May 17, 2023

Trauma research meets choreography in upcoming dance performance

Study yields poignant performance engaging psychological trauma’s effect on the body
Windows, black holes, helium

The School of Creative and Performing Arts (SCPA) associate professor of dance Marie France Forcier’s new research-based choreography work is co-presented with The Grand on Friday, May 26 in the Flanagan Theatre.

windows, black holes, helium comes as the creative culmination of a multi-phase research project involving trauma survivors, dance professionals and academics, and mental health professional and researcher Allison Crawford (associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry, University of Toronto).

Within a choreographic process framework, this study, principally funded by the Government of Canada's Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), yielded a poignant performance engaging psychological trauma’s effect on the body.

"Hers is an audience that looks for more than the sensory pleasure of beautiful bodies moving to lyrical music. They want real meat — and Forcier has plenty to throw their way."

- Michael Crabb, Toronto Star

A contemporary concert dance work for four intergenerational performers, windows, black holes, helium reveals layers of physical imagery born out of real lives and intimate scars, at times handing its audience the jarringly contrasting realities of one’s inner landscape and outer functioning, post-trauma.

The research-creation project, initiated by principal investigator Forcier in 2019, is intended to yield recommendations for directors and choreographers to reduce re-traumatization risk when asking artists to access personal autobiographical memory in development and performance.

Hours of focus group and individual interview data on trauma embodiment were collected in the process. Currently under analysis, this data will be discussed with the audience through a brief post-performance panel involving the dancers and research team.

For this study, Forcier, an established choreographer, teamed up with Dora awardee dancer artist and assistant professor Louis Laberge-Côté (Toronto Metropolitain University) and prolific mental health researcher-clinician Dr. Allison Crawford (University of Toronto).

Along with Laberge-Côté, celebrated senior artist and multiple award-winner Karen Kaeja, mid-career dancer Jordana Deveau, and emerging Calgary-raised dancer Cassandra Grose constitute the work’s exquisitely generous and genuine cast. Award-winning Canadian composer and two-decade collaborator of Forcier’s, James Bunton designed the work’s evocative soundscape.

For more information about the May 26 show, visit The Grand's website.

Marie France Forcier is a choreographer, performer, writer, and pedagogue of western contemporary dance forms. Through studio work, public performance and community initiative, she researches at the intersection of somatic practices, trauma studies and choreography. Forcier is associate professor of dance at the University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts.

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