En Pointe 12 - Rising Choreographer Learns to Go with the Flow
RISING CHOREOGRAPHER LEARNS TO GO WITH THE FLOW
On The Edge, the year-end performance by the Aspirants of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, was supposed to have had its Winnipeg premiere last week. Among the numerous original pieces which will not be performed was Now Streaming, a unique blend of contemporary and neoclassical ballet created by Philippe Larouche.
Philippe Larouche is a graduate of the RWB School Aspirant Program, who has been showing the world his inspired choreography since 2017. Recently, Philippe was featured in the February 2020 edition of Spotlight for his staging work on Septime Webre’s The Wizard of Oz, but he has also choreographed numerous works for the RWB, and a collaboration with The Bros. Landreth. Now Streaming would have been his next project, but that was before COVID-19 cancelled the show.
Now that the dates for On The Edge have come and gone, Philippe has had time to reflect on the creation process and what it meant to him. Although the weeks of work Philippe poured into the project will not get their time in the spotlight, he is thankful for what he learned while choreographing Now Streaming.
“The piece was supposed to be lighthearted and fun,” says Philippe, whose most recently commissioned pieces had involved dark and intense choreography, “Now Streaming was an opportunity for me to change it around and go lighter.”
Philippe began choreographing Now Streaming in January, months before the On The Edge Tour was slated to begin. With the support of Manitoba 150 and sponsorship from Manitoba Hydro, On The Edge Tour was scheduled to make numerous stops across the province, bringing the art of ballet to communities around Manitoba as part of the MB150 celebrations.
At the time, Philippe was mentoring Cameron Fraser-Monroe, a graduate of the RWB School’s Professional Division who is fast becoming a renowned choreographer in his own right. Philippe offered Cameron a look at his creation process and, in doing so, began to recognize a pattern within his own choreography. To Philippe, his process seemed highly analytical and methodical, so he decided to challenge himself to try something different.
“With Now Streaming, I tried to do something outside of my comfort zone,” said Philippe. “I let the rehearsal process take the lead and found I could create choreography using a stream of consciousness approach.” What emerged over an 8-week development cycle was a vivacious and eccentric blend of modern and neo-classical dance styles. Dancers changed styles from one minute to the next, constantly giving the audience something new to process.
According to Philippe, the capricious choreography in Now Streaming was also the inspiration behind its title. “It’s a lot like how we consume content today, rapidly,” he says. “When you watch the piece you almost don’t have time to settle. The audience is taken on a journey of twists and turns.”
When the On The Edge Winnipeg dates were cancelled, Philippe was ready. He had already steeled himself against the news he knew was coming. There was no sense of shock or bewilderment. The wave of COVID-19 had already crashed upon the shore of the dance world, and Philippe, along with the other aspirants and choreographers who had spent weeks preparing, knew that they would not get to perform their art.
“When I heard about the cancellation, I was disappointed,” recalled Philippe, “but the loss of Now Streaming wasn’t the sole reason. All the dancers and companies in the world are going through this, and I know there will be other opportunities in the future.”
Although Now Streaming will not be performed as intended, Philippe hopes to revisit what he learned from its creation in the future. He says that the more relaxed and free-form approach to choreography taught him the value of a piece doesn’t come from the intensity of the choreographer’s focus or a regimented analysis of the steps. Instead, that value comes from knowing yourself, relying on your experience, and allowing the process to develop naturally. It’s a lesson he hopes to carry forward with him into the future.