'Claudel was the only female artist from her time that we still talk about. She was able to make her career because of her relationship with Rodin.' - Peter Quanz
Peter Quanz was a mere nine years old when he realized he wanted to be a choreographer. He had seen a Guys and Dolls production at Stratford and was mesmerized by the way people flowed on and off the stage.
His ballet Rodin/Claudel shows March 4 and 5 at the Centennial Concert Hall in Winnipeg.
By the time he was 14, Quanz had choreographed his first ballet. He got accepted into the Royal Winnipeg Ballet school he says, because of his choreography.
"My first year in ballet school, I was choreographing for dancers in the company," he recalled.
"I was offered so many resources to create work, so that I could really test out different ways of working. Arnold Spohr was a wonderful mentor."
These days, Quanz bases himself in Winnipeg but travels around the world choreographing for dance companies, opera and theatre. He has created ballets for some of the world's leading companies.
When Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal approached him to create a work, they asked for a full length story ballet.
"I knew I wanted a French story but I didn't feel comfortable choosing a Quebecois story, because I am an anglophone," admitted Quanz.
"I had an idea to do something on Rodin when I was 19 and had visited the Rodin Museum in Paris," he explained.
Quanz says Rodin/Claudel is about human emotion.
"They had this incredible relationship that really allowed me to delve into the cost of creation."
"Claudel was the only female artist from her time that we still talk about. She was able to make her career because of her relationship with Rodin. But at the same time, that relationship cost her so much of her career," he explained. "It cost her 30 years of her life, locked away in an asylum."
The setting on stage is minimal.
"I decided to make a group of dancers - which I've called sculptures, like a Greek chorus that is omnipresent through the ballet," he said. "At one point they are mud and they are born out of the mud....I use those sculptures as a way to articulate my viewpoint on the relationships throughout the ballet."
Quanz admits that finding music for a full length ballet is extremely difficult. He worked with a German conductor to come up with the music.
"We chose music from the time period that Rodin and Claudel lived in," he explained. "So we have composers like Ravel and Debussy with whom Claudel is rumoured to have had an affair."
"The music helps us tell the story. At the end of the ballet we have music by Schnittke and that's a big departure....but Camille is going insane," he points out.
"Her world is shifting. The Schnittke work takes a waltz and deconstructs it. One of Claudel's most important sculptures is called La Valse."
See Rodin/Claudel at the Concert Hall on March 4 and 5.