Only the lonely
I have had many conversations that hinge on the question of loneliness. Working as a choreographer, especially as an independent artist, can mean spending a lot of hours alone in front of a computer. Navigating artistic and administrative challenges can feel daunting, and even more so from the isolation of a home/office (aka the living room couch). In response, I have seen both individuals and organizations propose a number of initiatives that emphasize sharing and mutual support. There are new collective company models, co-working platforms, and groups of artists gathering formally or informally to share information, resources, and even studio time. Here, I’d like to focus on a few cooperative projects, all of which are open and accessible to anyone within our milieu.
Professional co-development at the RQD
Beginning in the spring of 2017, and continuing through January 2018, I had the pleasure of joining five other artists as part of a co-development group for choreographers. This group was organized by the Regroupement québécois de la danse, and facilitated with great sensitivity by Pierre Morin.
The participants, all women, were a mix in terms of age, experience, current pre-occupations and career goals. During each monthly meeting, one member of the group became the client, proposing a professional challenge or work-related problem. Following a specific format, this client would outline their situation and their current needs. In turn, the rest of the group would work to find possible solutions, or fresh approaches to the problem.
I could speak at length about all of the different types of issues we discussed. The ground we covered included all things practical, creative and existential. The most important thing I learned, however, was the value of seeking advice and support from people outside of my normal social and professional circles. Our conversations challenged, surprised, and at times frustrated me, but ultimately I learned a lot from the process.
Organized by Les Réservoirs (Elise Bergeron, Marie-France Jacques, Alexia Martel and Audrey Rochette), La Piscine creates new opportunities to engage in fundamental artistic research, allowing choreographers to explore an idea that might not be ready for a grant application or an extended creation period. It’s a platform where choreographers can launch a proposal for a short (1-2 rehearsals) creative exploration. Dancers can then volunteer to participate in any proposal that they find interesting. Aware of the systemic problem of unpaid labor in our milieu, but also aware of the financial reality of many choreographers, La Piscine emphasizes a reciprocity between the choreographers and the dancers who participate. For example, choreographers are asked to welcome dancers on a first-come first-served basis. This rule helps to subvert the usual structure in which a dancer must wait to be invited into a creative process. Here, they can pick and choose which proposals are the most interesting to them. In this way, La Piscine hopes to facilitate new and unexpected connections between choreographers and performers, while offering both artists the chance to take risks and explore new ideas.
ITINERANT – choreographers’ space
I have been co-organizing this project with Katie Ward for the past 2 years. Our monthly gatherings are a place for performance makers to show work-in-progress and practice giving and receiving critical feedback. Anyone who self-identifies as a professional artist can participate regardless of age, background, ability, or aesthetic. The only requirement is that everyone who attends must come with something to share. This ensures an atmosphere of mutual vulnerability and investment.
Initiated by la 2e Porte à Gauche in partnership with Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique, and hosted by Frédérick Gravel, Chorégraphes Anonymes is envisioned as a collaborative session offering choreographers the
opportunity to discuss issues related to creation/production. There is one coming up on March 19th organized around the question “To renew oneself or to persist?” I’m looking forward to attending and hope to see some you there as well!
With an emphasis on horizontality and reciprocity, all these projects propose a meeting point for artists of different aesthetics, affinities and generations. Hopefully, these intersections not only help participants to feel less alone, but also challenge them to reconsider assumptions and learn more about the many different ways in which people create and pursue careers in dance.
Dorian Nuskind-Oder © Simon Grenier-Poirier