At 67 years old, and more than 50 works into his career, prolific Montreal choreographer and dancer Paul-André Fortier is making some of his most fearless creations.
His two pieces travelling to this year’s Dancing on the Edge program are a case in point: 15X at Night, in which Simon Courchel will dance outside after dark around Granville Island, and Misfit Blues, a duet with Robin Poitras that is by turns playfully hilarious, touching, and downright rude.
“That’s the one reward you get when you’re older,” the affable, articulate icon tells the Straight with a laugh, speaking over the phone from Montreal before heading to Vancouver for the fest. “I always took risks all my life as a creator—it’s in my nature. But now I feel more relaxed about it. The big part of my career is behind me; all that’s ahead is plus, plus, plus, plus.”
Speaking about his work, Fortier seems as energized and inspired as ever. His 15X grew out of a work called Solo 30x30 that he performed himself in 2009 at the Edge: each noonhour for the length of the fest he danced outside the downtown library.
“It puts the spectator in a different position and they don’t look at dance in the same way: they are closer to the dancer, they see each other,” he explains. “It’s not in the dark, they don’t buy a ticket. It’s a totally different experience than in a theatre.
“Dancing 30x30 was one of the most extraordinary experiences in my life as a dancer. People were there just because they wanted to be there.”
15X has a different, mysterious feel, he says, moving the action to the streets at night. The solo has been performed everywhere from Tokyo underpasses to French rugby stadiums. What continues to stun him about the piece? “I’ve seen it about 45 times and people just shut up! It’s the silence.”
Silence definitely isn’t the response to expect at Misfit Blues, a wild, humorous look at an older couple.
“It’s a crazy piece,” Fortier says, laughing again. “She’s in her mid 50s and I’m past my mid 60s, so we’re pretty grown up, if not young senior citizens. There are moments of absolute tenderness, moments that are cruel, and, yes, we have got laughs. We play like a child, we have fights, and there is some sexual stuff and some content that is quite rude. I’m pretty happy with the result of this madness.”
Misfit Blues, more than anything, shamelessly celebrates age—a risky, rare move in today’s youth-obsessed world. “It really belongs to who we are at this stage in our life,” Fortier says of himself and collaborator Poitras, of Regina’s New Dance Horizons.
“We’re both experienced dancers and experienced in our lives. It’s a piece a younger couple of dancers couldn’t do.” And one that takes the confidence, and courage, of age.
Fortier Danse-Création’s Misfit Blues is at the Firehall Arts Centre on Thursday and Friday (July 2 and 3). 15X at Night is on Granville Island at 10 p.m. until July 11; see the Dancing On The Edge website for locations.