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Fortier Danse-Création / Paul-André Fortier

June 11, 2012

Vertiges

Goldstein and Fortier, Photograph by Ginelle Chagnon

Reviewed June 10, 2012

La Nouvelle Scène, Ottawa

(Canada Dance Festival 2012)

(Second performance Monday, June 11, 7 p.m. at La Nouvelle Scène)

Put a 64-year-old dancer and a 76-year-old violinist together on stage and what could possibly unfold? In the case of Paul-André Fortier and his collaborator Malcolm Goldstein, something rather innovative and curious.

True, sometimes this one-hour performance, commissioned by the Canada Dance Festival, drags. And the presentation on a simple black stage with minimal props (a stream of large clear light bulbs and a plywood backboard) becomes simply tiring. But the message the duo projects is, nevertheless, to be applauded: for its audaciousness, its persistence and its honesty.

As physical performers age, it is inevitable they should leave their craft behind. Bodies wear out and, sadly, don’t look so good on stage after a certain point. But if dance is a language, then it should be able to be spoken by anyone who has the ability to move meaningfully. I’ve seen “older” dancers perform beyond their prime and, while they can be praised for their capabilities considering their age, it can be painful and worrying to watch them. Fortier, with his shaven head and clean-cut outfit of black pants and long-sleeved white shirt, is a fit-looking sixty-something, but he works up a sweat in this work.

Born in 1948, Fortier has been a “man who dances” since the early ‘70s and a man who creates dance for more than three decades. Over his career, he has explored post-modern themes, primarily as a solo artist, and has gone on to direct and to teach dance at the post-secondary level.

While he creates for other, much younger dancers, Fortier also performs in many of his own works. His movement vocabulary is nothing new in Vertiges, but this work is not so much about the movement as it is about how aging creative types deal with the realities of being older.

Fortier is exploring the senses – voice, sight, hearing, touch – and breath, against the discordant violin playing, plucking and screeching by Goldstein. Vertiges is about the connection between the two old artists, which includes an argument performed with aggressive physical gesturing and shouting in an unintelligible language. The despair and futility of it is engaging and humorous. Is that how we look and sound when we fight?

Vertiges is also about the transition between the active creative life and the end or death of it. When you’re too old to perform on a physical level, but you’re not prepared to stop, what do you do? What if nobody’s watching? Can it get any better? Or does the agony just increase? Fortier projects this agony, and the pain, the sadness, the anger, the longing and the memory of an old man unreservedly.

NOTE: Paul-André Fortier presents Vertiges at Dancing on the Edge Festival of Contemporary Dance in Vancouver on July 5 and 6, and at Agora de la danse in Montreal November 14 through 16.

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One Comment
  1. Very interesting post. Thanks.

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