Circus

Que nous soyons

Claudel Doucet

We listened to kind-hearted mutants... ?

This interdisciplinary work by Claudel Doucet, where circus arts, dance and theatre overlap, was created and performed by teenagers enrolled in an immigrant integration class at Pau-Gérin-Lajoie d’Outremont high school. The work delves into the private lives of these young adults as they experience emotional turmoil and identity crises.

Story

WE CRY

In a library at night, the audience sits in two rows facing each other. The performance begins. We look around discreetly to try and identify which of the spectators are the parents, sisters and brothers of the 17 adolescents about to take the stage.

Let’s be clear: Claudel Doucet’s Que nous Soyons is a gem. Created with a class for recently arrived immigrants, the work interweaves choreography, theatre and circus. Its canvas is the library at Paul Gérin Lajoie d’Outremont high school where they study. To witness the teenagers’ anxious grace in this space – their space – is a joy. They circulate among the audience, telling us their names, and the world materializes before our eyes. They come from Moldavia, Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Brazil, the Philippines, Venezuela, Iran, Vietnam, South Korea, China and Ukraine. Through staging and texts, created in a writing workshop and delivered in assorted accents, they take us into their inner worlds.

“I dream of a mountain of ice cream.” “I’m afraid of losing my native language.” “I am of few words.” “I do not understand Donald Trump.” “I will become a Quebecer. A message to Venezuela’s president: “You have destroyed our freedom” is followed by the troubling statement: “Hello father, I wonder if I might come back and live with you. I miss you terribly… May I live with you?” Members of the audience cry. The dancers-acrobats Christine Daigle and Mathias Reymond gently slip into the world of the young performers, illustrating encounters, defiance and solidarity. Arad, an Iranian, began the show with this insolent statement: “In Iran, we speak of oil and poetry.” He closes the event reading a French translation of a Persian poem. The piece ends, and it is a triumph. The audience is on its feet  whooping and applauding – flowers, moved parents, a beaming director, and radiant youth who bared their souls with real dignity.

That you may be, that we all may be, there with you in a library at night.

Utopia

What have we become? We live in a global, festive, relaxed, colourful city – a city of a thousand languages and a thousand flavours, yet we hardly know each other. Many of our neighbourhoods are culturally isolated. We profess open-mindedness, despite knowing so little. From now on, we want to grow together.

When Claudel Doucet created the Que nous Soyons project, she wrote a short manifesto, a “to-do” list, a reminder of what she wanted to create with students in an immigrant integration class at the Paul-Gérin-Lajoie d’Outremont high school. Under her watchful eyes and encouragement, these newly arrived teenagers would narrate their own stories.

The manifesto begins with:

What do you know that I do not?
What taste does that knowledge have?
Let’s begin by asking questions of those who know.
We will engage in conversation with the unknown.
Our objective is to grow closer to our neighbours.
This is our community.

Claudel insists: “I didn’t want the show to reduce these teenagers to their status as immigrants. They go through the same experiences as any other teenager.”

They do, however, experience two transformations rather than one. During the show they say “I don’t understand my emotions” but also, “I’m afraid of forgetting my native language.” They say “I dream of a mountain made of ice cream”, but they also vigorously proclaim “I will become a Quebecer”.

On the island of Montreal, 62% of primary and high school students are immigrants (children born here or abroad, with either one or both parents foreign born). (1) Energetic and driven, they are the future, but because we think of them as our own, we fail to acknowledge the abyss between ourselves and the uprooted, as well as the hardships of the integration process.

Claudel writes:

It’s about acknowledging our mutual strengths and weaknesses.

It’s about celebrating the diversity of our experiences and recognizing what is unjust and monstrous in ourselves.

In an interview, she explains: “The election of Donald Trump came as quite a blow. I could no longer conceive of my work as a circus artist and stage designer as a form of entertainment. Creating pretty shows that are alienating and desensitized should no longer be possible. If there was ever a time to take a political stance in my work, this is it.”

