Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Dance reflects changing reality of family

The Adaptation Project plays with gender roles and politics

Simon Renaud says, "Everything we do has the possibility of looking like something that's already been done." Credit: Xtra files
What does it mean to be an original? For 21st century artists, the task of making something unlike what’s come before can feel daunting at best and futile at worst. But dancer Simon Renaud isn’t concerned with such things. His current show with Dancemakers (simply titled Adaptation Project) not only questions whether originality is possible, it wonders why we care about it at all.
 
“I don’t even like the word,” laughs the Gatineau native, in his pronounced French accent. “It’s a question that comes up in all art forms, but in dance it’s particularly problematic because we’re working within the basic limitations of the body. Everything we do has the possibility of looking like something that’s already been done.”
 
In conceiving the work, company head Michael Trent turned to Dancemakers’ history for inspiration. Beginning with choreographer Mitchell Rose’s relatively unknown 1974 piece Following Station Identification, the team was tasked with creating something new based entirely on old material. Built originally on students at the University of Ohio before its Toronto debut, the work satirized Middle American values and conventional family structures, something the company is intent on taking even further this time.
 
“We’re playing a lot with gender roles,” Renaud says. “It’s more common these days to have two mothers, two fathers or some other combination of parents than it was in 1974. It’s not about politics as much as reflecting the changing reality of what a family is.”
 
Working from Rose’s degraded black-and-white rehearsal videos (who’d have thought they’d be played 40 years after the fact?), the company collected visual, sonic and conceptual elements as their building blocks.
 
“Even if you aren’t in the dance world, there’s something magical about uncovering this history and hearing these voices from the past,” Renaud says.
 
“There’s also an important set of questions about what it means to adapt and reuse material. While every piece of dance can be traced to something that’s been done before, each presentation of a piece is a kind of adaptation, since nothing is exactly the same from night to night.”
 
Despite his assertions on the medium, Dancemakers’ freshest face is a definite original. Delightfully scruffy, all long-limbed and rippling musculature, the 22-year-old carries a stage presence that belies his age. Landing in Toronto less than two years ago, he originally came to apprentice with Toronto Dance Theatre but departed for Dancemakers after one season.  Standing out may come naturally since he grew up with a twin brother (Montreal writer Mathieu Renaud). Though they’re visual carbon copies, down to the shaggy hair and green eyes, they aren’t identical in every way.
 
“We have some similar mannerisms, but he’s definitely not gay,” Renaud laughs. “That’s part of the reason I’m convinced homosexuality isn’t genetic.”

The Deets:

The Adaptation Project
Wed, April 18-Sun, April 29 

Choreography by Michael Trent
Dancemakers Centre for Creation
Distillery Historic District
55 Mill St
The Cannery, Bldg 58, Studio 313
 
Check out some rehearsal footage below: