In this new body of work, visual artist and choreographer Adam Kinner revisits Suite canadienne by Ludmilla Chiriaeff by delving into archival material and working with dancers to create a new performance based on these documents. Originally choreographed in 1957, Suite canadienne played an important role in Chiriaeff’s project to establish a ballet program in Québec, presenting it as if it grew naturally out of local folk-dance traditions. Into original documentation of the dance Kinner also weaves a series of photographs that depict Chiriaeff demonstrating ballet to a group of young male orphans.
By re-performing that cultural moment today, and rethinking the resonance that Chiriaeff’s work still has, Kinner invites us to look at Québec’s history through another lens.
Coming from different disciplinary and training backgrounds, the dancers compose a heterogeneous group that uses intentional misreading and hypnotism to approach the original work. Alongside the performance will be an exhibition of documents, photos and videos. Together, the performance and documents invite a dialogue that crosses disciplinary boundaries and reflects on the relations between dance and visual arts, the body and history, the individual and the nation.
Interview with Adam Kinner
Image in the banner:
© Adam Kinner, Suite canadienne (2015), 2015. Credit: Emily Gan
© Adam Kinner, view of the exhibition Suite canadienne, a demonstration, Musée d’art de Joliette, 2019. Photo: Romain Guilbault.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.
Ludmilla Gorny Chiriaeff, born in Riga, Latvia, immigrated to Quebec in 1952 when dance was still largely prohibited by the Catholic Church because they considered it morally indecent. During this period, however, the clergy did begin to soften its position in the wake of the publication of the Refus global manifesto in 1948. Trained in ballet in Berlin, Chiriaeff obtained contracts from Société Radio-Canada shortly after her arrival in Montreal. In 1952, the SRC began producing content for television, and one of its programs, L’heure du concert / The Concert Hour, provided the context for Chiriaeff to create her Suite canadienne in 1957, which was broadcast in 1958.
Adam Kinner is fascinated by this choreography and sees it as the starting point for Quebec’s dance tradition. Chiriaeff’s piece seeks to assert the “natural” continuity between ballet and folk dancing by drawing on the repertoire of movements and gestures that are common to both styles of dance. The work takes folk-inspired music, colonial themed décor, costumes based on peasant dress, and gestures from traditional line dancing, and combines them with the tutus and leotards of the two soloists interpreting customary ballet movements. Through this juxtaposition, Chiriaeff legitimizes the emergence of ballet in her adopted province. Thanks to its appearance on television, her work reached an unprecedently broad audience, which, without a doubt, had a significant impact on the development and appreciation of ballet in Quebec. Chiriaeff went on to form Les Grand Ballets Canadiens, a dance company based in Montreal and the first to receive public funding. She also established the province’s first professional ballet school in 1965.
Adam Kinner, a self-taught dancer, examines the legacy of this work by reinterpreting its choreography in his video performance Suite canadienne (2015). Embodying the role of a female member of the corps de ballet, Kinner performs in seven public locations around Montrealselected for their association with various types of powers that regulate our daily lives: the Palais de Congrès, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, City Hall, the municipal court, the Stock Exchange, the Quebec court of appeal, and the Centre de Commence Mondial/World Trade Centre Montréal. Kinner was invited by the MAJ to pursue his research as part of the dance residency program organized in collaboration with the Théâtre Hector-Charland and the Ville de Notre-Dame-des-Prairies, where he decided to work with professional dancers who have either left their ballet practice, or have chosen another specialization. In the video Learning Suite canadienne (2019), they relive their personal history of dance training through the process of hypnosis, reconnecting with their bodies and, at times, their traumatic experiences. This process unfolds against a backdrop of images from ballet classes for young orphans offered in the 1960s by a member of Chiriaeff’s dance troupe. Through the prism of this historical revisitation, Kinner confronts the past to question different pedagogical approaches, the influence of authority, and the models they inculcate. In doing so, he reconsiders his own personal baggage and encourages dancers and viewers to do the same. How best to live with our wounds? Can dance be a way to tame them?
Anne-Marie St-Jean Aubre, curator
Adam Kinner (Washington, D.C., 1984) is an artist living and working in Montreal. Having trained in music, he now makes work on the thresholds of performance, sound and visual arts, working collaboratively with artists from dance and music. Recent projects include an exhibition at Artexte that wove together national and personal performance histories, sound works, and readings; a performance with 8 saxophonists for the Musée d’art contemporain des Laurentides; and a research-performance project for OFFTA in Montreal. He has presented work at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery, SBC Gallery, Galerie d’UQAM, Musée McCord as well as at Usine C, Tangente, Studio 303 and Innovations en Concert. His work has been shown abroad in the UK, USA, France and Belgium. In the summer of 2017, Kinner was a fellow at Vila Sul in Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. He holds degrees from McGill University and Concordia University and is currently completing an MFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.