Symphony of Hearts, by Rhodnie Désir | The heart in all its states

After addressing the climate crisis in his play MWon’d, choreographer Rhodnie Désir continues her documentary approach, drawing inspiration from testimonies from specialists and patients from the Montreal Heart Institute and the Istituto Cardiocentro de Ticino in Lugano. A way for her to take the pulse of the human soul.

Two rows of dancers face each other. An interpreter circulates between them. Heads fall forward, there are steps to the side. In the background, projections of hearts, arteries and rib cages appear like pulsations. One by one, the bodies tremble before falling, rolling on the ground and ending up backstage.

“This is a segment where I wanted to address the theme of waiting,” Rhodnie Désir tells us. Everyone has been there. This moment when we wait, in a room or while waiting for a diagnosis. Above them, there is a large mirror placed at an angle, which means that we can also see the performers upside down at all times. »


All the gestures in the show are inspired by testimonials from patients and specialists at the Montreal Heart Institute.

This effect is not just an aesthetic choice. Because Rhodnie Désir was also interested in the thoughts that inhabit both patients and the doctors who look over them when they treat them – or operate on them. Thoughts hanging above their heads that we can only guess at here, but which revolve around the desire to resuscitate. Or to be resuscitated.

During her research phase, the designer and choreographer even attended surgical interventions. A desire and even a pleasure, she tells us.

“We talk about choreography, the body, space, but most of us have never seen the inside of a body other than through a computer,” says Rhodnie Désir. It’s very special, the sounds, the smells, there is a perfusionist, who for me is like a blood percussionist. All these heads leaning over an inert body, but with this blood circulating, these are very inspiring images. »

The testimonies collected from doctors and patients allowed the choreographer to produce an artistic vocabulary and gestures specific to Symphony of hearts.

During this choreography, heartbeats mingle with Afrocontemporary rhythms.


Choreographer Rhodnie Désir directs the rehearsal of the piece Symphony of hearts.

The biggest drum there is is our heart, no matter who we are, it is what connects us to life. There is a zone of connection to the sacred, because people in a waiting room, whether they are believers or not, begin to pray or rely on something greater.

Rhodnie Desire

The music was composed by Jorane; it will be performed by 60 musicians from the Orchester métropolitain – who will be in the pit of Wilfrid-Pelletier Hall – under the direction of Naomie Woo. But on stage, in the presence of the dancers, we will find the beatmaker and sound designer Engone Endong, as well as percussionist and flautist Lasso Sanou.

Concretely, the orchestra had to adapt to the narrative framework. For example, one of the key testimonies collected by the choreographer concerned a patient who received a heart transplant, but who was plunged into a coma several times. “I said to the orchestra: I don’t want you to play well here,” explains the creator. You must be disorganized and at some point the heart picks up again, and then the orchestra can start playing well again. »

A show about affairs of the heart, Rhodnie Désir had nevertheless refused to make one, but by her own admission, she was caught in the game.


The final scene of Symphony of hearts is a hymn to life, Rhodnie Désir tells us.

“There is a segment of impulses-repulsions where we address the impulses of the heart,” the choreographer tells us. Actually, Symphony of hearts is a twist between cardiovascular diseases and love amplitudes. Sometimes the two are linked, as with tako-tsubo, which is a heart disease linked to a breakup. It’s something tragic and absolutely fascinating. »

The performance of the 11 performers Symphony of hearts is a “capsize between life and death”, insists Rhodnie Désir, until the finale which is “a hymn to life”. “What we say to the spectator, who sees the performers struggling, is: you’re alive, what’s your next step? Are you going to continue having your five coffees in the morning? Or are you going to change something? Did something hit you? »

To prepare its performers to take over the immense Wilfrid-Pelletier hall, Rhodnie Désir called on professional coaches from the sports world.

“Returning to Wilfrid-Pelletier, with an orchestra of 60 musicians, requires mental preparation,” she explains. We don’t arrive there by saying to ourselves, it’s a great opportunity, we’re going to do it. So I wanted to prepare them like high-level athletes. There are artists who come out of school, it’s sure it’s impressive for them to arrive here. So we take over the room, we rehearse there so that they become familiar with the place. »

Is it an appropriate place for dance, which we are more used to seeing in intimate spaces? ” Yes ! replies Rhodnie Désir without hesitation. Dance needs to have large spaces. She needs to be able to express herself in grandeur, to make people experience grandeur, for the energy that it provides. Why deprive yourself of that? »

At the Wilfrid-Pelletier room at Place des Arts from April 4 to 6

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