La Goddam Voie Lactée
A pagan Mass as a reaction to the harshness of the world. Inspired by the constant mourning brought about by our age, the artist and five female performers reflect upon the notion of incompletion.
We are all weathering the same storm, but not necessarily in the same boat. How can we embrace the comings and goings, the alternating rises and falls? With La Goddam Voie Lactée, Mélanie Demers offers a pagan mass, a response to the harshness of the world. Reflecting on incompleteness and the need for solidarity in the face of limitation and adversity, this piece, a space for experimentation, ravels and unravels the connectedness of a small discordant society.
This is an all-female community: five women settled on their own observation posts jump into the arena, seize the gestures, words, and music, take turns soaring with the wind and creating for the sake of it, for pleasure alone. A series of work-in-progress scenes, of brief disrupted tableaux, La Goddam Voie Lactée is a return to the origins of creation, where everything is possible. A celebration of a united body in the face of hardship, an aesthetic Big Bang where nothing dies as long as there is life.
Produced by MAYDAY
Created and directed by Mélanie Demers
Choreography and texts Mélanie Demers + Performers
Performed by Stacey Désilier + Frannie Holder + Brianna Lombardo + Chi Long + Léa Noblet Di Ziranaldi
Music Frannie Holder
Apprentice Misheel Ganbold
Rehearsal Director Anne-Marie Jourdenais
Dramaturgy Angélique Willkie
Lighting Design Claire Seyller
Costume Design Elen Ewing
Sound Benoit Bouchard
Technical Director and Stage Manager Hannah Kirby
Production Manager Mélanie Primeau
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques + Agora de la danse + Centre chorégraphique national de Tours + Centro per la Scena Contemporanea (Bassano del Grappa) + The Dance Centre (Vancouver)
Thanks to Alexandre Pilon-Guay
MAYDAY is a member of Circuit-Est centre chorégraphique + Art Circulation, associate company at the Agora de la danse, in artistic collaboration with Centro per la Scena Contemporanea/Operaestate Festival (Bassano del Grappa)
Presented in association with Théâtre Rouge du Conservatoire
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Luba Markovskaia
Premiered at Festival TransAmériques, Montreal, on June 3, 2021
Mélanie Demers (Montreal) MAYDAY
Choreographer and dancer Mélanie Demers founded the MAYDAY dance company in 2007.
Her work is characterized by its directness, activist underpinnings, and baroque aesthetic. Regularly collaborating with several theatre artists, she has also taught dance in Kenya, in Niger, in Brazil, and in Haiti. Her pieces call for change and spark social action and considerations. Following Les angles morts (2006) and Sauver sa peau (2008), where she asserted her activism, she created the explosive Junkyard/Paradis (2010), where the conflict between heaven and hell echoes social, political, and intimate upheavals. Goodbye (FTA, 2012) offered a reflection on art and its deceptions in a both physical and theatrical form of dance. She later staged MAYDAY remix (2014) and WOULD (2015), which was awarded the CALQ Prize for Best Choreographic Work in Quebec. With the dancers Marc Boivin and Linda Rabin, she took part in Pluton-Actes 2 at the FTA in 2016, a collective seeking to bridge the gaps between generations.
In 2016, Mélanie Demers began a new creative cycle with Animal triste and Icône Pop, which received the Buddies in Bad Times Vanguard Award for Risk and Innovation, following its staging at the SummerWorks Performance Festival in Toronto. For Danse mutante (2019), she envisioned the many mutations of a duet, leveraging the artistic sensibilities of four female choreographers. After displaying the march of humankind in Animal triste, she created Post coïtum, a piece on the fall of our civilization that was abandoned as a result of the pandemic. From this creative mourning process stems La Goddam Voie Lactée, inspired by all things unfinished, unexpected, and unpredictable. Forgoing the long narrative progressions of her previous works, Demers becomes an observer of the act of becoming, of the fickle and fragmented process of life itself.
Post Coitum was supposed to premiere at the 2020 FTA, but was cancelled due to the pandemic. Why did you choose not to present this show about the fall of humanity?
We could have chosen to adapt it or put it in a drawer for later, but I decided instead to kill the show. I had to get rid of this burden, move on to another project. For me, this period of mourning was a sacrifice. In this work we explored the notions of proximity, intimacy, promiscuity, orgy—a post-coital society after the decline of humanity. Themes that we could have explored before the pandemic, but which are all the more pertinent today. We’d felt, intuitively, that our downfall was approaching, but now we were truly living it. Every fiber of our being is experiencing it.
Here I wanted to express the notion of eroticism without proximity, to find a way to stage our desire for life and creation in the current context. I wanted to celebrate the studio space, which I have sorely missed. The very act of creating in these pandemic times is an act of protest, a refusal to be isolated, confined. It took me a while to understand that the new context of creation is not a parenthesis, life on hold, but our new reality. As an arrogant society, we were not prepared to face this little virus that is now paralyzing us, but there is something beautiful in this image of a tiny organism that manages to bring us down.
Your new creation deals with incompleteness. Why this choice?
Post coïtum was spread out over time. It was an extended breath, a big wave in the manner of Animal triste, except that with La Goddam Voie Lactée I worked on small vignettes, short propositions, which answered and contradicted each other, perhaps in reaction to what we experience when we start things then leave them unfinished. Normally, I come into the studio after years of research and reflection, whereas for this piece I started from almost nothing, which I found quite stimulating. Rather than completing a thought, I discovered a thought in the act of creating. I am less interested in controlling the meaning and dramaturgy than in letting the concepts take their own course. I work with the idea of the unknown, of what is neither premeditated nor prepared, neither judged nor controlled.
The five protagonists each have their own workstation with their own accessories. Like the Vestals, they leap into the arena or leave the stage with no real justification except to keep the fire of creation alive. We witness the implementation of an idea. Things are constantly interrupted, resumed later on, short-circuited, doomed to incompletion. There is no climax here, but rather a series of tableaux with gaps, which unfold in a time that seems to increase in density.
How does the social distancing required by the present situation affect your work?
For the past five years, my research has focused on the question of unison: how to be together without repeating the same choreographed movements at the same time, and without knowing what we are going to do. Since this used to be done through the proximity of the bodies, I have to find other ways of expressing eroticism, sensuality, unison, or its impossibility. I wanted to work with sound: if the bodies can’t touch, then the voices can unite. With the musician and composer, Frannie Holder, who is also on stage, we explored ways of materialising sound through modes of being together, via the harmony of voices. The principles that guide this creation are like multiple dissonant voices that brush against each other, contradict each other, and seek to find a common meaning despite their isolation and unpredictability.
The cast is entirely female. Was this a deliberate choice?
Absolutely. The politically charged summer we’ve undergone, with the denouncement of sexual assault and the exacerbation of racial and gender tensions, has forced me to stop and think. I’ve often worked with diverse and heterogeneous casts, looking for the friction between genders and languages, but despite this desire for diversity, I noticed that I’ve given a lot of space to men in my creations. I’ve had several male muses, and I asked myself what part of myself I was favouring, and whether or not I was stifling a part of my feminine side. Which led me to create this all-female cast (Stacey Désilier, Brianna Lombardo, Chi Long, Léa Noblet Di Ziranaldi and Frannie Holder), to see what influence this could have on the work, to delve into the female psyche, its strength, special nature and depth.