Paul-André Fortier's definition of dance stretches wider than a stage. The Montreal dancer was inspired for his latest production, Cabane, while spending 30 days dancing on top of a shack in a parking lot---the National Ballet this is not.
Cabane, which Fortier has been performing since 2008, crosses lines between dance, installation art, theatre, and music. It's not what Fortier refers to as "pure dance," and he's eager to play with viewers' ideas of what a contemporary dance performance should be.
The piece is a collaboration with visual artist Robert Racine ---also a composer and writer, but not a dancer. The two have known each other for 30 years. Racine "has always been close with dance people, attracted by the dance milieu," Fortier says. Having worked in other areas of the arts, including performance art, Racine was eager to try dancing, so Fortier invited him to participate in Cabane.
"Robert has no fear, and he's never judgmental about whether he's looking good on stage," Fortier says. "It's a real gift for a choreographer having that.
"Using a non-dancer in a duet is very risky since you don't know how far they can go, but Robert always goes beyond my expectations."
Racine dances like "a non-dancer" according to Fortier, and provides the musical accompaniment to the piece. The stage is shared with two technicians and the "cabane" of the name. "It's a set but more than a set," Fortier says, "it's almost a character."
The cabane is a collapsible cube approximately 2x2x2 metres, filled with props used by Fortier and Racine on stage. Racine uses the objects in the cabane as instruments ---"objects you don't expect to hear music coming from," Fortier says mysteriously.
The cabane travels everywhere the performers do, and performance venues are limited only by its dimensions. They've performed the show in traditional theatre venues, warehouses, a bunker, the centre of a meat market in London, the courtyard of a 17th-century hospital in France, a hotel ballroom in Saskatchewan and the ornate marble lobby of an English law firm.
"What surrounds it affects your reading of the piece," Fortier says. "In the office you have the idea of power and money; in the historical place you have the idea of time."
Fortier has been interested in the idea of unusual performance spaces for a long time. The piece that inspired Cabane was a solo piece called Solo 30 x 30, where he performs for 30 minutes in a public space every day for 30 days. That project is ongoing and has been performed in Ottawa, New York, Rome and London, with three more cities to come in 2011 and 2012 (he takes a break from the outdoor dancing in winter). Dancing on a shed during one of those performances, the concept for Cabane came to him. "It's kind of a universal theme," he says. "Everyone has the dream of a little shack in the woods."
Having explored the idea of a travelling piece in Solo 30 x 30, he wanted to continue with the theme and is in the process of taking Cabane across Canada. "It's not always easy to find places," he says. "Sometimes people are not interested in having a performance in their space." Fortier aspires to have the people involved with a chosen performance space---employees, patients and so on---involved with a show; the dance is merely part of a larger-scale spectacle, playing with audience perceptions.
Cabane, February 17, CBC-TV, 1840 Bell Road | February 18, Sexton Memorial Gym, 1360 Barrington Street | February 19, DANSpace, 1531 Grafton Street | all 8pm, $20 | 420-0003
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