We spoke with Marie France Forcier and Tracey Norman about their upcoming double bill Forcier/Norman
March 12-14 | 8pm | Harbourfront Centre Theatre
DanceWorks: “The basis for [Norman’s] dance is the energy that exists and transforms between people and its impact on relationships, loss, attraction and decision. The phenomenon of one person’s thoughts or emotions affecting another’s mood, otherwise known as emotional contagion or synchrony, is explored physically.” Tracey, in exploring emotional transference, what were the ways or processes you used to approach it through movement?
“dance is really a communal experience”
Tracey Norman: Well, I would say that first of all the interest grew naturally out of working in the studio on past creative processes and becoming aware of the energy shifts and impact we have on one another. As a choreographer, you’re somewhat removed at times from the multitude of sensorial experiences taking place or the changing emotions among a group, but it also gives me a vantage point where I often feel inside/outside of the group and can witness or feel things unfolding between people or in response to what I propose. It’s an interesting space to study group dynamics. Additionally, I’d just come off of creating two duets (Witness and 43°N 79°W), one in which I was working with the observer theory or the affect witnessing has on the other’s experience, and another duet involving the use of our senses to navigate space and relationships. Naturally, I carried over some of the ways of working/researching continuing from where I’d left off with those processes.
The other interesting thing is that over the process of this work, I’ve worked with different dancers and witnessed how tasks and ideas affected people differently and in turn affected the group differently. When we initially began, we played a lot with locating emotion in the body and looked for ways to pass this among the group, largely improvisatory in nature. The dance is really a communal experience and so often we performed tasks in rehearsal that involved the idea of community – for example, I would bring a movement idea to the studio and each dancer would have a chance to work on their own with the movement and then we would share/learn each others’ movements and build phrases from there.
“We played a lot with locating emotion in the body”
I love working with stillness or interruptions to movement and having tasks within those and this was often a way to play with checking in with the group. Eye contact is a big part of the dance, but so are other senses – listening, touching and the less tangible ideas of “feeling” connected or disconnected from another. Often warm-ups or play found their way into the choreography – for example, asking them to start and stop in unison without looking at one another as a warm-up has become embedded into sections of the choreography. Or often I would ask them to only go as far apart from each other as they could without losing their feeling of connection/energy or the opposite. Then there were methods of creating material in which the rules were they were literally not allowed to come out of physical contact or creating dances in contact which then were split apart… and what is it like to solo a contact dance. Overall, trying to approach the idea of emotional transference from many different angles and as the dance started to build, looking for ways to highlight what is already in the room through imagery, pacing, sound, etc. For example, I didn’t intend or plan on say Beth (Despres) and Brittany (Duggan) having a tender relationship in the dance or Beth having some sort of quiet leadership or control but that emerged and we ride along with it or highlight it.
DW: “In continuation with her research on the post-traumatic in choreography, Forcier explores the somatic repercussions of abuse. Suggestive, the works indirectly highlights the rise of trauma culture and our growing desensitization to violence and sexual voyeurism for their entertainment value.” Marie France, what about this topic possess you to continually explore it?
Marie France Forcier: A few years ago now, I started cultivating an appreciation for the aesthetics of discomfort in dance and other art forms. From first manifesting in my preferences for other artists’ work, this appreciation eventually seeped into my choreography; unconsciously at first, and then in response to a growing insistence of dissociative-like imagery and emotional dissonance in my practice. I eventually recognized that these repeating images were involuntary reflections of certain post-traumatic states I had embodied a decade earlier following a series of psychologically traumatic incidents. Curious to know whether I could turn from a passive participant to an active one in these aesthetic drives, I dedicated my master’s thesis (at York University) to the investigation of the post-traumatic lens in the choreographer’s work.
“kinaesthetic recognition is a powerful tool to fight off isolation”
The research and the dances works produced, beyond changing my paradigm of choreography and helping me embrace the reality of my post-traumatic life for its artistic potential, prompted several audience members and fellow academics– most of whom were complete strangers– to approach me and share their own experiences of psychological trauma, having recognized part of themselves in the performances. This made me realize two things: that kinaesthetic recognition is a powerful tool to fight off isolation, and that personal violation is far more common than we feel comfortable acknowledging as a society.
Of course, I don’t imagine that I will keep producing work around PTSD forever, but it was important for me to apply what I had gleaned over the course of my academic research to at least one professional process, to see how working with mature performers, in different conditions, may create opportunities for bolder, more impactful outcomes.
“I started cultivating an appreciation for the aesthetics of discomfort in dance and other art forms”
DW: For both Marie France and Tracey, how do you understand the two pieces intersecting, informing and influencing each other? What do you anticipate for the audience’s experience as a whole?
TN: I don’t think we set out on this production planning to connect the works thematically or create obvious links between the works necessarily. That said, Marie France and I are at similar places in our careers, we’re both working in different ways at this point in our careers than we were earlier on, we share a mentor/outside eye in Julia Sasso, and Marie France was an integral part of the creation of my work for the production as an interpreter/collaborator. Therefore, I believe there are connections and influences we have on each other’s work.
We both create contemporary work and collaborate with our dancers in terms of developing the material, yet our work is quite different and complimentary. I think we’re both exploring elements of the human condition but the tone and environment in each work is clearly different. I feel like there are moments of darkness or desolate images in my work but the overall quality is one of lightness or constant connection, whereas with Marie’s I feel there are moments of absurdity or sadistic humour that momentarily allow you to reflect on the tension in the work. So maybe this is another way the works compliment one another.
“we’re both exploring elements of the human condition but the tone and environment is clearly different”
I also think that when you’re involved with a partner on production over a long period of time, you have conversations about the works, view each others’ work-in-progress and in the case of Marie she was a collaborator in creating my work and so there are ways we’ve been influencing and informing each other all along. This is what I love. We’re not so much creating apart from each other and then coming together for the week of production, we’re talking as collaborators do, supporting each other’s processes and discussing how these works might look and feel together.
Overall, I think the audience will feel how these works are almost like two sides of a coin and I think there are likely intersections and implications the works have on one another that I won’t comprehend until I sit in the audience and view the two works beside each other. I think the audience will also experience the fearlessness, intimacy, and commitment of the performers and the holistic integration of the musical compositions and lighting design as integral elements of the production.
“these works are almost like two sides of a coin”
MFF: Tracey has pretty much just said it all… I would add that the works are indeed very different, but in a way that I hope will highlight one another’s specificities. The audience will be exposed to abstraction, refinement and movement craft with what goes between, and to implicit imagery, emotional discomfort and perhaps a dose of cognitive dissonance with Scars are All the Rage.
In my opinion, programs that reflect such range are very interesting because they give their audiences a chance to process dance– an abstract and ephemeral medium– by comparison, hence providing greater opportunity for appreciating the nuances and/or intentions inherent to each work.
Marie France Forcier : Scars are All the Rage
Tracey Norman : what goes between
Harboufront Centre Theatre