April 20, 2023

Dancer performing on stage with their arms and legs on the ground and their core raised.

The Journey of a Professional Choreographer and Professor

The School of Toronto Dance Theatre is known for producing exceptional dancers, choreographers, and educators. Our graduates have gone on to make significant contributions to the dance world, with their artistry and scholarship taking them to various parts of the globe. Among these remarkable alumni is a former student who has since become an established choreographer and professor. We spoke with Marie France Forcier about her journey since graduating from The School of Toronto Dance Theatre, significant milestones that informed her career trajectory, her evolving practice, research, advice for post-graduate studies, and ongoing projects.

Marie France’s career path was wholly shaped by the confusion she experienced as an emerging dance artist when undiagnosed PTSD incomprehensibly affected her ability to absorb information and sense her body. Having prepared primarily as a performer, she had to rethink her approach in order to sustain a career in dance shortly after graduating from the School in 2005. With a focus on choreography and production, she developed an independent artist portfolio over the next seven years while slowly reacquainting herself with a performance practice as her proprioception gradually returned. Still, her trajectory had become set as a maker foremost.

Marie France Forcier performing with/for Wojciech Mochniej. Photo by Tim Nguyen.

Over the years, Marie France’s choreographic practice has evolved significantly. Her work was initially form-based and narrative, in her own words, “rather rigid and lacking play”. A significant shift in her methods occurred over the course of her MFA studies at York University, when she began developing movement through somatic imagery, leading her to recognize direct relationships between psychological trauma and embodied performance/performance making. Completing her MFA was a turning point in her career, allowing her to develop confidence in her intellectual, artistic, and pedagogical potential, and establish the research path on which she has been for over a decade.

Marie France’s research centers on the intersection of somatic practice, western contemporary concert choreography, and trauma studies. Specifically, she investigates the relationship between psychological trauma and embodied performance/performance making. In asking her if there’s anything she wished more people knew about her field of research, she said “I wish the general population had a better base appreciation of interoception and proprioception as core human ability and capacity factors.” One of her current research projects involves intergenerational professional dancers with PTSD histories and aims to develop methodologies and best practices for dance directors asking performers to source autobiographically. A resulting 60-minute piece will premiere at The Grand in Calgary at the end of May, alongside a series of academic publications.

Two dancers wearing colourful clothing standing on stage with high contrast lighting.

Marie France Forcier and Cindy Ansah. Photo by Tim Nguyen.

For students and dancers wanting to pursue postgraduate studies, Marie France advises seeking opportunities to be financially proactive. She suggests educating yourself on the grants you may be eligible for and considering a graduate school’s salary as a research assistant or teaching assistant. Additionally, she recommends staying on the lookout for internal scholarships and grants throughout your studies.

Marie France expressed how it felt to be back as an alum and how it brought back a range of memories. She spoke of her excitement for the changes happening at the School. “Dance pedagogy has changed so much over the last two decades”, she said, noting that the School’s curriculum shift is embracing the world of today’s dancers. She praised Artistic and Pedagogical Director Sasha Ivanochko for her care in stimulating student’s intellect and encouraging their agency as artists.

It was a pleasure to speak with Marie France on her journey since graduating from the School, one that is a testament to her dedication, perseverance, and resilience. She has evolved significantly as a choreographer, researcher, and professor and has ongoing projects that will undoubtedly add to her already impressive portfolio. As she continues on this journey, we can only imagine the remarkable contributions she will make to the dance world and will continue to inspire through her artistry and scholarship.

 

Headshot of Marie France Forcier

MARIE FRANCE FORCIER

Forcier, (she/her, b. Montréal, 1982) is a choreographer, performer, writer, and pedagogue of western contemporary dance forms. Through studio work, public performance and community initiative, she researches at the intersection of somatic practices, trauma studies and choreography. An Associate Professor of Dance at the University of Calgary’s School of Creative and Performing Arts, she received her conservatory training from the School of Toronto Dance Theatre (2005), her Master of Fine Arts in Choreography from York University (Toronto, 2014), and is currently pursuing a PhD in Creative Practice at Liverpool John Moores University through the Transart Institute (New York/Berlin) as a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada doctoral fellow. 

Her body of creative work has been presented on platforms spanning little-known urban sites to dance-dedicated proscenium spaces across North America, Europe and Asia. In collaborative artistic capacities, she has performed live and on film in disciplines ranging from family theatricals to contemporary dance, to performance art to aerial circus, touring extensively on four continents. Her trade articles can be found at The Dance Current, and her academic writing, in the books Literature and Psychology: Writing, Trauma and the Self  (2019), Topography of Trauma: Fissures, Disruptions and Transfigurations (2019) and What Happened? Re-presenting Traumas, Uncovering Recoveries (2019), and the journal Dance Chronicles (Taylor and Francis/ Routledge).

She was an Artistic Director at Hub 14 (Toronto, 2013-2015), a Board Director at Dancers Studio West for three seasons (Calgary, 2018-21/ Chair: 20-21), the Dance Division Lead at the University of Calgary (2021-22), and continues to serve on several local, national, and international juries and committees.

Strongly tied to Eastern Canada, she lives with her two young sons and works within the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 and the Métis Nation of Alberta, Region III.

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