Paul-André Fortier entered the world of dance in the 1970s. As a member of Groupe Nouvelle Aire, one of the country’s most innovative choreographic ensembles, he, along with other exceptionally creative artists in the group, contributed to building the reputation of Quebec dance from the 1980s until today.
Fortier first distinguished himself as a dancer. A “natural” dancer - as self-taught dancers were described at the time - he was known for his strong stage presence and elegant, refined interpretations. He soon became a leading figure on the Montreal dance scene, then on the Canadian stage, a position he has retained. He was involved in all of the innovative projects at the time, with his mentors (Martine Époque and especially Françoise Sullivan, whom he called his “artistic mother”) and his peers (including Edouard Lock and Daniel Léveillé), who began to create their own works, as did he.
Fortier’s career as a choreographer had an immediate and significant impact on the dance landscape. He was known for “inventing” new concepts that differed in both form and content (if one can be dissociated from the other), beyond the scope of tradition and convention. Very early on, he became the forerunner of a style, recognized by his peers, that used theatricality to draw attention to the stresses and tensions of the modern world, with intense, determined and rigorous form. During this period, he was one of the first to lead the way toward a style of dance freed from the constraints of the past, inspiring a whole generation of choreographers to be open to modernism and creative risk.
This is a risk that Fortier has always been willing to take. Never one to use set formulas in his choreography, he has always been an “art adventurer” (in the truest sense of the word), for whom creating means stepping into the unknown, into the void. After experiments with dance theatre that left an indelible mark on choreographic practices in Quebec in the 1980s, he embarked, in grandiose fashion, on a solo adventure with a trilogy* accompanied twice by Betty Goodwin. Following that decisive encounter with a world rich in form and symbolism, the choreographer-performer returned to the very basis of dance: movement itself, culminating in Tensions and Lumière.
While aware of developments on the current art scene, particularly with the advent of multimedia and new technologies, Fortier does not blindly follow contemporary trends and today’s penchant toward “everything technological.” On the contrary, he has carefully calibrated the symbolic and aesthetic scope of his projects, notably in Tensions and Spirale, a choreography for 12 dancers created for the Ballet de Lorraine, in Nancy, France.
In 2006, he broke new ground with Solo 30x30, which has stood the test of time as a performance and physical feat. This piece, performed outdoors, has taken him around the world, from London to Rome, from Nancy to Ottawa, Montreal, Bolzano, Yamaguchi, Newcastle, Lyon, Vancouver, Liège, New York, Lorient and Paris. This ritual played out for thirty consecutive days, rain or shine, for passersby who stop to watch - or who don’t - is an act of humility that I personally find astonishing. This unique experience has also inspired many artists in the countries he has visited: videographers, photographers, composers, and even writers at the International Literature Festival held in Montreal in 2011.
From his very first solos, Paul-André Fortier has collaborated with other well known artists, including visual artist Pierre Bruneau, composer Alain Thibault, Japanese artist Takao Minami, lighting designer John Munro, filmmaker Robert Morin and writer-performer Rober Racine. With the latter three, Fortier created Cabane, which premiered at the TransAmériques Festival (FTA) in 2008, then toured Canada and Europe. This was followed by Vertiges in 2012, an unusual and poignant duet with improvisational violinist and composer Malcolm Goldstein: two men, both mature artists, sharing a single creative path. This unlikely duet was followed by Misfit Blues (FTA 2014), a wacky, zany little theatrical piece created and danced with choreographer-performer Robin Poitras, on a set designed by Edward Poitras.
Nearly 40 years have passed since Derrière la porte un mur, and more than 50 choreographies. Paul-André Fortier is now concerned about passing his legacy on to future generations. He is restaging Bras de Plomb with Simon Courchel, offering him 15 X AT NIGHT, a kind of night-time version of Solo 30x30. He is dancing in the Pluton 2 project, a solo by Frédérick Gravel. While he is involved in writing and publishing the Testament artistique, an artistic legacy for the dance community, he is still involved in creative projects for the future, looking ahead to celebrating his 70th birthday. Stay tuned…..