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Interview by Nicole Rosove
Artistic director of Chartier Danse, Marie-Josée Chartier is a multi-faceted artist who moves easily between the worlds of dance, music, opera and multi-media in the roles of choreographer, performer, director, vocalist and teacher. Chartier’s choreographic works have been presented in festivals across Canada, Europe and Latin America and have been featured on both national television and within documentary films. As the Outside Eye/Creative Facilitator for tiger princess dance projects, Marie-Josée Chartier plays a key role in the company’s creative process.
As the recipient of the 2001 K.M. Hunter Artist Award, the 2015 Jacqueline Lemieux Prize, recipient of nine Dora Mavor Moore Awards nominations winning for fifty-one pieces of silver and sharing with Urge for And by the way Miss, Chartier is in demand as a director of dance, multi-media and opera production. Her new work, petits danses; a collection of short dances with vast imagination, will premiere in Peterborough on October 29, 2016.
Despite her busy schedule, Chartier made time to chat with us about life as a multi-faceted, powerhouse of an artist.
When did you discover your love for dance/the performing arts?
I have always loved dancing. My mother was a natural performer and we would dance together at parties as I grew up. I always loved to perform and when I turned 19, I began to study dance full time in Montreal at Pointépiénu.
In your bio you discuss moving easily between the worlds of dance, music, opera and multi-media in the roles of choreographer, performer, director, vocalist and teacher…how is that balance for you?
It makes for a very full schedule! I am deeply interested in all of these disciplines, which for me intersect very naturally. As a performer, my training in Montreal included voice and I began teaching beginner dance classes very early on. I enjoy the variety of forms and the different processes for creation between dance, multi-media and opera. It definitely makes for a very full, fluid and challenging way of living a life rich in creativity. Strong organizational skills are a must!
What is one piece of work you are most proud of?
There are a few, however two that stand out are a study for a crouching figure and Screaming Popes, both of which were inspired by the work of English philosopher, scientist, author and statesman, Francis Bacon.
You’ve traveled quite a lot as a guest teacher throughout Canada and in Latin America – what advice would you give to dancers/choreographers who are interested in pursuing travel within their career?
I think first and foremost you have to LOVE to travel; it is always challenging and you have to be very prepared to adapt super quickly in the work place, in the living space and in the cities or villages that you visit. Many countries in Latin America face economic and political challenges and the climate can be quite unstable. This manifests itself in ways which can cause significant schedules changes or full on cancellations. On the positive side, it allows for last minute gigs!
You also have to be flexible in the way that you approach your work method. This is true for any country you might be invited to perform or teach. I have taught and collaborated with both artists and non-performers across the globe; from rough areas of Mexico city, villages within the columbian amazonian jungle, to beautiful state of the art old opera houses. You have to be extremely open minded, generous and willing to try new things on a whim. Audiences are wonderful and shows are typically fully attended which I believe makes up for the challenges that come with travelling.
In 2003 you founded Chartier Danse, why did you decide to create your own company at that time? What have been some of the challenges/highlights?
The first motivation was to introduce myself as a company for a large scale project I was working on in Germany. I was not known there at the time, and felt that a company name carried a bit more weight. From there, I continued to use Chartier Danse for larger collaborative projects that cross over disciplines, cities and artists. The challenges I face are mostly on an administrative level.
What’s one thing people may not not know about you?
I am a football fan, especially of the NFL; my favourite team is Green Bay Packers (because it is the only co-op team in the league); I have a sweet spot for running backs (the hard working, plugging away at advancing on the field in the same way dancers do throughout their career).
What does an ideal day off look like for you?
I do not have one ideal pattern. At home, it is ideal when I have time to take care of myself, whether that means taking a dance class, doing some of training, listening to the french CBC in the morning, stopping at a café to write, having a nice dinner with good wine alone or with friends, watching some late night cop shows on TV…
If I’m abroad, a long afternoon in a great contemporary art museum, or walking the streets in a foreign city endlessly with no agenda is always ideal. Honestly, when I get to perform…the day at the theatre, the anticipation, the warm-up, the camaraderie of my colleagues and friends, that is as good as a day off in my books!
What’s next for you career wise?
There are the immediate projects; petites danses opens on Oct. 29 and then tours to many cities (watch the trailer HERE) I also have many teaching and directing jobs coming up. As for the NEXT step career wise, that is still a mystery to me!