MONTREAL – For the dancer Guillaume Côté, artistic director of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur and first dancer of the national Ballet of Canada, the containment has represented a stop as suddenly as upsetting for his professional activities. Interview with an artist who’s trying to make this shutdown as an opportunity to reflect on his environment.
First, how do you wear you?
The first few weeks, it has been a bereavement. It is difficult to really change our perspective, we are accustomed to the logic of “The show must go on”, the mentality that you should always dance in spite of everything, but public health, it is certain that this is a big priority. But we have lost really a lot of work, efforts that they had put for several years, including the show “Crypto” that I presented in Montreal, that I had worked for a year and a half, I’ve lost several things, presentations in Rome, New York. All that to say that it has fallen hard the first few weeks.
The other hand, it is certain that the importance of the moment has really taken over, it has brought a humility if we want to. Because on the one hand, it takes so much it seriously our work that sometimes, in a situation like this, one gains a little perspective. This is not that what we do, the arts, it is less important, it is very important, but it’s just that during these months, I was really aware of and give time to everyone around me, to really absorb the situation and not forcing projects or force things.
That being said, we it is paramount that we continue to train. My wife and I are both principal dancers with the national Ballet, then we are both in the same situation. We have two small children, a small girl of 5 years and a boy of 3 years, and then it is sure that there was no babysitter. So it has been an adjustment, it was necessary to make classes during the day with the kids that were there, it was necessary to include them, but we adjusted, we took a “beat”, and there was something really beautiful in there, we made the class all together, all in the family.
You are artistic director of the Festival des Arts de Saint-Sauveur for a sixth edition. Given the circumstances, you have opted this year to an online form, through which 10 capsules will be released throughout the summer, at the rate of one capsule per week, and that will feature the work of creation for 10 dancers and 10 musicians. Is it that the adaptation of the festival has been difficult?
It really is a different year. It is sure that the item “live” I miss a lot. The dance “live”, there is nothing to equal it. However, I was afraid a little at the beginning for the digital, because I thought that everyone was going there, I wondered how we’d be able to stand out, but we managed to assemble a project that, I think, is very well framed, with a concept that is strong, around the theme of uncertainty and constraints. So we gave work to 20 quebec artists, 10 composers and 10 choreographers are paired two-by-project, which will give 10 movies, 10 creations.
I wanted to give something to do for the artists, during the time of the confinement. Then I gave them as a job to create a piece around the time of the COVID, but not necessarily about it. Something that they create in their living room, or with the restrictions they have at this time. Everything is filmed in Saint-Sauveur, in the boreal forest, 10 scenes that are placed at different locations in the Laurentians. And there are moments, absolutely magical. The parts are very interesting, very rich, and are also out of the ordinary.
You’re a principal dancer for the national Ballet of Canada. What is the order of the day for the moment, that is what is happening on that side?
It’s not happening, it’s not happening at all (responds quickly Guillaume Côté, with a smile, resigned). The national Ballet of Canada, it is a big machine. This is a company that is very important, but also it is a company for which it has been difficult. She has a lot of employees, it is very difficult to manage. They have done a very nice work to disperse the funds, to ensure that the dancers keep a kind of salary for a certain period of time, but it is sure that the situation will not remain like this forever. If we do not return to work, it is sure that the company will not be able to support the dancers.
The other hand, it poses a lot of questions about the future of our art, on our responsibilities. The event, the spectacle, it is that which is absolutely magical, and I am a bit “Old school”, I am of the old school, said: “no, you need to come to the show, otherwise this is not the same.” I have looked at a lot of things online, and it is hard sometimes to look at something that has been created for the stage, but filmed, and then put on the internet.
It’s just that now, I look at the new generations, and there are a lot of young people who are really smart in the way they construct their content. They build really for this medium (the digital), which is a medium super interesting, and it must not be a snob. I think it is time to maybe look at our things and say that this is perhaps not something that will replace it, I hated it when people say “reinventing”, it is not réinventera not what is most beautiful about the dance, but what we can do maybe this is just to have a little down time at this time and do some research on how one can develop on the digital element.
What are your concerns for the middle of the dance?
My great concern, it is due to report back to the large format of the show. A major event of dance, there is nothing better. “Dance Dance” was going to be Pina Bausch in the next year. It is an event, it is a big company, it is job rich, this is really the time to be there, with an audience of Montrealers, while the world as a whole, which sees the company of Pina Bausch for the first time, what a historic moment! That’s it really, I hope we are going to have, that we will continue to have big moments in history of dance, around the world, and in this time I have a bit of fear. We talk about small formats, we talk about smaller formats, we talk about digital, but we’re not yet talking of a renaissance in the format major event.