We will have fun. WE WON’T DO THINGS HALF-HEARTEDLY.
The show will be generous. The process will be generous.
They will be vulnerable. They will be free.
(Not claiming to possess the truth, Claudel merely suggests a way of doing things.)
Our work will be intuitive, but rich with meaning.
The main objective is to bring a broader, more intimate perspective. For everything.

We want to be worthy of the inspiration we draw from our diverse, vibrant and welcoming city.

We are Montreal.
We want to bring forth the future, today.
  1. Portrait socioculturel des élèves inscrits dans les écoles publiques de l’île de Montréal – Comité de gestion de la taxe scolaire de l'île de Montréal
  2. Magnan, M.-O. (2013-2015). L'expérience du cégep et de l’université chez les enfants de la loi 101 allophones à Montréal : regards rétrospectifs sur leurs parcours scolaires, linguistiques et identitaires. Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRS)
  3. Les immigrants toujours discriminés sur le marché du travail, selon une étude - Radio-Canada

Traces

Que nous soyons and migrants challenges

Manifesto from Claudel, about « Que nous Soyons », at the beginning of the creation

What do you know that I don’t know?
What does it feel like, taste like?
Let’s go out and ask the people who know.
Nous aurons des conversations avec l’inconnu.
This project is about reaching out to our neighbours. 
This project is about community.
This project is about listening to the people we don’t usually listen to, go places we don’t usually go to and offer people we don’t usually meet or play for.

This project is about our journey. From where we stand to where we are
heading. Where we think we are heading. Our hopes and fears. Nos
combats, nos frères de combats et nos ennemis.
 
This project is about acknowledging our mutual weaknesses and
strengths. 
This project is about celebrating the diversity of our experiences and
acknowledging some unfairness, injustices and monstrous sides of
ourselves.

The object of this work is to become the object of a discussion.

Process and result will be equally valued.
Collaboration will be the process.
We will dig. We will risk. We will dance a lot. Le senti prévaudra sur le
paraître.

On acceptera de ne pas toujours savoir. 
Le projet appartiendra à tous. Il doit faire du sens pour chacun.
We will respect each other's roles and do our best to support each other
in our separate tasks and responsibilities. 
We will have fun. WE WILL GIVE A FUCK.

The show will be generous. The process will be generous.
They will be vulnerable. They will be free.
(Claudel does not own the truth. Claudel is proposing one way of doing
things.)

Our work will be intuitive yet make sense. 
The main goal of all this is to reconcile the BIG and the SMALL picture in
all things.

Discover the images that were projected on the school's walls during the evening:

ID card

Claudel Doucet

Claudel Doucet

Claudel’s creative approach is immersed in the interdisciplinary. With a background rooted in circus arts, she co-founded the contemporary circus collective Cie du Poivre Rose in Belgium, whose eponymous show has toured Europe, and has played more than 70 performances in 7 countries. Currently she is studying in “Performance Creation” at Concordia University. On top of this she has recently taught at the Stockholm University of Dance and Circus and continues to pursue her own performance career in various projects as a hand to hand porter, contortionist, aerialist, and dancer. A graduate of the National Circus School of Montreal in 2004, Claudel was once an aerial artist for Cirque Du Soleil in Japan, took part in numerous cabaret productions in Germany (GOP Variétes, Chämaleon), and toured with Circus Monti in Switzerland.

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Co-production and co-diffusion

Les 7 doigts de la main
LA SERRE –arts Vivants

Thanks

Paul-Gérin-Lajoie d’Outremont high school

Credits of the work

Creation Claudel Doucet
In collaboration with the circus artists Christine Daigle and Mathias Reymond, and the students in the French-language integration program at Paul Gérin Lajoie d’Outremont high school
Sound design Joël Lavoie
Video design Jerôme Delapierre

Video

Director and Editor Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah; 
Camera Isabelle Stachtchenko, Charlie Marois, Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah;
Sound Sophie Bédard Marcotte, Joël Morin-Ben Abdallah;
Filming was made possible thanks to the equipment of ON EST 10, solidarity co-op

Photos

Event Alexandre Galliez, Maxim Paré-Fortin
Portrait Adèle Godefroy

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