The universal language of dance

By Jessica Lam

Dance is as universal a language as music. All you have to do is open your eyes and mind to understand it. As the University of Calgary dance program gets ready to host its professional series, all choreographer and dancer Marc Boivin asks is for your presence, mind and body.

Boivin is a renowned Canadian contemporary dancer and recipient of the 1999 Jacqueline Lemieux Prize from the Canada Council for the Arts. At the age of 16, Boivin entered the faculty of engineering at Carleton University with plans to become an architect. At the time, Boivin was working as a stage manager at a local musical theatre company. His life did a complete turn when he was invited to try out a dance class.

“A member of the [theatre] company she told me, ‘Why don’t you come and dance with me and take some courses here?’ ” he recalls. “Being a guy, I had the whole thing of, ‘No, I can’t dance, I’m a guy!’ Where as inside I was feeling, ‘Oh man, I really want to do this.’ I took one class and it was really what they call instant passion. It took me over.”

Boivin quickly switched from engineering to social sciences on the basis that he could dance as much as he wanted if he had a lighter course load.

“The culture and the sensitivity of that way to be in the world, it just talked to me,” he says. “To be able to come into my body and talk through it [was] a big freedom.”

This method of communication has been joyously and beautifully used by Boivin for the past 25 years, yet, in all that time, he hasn’t found the solo that he wants to create and perform for himself.

“It was my third attempt at making a solo for myself,” says Boivin. “It is something that I find really hard. Professionally, this is only my fifth piece. My first two attempts ended up being solos for other people.”

Boivin’s solo in the professional series is somewhat a biography of what didn’t really happen. A better description may be that it is a virtual tour through the dancer’s mind and soul.

“To me biography is only the pretext for the journey that is part of the biography, not the story itself, [but] what’s beyond, what’s inside, all the sensitivity of the different worlds you go through,” he says. “[It exposes] my relationship with life, how I perceive things, how they impact.”

“Impact” is more than just a dance, but a collaboration between dance, music, lighting and film. Boivin wants all those who watch his performance to take away something different, something just for them.

“I look to be clear enough in the proposition of what I’m saying but not so clear that I’m telling people what to think,” he says. “I cross my fingers that it will resonate with someone. I’m just there to get the ball going. I’m just there to direct its path, but not control it.”

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