Fall arts preview 2018: For dancer Stéphanie Cyr, Vancouver's scene feels like home

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      Stéphanie Cyr knows there really is no place like home—something it took the dancer several years of searching to appreciate. Now that she’s back in Vancouver, however, things have never been better.

      The magnetic performer with the striking dark, cropped hair and expressive, muscular style is set to perform in Action at a Distance’s Never Still at the Firehall Arts Centre from September 26 to 29, and in projects with choreographers from Lesley Telford to Wen Wei Wang soon after.

      But this wasn’t where her professional career started. Right out of graduation from Arts Umbrella’s training program in 2013, Cyr landed a dream job. Italian choreographer Walter Matteini had come to the school to work with its students, and he handpicked her to come back to his and Ina Broeckx’s buzzed-about imPerfect Dancers Company in historic Pisa.

      It was an amazing experience: a chance to tour through Italy, Germany, and South America while taking on physically challenging, cutting-edge dance. But it was also a severe culture shock to the young Cyr, who hails from small Shawville, outside of Ottawa, and who had never travelled to Europe before.

      “At that age, you don’t know much about yourself,” admits the artist, sitting in a Chinatown café before heading to rehearsals with Action at a Distance’s Vanessa Goodman. “And it’s a huge learning curve to move away from home and be on your own with new roommates and language barriers and cultural differences. You pick yourself up and put yourself in another petri dish.”

      After a year and a half, “I just knew Italy wasn’t my home,” she says, pausing thoughtfully. “I was also questioning whether to keep dancing or not.”

      Cyr packed up and headed back to Ontario to live with her parents—the ones who had so devotedly driven her to dance lessons in Ottawa five nights a week. She spent the time resting, reflecting, and dancing back at the capital’s School of Dance. “I needed to figure out what kind of work I should be doing,” she explains.

      It worked. After her break, Cyr enjoyed a short stint in Montreal, then made the trek back to Vancouver, a place that had welcomed her before. “I knew I had a community here, even though it’s smaller,” she says, adding she wanted to be part of a scene that was on the upswing. “There’s definitely some kind of wave happening—I remember being in Montreal and thinking, ‘I need to be there for it.’ But I was also ultimately attracted to the people here. There’s a work ethic in Vancouver, for sure.”

      Those people have included Ballet BC alumna Rachel Meyer, who cast Cyr as a mothlike creature in her midnight showings of the hypnotic Transverse Orientation this summer; and Ballet BC alumnus Christoph von Riedemann, with whom Cyr performed an outdoor Dance Deck work in August. Her work this fall will be diverse: Action at a Distance finds her performing in and around giant strips of Tyvek that act as projection surfaces for Loscil’s atmospheric audio-visuals in Goodman’s water-themed Never Still. A reworking of Telford’s duet My tongue, your ear sets an ironic poem about lovers parting against composer Nico Muhly’s angular viola.

      Expect to see Cyr fiercely commit to each work—both physically and emotionally, in performances where she connects openly with her audience.

      “I like to feel something about the project that’s slightly out of reach, or that includes something I haven’t attempted before,” says Cyr, who’s finding what she needs here. “I definitely want to create a space where the performance aspect and the audience can meet in the middle…where I’m not forcing them to feel or see the work in one way.”