The Centretown Buzz, December 14, 2001
Anik Bouvrette: Choreographer of the body and soul
By Trish Edwards
The Guatemalan woman sits. She holds a breastfeeding baby against one shoulder; on her other shoulder, she slings a rifle.
This haunting photograph is but one inspiration that independent Ottawa choreographer Anik Bouvrette takes from her memories to use in her works.
“Since earliest memory, I was always creating, taking pieces of music, crafting sequences, teaching them to my friends,” she says, reminiscing about her years at Ottawa’s De La Salle High School and Simon Fraser University in B.C. At 32, Bouvrette’s youthful face and compact, energetic body belie her short-cropped, silver hair. “When guest choreographers conducted workshops, I was fascinated by how they structured things. I’ve always related all my own dance experiences to choreography.”
Today, Bouvrette is seeing her own works on stage. “The audience settles in, the lights dim, and all of a sudden, I have no more control,” she says. “It’s nerve-wracking, but I have faith in the dancers, in these dancers. And it’s exciting, watching the movements live through their bodies. I have one perspective, but when the work is performed for an audience, now there are many other points of view.”
Many choreographers have ‘spoken’ to Bouvrette in profound ways. She remembers being moved by Ginette Laurin, of Montreal’s O Vertigo Danse, during a high school workshop when she was 15 years old. Serge Bennathan, of Toronto’s Dancemakers, and Sankai Juku, a Japanese butoh dance troupe, stir her as well. But training in Ottawa in the mid-90s under Peter Boneham, Le Groupe Dance Lab’s founder, taught her to go beyond boundaries she had set for herself.
“Peter has a genius for teaching. He is inspiring as a person and as an artist. After three years, I found myself doing things I never would have thought possible for me,” says Bouvrette, blue eyes sparkling with enthusiasm. “He taught me that we create our own limitations, and we can do whatever we set our minds and bodies to.”
Bouvrette created Rafales, her first major-length work, during this period and performed it over the next few years in Ottawa, Peterborough, Toronto and Vancouver with dancers Lana Morton and Liane Bèlanger. Rafales was followed by Brigantia, a poignant piece inspired by such images as the Guatemalan woman and pre-Raphaelite paintings of Circe and Ophelia. And an intimate exploration of the relationship between Bouvrette’s mother and her mother’s sister, entre deux murmures, came to life next.
These three enormously successful pieces later came together as Muralis, which opened in December 1999 to sold-out audiences at Ottawa’s La Nouvelle Scène. Bouvrette’s more recent show, Lustrale: between water and light, premiered at this unique French theatre in September.
Morton and Michèle Bastien, two of the three Lustrale dancers, have known Bouvrette since they took classes together at Le Groupe Dance Lab. The three bonded instantly and worked on several of Bouvrette’s early pieces. Jacqueline Ethier, the third dancer, joined the ensemble in 1997, after Bouvrette saw a young Ethier perform a solo created for her by the ballet-world’s renowned Celia Franca at a gala of The School of Dance at the National Gallery of Canada. Ethier and others who have worked with Bouvrette over the last part of the ’90s have allowed her the opportunity to step back and refine some of her latter works.
So far, Bouvrette has only used women in her pieces. “It’s an intuitive decision, not intellectual,” she muses. “I’m not trying to make social commentary. I simply love to work with women. My images come from the women in my life. And my movement vocabulary speaks of the feminine. Maybe someday I’ll be ready to take on a project for men.”
Bouvrette chooses dancers she knows and trusts for her pieces, dancers whose style and life philosophy mirror her own. Her signature movement is fluid, organic, starting with the pelvis and reverberating through the torso. The sinuous vocabulary was developed over years of research and working with the three Lustrale dancers and others like Bèlanger, Julie Anne Ryan, and Susie Burpee, now with Toronto’s Dancemakers.
“These women have generously and unstintingly given of their time, their experiences, their artistry while I dabbled and experimented. And don’t forget how incredibly competitive this field is for women,” reminds Bouvrette. “Using these dancers in my works is one more way of repaying them for their belief in me.”
As a choreographer, Anik is wholly connected to the physical realities facing dancers, says Morton. “And she honours your artistic contribution, understanding what you bring to the work. Her dancers are not just bodies to be placed and moved but rather collaborating artists.”
Having worked with many other choreographers, Bastien enthusiastically agrees. “Anik is very respectful,” she says. “And she knows how to help you open your heart, mind, body, spirit. I’m elated at the end of the day.”
As for Ethier, she’s really appreciated the opportunity to work with people like Bouvrette, Morton, and Bastien. “Lustrale has been a dream project for me. I feel really fortunate to have been able to work with these people full-time and to learn from them,” she says.
What does Bouvrette plan to do next? “I’ll be looking for bookings for Lustrale. And I’d like to get another residency to keep going-we received a lot of thoughtful, constructive, and very encouraging feedback after our performances, and I believe there’s more we can do with this work.”
And she adds, “I’m also negotiating with the Portuguese dance company Compahnia de Dança de Almada to choreograph a piece for its six women dancers, which I hope will take shape next year. And Jacqueline has approached me about creating a solo especially for her, one that will showcase her own artistic talents, and I’m excited about the possibility of helping create someone else’s vision.”
For Bouvrette, the opportunities and choices seem endless.