Creating a new form of theatre
In the early ’80s, Montreal was the focal point for the rediscovery of body language in the performing arts. In 1981, a group of artists from various backgrounds (gymnastics, theatre, juggling, mime and clowning) was the first to set up a company whose aim would be to focus on movement and create a new theatre form: Theatre of Acrobatic Movement and Clowning.
Making movement dramatic
To develop this type of theatre, the company combined various acrobatic and theatre techniques. As a result, not only does the storyline need to be created—as in most plays—but above all a unique physical vocabulary in which movement conveys meaning, feeling, drive and virtuosity. With each new production, the creative team rebuilds the relationship between movement, text, lights, music and set. Since the company began, this form has spread far and wide. Yet, as it develops productions, the company keeps challenging the notion and pushing it further.
Deepening the meaning and touching the emotions – early successes
Creating Mur-Mur (The Wall) in 1987 was a pivotal moment for the company. Indeed, the one-hour production was the first truly convincing Theatre-of-Acrobatic-Movement production. The collective creation proved to be a huge hit, which encouraged the company to continue in the same direction. Shaped both by the scriptwriter and the director, a writing style unique to this theatre form was already emerging. Accordingly for the following production, the company turned to a playwright who scripted The Challenge, a more dramatic work in which characters are better defined, their souls and innermost feelings coming to light through “fixed points”. A few years later, the company premiered Echoes of the River, in which the feats of a hero embody the secret hopes of a long-forgotten people. The production focused the acrobatics on group movements while the voice of a storyteller added another layer. In the late ‘90s, this series of original works proved that it was possible to script a play whose primary language was movement and that this theatre form could thrill audiences around the world.
Movement and words – images and reality
In subsequent works, the company explored the role of words in movement-based productions. In 2000, the company premiered Lili, a poetic and intimate work in which acrobatic movements reflect both the real world with its enthusiasm and excitement and the inner one with its fragile emotions and anxieties. Theatre of Acrobatic Movement was evolving in surprising ways: the acrobatics that so impress audiences seemed to be more polished as the characters, their ambitions and feelings came to the forefront. The next production, me me me… (2003), dealt with a specific topic: school children rejecting one of their own. Through the use of objects, furniture and walls in the classroom, the movement, both acrobatic and everyday, conveyed the emotional mood of a group of school children, a mood that changed for no apparent reason.
Into the world of imagination – broadening the outlook
In 2004, the company brought to the forefront a lesser-known aspect of its character-development method: clowning. In Misstart, a production for stage clowns, the characters speak a kind of gibberish that may not seem understandable at first, but becomes crystal-clear for audiences thanks to movement, which is acrobatic, minimalist and absurd. The next production, Thrice upon a time… (2006), is a tale in which the characters dive into a deep and dark abyss. The production exposes the courage that children must show in a world that is often strange and inhospitable. Next came Ghosts and Ladders (2008), which features a mysterious imaginary character, whose influence will be key in the future of 3 brothers. The play sheds light on a heavy family secret. In 2010, the company produced The big bad wolf where 3 stage clowns discuss the fascinating character of the wolf in children’s story tales. The company was on a creative roll as it recently opened 2 new acrobatic-movement productions that broaden its repertoire of Theatre of acrobatic movement. Against a backdrop of imagery, movement and music, I on the sky (2011) chronicles the journey of an exiled woman looking to settle in her new country. Through parkour and slamming techniques, Edgewalkers (2013) introduces audiences to 4 kids hanging out in their backstreet. A newcomer will step into their world and mess things up. Following the invitation, in 2013, to take part in an international project called Documents of poverty and hope , the company created Inner Migrant in association with Portugal’s Teatro O Bando. An actor puts himself in the shoes of a Portuguese immigrant and takes the stage with a musician. Through movements, words and music he will be re-telling parts of Antonio’s life. This first involvement in international productions has opened possibilities for other similar projects. With its latest production, What if Romeo and Juliet … (2017), the company offers a re-reading of Shakespeare’s classic through acrobatic movement. And the following question arises: can we imagine another ending than that of the death of these two children?
DynamO Théâtre remains convinced
DynamO Théâtre is undeniably contributing to renewing theatre for young audiences through its distinctive artistic approach and meaningful creative involvement. This unique approach challenges, mirrors and defines the art of acrobatic movement and clowning. Indeed, the company has developed considerable expertise and know-how. It provides inspiration for and influences the practice of theatre and the approach of many creative artists and performers. The research and on-going physical actor programs affirm a theatre form of which DynamO Théâtre was a forerunner. The language of theatre never stops moving forward and each new production refines it. As time moves on the quest continues and new artistic projects challenge earlier ones. They delve deeper, push the limits of acrobatic movement and make it relevant. New blood among the artistic directors helped broaden the scripting of acrobatic movement and clowning. Such awareness and knowledge of body movement will make the company’s artistic signature endure while rejuvenating it.