CA: Carol Anderson
GL: Ginette Laurin
Q: Questions and comments
CA: It is my great pleasure to introduce Ginette Laurin. I'm going to read a little bit about her from the O Vertigo website: “With more than forty works of choreography to her credit, and acclaimed worldwide, Ginette Laurin is one of the foremost figures in contemporary dance in Canada. Trained as a gymnast and in modern dance and classical ballet in Montreal and New York City, Ginette quickly became a sought-after performer when she began her dancing career in Montreal at the beginning of the 1970s. After creating several works as an independent choreographer, in 1984 she founded O Vertigo, a company now known for its expressive power and the unerring realization of its artistic vision. By 1986, consecutive critical and popular successes brought Ginette Laurin national recognition when she was awarded the Jean A. Chalmers Prize. Since then, she has established an enviable international reputation by creating, year after year, striking works in which she shows an extraordinary ability to renew her gestural language and images to better evoke the underlying themes.
“Her works have been performed in Canada, the United States, Europe, Central America and Asia. Besides her activities at O Vertigo, Ginette Laurin choreographs dance pieces for other companies and transmits her knowledge as a professor and lecturer at home and abroad. In recent years, Ginette Laurin has re-oriented her approach to embrace creation in multiple forms. The Resonance of the Double, created at the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal in 2004, constituted a series of six installations incorporating dance, performance, video projections and photographs, and was representative of the choreographer's new multidisciplinary avenue, which was reaffirmed with the inauguration of the O Vertigo Creation Centre (CCOV) at Place des Arts in 2005.
“She has also branched into filmmaking, in particular with director Oana Suteu, with whom she created the feature Wire Frame (2005), a prize-winning adaptation of the dance piece Passare. Ginette's latest choreographic productions, ANGELs (2006) and études #3 pour cordes et poulies (2007), reflect her commitment to experimentation, collaboration with the dancers and research relating to – among other things – identity and the double.”
Ginette comes to Toronto far too infrequently, so I'm really honoured that she has come to speak about her work with us. Thank you.
GL: My pleasure. Okay, first I should say that my English is not perfect. So if you don't understand please just tell me. I have some translators in front of me that can help.
Well you heard a little bit of the history. Maybe I can also mention that as a choreographer I did some freelance work, a little bit of experimentation and solo works for myself. Then I joined Daniel Léveillé's company. He asked me to co-direct, and a few months later he left the company and I decided to try staying on as director for two years. I changed the company name. I called it O Vertigo and I hired new dancers – and here I am, twenty-five years later with the same company. I didn't plan at all to choreograph and have my own company. It just happened. I realized that it was a very nice tool for me to have my own dancers, working and exploring with me; the company made it possible to pursue one project at a time over the years, and to be able to present a piece many times, and to tour. I don't have the problem of bringing the dancers together each time I want to present a show, because I have my team working with me full-time, which is great.
On the other hand, I have taken on the responsibility of continually finding work for the company. My dancers are with me for thirty-five to forty weeks every year, so it's a lot. We mainly work in cycles of three years – six months to create a new work, and then between two years and two years and a half of presentation of that work. Of course, we have to present the work outside Canada because unfortunately the opportunities for presentation in Canada are limited.
It's very nice to exchange with other people from other cultures, and I have learned a lot through those exchanges. It costs a great deal of money, so we have to work constantly at finding the funding to maintain a company. In Quebec the government is very supportive, compared to other provinces in Canada, so that helps a lot.
To come back to my work and my process – for me, different aspects of the work are very important … the visual aspect, the way to play with space using a set, using accessories. This visual aspect is often the basis of the way I'm going to use the dancers and the way I'm going to make them move. The relationship with the dancers is also very important. For me, they are also creators. Very often I give them certain material and ask them to work with it, from their knowledge of what the piece is about and what I want to express. So they have a responsibility and they explore their own creativity in being part of the work.
What I like about movement is not the shape of the movement but how we go from one movement to another. It's that travelling between one shape and another that I like. But I think to be interesting you have to be precise with the shape as well. The way I use speed in movement is also important, so we feel more the energy than the positions and shapes. The relationship with time and music is also important in terms of not trying to set the movement or the shapes on the rhythm of the music, or using the music as a score that will be the same as the dance pattern. I like the dancers to have their own music, which comes from the movement, from the phrases of movement, more than trying to put the movement to the music. I create the choreographic score first and the music comes much later, so that they have their own musicality and their own “bubble”, as if they were all together and they have to move in unison, for example. The link is much stronger like that. It's a little bit like cinema – you have the visual track and then the soundtrack comes after. I know that usually for dance we like to start from the music – but for me it restrains the dancers from finding their own music, their own flow. So I like to start with silence.
I'm fascinated by this wonderful machine that is the human body and, after almost thirty years of choreographing works, I still discover things about the body. I like to see how two different bodies will inhabit the same movement. So I made a study that lasted four years about the “double”. I worked with twins (males and females) and I worked with different people – non-dancers of different ages. I did a piece for a man who was eighty-one and a boy who was eight years old and they had to dance the same part. We made a film out of this short piece. It was interesting to see how those people, who had never danced before, registered the movement, and how and what they were able to remember. Each expressed some things totally differently. And the same occurred with the twins. Even if they had identical bodies, they did certain things differently. On the other hand, sometimes the twins – I did a few performances in museums and they were long, four-hour performances – sometimes the twins would make the same mistakes at the same time. It was quite fascinating. It was also nice having the audition for the twins – seeing twenty pairs of twins was really strange. I guess I'm interested in that because I like to work on unison movement. Not unison where you just accomplish the same movement, but how you can express something and try to inhabit something the same way. I would say, even if you don't succeed, the fact that you try to put yourself in unison with someone else is something that I find really touching. So I try to explore that concept.
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