Review: Radical Vitality, Solos and Duets (Compagnie Marie Chouinard / Canadian Stage / TO Live)

Absolutely absurd yet strangely serene, Radical Vitality is a reimagined collection of Canadian choreographic legend Marie Chouinard‘s work. Presented in part by Canadian Stage and TO Live at the Bluma Appel Theatre, the performance showcases over forty years of short solos and duets from the daring choreographer.

I’ve been talking about Marie Chouinard’s infamous work, Petite danse sans nom, for over a decade. Although I had never seen it till tonight, it may be one of the best examples of this eccentric choreographer.

The ‘one minute and nineteen-second’ solo starts with a dancer walking on stage in a plain white dress. She drinks a glass of water. She then walks over to a bucket and in a very symmetrical ballet second, pees. At one point she stops her urination, just for a split second, showing an unusual type of bodily control.

Although I understand how absurd this sounds, as might the rest of this review, there is nothing quite like it. It is strange yet captivating and quite humorous.

This solo, initially performed by Chouinard herself in the 1980s, was an important and controversial one for the choreographer. Now at 65, she brings Radical Vitality as an 85-minute retrospective of some of her unique and witty pieces.

Twenty-five parts, most between one and three minutes, make up the show. Chouinard’s movement vocabulary is inverted and contorted, almost bird-like. Dancers articulate every inch of skin, which you see a lot of. It’s nudity mixed with Chouinard‘s movement vocabulary show the raw human figure as simultaneously strong and vulnerable.

The audience is fully invested, an unadulterated and concentrated silence can turn to a burst of genuine laughter in mear seconds. The crowd feels fully engaged in the work. You are never quite sure what you are going to see from minute to minute, There are many different zany yet meaningful props utilized by the gorgeous dancers.

As I write, my mind jumps between all the short solos. Some memorable moments: a performer swings his long empty sleeves amongst a gentle snowfall, a dancer loudly weeps like a toddler while performing a what should-be cheerful tap dance, a large video projection shows an up-close view of a dancer’s intense facial manipulations. A night of a thousand images to entertain, evoke and excite its viewers.

There is no one like Marie Chouinard. If there is a line – Chouinard crawls past it wearing nothing but pasties and a baby face mask. I would be surprised if this didn’t land in my top shows of the year. Go see this Canadian dance legend; you won’t see anything like it!


  • Radical Vitality is playing until February 8, 2020 at Bluma Appel Theatre (27 Front St. East).
  • Shows run Tuesday to Thursday and Saturday at 8pm, and Friday at 7pm.
  • Ticket prices range from $49 – $110.
  • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-366-7723, or in person at the box office.

Photo of Catherine Dagenais-Savard and Sacha Ouellette-Deguire, by Sylvie-Ann Pare.

2 thoughts on “Review: Radical Vitality, Solos and Duets (Compagnie Marie Chouinard / Canadian Stage / TO Live)”

  1. Here’s another version: I just came from Chouinard’s radical vitality. It has all the trappings of nonsense modern Danse, broken-crane posturing; non-verbal utterances; acting for all the world like a troupe of vagabond aliens hired by cirque de soleil, situations so abstracted that they lack anything of character, meaning or story; jump-cut “art” soundscapes; the kind of stuff that you have seen so often that it has become to cliched even to parody on the simpsons. With one audacious exception. The piss piece. Such audacity on the part of the choreographer, and let’s face it the dancer to perform that piece can barely be described. Unique in my experience, the piece smacks you like a wave. It’s not a reflective piece, the only though I had was, holy smokes that woman is taking a piss! The echoes of that act reverberate through my mind still. I just can’t believe what I saw. Audacious! The rest of the show was a steep downhill track from there, with a pickup for a longer piece, the one where a woman wearing a see-through skirt and tap shoes goes through a variety of psychological stages, is impressive both for its sweep and for the textbook like quality of its ability to pick up on the major gestures of modern danse. You don’t have to see more than this one piece to say you’ve seen it all. The rest is nothing special. Listen I don’t think I’m anything special either, but if you’re not a fan there’s nothing there. Except for the piss piece. That alone was worth the $50.

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