The Heady Work of the Body: an interview with Marie France Forcier of Forcier StageWorks

… on her upcoming production Facts of Influence

April 15-17 at 8pm and April 18th at 2pm, 2010

at the Winchester Street Theatre

Regular Ticket: $25, ($20 advance sale)

Student/Senior/CADA Ticket: $17

info@danceworks.ca or (416) 204-1082

Interview by Lucy Rupert

What does the title “facts of influence” mean to you?

The title of the program is in reference to the expression, “the Facts of Life”, applying them to the narrower field of influences alone. Facts of Influence to me implies all unavoidable things that must be faced or dealt with, that are in direct relation to an influence. These facts include the specific nature of the influence as well as its specific consequences on: human feelings, sense of self, and, most importantly, behaviour.

How do you, as director of Forcier StageWorks, see the relation between the two pieces on your program?

In relation to the program title, Facts of Influence, the departure point in the creative process for both pieces had to do with the direct sources of influence. Sharon’s piece, Bliss (originally called The Onlookers) is based on a world populated by the ones who passed away from the living world; or how spirits affect the living. My piece, Gold (originally called Os) explores the effect our unconscious has on us, such as dreaming, hallucinating or being drugged.

Although our pieces shifted and grew exponentially from those departure points, they are both strongly related to those specific sources of influence.

Both pieces are very different in style; you will see two very different acts, which beautifully displays the range of the dancers and of the composer for both pieces, James Bunton.

What drew you to commission a work for your company?

I enjoy programs that showcase more than one artist because they allow us to peek through the window of more than one creative mind in a short period of time. They allow us to reflect upon how those minds connect and how they are different. I was interested in taking a risk. I see danger in repeating the same formula with every production: both for the development of the artist and for the interest of the audience. After staging only my work for the company for a few years, I felt confident enough in my own choreographic identity to invite someone to come challenge and contrast my own work.

What drew you to Sharon in particular?

I’ve had the opportunity to dance in her work several times as a student and felt a visceral connection to the work each time. Her works are always surprising to the audience, and I wanted to shake up Forcier Stage Works’ style. Theatricality, explosive force, velocity and strong symbols are part of her signature and I wanted that!

You appear to have a regular core group of dancers, what attracts you to these dancers and to the new dancers in your group?

I truly believe in the value of investing in people. I am blessed to have a core group of dancers who are   loyal and put their trust in me as much as I put my trust in them. They are willing to bring my ideas to life and improve them with their unique personalities, physicality and stage presence. Heather Berry and Brendan Wyatt began to work with me in 2005 when they were still students. At the time I found them very gifted in mastering technique and they could project their energy in a very eager, compelling way. I have had the privilege to witness them gaining interpretative maturity over the last few years and having been part of their development makes our working relationship very layered and very special. I am well aware of the importance of developing a creative connection over time, because with time comes trust, and with trust comes a safe place for exploration.

Molly Johnson joined us in 2007. She is a beautiful dancer and naturally theatrically skilled. Erika Stirton recently became part of Forcier Stage Works, just in time for Facts of Influence. She has a wide physical range from her background in gymnastics and she is simply gorgeous to watch. I get to enjoy her more and more as we progress through the choreographic process.

They are a fantastic group to have in rehearsals, we laugh a lot and truly enjoy the process, which is ultimately what matters the most: journey, rather than destination.

Have you collaborated with James Bunton before? What draws you to him?

Yes, I’ve collaborated with James on each of my choreographic projects and on most of my commissioned work since 2005 – well over twenty projects now, I’ve lost count. We are at a point where we both equally inform each other’s work. I tell him what I need musically and his music guides me to the next step in developing choreography. Often I am creatively stuck and just hearing the score he comes with for a section provides me with the answer. I trust him completely in handing him my choreographic work, and that is not something that comes naturally to me. He has proven to me time and again that he is not only extremely talented, but dedicated and passionate about this kind of work, and after five years I have a hard time imagining creating without his input.

Having seen your work before, there seems to me to be an element of emotional restraint, a mystery and opaqueness to the movement, like there’s a layer beneath that we, the audience, are not allowed to see…am I way off base in this interpretation?

No, I would say that you are pretty much dead on! I think that my style of choreography is very honest and open, but although communicated freely and completely, the secrets don’t obviously surface. As in life, anyone who exposes himself too readily quickly becomes uninteresting and/or vulnerable. I try to avoid that as a person and in my work as well. I like to paint the tableau of a result. Often, I stage a situation where a disturbing event that caused things to be the way they are has already happened. I am interested in how people deal with the events that life brings them – not so much on what leads to the events themselves. I find coping mechanisms fascinating.

On your company website you describe the company as “combining substantial subject matter with original and athletic movement” What does this mean to you? How do you as a creator approach very profound ideas to channel through movement? (I guess this is a long-winded way of asking about your creative process!)

That’s actually part of a quote from a 2007 Paula Citron review that I thought was an accurate description of what I was aiming to do. My points of departure in creation are often rooted in social issues and how those issues complicate the relationships between people, directly and indirectly. I like intellectual matter, but I try to avoid staying too brainy in my work. Instead, I drop the contents of my right brain into my guts and my core and channel that accumulated energy into movement. Often, the movement comes from my own body, and the dancers take it and make it their own. Once we have a good amount of material to draw from, we start layering and experimenting with significance and imagery.

What can audience members expect to experience/see at Facts of Influence?

Watching Sharon Moore’s Bliss, the audience is in for a ride, let me tell you! The piece is very dynamic, a lot happens, it is fast paced and loaded, very funny and very physical with tons of beautiful imagery.

Watching Gold, the audience will be transported to an intense, vibrant, almost cubist world. There are many symbols in Gold: a mix of softness and aggression, typical of family dynamics.

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