Dancing in public: Danse Danse’s outdoor program presents Caroline Laurin-Beaucage’s work

How Danse Danse brought the performance to you

The Place des Arts Esplanade became an exploration space this weekend for performers in the dance creation titled Habiter nos mémoires by Caroline Laurin-Beaucage. The performance was part of Danse Danse’s outdoor program called Hors les murs kicked-off their fall season. On Friday and Sunday — Saturday had to be cancelled because of the rain — each of the eight performers spent an hour in an open cube that had been set up for them in the public space. The performances lasted from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. for passersby to watch.

This performance followed Laurin-Beaucage’s solo piece that was initially titled Habiter sa mémoire. The artist’s idea was to bring the rehearsal space closer to the audience. Laurin-Beaucage said that her goal for this project was, “to bring my dance studio outside, to give me a new challenge and to explore what it means to work outside while generating an authentic dance.”

For Habiter nos mémoires, the artist shared her process with eight women aged between 25 and 60. Carol Prieur, Brianna Lombardo, Angélique Willkie, Ariane Levasseur, Susanna Haight, Marie-Reine Kabasha, Claudine Hébert and Marine Rixhon wore red clothing and started each moment in the cube by recording their voice. The improvisation that followed aims for the dancers to connect to the way their bodily sensations inspired them to move in that moment. Each hour was concluded by  recorded personal messages recalling what happened during the last hour.

Sound creator Larsen Lupin created a soundscape for the performances putting together the artists’ voice recordings. Visitors were able to access the soundtrack while watching. For Laurin-Beaucage, this was an important part of the presentation. She discovered that “the way we speak seems to fit the rhythm of our dance and it actually works, the soundtrack of our voice really accompanies our movements.”

Laurin-Beaucage’s process in the initial version of the project also included the same open cube and voice recordings. Laurin-Beaucage admitted that there is a kind of vulnerability that comes with presenting non-prepared movement propositions in front of an audience. She explored that vulnerability a lot as she presented the improvised outdoor exploration 32 times in the last five years in different locations and countries. Each event lasted approximately four hours, like a typical dance rehearsal would. She transmitted the knowledge she had gained in that process to the eight performers of Habiter nos mémoires when they were preparing for the event.

Habiter nos mémoires is one of the three dance pieces that are being presented by Danse Danse in the public space this fall. For Danse Danse’s artistic co-director and director of development Caroline Ohrt, the Hors les murs programming “gives audience members the freedom to wander […], it grasps the attention of people who do not necessarily come in the theatre.” The dance diffuser hoped to present an outdoor program last year, but the COVID-19 restrictions changed their plans.

Hors les murs started on Sept. 24,, with choreographer Sébastien Provencher’s piece Children of Chemistry presented in the windows of the 2-22 building on St-Catherine Street. Habiter nos mémoires followed on Oct. 1 and 3, alongside Sylvain Émard’s work Préludes, which was presented in the afternoon of Oct. 3. Émard’s outdoor presentation preceded his new show Rhapsodie, which is coming up in February 2022.

For more information on all of the pieces, please visit Danse Danse’s website.


Photo courtesy of Thomas Payette   


Experimenting in the public space

In his Public Space and the Public interest Class, Soukwan Chan, a professor from the university’s department of geography, planning and environment, assigned his students to come up with a multidisciplinary project in three weeks to encourage interaction between strangers in different public areas by using the urban settings themselves as a stimulator.

Photo by Paula Monroy

Of the ideas, Chan asked the class to rate the ones which stood out, and the students favoured the Nov. 20 public library installation set up on the corner of Guy St. and de Maisonneuve Blvd, which cost the group $50 and consisted of a bookshelf holding over 150 books, a sofa and two chairs.

Concordia urban planning students set up a library installation on the university’s campus in an effort to stimulate human interaction in public space, impressing fellow students by making use of the space and getting strangers to interact with one another.

“Sometimes artists create public art that is just there to decorate, and it’s not meaningful to the place,” said team member Elizabeth Thongphanith. “The comfortable setting of the library, we thought, would spark interaction with the built environment.”

The library setting was meant to play up the “democratic nature of public libraries,” said team member Patrick Serrano. He explained the group theorized that the majority of users would be students coming from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

Based on their data, the group counted 156 users throughout the 13 hours of the installation. While the group expected 28 per cent of users would engage in conversation, 7 per cent ended up doing so.

The group attributed their results to climatic factors, believing there were less users due to the cold weather. A time-lapse video was also produced, which includes interviews with those who used the space.

“[People] want to see more, not exactly this experiment, but a better use of the great space we have that nobody uses. People liked the idea that finally something new and interesting was happening,” said group member Brett Hudson.

Chan explained the projects showed the importance of building more possibilities for interaction in the public space. “We are concerned about others less and less,” said Chan. “We rely more on the virtual world than networks to communicate, to connect. … The stores that have automated doors, for instance, have eliminated even the smallest possibilities for interaction.”

The groups came up with a wide variety of projects, including a farting machine designed to force awkwardness at main street intersections and notes seemingly written by secret admirers or friendly unknowns the students then passed to strangers in an effort to evaluate gender interaction.

“In all these experiments we realize that people are comfortable with spaces,” said Chan. “But there’s value in trying to break those bubbles and to try to get people to interact with each other.”


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