Still dancing at 70: Montreal's Paul-André Fortier shows how it's done
Veteran dancer's 70th birthday gift to himself — and to Montreal — is one last dance
The demands of professional dance mean that, with rare exceptions, stages are filled with young, athletic, limber dancers.
Paul-André Fortier is one of those rare exceptions. The veteran Montreal dancer and choreographer has been a key figure on the city's contemporary dance scene for decades.
This weekend, at the theatre and dance Festival TransAmériques, Fortier is performing his latest — and last — choreography, Solo 70.
"It's a piece I wanted to create to celebrate my 70th birthday because there are not that many dancers dancing that late," Fortier told CBC News.
Fortier may not be leaping around the stage as he did when he began dancing in the 1970s, but this work is demanding. The sweat pouring off him as he moves nonstop for a full hour is testament to that.
"I strongly believe in the poetry of the aging body," he said. "I think it is a mistake to think that dance is only for powerful, young bodies."
"I think we can feel the experience, the history," he says. "You dance with who you are. And who you are communicates with the spectator. And so the spectator feels your experience, your rapport to life."
Solo 70 a good-bye
In more recent years, his Solo 30x30 brought him to a wider audience. In it, he danced for 30 minutes a day for 30 days, in unexpected locations — on a bridge in Newcastle, England, even on the rooftop of a shelter in a train station parking lot in France.
Now, with Solo 70, Fortier is saying goodbye. This is his last work for his company, Fortier Danse-Création.
"I thought it would be nice to do a last ultimate solo for the company."
He's not going quietly. He brought in an actor and an electric guitarist, both half his age, to keep him company. Moments of silence are punctuated by screeching guitar.
As his co-creator and director Étienne Lepage put it: "He is game. He makes it easy, because we can really try anything."
And yet, Lepage is well aware of the challenges Fortier is facing.
"I can tell he is suffering," Lepage says. "But he is making fun of it, and he is dancing with it. He is not trying to act as if it's not there."
"It is all that you have accumulated in your life, the bad and the extraordinary as well," Fortier said, "That is what makes you who you are, and people read this when they watch you perform."
Add to this the knowledge that this really is an adieu, that Fortier is closing a chapter in his life, and in Montreal's dance history.
His final bows on Sunday night really are final bows.
Paul-André Fortier performs June 1, 2 & 3 at The Édifice Wilder as part of FTA Festival TransAmériques