfilling universal experiences through her choreographies and brought new perspectives on body exploration and communication to the dance profession.

A global phenomenon
In 1978, Choinard showcased her first creation, ‘Crystallization’, and since then she has created dozens of dance pieces including more than 50 solos and group works.

Through her creations, she depicts her understanding of the poetics of the body and the intimate connections among human beings.
In 1990, she founded her own dance company, La Compagnie Marie Chouinard, presenting her work in different parts around the globe.

(all photos: Sylvie-Ann Paré)

Widespread recognition
She is also a multidisciplinary artist who is passionate about film, drawing, poetry and different kinds of arts.

Chouinard has received multiple awards and recognitions including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, Walter Carsen Prize for Excellence in the Performing Arts, and Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement.

As part of a tour, Chouinard is showcasing one of her creations, ‘Radical Vitality’, at the CPH STAGE festival on June 6 and 7.

You kicked off your career journey in dance and choreography in 1978. Can you take us back to the moments of your first show and the feelings you encountered?
The first image that comes to me when you ask this question is when I was backstage waiting to go on stage. I opened the little window that was there, and it was snowing outside. I just put my hand outside the window to catch the snowflakes in my hand – and I felt this was the best benediction, the best blessing I could get. I was receiving that blessing from the water, from the spirit, from everything around me, and I felt genuinely happy. I remember that during that time, I was trying to offer one choreography which was called ‘Crystallization’, and it was not at all that I wanted to become a professional dancer or a choreographer. I was simply young and trying so many things. So, it was like a one-shot deal – and then I never stopped.

How has your journey in dance evolved throughout the years?
Something you have to know about me is that I’m always working. I’m really passionate about putting in effort until the vision and feelings I have get incarnated – and that requires a lot of energy and dedication. I am always spiritually and emotionally connected to what is bigger than me.

And what drives you to always be working?
It’s passion, and it also feels like a game. Similar to how kids like to play, I also play the game of creation and communication. I’m playing the game of being a human being in connection with other human beings, and I enjoy the dynamic of being alive and taking the chance.

Let’s move on to talk more specifically about the show in Copenhagen taking place at the beginning of June. Can you tell me more about the preparations for the piece ‘Radical Vitality’?
The preparations for this piece started years ago before the pandemic. We worked on it for a long time. I wanted to create a performance with many solos and duets, and incorporate Haiku. Haiku is a traditional way of short-form poetry for Zen masters in Japan and it takes your mind to another level. So, I had in my group pieces many little duos and solos and I thought I would go back to them and recreate them or transform them a bit so they become independent work from the whole piece. But as I am always excited with creation, I created new solos and new duets, and then I chose the selection and the order in which to put them. Basically, it is a work of raw material and it depicts the art of creating. Just like an architect, you construct a piece and it’s made of millions of little decisions and choices – like matching the dancer to the solos according to their inner quality – and then you finally start fine-tuning the piece.

When you go through the creation process, do you think of it more as a personal expression or a collective experience?
In fact, I do not see any link with it on a personal level. Besides the fact that I am an artist and I need to create, I am always trying to be a medium or a canon between what is bigger than me and the object of creation. I want my creations to be a universal experience.

In that sense, would you say that the creations become political?
They are absolutely political. It is political to simply breathe. It is political to remind people that we are breathing and that we have a spirit and a soul that needs to be incarnated. For me, everything is political. It is political to be a woman, to be a human being, and to manifest our humanity, our generosity and our love for life and humankind.

So, what do you want the audience to take away from the show?
I hope that for the audience, the show is a moment where they can connect with their journey as human beings, where they can connect to their inner freedom and the inner liberation of their inner systems. I want it to be a moment of rejuvenation for the inner activities of the inner soul and the spirit in their organisation. I hope it’s an occasion for them to travel and witness an experience that is a bit different from their habitual way of perceiving life and human beings. Maybe in that little moment, they would have the opportunity to shift a little thing in their love and sensation for life and in their appreciation of something that is nourishing: their love for freedom, for life and love. On another level, I also hope that my creation, which is not usually traditional, is an artistic and aesthetic object that their intelligence can appreciate.

If we want to move on to talk more about the dance profession in general, what do you think of its current global status?
The artistic practice of dance is so small in the field of art. I think that dance is really still so underground. This makes it more difficult to reach more people. I would hope that dance as an art is more accessible and more people would get to know it. Very often when I see people coming for the first time to see one of my shows, they tell me that they never thought of dance in that way. You can find support for the dance profession in many countries but many others still suffer from a lack of support.

What are your future plans? Are there new pieces cooking?
I want to always be creating. I want to fulfill the purpose of bringing occasions to other human beings where they can connect to beauty, humanity and love. My purpose is to always celebrate love.

And what is fun about creations is that you never know when you will create the piece. It is a fun adventure to step into a new creation. For example, when I started with the ‘Radical Vitality’ creation, I did not know where it would lead me. You just work and discover. I currently have five or six things that I am working on. They are all progressing and I am curious to see how they will go.