by Tessa Perkins Deneault

It sounds like something out of a dream: shadow one of the world’s preeminent choreographers as she travels the globe presenting new works and preparing remounts, all while joining her company as an understudy. As an apprentice with Crystal Pite’s Kidd Pivot, Renée Sigouin is living this dream.

Sigouin met Pite through her work with Kidd Pivot company members Tiffany Tregarthen and David Raymond. She was performing with their group, Out Innerspace Dance Theatre, while Pite served as a choreographic mentor for their 2016 work, Major Motion Picture. From this experience, Sigouin knew she could learn a lot from working with Pite and decided to approach her to be a mentor as part of her application for a British Columbia Arts Council Early Career Grant. Though Kidd Pivot doesn’t have a formal apprenticeship program, Pite invited her on board as the company’s seventh apprentice.

So far, Sigouin has followed Pite to Nederlands Dans Theater in The Hague (where she is an associate choreographer), to Paris Opera Ballet and to the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity. She has served as a test subject for new movement, understudied Tregarthen and Cindy Salgado in the remount and tour of Betroffenheit, and participated in the creative residency and will join the world premiere tour for Kidd Pivot’s latest project, Revisor.

Renée Sigouin
Photo: Michael Slobodian

Sigouin grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan near Saskatoon, and her first exposure to the process of professional dance was with the Dare to Dance program supported by Dance Saskatchewan, which brought in choreographers and dancers to work together toward a public performance. One of those choreographers was Joshua Beamish, who she later apprenticed with in Vancouver.

Vancouver, where she moved in 2008, seemed like a good place to develop a dance career. After about a year, she was ready to go back to Saskatchewan, but then found out she would be dancing in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympic Games. It was also around this time that Tregarthen and Raymond asked her to audition for their training program, Modus Operandi, where she had the opportunity to perform works by several local choreographers. Her time with Modus was formative: “I gained a lot of tools for my own independent curiosity as a dance artist. I also learned to make my own movement and bring my own interests to whatever creative project I’m working on.”

During a week in the studio with Pite in the Netherlands to prepare for an NDT premiere, Partita for 8 Dancers, Sigouin helped to develop new movement sequences and was in awe of Pite’s work ethic. “She accumulates all of this material and keeps going, keeps editing and refining,” says Sigouin. “I took that lesson to keep going and keep adding layers.”

Working with the other dancers of Kidd Pivot has also been rewarding. “The dancers all have a deep physical practice that they’re always rigorously working on.” Sigouin has learned a lot about delving deeply into a role by observing the way they are continually adding to their characters in Betroffenheit. She finds it inspiring to see them working on their roles in such detail, adjusting a head tilt here or adding a new gesture there.

A typical work day begins with Sigouin warming up and taking class with the company before they split up into small groups or pairs to develop a sequence from the show they are currently developing or to work on remounting their individual parts. There is a great deal of delegation from Pite, says Sigouin, and everyone, including the designers and entire creative team, is always given something to work on. Pite keeps everyone on task and has clear direction, but, at the same time, Sigouin says, “She’s so generous. She knows how hard it is and what it takes to be a dancer.”

Renée Sigouin in Company 605’s Inheritor Album
Photo: David Cooper

Before lunch, the company regroups to review what they’ve been working on, and in the afternoon they continue with the same process of experimentation and development. “I sometimes find it really difficult to generate movement, but Crystal lets herself just create,” explains Sigouin. “She is comfortable being in the unknown and then taking time to edit and refine the movement. She comes with a few specific ideas and then the dancers work with her to create the movement.” They go through a process of improvising and movement generation before narrowing down to the essential elements that make up a piece.

Sigouin has danced with many local Vancouver groups, including Company 605 and Wen Wei Dance, and continues to perform with Out Innerspace, which is developing a piece to premiere in 2019. Balancing her time between her apprenticeship and her work with Out Innerspace has been relatively simple as Tregarthen and Raymond are also involved in both companies.

As part of her BC Arts Council Grant, Sigouin was given six weeks of studio time to work on her own choreography. She appreciated having the time to see where her creative impulses would lead and developed a 10-minute solo that she hopes to further refine and perform.

Whether working on her own or collaborating with others, Sigouin enjoys exploring the way our bodies create meaning through dance. As she says, “I always feel like there’s some type of poetry conveyed in the body.”

DI WINTER 2018

Renée Sigouin in Out Innerspace Dance Theatre’s Major Motion Picture
Photo: Courtesy of Out Innerspace Dance Theatre