Founded in 1981 by Linda Rabin and Candace Loubert, the Montreal School of Contemporary Dance (EDCM) is the first Quebec institution to professionally train dancers outside of classical ballet. In 40 years of existence, the EDCM has seen nearly 400 graduates pass through its floors, including several big names in Quebec such as Clara Furey or Mélanie Demers. His secret? A willingness to constantly evolve and to truly anchor itself in its environment.
Each year, around twenty new performers, choreographers and dance artists are trained. “We train artists so that they have the tools to integrate into the world of dance and that they redefine it themselves. We are constantly in a contemporary style, ”explains Lucie Boissinot, artistic and studies director for almost 16 years.
At the same time as her career as an interpreter, Lucie Boissinot quickly became involved with the EDCM where she became a teacher in 1993. From her beginnings, she was able to observe the particular approach of this school. “From the start, the co-founders made a bet of, yes, betting on a strong technique, but also on a process of in-depth artistic research,” she recalls.
Marc Boivin, renowned dancer and teacher at the School since 1987, also remembers the early years. “Mme Loubert taught mask lessons, Mme Creative research rabbit. These two women had a great vision and were looking for a way to go at the same time in training, but also in the training of real artists. Where is the artist in this young person and how can we let him take his place? This is one of the strengths of the School, ”he thinks.
Although present from the start, the courses focused on internal sensations, creativity and interpretation took more and more place with more teaching hours as well as more specialized teachers over time. “These teachings help the student to enter inside him, to meet his sensations and the deep functioning of his body”, adds Mme Boissinot.
This sensitive approach is what young dancers are looking for when auditioning for the EDCM, as Meggie Cloutier-Hamel, second year student, explains. “Linda Rabin’s Creative Research class last year really impressed me. It was very deep, based on natural movements, breaths, visualization… we were able to really find who we are and who we want to be as artists. We were all jostled, in a good way, ”recalls the 18-year-old student.
One of the other strengths of the EDCM is to stay connected to its environment, in particular by inviting many artists to come and give classes or teach pieces in order to be “representative of the professional environment”. “I remain on the lookout for what it takes for the training to be complete and in line with the life of dance here and internationally”, adds Mme Boissinot. And Mr. Boivin adds: “Here, we treat you exactly how you are going to live your career: speaking out, responsibilities, commitment, creation… The professional model is applied directly in training. “
Alexandre Morin, himself a graduate of the School in 2013 and a teacher here since 2015, greatly encourages this approach. “When I was there, we also had guest grand masters. But today, there is more and more room at the School for emerging choreographers. This allows students to show different facets of contemporary dance. It really follows the changes in the cultural environment and living art, ”explains the 29-year-old man who has danced for Marie Chouinard, Sylvain Émard and Dominique Porte.
More and more specialized technicians
As the cohorts progress, the EDCM has seen its technical level increase, according to teachers who have been present for a long time, such as Mr. Morin. “Dance has dominated pop culture in Quebec, on TV, in movies… It makes young people interested in this art more and more early on. The cohorts have rejuvenated and arrive with a much higher level than when I was at school, ”he explains.
The director explains this phenomenon in particular by the greater enthusiasm for dance. “There are more and more young people applying. Last year, we had 180 applications, so that’s sure to raise the standards. We accepted the most qualified to take the training, ”she says. If the School has been welcoming more and more candidates for several years during its auditions, it continues to select only twenty young people in the first year to “guarantee personalized education”.
The more advanced technical level could also be explained by the arrival, over the past 10 years, of more and more foreign students in the School. “In Europe, there is a much more traditional approach which relies on pure, rigorous and demanding technique, especially in large metropolises”, explains Clémence Dinard, a young Frenchwoman trained in various conservatories in France, who crossed the Atlantic for integrate the EDCM.
“In France, we really focused on appearance, performance. Balancing was like magic. Here, we are explained why, it is a totally different approach. The School helps us to understand ourselves, to have a global awareness of our body, while training high quality interpreters ”, supports the student in 3e year. In addition to the approach, Clémence says she has found a “family”. “Everyone is there to improve, there is no atmosphere of judgment or competition. We are in relationship with each other, we are not there to step on each other. It’s different in France, ”she adds.
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