Marie Chouinard says creating art is fun, not full of anguish.
ORPHEUS & EURYDICE choreography by Marie Chouinard. Presented by Canadian Stage at the Bluma Appel (27 Front East). Opens Tuesday (November 1) and runs to November 5, Tuesday-Saturday 8 pm. $24-$99. 416-368-3110, canadianstage.com. See listing.
There's a slight delay reaching Marie Chouinard, but she's all smiles when I finally get her on the line.
"I had so much to do, so it was no problem," says the Montreal choreographer, who takes the prize for the most enthusiastic artist I've ever interviewed.
She's not lying. With eight projects currently on the go, including a book of poems, several films and a photo exhibit, she's a hard person to pin down.
"I have a very bizarre brain," she says about her ability to multitask. "It's just a question of telling your neurons how to work. It's like if you're in the kitchen and you want to do the dishes, your neurons will know what to do. But if you want to prepare supper they'll know how to do that as well. It's all about shifting."
Okay, it's a little hard to imagine the high priestess of modern dance doing the dishes. But being in the studio creating her unique works is another story.
"I go into the studio without any preconceived ideas and play and explore," she says about the process that led to her 2007 work Orpheus & Eurydice. "Creation is an adventure. It's like making love. You don't think, ‘I will do that move and this and then I will turn around.'"
She giggles mischievously. In fact, it was only a few weeks before the work's premiere that she came up with the myth-based title.
"I was looking and looking for a story," she says, "and then I realized that all the elements of the Orpheus myth were in the choreography. That gave me shivers."
She'd even choreographed a sequence in which a dancer breaks the fourth wall and plunges into - and onto - the audience.
"It was similar to Orpheus stepping into the underworld - a place he's not supposed to be," she says.
The company recently celebrated its 20th anniversary with a big premiere at the Vienna International Dance Festival, where her latest piece was put on the same program as her first. She didn't think about how her style had changed in the interim.
"I just saw two works in a row," she says. "Each work is so different from the next one or the previous one. I'm like a painter or a musician. You put it out there when it's done because you consider it finished. You don't go back and change anything."
And her joie de vivre: is it a French thing?
"Creation is fun," she says, laughing. "I'm so privileged to do this. I don't think creation should be full of anguish and problems and tearing your hair out. It's an occasion for joy and playfulness. I never lack inspiration: just occasionally the means and tools and dancers and space."