A Quebec ballet dancer returns home to run dairy farm after spending years touring Canada

A farmer in the Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean region is striking a fine balance, running his family dairy farm by day and working as a classical ballet dancer by night.

Farmer and dancer says two seemingly opposing passions lead to a 'perfect' balance

Hay bales and pirouettes: Quebec farmer marries down to earth with high art

2 years ago
Duration 3:00
Jean-Daniel Bouchard is a professional dancer who decided to return to the family farm. He spends his days doing both.

A farmer in the Saguenay–Lac-St-Jean region of Quebec is striking a fine, if unusual, balance: running his family dairy farm by day and working as a classical ballet dancer by night.

Jean-Daniel Bouchard started dancing before he turned four, and after high school he decided to try to make a career of it.

His dancing took him to Banff, Alta., British Columbia, Toronto and Montreal. In all, Bouchard spent almost nine years more or less constantly on tour.

"The passion just never left me," he said.

But eventually, his rural Quebec upbringing as a sixth-generation farmer in St-Bruno started to call him home.

Bouchard told Quebec AM that he was looking for more stability, to settle down, and his two older brothers were not especially interested in taking over the farm.

"I thought it would be really sad to lose this family treasure," he said. "So I thought I could do both — I could come back here, start a company and dance, and do the farming with my dad."

Jean-Daniel Bouchard decided to return home to Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean to run his family's dairy farm after almost a decade working and touring as a professional dancer. (Romy Boutin St-Pierre/Radio-Canada )

Bouchard said although his twin passions may seem like something of a contradiction — farming can be gruelling physical labour and involves plenty of financial mathematics, versus an art form that depends on imagination and creativity — they help him find balance.

"I think this is the perfect match for life," he said. "You have more stable work and then you can let go of the stress with dance."

Plus, there are physical benefits.

Bouchard said farm work makes him stronger, which helps with his dancing, whereas the repetitive movements and stretching he uses for ballet help him prevent injury in the barn.

With theatres closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bouchard is both taking and teaching virtual dance classes, and he said he can't wait to be back in the studio or, even better, in front of an audience.

"We can't wait for the studios to open again so we can get back into a full dance ballet class, and to be able to move from a space in the studio to the other end," he said. "We can't wait.

"Virtually it's just not the same, it's not even comparable," he added.

Bouchard said he sometimes misses touring and will dream he's off dancing somewhere else, but he's happy with the life he chose as both a farmer and a dancer.

"At a certain point, when you're just trying to grow and grow [in your career], what's the point, when the point should be to be happy," he said. 

With files from Quebec AM, video by Romy Boutin St-Pierre