Dancing through the pain

Whether you're a believer in the power of love, or think that it leads to nothing but pain and suffering, Cas Public has a show for you. The Montreal-based contemporary dance company will be presenting two distinct shows during their visit to Whitehorse next week.

Whether you’re a believer in the power of love, or think that it leads to nothing but pain and suffering, Cas Public has a show for you.

The Montreal-based contemporary dance company will be presenting two distinct shows during their visit to Whitehorse next week.

The first, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. is a program called Diary, which is geared toward teenagers and the teenaged at heart.

The second, Suites Cruelles, will be presented on Wednesday at 8 p.m. and contains slightly more mature subject matter.

It’s not very common for contemporary dance troops to produce pieces with a younger audience in mind.

“There’s a long tradition of children’s theatre, but it’s quite new in dance,” said artistic director Helene Blackburn.

“And I think that’s a shame.”

It is very different to approach children as an audience, Blackburn admits.

And you’ve got to have a love for children.

“They come in big groups, they’re noisy and, after the show, they really tell you what they think,” she said.

“It can be kind of traumatizing.”

Diary, the youth show that Cas Public is bringing north, is about first love.

But that doesn’t mean that adults in the audience won’t enjoy the show.

“The show was originally created for teenagers but I think it can be enjoyed by a wide audience,” said Blackburn.

“Adults that come to the show say that it feels like a return to their teenage years.”

The show is also more accessible than some of its adult counterparts and contains video, text and other forms of media to help engage the audience.

For those more jaded adults out there that may scoff at the thought of first love, Suites Cruelles offers an alternative.

“It’s about the fact that love and pleasure can often lead to pain, and not necessarily in a subtle way,” said Blackburn.

The choreographer enjoyed a delicious meal replete with wine on Tuesday night in Edmonton.

During the interview on Wednesday afternoon, she was suffering through a bit of a hangover.

The bad often comes with the good, and vice versa.

And the society we live in today often doesn’t want to accept this concept, said Blackburn.

“Everyone wants the pleasure, but no one wants the pain.”

The show tries to show its audience how the two go hand in hand, and that pain is not necessarily a negative thing.

“It can be a tool to learn and a necessity to understand the limits,” said Blackburn.

“Dancers have to deal with this issue on a daily basis – they actually have a very large vocabulary when it comes to describing their pain – so it’s a perfect fit.”

It’s especially painful when dancers’ feet are crammed into those masochistic pointed shoes that Cas Public will be using in both of next week’s shows.

“I think that pointed shoes are really the equivalent of high heels in daily life,” said Blackburn.

“So we’re mixing high heels and pointed shoes in the adult show, which I think is a nice metaphor for pain and pleasure.

“High heels may look gorgeous, but, at the same time, there is a price to pay.”

Blackburn founded Cas Public more than 20 years ago.

The name, which means public cause, was intended to take the focus away from herself as choreographer and artistic director and shift the attention onto the company as a whole.

“Dance is a really collective art form, so I wanted a much more open name,” she said.

This focus on the collective means dancers spend a long time with the company and often return after leaving.

Blackburn also tries to help foster the next creative generation.

In January she will be dancing in a work created by a younger member of the company.

Blackburn, who turned 50 this past summer, hasn’t danced professionally in 20 years.

“I’m really nervous,” she said.

“Actually I have a couple propositions to keep dancing, but I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes in January.”

Creating shows for younger audience is another way of insuring that the next generation of contemporary dancers is a promising one.

Aside from the more mature subject matter and technical choreography, the adult show also contains a little more nudity.

“But I’m not really the type of person that likes to use full nudity on stage,” said Blackburn.

“It has to be necessary and needs to have meaning – I think meaning is much more important than the level of nudity.

“We have just one moment where we have a topless scene.”

To judge for yourself whether the nudity is necessary, check out Cas Public’s Suites Cruelles at the Yukon Arts Centre on Wednesday, October 14 at 8 p.m.

The youth show Diary will take place the night before, Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Tickets for both shows are $27 for adults and $5 for teens.

Contact Chris Oke at


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