Underneath Toronto's crumbling Gardiner, choreographer Noémie Lafrance made something special

She’s choreographed for iconic Carly Rae Jepsen and Feist music videos, but this speaks to the heart of the artist’s work

She’s choreographed iconic Carly Rae Jepsen and Feist videos — this speaks to the heart of the artist's work

You may have missed it a few weeks ago, but world renowned choreographer Noémie Lafrance recently premiered her latest site specific work in one of the most unlikely of spaces – underneath Toronto's aging Gardiner Expressway. Conceived and choreographed by Lafrance in collaboration with Ayelen Liberona and vocalist and sound designer Anaïs Maviel, along with a cast of around 50 professional and non-professional dancers, the performance entitled Dérives ran for two nights only and was commissioned, developed and produced by The Bentway.

Lafrance is known for choreographing large groups of dancers in popular music video work including Feist's 1234 and Century to Carly Rae Jepsen's ubiquitous song I Really Like You, featuring none other than Tom Hanks and a mass of performers dancing in the streets. But her site specific work in forgotten spaces, such as this and her piece entitled Agora which re-animated the abandoned 50,000 square foot McCarren Park pool in Williamsburg with thirty dancers speak to the heart of this conceptual artist's work.

Watch the video:

World renowned choreographer Noémie Lafrance recently premiered her latest site specific work underneath Toronto’s Gardiner expressway. 4:50

In this video, we experience the poignant dance and sound tableaus she has created along the almost two kilometre path as Lafrance walks us through the scope of this project — one that included her visiting the site a year in advance and holding multiple workshops that mixed members of the community with professional dancers.  

A lot of times certain things are abandoned or they become perceived as not beautiful.  And if you're able to let people see the beauty in something then that's changed forever after because that new way of seeing it has become possible.- Noémie Lafrance

While her choreography is always unique in its specificity to the project or space, her pieces do share some common elements. Ultimately, her work is about reclaiming public spaces, unpacking forgotten histories, challenging ideas of ownership and shifting our perceptions of urban areas.

So instead of seeing the Gardiner as a crumbling piece of infrastructure that is undergoing major fixes and causing constant traffic delays, Dérives like The Bentway itself, helps us imagine what the space could be.

About the Author

Lucius Dechausay is a video producer at CBC Arts, as well as a freelance illustrator and filmmaker. His short films and animations have been screened at a number of festivals including The Toronto International Film Festival and Hot Docs. Most recently he directed KETTLE, which is currently streaming at CBC Short Docs.