Welcome to Eyes On…, where we feature some of our amazing members!
This month, we’re delighted to highlight choreographer-documentalist and Founder/Artistic Director of RD Créations, Rhodnie Désir. She has created more than fifteen choreographic works. Her flagship piece BOW’T TRAIL Rétrospek and her pioneering memoir journey BOW’T TRAIL have earned her two awards from the Prix de la danse de Montréal (2020): The Prix Envol and the highly coveted Grand Prix de la danse.
Rhodnie Désir’s signature documentary and Afro-contemporary choreography is rooted in African and Afro-descendant rhythmic languages from places like her homeland, Haiti, as well as in the rest of the Caribbean, in Central and Sub-Saharan Africa. A performer of remarkable power and uncompromising integrity, she continually surprises with her great connectivity to humanity. She has gained strong international recognition for her unique approach, her words, her performances and her civic actions, and has since been brought in as a guest speaker at numerous organizations and universities and UNESCO events, among others.
We recently connected with Rhodnie to learn more about her work, what inspires her, and what’s coming up next for her.
Please note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us a bit about yourself and RD Créations.
RD Créations was founded in 2017. Our pieces are mostly pieces that try to un-nod the nods of society. We see ourselves as the link between the past, present and future
Our creations are mostly based on the choreographic documentary methodology. It allows us to be in connection directly with the citizens and with specialists as we try to dig a little deeper (more than reading in books), going directly to humans and territories themselves.
The project that really made us present on both the local and international landscapes is BOW’T TRAIL. This project fosters the African and Afro-descendant cultures in the Americas, and all the rhythmics, chance and dance. And the links between memory and history. Through this journey, I’ve been retracing the memory and history of the Afro-descendant cultures, and I’ve been recreating the same piece over and over again, collaborating with a total of 15 musicians on 7 different territories, from Martinique to Haiti to Brazil, Mexico, New Orleans, Halifax and to Tiohtià:ke/Montreal.
Can you tell us more about your time performing at tanzmesse in August 2022 (supported by CAPACOA)?
Being a part of the Canadian delegation was a true honour for us. As a company, it provided us the opportunity to plant our feet in Europe for the first time. It also allowed us to connect directly with the team behind tanzmesse, and the different international presenters in attendance.
For RD Créations, the experience was enriching, especially thanks to the connections we made with other artists and delegates, all representing different cultures. I think we often forget that during these amazing moments (which go by so fast)! We present our shows and then we calculate the number of shows that will come after, so we’re more in commercial mode. But the core of it is that we’re basically creating brand new relations for our careers.
For all of the projects that you do in your work, is there anything in particular that inspires you? Any person or any thing or idea?
The chaos inspires me. I create basically because there is chaos. If there was no chaos, I wouldn’t be creating. I create because there are things to be solved, because I have questions. This is what really inspires me, a question, many questions.
As artists, we do our work because we want to at some point be breaking out of those barriers of the mind. But paradoxically, we all present our pieces in the same places. We don’t really go out of the box. But at the core, art was directly where the citizens were. They didn’t have to search for it – it was there. So what I find fascinating in my work is to ask myself: what are the bodies where my body needs to enter? And what are the bodies? Architecture, nature, environment, space. The Latin word for choreographer basically means “sculpting space”. So if we’re only sculpting the theatre, we’re missing a big part of our capacities, I think. This is what I feel. Others will be satisfied by working mostly in conventional theatres, but there are so many spaces out there that we can transform, that we can adapt with excellent conditions and sometimes even better ones. But it’s just a matter of encountering the right people; talking and trying to see what our role is as artists.
Why do we create and why do we present a piece? This question is super important for me. It’s something I’ve asked myself for many years. Why do I go and put my body on this stage? If I don’t have a purpose there, it’s not me that should be there – maybe someone else. So before entering into a space, I ask myself these questions.
For example, for tanzmesse, I researched the factory in which we were presenting, just to know where I was and to find potential answers. Why that space? Yes, someone decided that. But other than that, is it a memory space? What’s the city’s history? Where is my team going? Not logistically, but just to know what impact my piece could have. If I enter a theatre and then return home without connecting with the people, then I don’t have a smell memory. I don’t even have a visual memory if I do that. But when you do research about a space, then you’re able to know a little bit more about who you might encounter.
And that’s what I loved about tanzmesse. It was not just about going to dance on a dance floor. It was really about connecting with the people directly and having multiple encounters in different places.
⬆️ Rhodnie Désir, BOW’T TRAIL Rétrospek. Photo: Kevin Calixte
Do you have anything you’d like to say to those who might be interested in participating in a future CAPACOA-led cultural mission?
Be ready. Be ready, ask questions, and be open.
Anything exciting coming up for you?
Right now, I’m creating one of the biggest pieces for the company, which is called Symphonie de cœurs (“Symphony of Hearts”). It will be presented in 2024 with the Orchestre Métropolitain. It features 60 musicians on stage connected with an ensemble of dancers, conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin and composer Jorane. It’s a collaboration with the National Film Board (NFB). It’s a first for them to collaborate and contribute in a piece, not only financially, but really to be creating a documentary process for the stage. The piece is also supported by The National Arts Centre’s National Creation Fund. It’s co-produced by Danse Danse, and will be presented at the National Arts Centre and LAC – Lugano arte e cultura. And there are many other amazing presenters.
The beauty behind the piece is that we’re collaborating with two cardiology institutes. I’ve already interviewed 22 specialists, from neurologists to electrocardiologists. I’ve met them. I’ve actually seen two live operations just to really understand the heart. Because that’s a big part missing in our job: as a choreographer, you speak about the body but you never see the inside of the body.
So the piece will be talking about heart disease, like an ode to the heart. We’ll also touch on the subject of love; not necessarily on the romantic side, but on the different faces that we can see connected with the heart, and the organic heart.
It was great chatting with you, Rhodnie! 💕
Read our past Eyes On… features here.
If you are a member of CAPACOA and would like to be featured in Eyes On…, please email Communications Director Colin Frotten at firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.