Cas Public stakes its reputation on the exceptional quality of their works, which can be seen as a compendium of observations on the age-old enigma of the human condition. Its fiery choreographic scores − with intense physicality and an innate sense of theater − stand markedly apart from established codes and cast a sharp yet sensitive light on our human foibles.
Founded in 1989 by choreographer Hélène Blackburn, the company favors the renewal of contemporary approaches to dance. Cas Public continually strives to revitalize their approach, focusing on the depth of experiences by incorporating effective themes and treating them with vigor and a touch of humor.
For over 25 years, each creation has marked Cas Public’s evolution to their pursuit of excellence through the renewal of gestural codes.
Cas Public, Founder & Choreographer
1. When did you first become passionate about dance?
I was a very active child and to help channel my energy, my parents chose to enroll me in dance lessons from a very early age. Dance has always been part of my life. Looking back, I'm not sure that the initial idea of channeling my energy was a success. I remember how I would annoy my mother by constantly practicing my dance steps in the middle of our little kitchen. My parents were very patient and accepted my career choice even though the idea of becoming a choreographer might’ve seemed wacky at the time, especially when one comes from a small town in northern Quebec.
2. How does your work connect to the larger world?
I began my career in the ‘80s at a time of great effervescence in the arts in Quebec. Dancing was no exception. It was very inspiring. It was around the same time as Cirque du Soleil, La La Human Steps, Ex-Machina (Robert Lepage) and other large companies were created. It seemed that everything was possible – a time when artistic circles began opening up to the world. Very early in my career, I had the opportunity to present my work in Europe and Canada even before Cas Public was founded. Now, I have the chance to present my work in many countries, meet different audiences and carry out creative projects all over the world. This openness to the world colors my work and leads me to more humanistic concerns!
3. What is a typical rehearsal and/or performance day like?
Dance is an art that requires many artists. It is a privilege to be on stage − we must be remarkable and out of the ordinary. We work a lot. Each day of rehearsal or show always begins with a ballet class or a specific training according to our needs. Currently, we have added martial arts training for the company's female dancers. Coming from ballet training, I needed them to feel strong and develop an attack power similar to that of a fighter. It is a very physically demanding undertaking, but it has interesting results. In rehearsals, we work 5-6 hours a day as needed. If we are performing, we do the technical work then we rehearse dance sections of the show. Often we put in more hours than the rehearsal days and dance the show twice on the same day; that way, we have the stamina to come on stage and give the best of ourselves.
4. What Moves you to create a new project?
All of my creations from the last 10 years are based on strong musical works from a classical repertoire that is rewritten and remixed for our projects. Behind these sources of inspiration, there are often references to classical ballet works, as is the case for Symphonie Dramatique – inspired by Romeo and Juliet. However before approaching a work, I try to find a thread of inspiration that resonates with contemporary life. Symphonie Dramatique came from my need to talk about love and the sometimes-tragic consequences that love entails. I created this piece four years ago after a famous trial in Canada, based on what has been described as a "crime of honor." My daughter was about the same age as the protagonists when I began the work, which made me realize how complex life and love is for these young people living in communities with a cultural diversity. When I look at the rise of racist stigma here and elsewhere, it is clear that the young people of today live in a terribly complex world… It is infinitely sad to think that love can lead to death.
5. Pick 5 words—that start with the letter ‘C’—that best describe Cas Public.
6. How would you classify Cas Public’s style of dance; and what makes it unique?
I am not presumptuous enough to say that the style of Cas Public is unique, but I believe the extreme demand of our dance – its virtuosity, its sincerity and the courage of our dancers- who make it a special experience. I also believe that we have developed a great refinement at the theatrical level that makes our work stand out.
7. Whom do you define as a visionary?
Beautiful question. Several artists inspire me with the past and the present: Jean-Sébastien Bach for classical music, Gleen Gould for his completely reinvented interpretation of Bach's music, the whole period of the Ballets Russes is very inspiring, notably, the work of Nijinsky as a dancer but also as a choreographer, more recently, choreographers like Wilson Forsythe, Jill Killian, and Quebec choreographers such as Édouard Lock and Jean-Pierre Perreault.
8. What is the best advice that you have been given; and what advice would you give to dancers in the audience?
I was fortunate to collaborate with several great Québécois choreographers. Including Jean-Pierre Perrault for whom I danced, Paul-André Fortier who directed my masters degree dissertation and Edouard Lock – whose company I led for a few years. I learned from each of them. Paul-André taught me that a career is built in the long-term and that we must continue to reinvent ourselves. Jean-Pierre Perreault taught me about meticulousness – an obsession for the smallest detail within large spaces. Edouard Lock taught me how to execute a dance using my extreme exigency as an artist. Everyone, in his or her own way, taught me that everything starts with work. Jean-Pierre often said, "dancers are made to rehearse." This is certainly true for the dancers of Cas Public but also for me when I consider my obsessive behavior when I develop a new project.
As for what I say to the dancers, I like to say that they must be mythical on stage- offering all they have to give to the public. Each performance is unique and valuable, even if we have the chance to dance 100 performances a year, at the end of a life we spend a very short amount of time on stage – missing a single chance is not an option.
9. What do you hope the audience will take away from tonight’s performance?
I hope that the audience will be moved by the energy of our dance and that this energy will turn into emotion. I believe the primary strength of dance is to make us feel things deeply, physically and emotionally. The experience of this direct and inexpressible connection between the body and heart seem to be uniquely particular to dance.
10. What songs, artists or styles of music are you currently listening to?
Alexandre Desilets “Windigo,” Charlotte Cardin “Big Boy” and Nelly “Dear Criminals”
Prokofiev: Cinderella, op. 97 (transcriptions for piano solo); Bach’s Partita No. 1-3 prelude and fughetta in G (played by Glenn Gould); “My tribute to Yehudi Menuhin” and “Spheres” by Daniel Hope
Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell, Lana del Rey “Honeymoon,” The Libertines Anthems for Doomed Youth and LP “Into the Wild”
Symphonie Dramatique Contemporary Dance
Thursday, Oct. 26 at 7:30pm | Tickets $10
Cas Public's Symphonie Dramatique is a mordant look at the mythical couple of Romeo & Juliet. Their adaptation draws from Shakespeare’s romantic masterpiece to evoke notions of seduction, desire, unchained passion and death. In this contemporary version, the company’s dancers present a vibrant homage to the original tale tinged with impetuousness and contagious energy. Conflict and inner turmoil are magnificently rendered by the dance and the music, achieving a unique resonance.
The 10x10 Arts Series brings groundbreaking artists and awe-inspiring performances to Northwest Arkansas…. at a price that is right for the whole community!
All 10x10 performances include pre-show Creative Conversations, a post-show party with artists and the popular Post-It® responses!