Sylvain Lafortune (PhD) has performed all over the world, is a regular teacher for professional programs in dance and circus, and is publishing a unique and comprehensive textbook on dance partnering. As a new faculty member with the Dance Educators' Seminar (August 7 - 10, 2018), and August Intensive (August 13 - 17, 2018) teaching Partnering, we asked him a few questions about his work.
Q&A with Sylvain Lafortune
How do you know Peggy?
Sylvain Lafortune: I met Peggy in New York where we both worked at Lar Lubovitch Dance Co. [1980’s]. Aside from being the Canadian contingent of the company, we had a common friend, James Kudelka, which made our acquaintance even easier.
Can you tell us a little about your current or upcoming work?
SL: I am part of three projects with Montreal Danse: "Prisme" from Benoî Lachambre, "Instant Community" from Peter Quanz and a new creation "Beside" from Marie Béland. I will create and perform a full evening duet entitled "L'un l'autre" (One and another) with Esther Rousseau-Morin. It will be performed in Montreal in the Danse Danse season in October 2018. This project is very personal and I am freely using my knowledge of partnering to bring out the poetry of two bodies being mutually dependant. I am creating a full evening contemporary show called "Horizon Vertical" for a stilt walking company that will be premiered in Moncton in November 2018. I am also finishing the writing of a comprehensive textbook on partnering work in dance, which should be published (in French) by the end of the year. I am also a regular teacher in dance and circus professional programs.
How did you develop your Partnering technique? What were you responding to? Does this directly relate to your choreographic work?
SL: Partnering has been at the heart of my dancing career. I have always preferred dancing with a partner rather than in solos and the most significant works I have danced and created have been duets. If I have had any impact as an artist, it would be as a partner. The particular talent, sensitivity, and interest has led me to teach and to research the subject through Master's and Doctorate studies. This experience as an artist, a teacher, and a researcher has given me a unique and comprehensive understanding of partnering, combining both the practical and the theoretical.
What kind of tools do you work on with dancers in your class? What kind of development and improvement do you see through this work?
SL: What is important for me in my classes is to gain an understanding of the mechanical principles that determine the success or the failure of a movement. For too many, and I was one for many years, the main approach to partnering has simply been by trial and error. This approach may produce some good results, but at what cost? How much fatigue, frustration, and injury could be avoided with a better understanding of mechanical laws! When we don't really know why some things work or not, often succeeding one day and failing the other, we are simply puzzled. So my goal is to teach a method as much as a technique. How to acknowledge and name the difficulties in order to better solve them?
What do you think is most important for teachers approaching partnering work?
SL: For teachers, the important thing is to be able to observe and to name what their students are doing. Some basic mechanical knowledge can help explain why some lifts are easy or hard. Also, to be aware of the variety of lifts that exist so they can choose or help their students choose which ones are the most appropriate for what they are trying to do or express.
What are you looking forward to about teaching this August with us in Toronto?
SL: It is always exciting for me to work with fellow teachers to understand what they know and what they need to know. I feel this method and knowledge I am developing will be useful for teachers who often create pieces for their students in which there will be, almost invariably, some lifts. I feel the most impact I can have in the dance community is through the teachers who will spend much more time with their students than I will ever do.