The Roundhouse Performance Centre, Vancouver – March 3, 2016
When choreographer Virginie Brunelle revealed that Foutrement is based on her own experience of infidelity, it sparked in me a curiosity for this piece. I wondered how autobiographical it might be and how she would express such an intimate experience.
The three dancers in the piece – Isabelle Arcand, Claudine Hébert and Simon-Xavier Lefebvre – embraced its very direct and undisguised aesthetic. For most of the performance, they wore white briefs, including the women, who were either bare-chested or in sheer tops, which suggested we might be observing them a very personal space, perhaps their bedroom. What plays out is anything but restful.
Brunelle’s athletic style of choreography takes the dancers charging across the stage and tumbling through successions of duets. Arcand hurls herself at Lefebvre and their skin smacks loudly when they collide. Her legs grip desperately onto his torso, but with his indifference, she slides heavily down his body and drops into a heap on the ground. When she jumps into his arms again, he lifts her, flips her acrobatically, as if by rote, and she obliges until the momentum is drained. Much of the performance plays out in vignettes of this same cadence – collision, manipulation, and release. Physically ruthless as the dancers are, who revive each interaction with a sense of urgency, the cyclical effect wore on me.
However, one effect of repetition that does spark the aesthetic happens when Arcand or Hébert relapse into bourées with their pointe shoes. Batting their shoes against the ground while glaring at Lefebvre, each instance seems to initiate something important they wish to tell him. Brunelle also explores moments of vulnerability in the teetering gait that the women take on in the shoes. In another moment, Arcand jumps and forcefully slams her feet when she lands, and the loud bang from the shoes emphasizes her anger toward Lefebvre. She is wildly audacious in this role, and she captures the immediacy of her character without hesitation.
The soundtrack seems carefully chosen for emphasis, like the bluesy electric guitar music that Hébert dances to when seducing Lefebvre, or for irony, like the operatic aria to which Arcand and Lefebvre grapple with one another in their opening duet, wearing the under armour of hockey players.
The narrative doesn’t offer much surprises from the cast of two women and one man. Arcand, who begins in a tense relationship with Lefebvre, is betrayed by Lefebvre’s meanderings with Hébert. However, Hébert doesn’t express much joy in her duets with Lefebvre. Perhaps both women share pangs of betrayal, shown in an extended scene with Arcand and Hébert dancing in unison then confronting Lefebvre with a commanding stature in their pointe shoes.
The narrative is mainly framed from the women’s perspective. They are the catalyst in many of the vignettes, while Lefebvre’s character is often secondary and prop-like. Despair looms over all three characters – even Lefebvre, endowed with the attention of these two beauties, seems tormented.
In these ways, Foutrement, which translates to an expletive in English, mirrors a real relationship that at times can be blunt, tiresome and rough. The promise of this relationship is that everyone is giving it their all.