Dance explores pain and pleasure

Hélène Blackburn is looking forward to bringing her contemporary dance company, Cas Public, to the Yukon next week.

Long ago, she dismissed the notion that those in small towns can be closed-

minded and that the west is saturated with with conservative tastes in entertainment.

And, having visited two venues in northern Québec, she knows that Northerners appreciate seeing something different.

Suites Cruelles is, indeed, something different. It is an interpretation of pain and pleasure and their relationship.

“There are 15, 20 little scenes,” says Blackburn over the phone from Vancouver, where her company is performing.

“When you connect one scene to another, you see the relationship.

“In our society, we embrace the pleasure so much, and we avoid the suffering … we should accept the suffering more.

“As a Mom, I love my child, but there have been difficulties.”

Some of the eight dancers will perform a show for teenagers on Tuesday, Oct. 13, at the Yukon Arts Centre. Diary is a love story – first love – and it, too, involves pain and pleasure.

“You can’t have a love story without suffering.”

Blackburn says the dancers wear street clothes in this performance and the message is not as complicated as Suites Cruelles, which shows the next night, Wednesday, Oct. 14.

“A friend of mine watched it and said, ‘For an hour, I returned to my teenage years’.” So, yes, she says, adults will enjoy it, too.

While exploring pain and pleasure, Blackburn also explores gender roles. Whereas the women wear feminine clothes (contrary to the perception of local advertising, there is only a little nudity in this show), strike classic ballet poses and are carried and lifted by the men, she says the women are very much equals.

“They are sexy, beautiful women, but physically strong, mentally strong and not afraid to carry their sex appeal and show they are proud,” says Blackburn.

“I like working with strong women dancers. We have two strong genders who communicate and that reflects our society.”

It reflects the dance company, too, as the choreography was very much a group effort. Blackburn says her company’s name, Cas Public, is a reminder to her that its work reflects “the public question”.

“We work in a collective way,” she says. “I love hearing all the ideas.

“I make the decisions, but I get all of the suggestions from the company.”

After the performances, the company is staying in the Yukon for a vacation in a rented cottage.

Not Blackburn. She is heading back to the company’s home in Montréal and then flying to Oslo, Norway, for a project. When she returns, she will prepare to dance onstage for the first time in 20 years.

“Dance is a good expression of pain and pleasure,” she says, foreshadowing what is to come for her. “Practising every day has a really high price.”

Diary shows at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 13, and Suites Cruelles is at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 14. Tickets are available at the Yukon Arts Centre Box Office and Arts Underground.

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