NATIONAL BALLET OF CANADA’S MIXED PROGRAM Choreography by Jean Grand-Maître, William Forsythe, Frederick Ashton and Harald Lander. Opens tomorrow (Friday June 13) and runs to June 22, various times. Four Seasons Centre (145 Queen West). $45-$200. 416-345-9595. Rating: NNNNN
During the National Ballet’s Mixed Program, all eyes will be on Jennifer Fournier as she looks down at a handful of rose petals.It’s part of the final moments of Five Brahms Waltzes In The Manner Of Isadora Duncan, Fournier’s solo capping a 22-year career.“That moment represents the spiritual made physical,” says Fournier. “It expresses something you can’t hold onto, that can’t last.”Symbolic words for the profession she’s about to leave. This afternoon, Fournier looks calm and poised as she digs into a salad.
“It’s been very emotional,” she says. “Some experiences in our lives are so huge, they’re almost hard to grasp fully as they’re happening. Some days I’m sanguine and optimistic, and other days I become sentimental. My journey as a dancer started when I was five or six. And it’s hard to believe that it’s coming to an end.”
Today she has a daughter who’s a little older than she was when she began dancing, as well as a one-year-old son. Fournier compares the experience of retiring to leaving a relationship.
“You don’t wake up one morning and say, ‘I’m out of here.’ It took me a long time. You negotiate with yourself, thinking, ‘What if I just do that?’ ‘Am I really sure?’ You don’t want to leave for the wrong reasons. And you want to leave – maybe it’s just my ego talking – while people still care about your dancing. I don’t want to leave and have people think, ‘Oh my god, I thought she retired years ago.’”
She chuckles here, demonstrating the spirit familiar to audiences who’ve seen her dance. Athletic and energetic, she has always exuded strength onstage. Frailty was never her thing, and she knew it.
“That’s what I love about this ballet and Isadora,” she says, namechecking the legendary dancer who inspired Frederick Ashton’s eight-minute piece.
“She was Celtic; I’m Irish. She hated things that were false, and so do I. Sometimes ballet focuses on the fragility and frailty of the ballerina. It’s wonderful to be allowed to be powerful and angry.”
It was also wonderful to rehearse with the originator of the role, dance great Lynn Seymour.
“Lynn was always a bit of an iconoclast, emotional in her real life and onstage,” says Fournier. “She gave me insights into this ballet and life in general. She knows that to be a good actor you have to make something your own. You need to take responsibility for what you’re doing.
“She’s also got a good sense of what’s important.”
So, what now?
“In a weird kind of way, I feel like I’m reentering the world,” she says. “I want to study history, political science, gender studies. I want to help children discover their creative abilities.“And of course my family comes first.”