What a delightful time I had chatting with Anne Plamondon via Zoom.
When I mentioned during our conversation that I had received a press release which describes her as a ‘radiant choreographer and performer of dance’, she was extremely flattered that she is regarded in this manner because she considers radiance a beautiful quality of light, hope, well being, luminous and glowing.
Anne hopes that her work can make an audience feel elevated especially now in our world. Art can be possible in any subject addressed; however, Anne also spoke of the fact that our present world can not always be considered a happy place as our world can be both beautiful and ugly at the same time, and audiences will see a profound depth in ‘Only You’, her upcoming dance presentation this week at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.
We both agreed that we are not out of the pandemic and its dire effects yet; however, Anne recognizes these last two years have changed the world of dance for her. She isn’t sure that she has fully noticed everything that the pandemic did change and that it will take awhile before any of us really see what has been changed.
Anne’s first thought on the dance milieu when the world changed two years ago was on the emerging next generation of artists and their preparation within schools in what she calls that big black hole in teaching. Her concern was how these artists were going to learn and to be prepared moving forward into the industry. Yes, schools and students had to continue via Zoom. If students and schools must do this, they can. It’s not impossible to maintain and keep the inspiration alive but learning via Zoom is not enough in dance because the art speaks so much when people move together.
For Plamondon, dance is “a language of the body, of touching, reunion and communicating through the body from one person to the other”. The art of dance is not conducive to distancing six feet from each other. The whole point of dance is a gathering of the audience and the performers, and the curiosity of meeting the other person.
The process of dance is about sharing the body language in the studio during the rehearsal. If dancers can’t be in the same room together or can’t enter each other’s bubble, then a huge part of dance has been cut and that’s troublesome.
As a dancer and choreographer, Anne cares a great deal about what she calls partnering work. She enjoys the narrative in her dance in seeing how it starts, where does it go and what is left. It is something she has loved doing. She was lucky enough to have amazing partners in her dance career. For Anne, if the partnering work cannot happen then there is what she calls a great deal of ‘missing out’.
For someone like myself who holds no background or education in dance, Plamondon wants audiences to realize that not every dance piece has to have a narrative running through it. For her, dance sometimes goes mysteriously ‘beyond the words’ and audience members may not have to understand everything. There could be images, movement, or combination of movement with music in the language of the body that might just create an interesting picture on the stage for audiences to follow and to feel something emotionally. That on its own can be poetic and touching.
Today, she feels a sense of urgency to speak about her work candidly and honestly and to do it well since this great two year pause of nothing. Everything has to matter and to mean something. Anne considers herself ambitiously curious now more than ever. She was to have brought her show ‘Seulement Toi/Only You’ to Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre March 17, 2020, as part of an important step for her company. She wanted to bring a partner into the process after completing two solo shows.
Thankfully, ‘Seulement Toi/Only You’ returns and runs April 8 and 9 at the Fleck Dance Theatre at Harbourfront. Anne says she is super excited to return to Toronto as she feels she has developed a strong relationship with the city since she has danced her many times. She considers ‘Only You’ a stepping stone to make and provide group work for her company since she has only completed solo works and solo evenings before. Making duet work seems to be a natural evolution for her to start bringing other people into the process of dance for her company.
When she choreographs for herself, Anne relies on personal life connections for inspiration. She performs and creates for herself so there is no distance between the two. Choosing a partner for ‘Only You’ was extremely important. After she selects the partner, Anne then decides what both must do to keep the integrity of the two persons. Every step of the process is extremely important in the conversation of the relationship between the two dancers in trying to figure out who they are as individuals together.
Before the pandemic, Anne was interested in a need for connection and a need for understanding the other in synchronicity. But the title of the piece made Anne realize that after all this stuff of the last two years, it’s just her. She has to find her road for life and walk that road. This is the personal part of ‘Only You’ and also a self quest.
‘Only You’ is also personal in that she went from only dancing for other people and a moving on to choreographic development. There was a transition for her. Anne is still a performer, but she only performs her work. She considers herself fortunate in her career that she has worked with phenomenal creators such as Crystal Pite and James Kudelka in that she was a muse for someone else’s vision.
But she has moved forward.
What’s next for Anne Plamondon after April 9 after Harbourfront?
After Toronto, she and the company travel to Ottawa and the National Arts Centre and perform ‘Only You’ there. In June, she starts a new creation with eight Canadian dancers including herself. It’s the St Sauveur Festival in Montreal directed by Guillaume Côté. Anne was commissioned a thirty-minute piece this August to create a work. She has selected dancers from across the country. She points out that during this time everyone is talking about thinking locally. Anne makes a good point when she says that local is Canada for her, so she has dancers from Toronto, Vancouver, and Montréal. Although some of the dancers have worked with each other in the past while others haven’t, Anne confidently states she is taking a leap of faith that she has selected the perfect group for this piece at the Festival which premieres August 3.
As we began to wind down the conversation, I asked Anne a question what I’ve asked other artists in some profiles.
What would she like future audiences to remember about her and her work ten years from now?
I think I caught her off guard because she paused and said that it was a monumental task to think about this right now. Then she confided that she felt humbled in being asked this question.
For Anne, she loves the art of dance and its discipline. Sometimes, dance might or could be misunderstood by audiences who may connect to music or theatre more. She feels she has a responsibility as a dance artist to bring the standards and the quality, the craft and the integrity of the work in that direction of excellence, otherwise the discipline can suffer tremendously if dancers don’t aim for excellence in the industry.
‘Seulement Toi/Only You’ performs April 8 and 9 at 7:30 pm at the Fleck Dance Theatre in Harbourfront Centre, Queen’s Quay Terminal, 3rd Floor, 207 Queen’s Quay West. The performance is 60 minutes in length with a short question and answer following the show April 9.
For tickets, visit harbourfrontcentre.com.