In the heart of the city, some twenty dancers weave a filter for our daily agitations. The gestures and songs that emerge are delicate, mysterious, sometimes wild. What if dance could repair the living?
In the heart of the city, O2 forms a peaceful oasis. The dancers gathered around the choreographer Sarah Dell’Ava weave a screen, filtering out our daily agitations. Using the sky and urban greenery as a theatrical backdrop, they allow time to settle differently, and poetry to emerge.
Brought together over the past several years by a regular practice of movement, this intergenerational community shows remarkable endurance. For six hours, the thirty performers repeat cycles of spontaneous observation and invention. Their gestures and songs arise from deep inside their beings—enigmatic, and at times wild. The treasures they gather within become danced offerings, and later morph into poems, created, written out and shared directly on location. This delicate ritual of gratitude is endlessly renewed, extending into a celebration of the present and begging the question: what if dance could mend the living?
Produced by Berceurs du temps
Choreographed by Sarah Dell’Ava in collaboration with the dancers
Performed by Kerwin Barrington + Pierre Bastien + Gabrielle Bertrand-Lehouillier + Mélusine Bonillo + Ariane Boulet + Émilie Cardu-Beauquier + Matéo Chauchat + Annabelle Chouinard + Céline Cossette + Geneviève Dussaul + Matteo Esteves + Lila Geneix + Meriem Ferkli + Marijoe Foucher + Madeleine Guastavino + Chloe Hart + Solène Kojtych + Marie Jodoin + Luce Lainé + Céline Laquerre + Hélène Messier + Marine Morales-Casaroli + Marie Mougeolle + Caroline Namts + Léa Noblet di Ziranaldi + Nelly Paquentin + Claire Pearl + Maggie Sauvé + Suzanne Tisdale + Marie-Claude Roy + Cara Roy + Richard Trottier + Shaliyshah Yisrael + Azaryah Yisrael + Hezekyah Yisrael + Yeremyah Yisrael + Amaryah Yisrael + Shemyah Yisrael + Maya Zebeir
Dramaturgy Ilya Krouglikov
Music Annabelle Chouinard
Paper nests Pierre Bastien
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques
With the support of Ville de Montréal – Arrondissement de Ville-Marie
Co-presented by Partenariat du Quartier des spectacles
Written by Jessie Mill
Translated by Luba Markovskaia
Sarah Dell'Ava (Montreal) Berceurs du temps
A native of Geneva and a Montrealer by adoption, the choreographer Sarah Dell’Ava espouses a unifying definition of dance as a profound conduit for humanity.
In both Dans les plis (2012), a breathtaking solo piece where the gesture of dance revealed itself in the folding of an enormous sheet of paper, and in OR (2018), where she danced for four hours among her colourful gouaches, Sarah Dell’Ava blends dance and drawing, soul and poetry, interiority and community. Interspersed between her outstanding solo performances, her group pieces mark a persistent return to an art of transmission intrinsic to the act of creation. Her group, a mix of professional and non-professional dancers whose composition fluctuates from one performance to the other, is multigenerational and welcoming. In their weekly gatherings, they share a unique practice, inspired by the Authentic Movement approach. From these encounters stems a holistic form of dance, devoid of all artifice.
In 2016, Sarah Dell’Ava cofounded Espace Oriri, a space dedicated to spontaneous expression for all ages, where creativity serves as a bridge between interiority and connection. Berceurs du temps, the company she co–directs with Ilya Krouglikov—with whom she also staged O2—was created in 2016 as part of the project Bercer le temps (Lulling Time), a participatory installation based on lullabies from all around the world, collected throughout the city. This living archive, a tender portrait of a city through song, now continues its path in Montreal and elsewhere. Driven by their commitment to providing free and accessible art, the Berceurs combine scenic, performative, visual, and sound practices to bring poetry to everyday life.
This piece comes on the heels of a creative cycle that began in 2013 and led to ORIRI, ORIR, ORI, OR, and soon O. The work thus has a twofold creative process: the long collaboration with several of the performers over the course of the cycle, and that of the event itself, which takes place over hours. What are the implications of this temporality?
The first thing that comes to mind is the importance of the long-term process. In my personal life, most things take time. What is blossoming today is born from seeds that were planted long ago and grew slowly. The things that have lasted are the most important today. I commit to long-term adventures and invest my energy in them, as I’ve done with this group that will dance O2.
Before the pandemic, we met every Saturday for two years. There was a process to develop, probe, deepen. With O2, which involves a very special type of presence, we take the time to settle into a place, to enter into a relationship with it, with what is solid and what is mobile, with what is unchanged and what changes in a place—and in us as well.
How did you choose the locations for this spring event?
Instinctively, it was the church squares that caught my eye. We were already dancing in front of churches last year, in furtive performances. I am affected by the architectural aspect of these places and the roads that border them. There is a meeting between the vertical and the horizontal. I don’t enter the churches, but I appreciate their squares. They are often telluric and celestial places that have particular vibrations, which you can sometimes feel when you enter into a very introspective dance. I stage O2 in these places to revive our consciousness of the extremely sensitive “temples of flesh” that are our bodies.
Church squares are also meeting places. At the very beginning of the process, the O2 group performed in the Place des Tisserandes in Hochelaga-Maisonneuve. In the past, weavers used to gather there, and this artisanal quality has always appealed to me. Weaving also connotes weaving the community, and our project stems from this desire. All my group projects are rituals of gathering and shared interiorization.
Your work with performers is loosely based on the practice of Authentic Movement, a “dance of being” that arose in the United States in the 1950s, based on the work of Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung. What are the basic elements of your approach that you’ve developed in your workshops?
My passion for the practice of Authentic Movement began when I started the workshops a few years ago. As an artist, it seemed to me that I was reaching the quintessence of dance when I saw people immersed in their inner selves. So I invited the participants in the workshops to take this path. We don’t do Authentic Movement in its original form, but I draw inspiration from it, inviting the dancers into movement that welcomes the other as a witness, a spectator, but also as a brother or sister. It’s a practice that allows the acceptance of the being in all its relational layers, in the presence of the other. The instructions that I offer in the workshop work not only for professional dancers, but also for people who are not dancers by profession, including children, and for the wonderful white-haired who are over three-quarters of a century old!
In the practice itself, we always take a moment to move with our eyes closed, in the presence of a witness. We then summon up our inner journey and give ourselves time to share it, in gestures, in words, and eventually we’ll receive confirmation from the person who observed it. The dance emerges from this self-presence through great introspection. All of this involves very delicate tools, because it is not simply a dance that emerges, but our soul that dances and speaks through the body. And when we listen to the body in this way, sometimes we can access our vulnerability, which may relate to trauma or inner darkness, but also to light, to numinous and poetic life itself. I think it’s an opportunity to emotionally experience the sacred, through the body. It is work that requires great care.