BoucharDanse’s Histoire d’amour: Interpreting the “unexplainable feeling” of love

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal

Arpita Ghosal is a Toronto-based arts writer. She founded Sesaya in 2004.

Brendan Wyatt, Christian Laurin, Sylvie Bouchard (Photo: Joseph Michael Photography)

What’s love got to do with it? When speaking of BoucharDanse’s Histoire d’amour, just about everything! This multimedia dance-theatre is at once an homage and an exploration of love’s mysticism and mythos: the pangs and pleasures . . . the desires and despair. The show is conceived and performed by BoucharDanse’s Artistic Director Sylvie Bouchard, Brendan Wyatt and Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin. And it is directed by award-winning multidisciplinary artist Marie-Josée Chartier.

Histoire d’amour presents six vignettes showcasing the visions of six Canadian choreographers: Julia Aplin, Susie Burpee, Louis-Martin Charest, Denise Fujiwara, Sylvie Bouchard and Louis Laberge-Côté. Each work takes inspiration from by a different time period to create a unique piece centred on love’s undefinability. What is love? ask these vignettes. How do we explain and express that mysterious emotion that finds us where we are, yet leaves us in a different place, utterly changed? Can love’s vulnerability, beauty, darkness, and strength even be explained? And how has love been socially constructed and perceived across various eras?

Ms Bouchard explains that Histoire d’amour was born of her desire to look more closely at this “unexplainable feeling” that brings two people close together. A conversation with a historian friend sparked the idea of exploring what love has looked like in different time periods. Ms Bouchard “got excited” by the idea of asking different choreographers to anchor themselves in particular historical periods, in order to create their sections of the piece. Her friend provided historical context, and each participating choreographer chose an era: “Artistically, I was excited by the challenge of interpreting several visions of dance within one piece. I felt it would be a rich journey for the performers and for the audience.”

Sylvie Bouchard, Brendan Wyatt (Photo: Joseph Michael Photography)

Ultimately, Histoire d’amour is a story told through dance, music, narration and multimedia visual projections created by dancer and filmmaker Ayelen Liberona and remounted by Matthew Maaskant for this production. It chronicles the experience of two people who navigate love over several centuries. Ms Bouchard describes the work as “poetic, engaging, beautiful and surprising”. The visual aspect transports the viewer to very different worlds throughout the piece through projections on a variety of surfaces, including the floor. These are most often not “realistic sceneries,” but they offer sufficient context to situate the viewer and allow their imagination to roam. The musical compositions for the various vignettes were unified by composer Thomas Ryder-Payne: “Thomas created sound scores and sound environments to support the journey of the piece and bring all the sound palettes of the piece together,” she notes. “He also composed the music for one of the vignette: Julia Aplin’s ‘Descent’.” These diverse components, coupled with the overarching story, make Histoire d’amour an accessible work for everyone — even those not be familiar with dance.

This is important to Ms Bouchard, who has long been a champion of arts accessibility. Her many choreographies, performances and collaborations include le Théâtre la Tangente, the World Stage series, and Luminato. Since 1997, audiences have flocked to the summer dance festival Dusk Dances, which she created. This outdoor, pay-what-you-can festival brings contemporary and traditional dance to public parks in Ontario and Quebec. Choreographers from diverse backgrounds perform a ten-minute piece inspired by the park’s natural environment, and – critically –  the performances are open to all: “children, dog walkers and local residents”, according to the website. Incredibly, this summer will mark the festival’s 24th season!

Her renown and longevity in the arts world have yielded a seemingly endless network of collaborators. Her choice of each choreographer for Histoire d’amour stemmed from the strong desire to co-create a work and share an artistic journey. Gratifyingly, all of the choreographers were open to such a project where their work is seen as one part of a full production, alongside other artistic voices. Finally, “director and dramaturge Marie-Josée Chartier brought all the vignettes together so thoughtfully.  She carefully and skillfully planned how each element – choreography, projections, music, text, costumes and lighting – would take part in the overall journey, and help tell the story.” But how do the vignettes convey the time-travelling aspect of the story (which seems as futuristically sci-fi as historical)? “The time-travelling aspect can be felt in each vignette, as . . . each [is] inspired by a time period, and also in the narration by the actor and his interactions with the audience,” she explains. The vignettes are all performed by Brendan Wyatt and Ms Bouchard herself, making it clear that the same two people are living in these different eras, meeting – and falling in love – again and again.

Christian Laurin (Photo: Joseph Michael Photography)

The history of Histoire d’amour itself is a vibrant one. In the 6 years since its conception, most of the vignettes have been performed individually in festival and events, and so they have continued to grow and expand. This year’s production features several innovations: the premiere of a new vignette choreographed by Julia Aplin and actor Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin (replacing Christian Laurin who performed in the piece in 2012). The text has also undergone some revisions. “Last, but not least,” smiles Ms Bouchard, “we are offering Histoire d’amour performances in French for the first time.”

On a personal level, two things excite her about performing Histoire d’amour. First is how the piece “fully engages” so many different audiences, including the younger public. She attributes this to the collective contributions of her many collaborators in the show, for which she is deeply appreciative. She remarks, in particular, on the ingenuity  of costume and set designer Cheryl Lalonde. Not only has Lalonde designed costumes for each vignette, but she has created designs that allow lightning-fast changes from one costume to the next, sometimes by performers who wear two costumes at once! Second, it is very special for her to perform with Brendan Wyatt. “I am very lucky to be dancing with Brendan, a very talented, kind, generous and incredible dance partner, and sharing these wonderful moments on stage with him.”

The mysteries of love. Time travel. 2 dancers and 6 different choreographers. Exquisite music and vibrant multimedia. Histoire d’amour is a unique production that fuses together contributions from extraordinary artists in multiple art forms: “People who have seen the production before will encounter an exciting new incarnation, and for people who have not seen the show, the journey of the three performers through the different visions of dance is extremely engaging and satisfying.” And as this new chapter is added to the history of Histoire d’amour, it’s a perfect time to come and be part of it, no matter who you are.

Sylvie Bouchard, Brendan Wyatt (Photo: Joseph Michael Photography)

News You Can Use

What: Histoire d’amour (part of Harbourfront Centre’s NextSteps Dance Series)

  • Performers: Sylvie Bouchard, Brendan Wyatt, Vincent Leblanc-Beaudoin
  • Choreography: Julia Aplin, Susie Burpee, Louis-Martin Charest, Denise Fujiwara, Sylvie Bouchard, Louis Laberge-Côté
  • Creative Team: conceived by Sylvie Bouchard; directed  Marie-Josée Chartier; visual projections created by Ayelen Liberona and remounted by Matthew Maaskant; costume and set design by Cheryl Lalonde; music and sound design by Thomas Ryder-Payne; Lighting design by Kimberly Purtell

When: April 5 (French), 6 – 7 (English) 2018, 8 PM

Where: Harbourfront Centre Theatre, 235 Queens Quay West, Toronto, ON

Info: Bouchardanse.com

Tickets: HarbourfrontCentre.com & 416.973.4000, press 1

© 2018 Arpita Ghosal, 2018

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