Jacques of all trades

Solo dance performance denies audience passive role

Cible de Dieu – Université de Montreal graduate Jacques Poulin-Denis’s latest project – is as hard to define as its creator. Poulin-Denis has training in music, theatre, and dance; all these art forms are used equally in his new show to convey “ruin and defeat” through humour, raw sincerity, and the simplicity of the human form.

Despite Poulin-Denis’s extensive range of previous work – including co-directing Ekumen (an organization dedicated to the creation and production of sound art), producing two albums, and working with director Denis Marleau and choreographer Ginette Laurin – it is only this year that Poulin-Denis founded his own company, called Grand Poney. Recent work has included dance piece Practices, and Domestik, an experimental concert featuring music for 18 household appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines. Of his latest dance project, Cible de Dieu, Poulin-Denis says, “Creating stagework is my favourite career…. Music and stagework are fairly equal in my activity.… [At the moment] I think I’m more fond of dancing, but it changes on a yearly basis.”

Cible De Dieu is Poulin-Denis’s first solo show. Discussing the challenges of working solo, Poulin-Denis emphasized the importance of sensation over sight – when other dancers aren’t around, you cannot see their movements and have only the sensation of your own self. “It is more of an impression,” he said. It’s also a challenge for motivation: “Instead of practicing, I would often just lie on the floor thinking about the show,” he remembers. However, there are benefits to going solo: “By being solo I can really put an emphasis on connecting with the audience. That intention is also there with group work, but I really want to communicate since I am all by myself.”

A marked change in creative direction is visible as a result of Poulin-Denis’s move to solo work. A main goal was to “set aside embellishments to make way for the vulnerability of man and purity of gesture” – an aim starkly evident in the variety of his performance. Cible de Dieu is a dance piece, but one that takes our expectations of what dance should be and turns them on their head.

One of the most interesting aspects of the show is Poulin-Denis’s interaction with the audience. Though the show is at times humourous and light-hearted, watching Cible de Dieu is not just a sit-back-and-relax experience. “The most important part of the project for me is the relationship with the audience,” Poulin-Denis says. “I’m always trying to ask [the audience] to adapt…. This anti-hero is always having to work double-time to make things work and I’m asking the audience to take part the same way”.

This idea of the protagonist as an anti-hero is integral to the relationship between character and audience. Poulin-Denis “wanted a character the audience can relate to,” and although he didn’t set out to embody this in the form of an anti-hero, “it sort of turned out that way.”

Cible de Dieu demands something from its audience. Its central character will challenge spectators’ perception of humanity. Despite the humour and lightheartedness, fundamentally, Poulin-Denis says that “I’m hoping it’s more their thought process that’s being asked to take part” when watching his performance.

Cible de Dieu runs at Espace Tangente (840 Cherrier) from November 19-22. For more information, visit tangente.qc.ca