Exploring the small, quiet moments: Simon Renaud at Summerworks 2016

The more of these interviews I do here, the more I realize our discipline, the arts, the city and actually the world is populated with some really wonderful people. I continue to be inspired by the creativity and ideas all these artists are exploring. Though I know the subject of this interview less well than many of the others I've interviewed, Simon Renaud still captures my artistic heart.

Simon's work noyé/e/ opens on Saturday as part of Summerworks Performance Festival 2016. It is a study in minimalism, or perhaps more appropriately micro-ism, a deceptively quiet piece aimed at drawing the audience into the minute details of the relationship and partnership of its two dancers, questioning what can be virtuostic, what is compelling in the subtle and quiet.

Simon Renaud and Joanie Audet

LR: What led you to be interested in the small, quiet and intimate? Has this alway been an interest or a recent pursuit?

SR: It has been an interest for me from the moment I started choreographing professionally.  After dancing It can’t be dying, - It’s too rouge, a work choreographed by Alban Richard, now director of Centre Chorégraphique National de Caen en Normandie, that I discovered the possibility of creating vocabulary outside the pre-determined dance steps we all know.  

He also showed me that we could play with the temporality of physicalities, going from extreme slowness to quick as the wind.  The slow motion struck something in me.  It made even the smallest gesture become so powerful.  It gives the audience the luxury of really seeing and feeling - two actions we don’t often do in our crazy, fast-paced lives.  

I was lucky to have Tedd Robinson and Alban Richard, two unique and generous artists as mentors: Tedd, with his talent for showing you fantastical images with everyday objects; and Alban, who is constantly renewing himself and the way he works, and who by being specific with the quality of movement is able to share many textures with the audience.  That’s where it began, me trying to find my own voice.  I’m understanding more and more that I’m interested in choreographing movements instead of choreographing dance, if that makes sense.

LR: How did you decide to work with Joanie? She is such a powerful presence and artist, what specifically drew you to her for this project?

SR: I’ve known Joanie now for about six years.  I moved to Toronto knowing almost no one in 2010 and also barely speaking proper English.  I was lucky  that my upstairs neighbour was Andrew Hartley, another great dance artist in Toronto.  At that time, he was in his third year at STDT, in the same class as Joanie.  We quickly became friends, and the three of us were inseparable.  I remember Joanie dancing fiercely with her dark red hair in a Sasha Ivanochko piece and Christpher House’s Colder Ink.  From that moment on, I knew I had to bring her inside my world.  

She danced for me in 2013 in Les Reines Orphelines alongside Jasmine Inns.  Watching them carrying the images I had created blew me away.  Later on, she was part of a group study I did for Artspin here in Toronto.  Then, in late summer 2015, I was ready to start on something new.  I had created material during the project FACETS, a collaboration between Tedd Robinson, Ame Henderson, James Gnam, Charles Quevillon, Angie Cheng, Thierry Huard and myself, that I knew was the start of something.  I didn’t know if it was a solo or a duet at the time.  Joanie and I had both moved to Montreal around the same time and we decided to play in studio with some of my ideas from FACETS.  That’s how Joanie’s involvement with this project started.

Joanie Audet

LR: Is this work indicative of an overall interest for you, and/or what other themes, physicalites, ideas interest you?

SR: In the winter of 2015, I was commissioned by Common People (Emma Kerson and Andrew Hartley) and I created a duet for them called l’inanité des bibelots or love would only slow me down.  Through this creation, I discovered a more abstract, simpler aesthetic.  I wanted to keep pushing the idea of creating an independent, self-contained world in which people, shapes, and feelings evolve. It’s those same ideas that motivated the creation of noyé/e/. 

The Noyé/e/ process was also about trying to face the theatrical associations brought on by using props and objects.  I will continue to work with slow-paced movements and keep experimenting with different ways to give more space to the viewer than the space I created. I started working on a new quintet few months ago and realized that I only skimmed the surface of those ideas, so I think I’ll stick with those concepts for a bit.

Simon Renaud and Joanie Audet

LR: How was the experience of making such an intimate work while being one of the interpreters of it?

SR: It’s been helping my control freak syndrome (haha).  Knowing you can only be in control of yourself is scary but also so liberating.  I think it’s helping me to find a more direct, purer or truer way to be viewed by the audience and I think it will help me direct my interpreters.

Simon Renaud and Joanie Audet

LR: What do you hope the Summerworks experience will reveal, give, or embody for you?

SR: Honestly, I don’t want to have expectations.  My work is and will be about developing the work itself.  I hope people will see and feel that.  For sure, it would be great if some people would help us to give noyé/e/ a longer life, but that isn’t my ultimate goal.  I would also love to develop new artistic relationships with potential partners to help move my next project forward.  But in the end, I hope people will be open to an immersive experience and maybe will find something new.

Be refreshed and see noyé/e/

SummerWorks Performance Festival
Factory Theatre Rehearsal Hall (this is a gorgeous room!!!!!)
125 Bathurst St
August 13th at  630pm
August 14th at 12noon

Tickets $15
Book online:

all photos courtesy of Simon Renaud


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