Eironos, commissioned by the Chrissie Parrot Dance Company and co-produced with the Perth Festival in Australia, is a mature work of uncompromising integrity, the result of a rigorous reworking of Jean-Pierre Perreault’s core principles: architectural treatment of stage space, free expression, spotlight on the dancers, large-group canvasses.
Eironos began to take shape in Montreal with a cast of 12 dancers (5 women and 7 men), who were subsequently joined by Australian dancers in Perth. The last segments of the piece were choreographed in Australia. In the final version, which was produced in Montreal the following year and then toured Canada and Europe, the last 20 minutes were rechoreographed and the music was rearranged by the composer.
For this major work, which brought together dancers from the Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault and the Chrissie Parrot Dance Company (8 women and 11 men) when it was performed in 1996, Perreault called on Bertrand Chénier for a quasi-symphonic musical score (their third close collaboration) and to Louis-Pierre Trépanier for lighting design, which was part of the development of the work from the outset. Perreault designed the costumes himself. Some of the costumes for the female dancers were borrowed from Nuit, which had been mounted six years earlier. Perreault also designed a meticulously detailed choreographic structure and a dynamic, moving set suitable for duets and large groups alike. With the intense, profound performances of the dancers, who face the audience at the beginning and the end of the piece, all parts of this magnetic whole fit together to produce a deeply moving experience for the audience.
In this beautiful urban eironos (Greek for “elsewhere”), the plastic artist Perreault forcefully asserts his presence. Already in the preliminary sketches, “the protruding angle formed by two planes…of unequal length creates a disproportionate, mobile space, sometimes a shelter, sometimes an exposed wall, shadow and light united.” 1 Here Perreault is a painter of living tableaux in chiaroscuro, a sculptor of gestures, a creator of emotion. At once harmonious and austere, Eironos is the embodiment of Perreault’s striving for precision and truth, the mark of the great artist, past or present, in any discipline.
1. Laurier Lacroix, “L’invention de la danse,” in Michèle Febvre, ed., Jean-Pierre Perrault. Regard pluriel. Montréal: Les heures bleues, 2001, p. 62.
Jean-Pierre Perreault’s exploration of the random triggers of action led him to choreographic installations, works designed for or adapted to a given site.
One unique feature of Perreault’s installations is the latitude they allow both performer and spectator. For Installation chorégraphique 1 : l’instinct (1994), a work that takes 3 or 4 uninterrupted hours to perform, he created four male-female duets, to which he added several duets from previous works, maintaining fluid transitioning through the wandering movement of the dancers across the stage. The sequencing of the piece let the dancers begin their duets anywhere in the space, change the pacing, repeat some motions several times. The freedom demanded constant alertness of the performers and live adaptation of the lighting and music. The modular set of Adieux was used because of its flexibility.
The audience takes in the action with a sweeping gaze. A row of 15 individual booths is arranged along the edge of the wide performance space, close to the dancers. Each spectator decides how long to stay. When a spectator leaves, his show ends but the performance goes on.
Perreault continued his exploration of this form and applied the same basic rules in two subsequent works, though he dropped the title Installation. Perreault described Les Éphémères 1997 as “sketches that are complete, final [but] metamorphose, that derive their interest from spontaneity,”^1^ He planned to repeat the event annually. The cast of dancers for the five-hour piece changed weekly. The approximately 25 spectators were seated facing a disproportionately deep stage.
The same themes and conventions reappeared in the 4-hour installation Les Ombres (2001), except that there were now twice as many spectators, arranged in two perpendicular rows. Les Ombres was produced in the newly renovated venue called Espace chorégraphique Jean-Pierre Perreault.
1. Artist’s notes in Carnet Éphémères, v. 1996.