Alive and Kicking: An interview with Jennifer Robichaud, Artistic director of Larchaud Dance Project – By Lucy Rupert

Larchaud’s latest production, “Back to X” has taken interrogation techniques as a starting point for a full-throttle exploration of contemporary dance and breakdance.

What made you want to form your company Larchaud Dance Project? What artistic questions do you pursue?

Larchaud Dance Project was formed with the intention to produce work with mainstream appeal and artistic integrity.  As an emerging dancer, I felt that there weren’t many companies that I could identify with, or there weren’t any opportunities with those that I was interested in.  The only solution that I saw was to establish something relevant to my interests, creatively, aesthetically and philosophically. In another light, one could say that the company was formed out of sheer determination, fearlessness, and a complete no-holds barred approach.

Larchaud Dance Project is dedicated to creating dance that pushes boundaries and exposes new audiences to dance through mainstream culture, producing work that is accessible to everyone, and layered to appeal to all ages. Larchaud Dance Project delivers a preservation of the technique and standard of breaking from some of the city’s originators with an array of contemporary styles ranging from modern to jazz to African. The company elevates the art of breaking to the stage, and increases exposure of contemporary dance to unlikely audiences by taking it to the street. We want to create art that is not merely a spectacle of entertainment, but questions the harsh realities of today’s world, engages youth, and acts as a vehicle for social change.

How did you find your collaborators?

Jase Cozmic, my co-choreographer on many endeavours, and I met at in 2005 when I was looking for a breaker that had strong overall dance abilities, was interested in different art forms and willing to experiment with different social, artistic, and kinesthetic ideas.  Cozmic, one of the founding members of the legendary crew Intrikit, fit the bill on all levels, and, in his words, had just hung up his dancin’ shoes.  It took some persuading, but he came out retirement, and has been a strong influence on all of our productions.

LeeAnne Charlton has been a friend and colleague of mine since in the dance program at York University.  As one of the original members of Larchaud Dance Project, she not only shares my ideals and expectations, but also challenges my ideas, my choreographic choices, and production decisions.

Do you have any major influences outside the dance sphere?

Martial arts and commercial choreography, Pop culture and youth, social trends and action movies (they’re my favourite).

Speaking of action movies, you have cited Quentin Tarantino as an inspiration. What aspects of his film work inspire you and how might we find them in “Back to X”?

I have always been very intrigued by the work of film writer and director Quentin Tarantino, and decided to model “Back to X” after the highly stylized characteristics of his films; sharp dialogue/choreography, splintered chronology, pop culture obsessions, the timing, patterning, and precision of choreographed martial arts, and the ruthless attitude towards character and storyline.

The Tarantino world finds is somewhere in the intersectional setting of a classic Film-noir and a cult Pulp novella. All his stories take place in a single big city with an air of crime, all characters with a inclination towards sin and fearlessness. The characters are very basic (i.e. the gangsters, the femmes fatales, the ruthless big boss etc.) and the typical lot you’ll find in any crime-movie with a certain added depth to their personae. The through-line of “Back to X” follows a format similar to this.

In every Tarantino film, we find the characters involved in conversations that seem completely pointless. What initially seems like a parlour trick to extend the running time of the film later turns out to be an essential part in a shift of mood. This has become a mainstay of Larchaud productions over time: a short piece of choreography or transition that initially seems out of place, but by the end you realize it has altered the storyline or added an element that is absolutely necessary.

“Back to X” will give a glimpse into the circumstances of seven characters, brought together through a harsh imprisonment.  Chopped-up segments of film will fill the gaps of time unknown on stage. The company will transform the space into a confinement, both physically and conceptually, that the audience will be a part of. The audience will begin to learn how these individuals are linked to each other. Would one answer differently while interrogated if they knew that their words would affect someone else either positively or negatively?  When the decision to answer one way over another can change everything in a split second, the moments before and after become increasingly important.

How did you research interrogation techniques while working on this project?

I watched footage and film from survivors and interrogators and compared it to how interrogation is represented in the movies. Interrogation in everyday life was also an aspect that I looked at, and researched human responses and actions to these situations. Using the feelings evoked in these circumstances and manipulations as a base point for choreography.

What is your favourite city/place and why?

So far, my favourite city is Shanghai because of its extremes.  Like any big city, it is rich in history and culture but there is also a seediness to it that captivates me.  What can be the most beautiful also has the tendency to be the ugliest; this contradiction in cities and life is most interesting.  BUT Vegas is always fun!

What was the last music you downloaded/purchased?

Soundtrack of Standard Operating Procedures – inspiration for a duet for Zhenya Cerneacov and Amy Hampton for “Back to X”.

What do you hope audiences will experience at your performance?

I hope that “Back to X” will visually stimulate audiences, and allow them to feel the reactions of our characters in this world that we have created for them.  I hope that we tell them a story that plays to, and upon, their senses, fears and beliefs.  I would also be lying if I said that I didn’t want them to leave thinking that they just saw some kick-ass dancing!

Larchaud Dance ProjectBack to X

Dec 3 – 5, 2009, 8pm, Dec 6, 2009 2pm

Theatre Centre, 1087 Queen St West

Tickets: $25 or $20 in advance (Adults), $15 Students, Seniors,CADA
Box Office: 416 204 1082
email: or visit website

Choreographers: Jennifer Robichaud, Jase Cozmic, Lee-Anne Charlton
Performers: Robyn Alfonso, Zhenya Cerneacov, Jase Cozmic, Amy Hampton, Mayumi Lashbrook, Aaron Piepszny, Jennifer Robichaud
Lighting: Siobhan Sleath