To convey something against words

Simon Portigal - Dancer

What drew me to dance?

I was also always dancing when I was young. I’d find myself passing the time either dancing in our front hall to blaring music, or playing pretend, alone, or with friends. Using my/our imagination’s around the neighbourhood, transforming it how we’d see fit. Turning trees into monsters and inventing ways to turn them back into trees again. Fighting imagined ghosts. Playing with matches… Dancing and using our imaginations were an instinctual activity. All children do similar things, no?

Through elementary school, I used to watch my sisters dance recitals and constantly wished myself up there. At around twelve years old I started taking class because of some abstract desire to move in those ways.

Throughout high school I took class and was involved with a youth company on weekends. Dance and theater, at the time, kept me academically sane and mostly willing to go to school, where I was asked to learn a great deal of things I had no interest in learning. Math. I still have trouble getting myself to do things I don’t want to do, or can’t do. I am a bit juvenile in that way. Dance and theater, during that time, gave me a way to air angst, heartbreak, confusion, joy, etc. that we all know.

Upon graduating I was hungry to learn more about dance on a professional level. I remember seeing a large Montreal company in Calgary and being absolutely blown away. I used to actually dream about doing that work. It was the only thing I could see myself doing, perhaps because it’s what I spent most of my time doing. I never really gave anything else a thought, besides parties, and being social, until my fifth year of professional studies. At that time I also went through an intensive crisis period, much like Melina and Jenn’s, because I didn’t know what else I could do, or if dance was bringing me what it used to. I came out the other side knowing that if I wanted to do other things, I just had to do them. I had to make an effort to at least find out why I wanted to do those things, by doing them.

Presently I choose to work in live performance because I believe it is a medium with great affective, creative, intellectual, emotional, and reflective potentials. I have trouble with dance’s ability to only communicate one specific thing, but am continually surprised at its ability to communicate so many things at once. I go to see live performance because of its capacity to use bodies to speak about socio-political, intellectual, emotional, and epochal issues, which are always somehow closely related to the body. How bodies are treated, perceived, spoken about, cared for or rejected, transformed, disfigured, what they produce, why they do what they do, etc. I choose to dedicate time and energy to contemporary performance because of its potential for materializing radical thought, in situation, representation, and in the surprising links it makes between things I had never thought would, or could, be made. It allows me to think, see, and move in different ways. And like any art it creates some sort of space for dialogue, if it’s desired. The things dealt with in the work, that you go to see, or that you make, give context so that those things can be discussed. It allows me to focus on something outside of myself.

What is it about dance/performance in particular that allows you to express yourself over other forms?

Well. It is what I’ve learned how to do, technically, so far. It is the community I currently exist in. It’s not that I love performing above anything else, although I do take great pleasure in it, but using my body to say something is much different than taking a picture, making a film, etc. I think it is a much vaguer medium in some ways, there is so much, and so little, that can be done. I am limited by my body, but also take pleasure in finding ways to use that onstage.

The challenges you set out for yourself have to be dealt with in very real ways when you’re dealing with the body. You feel the effort. You can see the effort. It’s not that it’s the more effort, the better, but some sort of exchange is going on with the audience because of it. There is a built-up expenditure of the performer and maker’s creative, intellectual, sometimes emotional, and physical energies that is evident from the whole event of a performance. It is absolutely alive when you experience it, and unique in that it is in the Here and Now.

A performance itself is not, and cannot be, for the most part, a pre-fabricated, mass-produced, and distributed object. Even if you’re in an audience with 499 other people, or more, it can be a very intimate exchange, and it is still a communally shared event. I’m not quite sure how to explain it exactly. Although I think I just did.

The artists of inlayers are asking for your support by donating to our online fundraiser. Though the project is underway with the support from Alberta Foundation for the Arts, this funding only covers 25% of the budget. The rest is up to our own efforts. Your donations will go to help pay the 8 involved artists for their full time contributions, hard work, and dedication during the 6 weeks of this project as well as additional creation and production costs.
Donate Now!

About Simon Portigal

Simon Portigal is a choreographer/dancer based in Montreal, QC. Simon studied at the Performing Arts and Research Training Studios (P.A.R.T.S.) in Brussels, Belgium, and he strives to use the body as a discursive medium. In addressing the contextualized body, a movement dialectic, he reveals what lies on the periphery of language and where phenomenological experience transcends the relationship between audience and performer. He has performed in Europe and Canada, most recently at Montreal's Studio 303, as a collaborator in Chad Dembski's "Utopia: Est-Ce Possible?".

4 Responses to “To convey something against words”