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Updated: Nov 7, 2023

Our artistic bubble at the Domaine Forget de Charlevoix (DFC) ended a few weeks ago. Talk about a physically demanding but oh so inspiring experience! Who better to talk about it than our Touring Director, Josée Kleinbaum (J), who was on-site during the entire residency, and two of our dancers, Andrew Mikhaiel (A) and Shanna Irwin (S).

If you had to describe your stay at the DFC in one word, what would it be?

J: Idyllic

A: Reflective

S: Relief

Andrew et Shanna, during the residency, you danced with BJM’s newest dancers for the first time. How would you describe the energy of this new group?

A: The energy of the group is very colourful, dynamic, and open. All the dancers have unique identities and visions, collectively we all got to know each other much better during this residency. I am glad this residency gave us a chance to eliminate the barriers of social distancing and mask wearing so that we could interact on a more personal level. That aspect of the residency was important for us as a team.

S: The energy is fresh, and heading in a direction where together we can use the many different personalities, cultures, relationships, and trainings to our advantage and create a very strong team.

During this residency, you began rehearsing Approximately Close, a work choreographed by a fellow dancer, Ermanno Sbezzo. Shanna, you performed the “first version” of the work during performances of PROXIMITÉ throughout Montreal. How has the piece evolved since?

S: Originally the work was created for myself and Marcel, and began as online rehearsals while Ermanno was quarantined at home. Besides this physical expansion from home to studio, he has created a full company piece that takes us on a journey through many different emotions – the original solos and duet was just the first among these physical stories. He is now able to incorporate full company energy to represent even more of what has influenced him as a human and an artist.

Andrew, what was it like performing the work of a fellow dancer?

A: It is really great to be back in a creative process. I believe it is something a lot of us dancers were craving coming back to work after so much time off. It is also very interesting to see the piece morph from a duet to a full company work.

Josée, as a non-performer, how do you think the residency positively influenced the creation of this work?

J: Being able to be close to one another opened the horizons of a work created during social distancing. I truly believe that Ermanno’s state of mind while surrounded by nature and able to fully concentrate inspired introspection and depth that will be palatable to the audience.

Was this your first visit to Charlevoix? What were your impressions?

J: I had the chance to take advantage of the DFC facilities about ten years ago. I’ve also visited the region a few times while on tour.

A: I have not. It is a beautiful region and Domaine Forget is stunning. We were lucky to go during the change of season and see all the leaves change colour. I would love to visit again!

S: I had never been to Charlevoix – I find it to be a breathtaking place. Its beauty was an escape. I would love to be able to explore outside the bubble, as well as see it during the summer.

Andrew and Shanna: What did it mean to you to be able to dance in close proximity without masks?

A: To be quite honest the masks do not bother me that much while I am dancing, but I think I am the only person who feels this way. However, the security of knowing that all the dancers had isolated, tested, and were safe and secure at Domaine Forget meant more to me. Dancing and interacting with everyone without fear or possible risks of contracting COVID-19 was very comforting. It allowed us to work without any limitations.

S: Dancing without a mask is a sense of freedom. It is home, it is how we trained our entire lives. Taking it off is very remembered but now it is something to be grateful for. Facial expressions and body language are important and adding masks takes away a level of vulnerability between one another; it adds uncertainty that may not exist otherwise. Masks make it harder to push ourselves to new stages of physicality.

Josée, did being able to dance together mask-free have any noticeable impacts on the group’s attitude or the overall atmosphere?

J: Getting back to some level of normalcy definitely had a positive impact during rehearsals. But I believe the biggest change was the sense of freedom!

Does taking a break from one’s “regular” work environment (CAM’s studios) make a difference? If so, how?

J: It felt like touring, but while staying in one place. It was wonderful not having to change hotels or worry about plane, train & bus schedules. The bucolic landscape was another bonus. As bucolic as LaFontaine Park!

A: As a touring company we are used to working in many different studios, theatres, cities, and countries. This experience reminded me of being on tour, and it was nice to have a change of scenery. It was a little escape from the city for 3 and a half weeks.

S: Although CAM is home, artistry is influenced by our surroundings, it is important to be in different places. The quest is to take parts of everywhere we go with us to the next place. This environmental change is another version of the constant giving and receiving we usually have with our public through performing.

What was it like spending a little more than 3 weeks together? Any highlights or challenges?

J: Again, we’re used to being on tour together, but having to eat our meals together definitely brought us closer. Fortunately, the expansive surroundings allowed us to have some alone time when we needed it, because privacy was in scarce supply.

A: Aside from the joys of dancing freely, getting to know all the new dancers, and not having to worry about COVID-19, I think one of my highlights was watching my puppy play and run around the Domaine. As a city dog she doesn’t normally have that much freedom. The challenges for me were definitely missing my home. I am such a homebody (funny for someone who is in a predominantly touring company), but in order to maintain our “bubble” we were restricted to staying at the Domaine. On tour we’re able to explore and venture off into the city, which was something I wish we could have done if not for these times.

S: I’ve adapted to being on tour and sharing so much time with one group. For me, the challenge is when we do not remember that it is positively accepted and nourishing to find time alone to reset.

Andrew and Shanna, what was it like being able to reconnect with an audience during the open classes and rehearsals?

A: It was great to be back on a stage and have a small audience. Nothing can compare to the rush of a real performance with a full house, but I am very grateful to the people who came and watched us dance. It was especially sweet to have a group of young dance students come and see that even in these hard times, dancers will still persevere and continue making art!

S: I feel the most gratitude to those who were able to come and see that a theatre can be a safe environment.

Josée, how did you feel being back with an audience?

J: The audience may have been small but it was thrilled to not have to watch dancers perform on a screen! Having that 4th wide open wall enabled audience and performers to reconnect at long last.

What did you find most inspiring at DFC?

J: The nature

A: Being surrounded by nature, the gorgeous views, and the tranquility of the river was so inspiring. It was a real breath of fresh air.

S: Expansion. I am inspired by the views we woke up to and fell asleep to everyday. The expansion of Ermanno’s piece… being part of this journey with him and realizing that this is a beautiful opportunity for us as a company to grow, learn from one another, and to respect each other on deeper levels.

Do you think these types of residencies are relevant in “normal” times when performers aren’t constrained by bubbles, physical distancing and masks?

J: Definitely. A residency allows for a level a concentration that’s normally unachievable. Not to mention the inspiration provided by the surrounding nature (yes again) and the strong bonds that are created when you’re on the same schedule. The added value this time around was being able to enjoy a closeness that’s otherwise prohibited during this COVID era.

A: Residencies are definitely relevant. In “normal” times a residency could include outreach, masterclasses/workshops, technical rehearsals in a theatre, and/or additional performances. I do believe they are relevant during “normal” times especially when there is a specific goal for the residency. It’s an intensive experience that allows us dancers to focus all our attention on whatever we’re currently working on.

S: Artistic residencies are so important! I have experienced them in normal times as well, and I see results from dancers and choreographers that can only come from being in such a focused, goal-oriented place.

To learn more about our experience, go on the DFC website!



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