TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

INTERVIEW | Anne Plamondon Talks About A Storied Career In Dance

By Paula Citron on April 6, 2022

Dancer/choreographer Anne Plamondon in 'Only You' (Photo: Michael Slobodian)
Dancer/choreographer Anne Plamondon in ‘Only You’ (Photo: Michael Slobodian)

Montreal-based Anne Plamondon, 47, is one of the best-known and best-loved contemporary dancers in the country. On Apr. 8 and 9, she is bringing to Harbourfront Centre her new duet Only You, which she performs with American dancer James Gregg, It is, in a word, a very big deal.

Ballet trained, Plamondon started her career with Les Grands Ballets Canadiens before moving on to Nederlands Dans Theater ll, then Portugal’s Gulbenkian Ballet. Returning to Montreal in 2000, she performed with well-known choreographers such as Jean Grand-Maître and James Kudelka.

Plamondon is, perhaps, best known for helping to establish the break-out Montreal company RUBBERBANDance Group, where, between 2002 and 2015, she was a dancer, and later co-artistic director. Under choreographer Victor Quijada, the company became an international darling, fusing classical ballet with hip hop/b-boying. Plamondon also found time, between 2007 and 2011, to collaborate on creations with revered Vancouver choreographer Crystal Pite and her company Kidd Pivot.

In a new twist to her illustrious 20-year dance career, in 2012, Plamondon turned her sights to choreography, where she has won much international praise.

Via Zoom, Plamondon gave a candid interview where nothing was off the table. She talked about her career, what led her to leave RUBBERBANDance Group, the mental illness in her family, and her current role as a much sought-after choreographer.

Dancer/choreographer Anne Plamondon (Photo: Michael Slobodian)
Dancer/choreographer Anne Plamondon (Photo: Michael Slobodian)

I’m curious, Anne. Why did you give up ballet for contemporary dance?

Initially, I was full of dreams about becoming a dancer, but I never thought about the education of dance. Ballet schools create a mould, and you have to fit into it. I had flat feet, so I was going to have to work really, really hard to become a ballerina. Somehow, I needed more than just adapting to a format. When I got into NDT ll, I took off my point shoes and never put them on again.

Nederlands Dans Theater under Jiri Kylian was considered by many to be the greatest contemporary dance company in the world.

And in 1994, it was the centre of the world. It was a revelation dancing Kylian. It was my dream dance. The choreography was from a ballet perspective — every morning there was a ballet class — but there was freedom in the movement.

But you never made it into the main company — NDT 1.

I was there for three years, and it was a great sadness for me. NDT 1 was the top of the mountain, and I never got to the top. Finally, in 1998, I made it to the waiting list for NDT 1, but no one ever leaves, so you stay on the waiting list, and I was in a really low position. I just didn’t want to wait and go past my peak, so I left.

What were your happiest years as a dancer?

Working with Victor Quijada and RUBBERBANDance, and Crystal Pite and Kidd Pivot. Their physicalities complemented each other, and my tools of dance were applicable for both. I felt fulfilled. I also had the best time touring the world. It was exciting.

I was shocked when you left RUBBERBANDance Group, as was everyone else, particularly knowing that you and Victor Quijada were romantically involved.

I was 40 years old, and I had just become a mother. It was a turning point. I took time off for motherhood, and began to question my commitment to RUBBERBANDance. The age of 40 has a stigma attached to it, especially for a female dancer.

I had been happy being a muse to Crystal Pite and Victor, but now a dance career wasn’t enough. I wanted to be creative on my own, and not with someone else. Creating my own solos suddenly became important to me, and I choreographed my first work, The Same Eyes as Yours, in 2012. After the success of that piece, people encouraged me to pursue a career as a choreographer.

How did this transition and questioning affect your relationship with Victor?

It became an either/or situation. We either ended the professional relationship, or the personal one. I decided to leave RUBBERBANDance, and Victor and I started a new partnership as parents, raising our daughter together.

Tell me about your daughter.

Her name is Maela, and she’s eight now. She is really into the arts. She does everything — dancing, acting, singing.

That first solo, The Same Eyes as Yours, was inspired by your father’s schizophrenia. It is certainly a surprising subject for a first choreography. You worked with famed actor/director/writer Marie Brassard, so you had strong support.

I was drawn to doing something autobiographical. My father’s mental illness started in Quebec City when I was born, so I never really knew him. For the solo, I did research into his life. When he realized something was wrong with him — he was having hallucinations — he admitted himself into the hospital. I had a complex childhood. The family never talked about my father. I never associated myself with the disease. I lived a parallel life to his.

