Find out more about our work and read guest posts from artists, and learn about our community.
This summer we present Isabelle Kirouac’s Meta/fauna in association with the Dancing on the Edge Festival. We sat down with Isabelle to find out more about her work and this piece, which was supported in part through our DanceLab research program.
How did you first come to dance?
I followed a pretty unusual path. I didn’t grow up with much art around me, but I always loved to dance and play music. Coming from a small town, I went through the classic ballet and jazz combo, did 6 days/week of figure skating and won a bunch of lip-synch contests. I studied music at college, then literature in university, only to find out I really wanted to dance. I saw my first contemporary dance performance, O Vertigo, at age 18, and it blew my mind open. A few years later, I signed up for all of the professional workshops at Studio 303 in Montreal, learning anything from performance art to somatics, voice work, dance improvisation, experimental theatre, and more.
From there, I moved to Earthdance in Massachusetts, studying Contact Improvisation with Nancy Stark Smith and many other teachers. Contact Improvisation became my main practice/way of life and it led me to study, tour and teach across the US and beyond for many years. Through these winding roads, I joined the Carpetbag Brigade Physical Theatre (San Francisco), an acrobatic stilt company using Contact Improvisation, butoh and physical theatre in their work. I learned acrobatic stilts in a prickly cactus field in Arizona and have been using stilts in some of my work since then.
In 2013, I landed in Coast Salish Territory, aka Vancouver, to pursue an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts at SFU.
What are the main elements in your choreography to date?
There are several threads I follow, depending on the context.
Over the last years, I became most interested in interspecies relationships, acknowledging both humans and non-humans as active agents. Raising a child in a time of climate collapse has deepened my connection with the land and other species. In collaboration with mycologist and visual artist Willoughby Arevalo, I co-facilitate the Art & Fungi Project, drawing relationships between our artistic practices and the kingdom of fungi. This ongoing research nourishes my everyday life and informs my movement practice through ecosomatic explorations, which in turns influences my choreographic work.
I am very interested in sensory explorations, which nourish my artistic work and movement practice. I am fascinated by our most direct senses: touch and smell. Over the last year, I dove deeply into the world of scents and olfactory art through ongoing studies at the Institute for Art & Olfaction. This led me to create Aromatic Wheel of Fungi a playful and didactic installation about the smells of mushrooms in collaboration with Willougby Arevalo, and Osmocosm, an immersive and transdisciplinary performance inspired by scents, in collaboration with choreographer Delia Brett and composer Stefan Smulovitz.
Another thread I have been investigating for over fifteen years is the use of stilts in my choreographic work. Since stilts are often used as entertainment rather than artistic research, I have been curious to reconsider the choreographic possibilities that this movement practice entails. I integrated stilts in my performances Third Space (2019), Habitats (2017), Like Houses Through A Kaleidoscope (2013), and now in my current work Meta/fauna.
Tell us about Meta/fauna.
Meta/fauna explores the choreographic possibilities between dancers, a series of objects/modular costumes, a scaffold, stilts, and sounds, through the themes of evolution, extinction and transmutation. It is a duet between Lev Prud’homme and myself, in collaboration with choreographer Delia Brett, designer Tamara Unroe, composer/performers Stefan Smulovitz and Christopher Kelly, lighting designer Jamie Sweeney, and cultural anthropologist/consultant Michael Hathaway.
Meta/fauna presents two shape-shifting creatures evolving in their ephemeral habitat. It portrays ever-changing landscapes, large animals hybridizing with fossilized plants, bleached corals, metallic structures, bones, and the ghosts of those who have disappeared. It invites the audience to witness cycles of transformation through movement, design, light and sound. Inspired by the writings of feminist cyborg Donna Haraway and extinction biologist Ben Kessler, we question the dichotomies between humans and other species, nature and culture. How can we move sensitively on damaged land in an era of cyborgs? How do we orient through constant transmutations? With bodies composed of a multitude of “other” organisms (fungi, viruses, microbes), how do we blur the boundaries of the self? How can we embody the hugeness of geological time?
What might people be surprised to know about you?
America’s Got Talent flew me to Houston, Texas, to perform acrobatic stilts on their show. It was pretty eerie.
July 8 | 6pm
Scotiabank Dance Centre
Presented in association with the Dancing on the Edge Festival.
Photos by Delia Brett and Riz Herboza
Explore dance performances currently presented by The Dance Centre. Each season, you’ll find new dance shows. See what’s on today.