Compagnie Marie Chouinard: Innovative and edgy dance

Kimberly Nicoletti
Special to The Aspen Times
Interprètes/Dancers: Sandrine Lafond, Carla Maruca, Isabelle Poirier.
Marie Chouinard/Courtesy photo

Aspen Santa Fe Ballet presents Montreal’s Compagnie Marie Chouinard Tuesday in its new fall dance festival, FALL in Love with Dance!

The edgy and profound dance company, named after famed choreographer Marie Chouinard, features her animalistic masterpiece, “The Rite of Spring,” set to Igor Stravinsky’s score of the same name. The energetic piece showcases the body through movement, lighting and costume.

“It’s all about the body. You see the muscles, you see the bones, you see the life of the dancers’ extreme physicality,” said Carol Prieur, who has performed with the company since 1995. “You go on a journey of riding this music visually. Marie has done it in such a powerful and poetic way with the various physicality of the dancers. It’s stunning. It’s a really powerful piece of energy and movement. The dancers dive into the depths of their physicality and emotion, and that is so satisfying as an audience member to be there with them.”

“The Rite of Spring” is one of the first pieces Prieur saw before becoming a dancer in the company.

“It spoke to me viscerally, it spoke to me poetically and it spoke to me energetically,” she said.

Chouinard founded the company in 1986 after her first creation, “Cristallisation,” consecrated her as an innovative choreographer in 1978. Her interest lies in exploring the poetics of the body.

“Each new work offers an odyssey through the history of humanity, without ever using the history or the linearity of a narrative,” the company’s website states, highlighting the company’s theatrical, and almost operatic, effects of its “living art.”

Interprètes/Dancers: Carol Prieur, James Viveiros.
Nicolas Ruel/Courtesy photo

From the beginning, Chouinard danced on the provocative edge through her performance art, and she feeds that into her company to this day.

“It’s spiritual, but it’s not spiritual. It deals with taking in vibrations and energy and translating that into movement,” Prieur said. “She’s constantly pushing the body — how to express and develop the artform so we’re reconstructing something in language that can be communicated through movement. She’s communicating life; she’s communicating humanity.”

Though the performance does contain partial nudity and eros remains omnipresent through Chouinard’s body of work, Prieur said makeup and lighting present the body as more wild, natural and animalistic, as opposed to something sexually objectified.

The other piece of the evening, “Chouinard’s 24 Preludes,” accompanies Chopin’s iconic opus.

“Chopin, for me, is like windows into humanity,” Prieur said. “There’s always another emotion, another texture, another facet of humanity carried through humor and profound sorrow and everything in-between. Just listening to the ’24 Preludes,’ we go through all of the emotions and textures and colors, from playful to heart-wrenching, emphasized through everything from solos to (groups of) six that move with waves — the ups and downs of the music, the swells and the quieter moments.”

Chouinard uses the spinal column as a base for her choreography, and then develops an entire gestural language through the articulation of every body part, right down to the fingers, eyes and head tilts.

“She’s really honed in on how the body — in its diverse landscapes — are these places of communication,” Prieur said, talking about how Chouinard employs extreme musicality through her choreography. “She sees movement as being music. When she hears music, she sees movement, and when we’re moving, she wants to see the music.”

Though Prieur has danced with the company for 28 years, she still discovers new aspects of the pieces every time she performs them.

“It’s like jazz; you have the score and notes, but there are moments of riffing. Marie gives us the responsibility as performers to be in that moment, to be present and in creation live. It makes it extremely exciting as a performer. We continually get to be curious and connected with aliveness,” she said. “In ‘The Rite of Spring,’ there’s still so much to explore because of the uniqueness of the work and the way Marie allows liberty within it — and playfulness.”

In this spirit, she hopes the audience steps into the adventure.

“I encourage people to come in without expectation,” she said. “You don’t need to know about dance to enjoy it. Come, and be curious. There’s no story. You don’t even need to know the music. It’s colorful and energetic. Just enjoy the journey.”

If you go…

What: Aspen Santa Fe Ballet’s new fall dance festival, FALL in Love with Dance! Featuring Compagnie Marie Chouinard
When: 8 p.m. Sept. 5
Where: Aspen District Theater
Tickets: $36-$114
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