Because it was my first choreography, I had nothing to lose. I wanted to do a solo show, and I knew a personal story was best. I also needed to share my father’s mental illness with an audience. What I didn’t expect was the reaction. People came up to me and told me about their son, their sister, their husband who was struggling with mental illness. The audience felt the piece was about them. It was my personal story, but on a universal level.

What is the meaning of the title?

The title of the piece was something he said to me when I visited him at the institution. Ordinarily, he didn’t know who I was, although he had a picture of me, from a ballet I was in, on his wall. Suddenly he said, “You have the same eyes as me.” It was the first time he recognized me. At that moment, we were the same.

You’ve not just done your own solos. You’ve also done big pieces for Ryerson dance students and Alberta Ballet, for example. In fact, you are quite in demand to create for companies. How is that process away from creating just for yourself?

I was terrified at first, but I found I loved the act of creation, bringing a work to life, discovering how I can live my dance in someone else’s body, sharing my gifts with another generation. There is magic in the room, and I abandon myself in the work.

James Gregg and Anne Plamondon in 'Only You' (Photo: Michael Slobodian)
James Gregg and Anne Plamondon in ‘Only You’ (Photo: Michael Slobodian)

Let’s talk about the piece you are bringing to Toronto — the duet Only You.

It came out of a very simple desire to bring someone else into my creative process, so I decided on a duet, because I wanted to work closely with just one person. I asked James Gregg, who had danced with Ballet Jazz and Victor. He’s a well-known American dancer/choreographer, based in Los Angeles. I knew him to be patient and generous. He’s also a mature artist, so I knew things would emerge in the process, and speak to us.

We started working on the piece three years ago. Five days before the premiere, we were cancelled by the pandemic, so Only You has had to be recreated. It’s not the same choreography, but it’s stayed pertinent. I’ve gone deeper into the meaning, exploring places I didn’t have the guts to go the first time around.

What is it about?

It is about connection, and the urge to communicate. It’s about identity and self-quest, yet even though the two people are together, they still remain two individuals. The piece explores everything that binds us and everything that separates us. It’s about shedding and mutation and changing skin.

What about the title?

The phrase “only you” has different meanings and emphasis when placed in a sentence. It depends on who is speaking. For example, “Only you can do it.” “Only you are going to make it happen.” “Only you are left.” They are powerful words.

Can you describe your choreographic process?

I research the intricacies and complexities of dance because I’m most interested in movement clarity. It’s very important to me, to find the precise steps to depict emotions and themes. I like to work with intelligent bodies that can multitask. I’m also adding in more tools, like text, but not to the detriment of the dance.

Where do you see yourself in the Montreal dance scene?

I think Montreal is lacking in a wider vision of what contemporary dance can be. There seems to be a fixed idea of just what contemporary dance is. For example, I can gravitate around hip hop, modern, ballet. I’ve never stuck with one style, so I’m sort of in my own bubble. I do what I do, and stay focused on my own work.

What advice would you give to young choreographers?

I think that young dancers who just graduated are being pushed into putting on shows too early. That’s a lot to ask of young people in their twenties. I think they should dance for others for a bit to gain experience. I worked with masters — choreographers who empowered dancers, and that’s who I emulate in my teaching. I love young dancers, but we have to guide them so that they can flower.

How would you describe yourself?

I’m a dancer, a choreographer, a teacher, an artist and a mother. I’m also learning new things all the time, and I keep reinvestigating who I am.


Get the daily arts news straight to your inbox.

Sign up for the Ludwig van Daily — classical music and opera in five minutes or less HERE.

Paula Citron
Follow me
Paula Citron
Follow me
Share this article
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

SCRUTINY | Toronto Symphony Orchestra Closes Classical Season With A Triumphant Beethoven 9th

By Joseph So on June 16, 2022

The 2021-22 season has been a challenging one for performing arts organizations, to put it mildly. With COVID-19 finally loosening its grip on our lives, in-person performances resumed a few months ago, and it’s gathering steam. Now it is mid-June and the classical programming of the TSO is coming to an end.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

SCRUTINY | Soulpepper ‘Where The Blood Mixes’ Powerful, Moving Theatre

By Paula Citron on June 21, 2022

Kevin Loring’s 'Where the Blood Mixes' is not a new play, but it is an important one.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

THE SCOOP | National Ballet Of Canada Receives $10 Million Gift Honouring A Lifelong Love Of Dance

By Anya Wassenberg on June 9, 2022

The National Ballet of Canada has received a $10 million gift from Canadian businessman and philanthropist Donald K. Johnson.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.