After Decades Spent Dancing the Visions of Others, Anne Plamondon Tells the Story of her Father’s Schizophrenia in Her Choreographic Debut | Theater | Indy Week
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After Decades Spent Dancing the Visions of Others, Anne Plamondon Tells the Story of her Father’s Schizophrenia in Her Choreographic Debut 

Though Anne Plamondon's American Dance Festival debut, The Same Eyes as Yours, is a solo show, we encounter several entities in it. The central character is a taxi driver who's realizing he can't hide from—or control—his schizophrenia. When we meet him, he's still capable of observing and studying the anomaly in his consciousness.

Then we meet the chaos: the maelstrom in the person, not the person in the maelstrom.

Between the two, there's the little girl who watches the man struggle in his psychological underworld. Plamondon knows all three intimately because the man was her father and she was the little girl. We reached her in Montreal to learn why she chose such a personal subject for her first work as a choreographer after more than two decades of realizing other people's visions as a professional dancer.

INDY: This is the first piece you ever made. You began choreographing after two decades as a professional dancer with companies including Les Grands Ballets Canadiens, Nederlands Dans Theater, RUBBERBANDance Group, and Crystal Pite/Kidd Pivot. Why did it take so long?

ANNE PLAMONDON: It took eight years for me to have the courage to go on stage by myself. I've seen some awesome solo works and some that were a little less good. But I had mainly thought a solo work was a selfish thing to do. You need to be very confident if you're telling an audience, "You're going to watch me for an hour." Why ask them to deal with that?

What prompted you to start?

After I started ballet when I was ten, I was an amazing student. There were always teachers teaching you how to be a good interpreter, and then artistic directors and choreographers, always bringing you into their vision. When you're a company dancer, your job is to adapt to your colleagues, to share the space. You're always dancing to manifest someone else's vision, someone else's choreography.

A lot of my colleagues would become frustrated; beyond a point, they didn't want to be the vehicle for someone else's art. But for twenty-two years, I dedicated my dancing to be the best manifester of someone else's vision. I am a smaller woman, and early on, I would be placed in works as a "girl who is moving really fast." But I never really felt that dynamic. It was like being an actor who kept getting cast in dramas, all the time thinking, "Give me more comedy!"

Dancers don't talk very much. There is a protocol in the studio, in the way we interact and communicate with each other. The person in front talks and then everyone understands what they need to do. But it did come to a point where I started feeling it inside: bursts of my own voice. A choreographer would make me go left, and my body really wanted to go right. I never asked for them, but these ideas started coming and kept coming.

For eight years, I had this fantasy to allow myself space to move away from company life. I needed to be alone in the studio so nobody would try to bring their agenda on me and I could allow myself to do what I wanted. When I did, I found that I had been accumulating information all those years, as if I kept it in a backpack, reserved somewhere. I opened the bag, and all these amazing things came out.

What did it take to choose an autobiographical subject for your first work of art?

People ask if it was hard to do a piece about my father. It wasn't. I was older. I was ready. Earlier, it would have been much harder. When I was twenty, I had completely disassociated from him. But the moment I found the subject, found the meaning—it wasn't easy, but in a way, it was effortless.

I knew it by heart—all of my experiences with my father were imprinted on me. I could take a deep breath in, close my eyes, and remember him talking, moving, his habits, his tics. And at the same time, I could remember me as a little girl.

But it is not strictly autobiography. Yes, I deal with what happened to him. But at some point, I am totally imagining what it feels like to suffer from that illness, and through my choreography, I try to convey that imagining.

So this is not therapy. It is art. It is a dance show, and it should be understood as one. We should feel transported by the authenticity of the story, and by the dancing—its intense physicality, its very subtle softness, its delicate touch. The abandonment, the fight, the struggle—I really want that journey to be taken through the moving body. That's how I created it.

arts@indyweek.com

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