Performer and choreographer Sonia St-Michel has been performing classical Indian dance over the past 15 years, and has also trained in Mexican Folk dance and Oriental Egyptian dance. Since 2005, she has travelled to India yearly to perfect her art form with gurus Aloka Panikar and Sujata Mohapatra. She has performed in Canada and abroad, and her choreographic work has been presented in Montréal, Toronto, Ottawa, Sherbrooke and Gatineau. Her practice focuses on cross-cultural experiences: she wants to share with students her belief that art brings people together and promotes compassion and hope. Such experiences enrich our lives, as they allow for a greater respect and appreciation of cultural diversity and a better understanding of the universal values that unite us all. Sonia St-Michel conducts workshops in tandem with artist Marie-France Thibault.
Proposed approach and type of activities
Sonia and Marie-France’s artistic approach aims to highlight the collective creative process, drawing from cultural traditions around the world and cross-cultural experiences, and they are dedicated to the democratization of art. Their goal is to show students how interacting with other cultures and recognizing both their diversity and the values we all share can foster compassion. In their artistic approach, Marie-France and Sonia are interested in:
- Integrating two art forms, scenography and choreography
- Developing a synergy in the creation of places, accessories, movement and choreography
- Emphasizing the creative process in the context of a collective experience to provide meaning to the act of creation
- Integrating components of the United Nation’s Agenda 21 on sustainable development. For example, they pay special attention to the environmental footprint in the choice of materials for the workshop.
- Strengthening the sense of belonging to our community through collective creation, sharing creative experience that reaches beyond the individual and learning about the traditions of other countries.
Other examples of activities
The workshop “Creative synergy: Creating together to better celebrate”
This workshop epitomizes Sonia and Marie-France’s approach and poses relevant questions to students:
- How do we interact with our environment? Consider the environmental footprint in the choice of materials for the workshop: reusable, recyclable, and natural.
- How do we share a creative experience that reaches beyond the individual? We’ll strengthen the sense of belonging to our community through a collective creation the whole school is involved in.
- How can we learn about and integrate the traditions, ceremonies and rituals of other countries into the workshop?
- How does this improve all of our lives? Learn about how collective creations can provide non-market experiences that have a positive long-term impact on society.
Conditions for the workshop
- All classes in the school will participate.
- Two types of activities are possible: “Body shadows” and “Celebration.”
- To achieve the collective creation, the two artists divide the classes. Half of the classes work exclusively with Marie-France (elements of set design and visual arts), while the other half works exclusively with Sonia (elements of movement and dance).
- The proposed activities require that the duration of the workshops be two hours per classroom (30 students maximum).
- The final stage, putting it all together, is planned for the last two-hour period of our stay at the school. The aim is to integrate the work that has been done by students in both disciplines with both artists in order to create and present the collective creation. As described in more detail below, this gathering will be presented either as a shadow puppetry performance or a festive parade.
A collective creation: Body shadows
The body shadow is a theatre technique that primarily involves using the body for the creation of characters.
- Classes that work with Marie-France make masks and accessories. Through this process, the students create characters, and a story emerges.
- Classes that work with Sonia learn to move masks and accessories created by Marie-France’s classes in order to act out the story.
- On the last day, one student per class is selected and participates in the presentation of the collective work. The performance is presented in the gym, in the presence of both artists and all the students that participated in the workshops.
Examples of elements learned
- In dance: isolation techniques, manipulation of accessories and the experience of positive and negative spaces that are projected on the screen.
- In visual arts: creating accessories adapted for movement, drawing silhouettes, exploring textures in two dimensions and principles of positive and negative spaces.
- In drama: shadow theatre, building character, mime and gestures, stage space, costumes, sound effects, masks.
A collective creation: Celebration
The collective work that will be created is a celebration inspired by a theme (Earth Day, anniversary, end of school year) or a cultural festival from here or elsewhere in the world.
- Classes that work with Marie-France create accessories for the celebration (masks, banners, flags, costumes).
- Classes that work with Sonia learn to manipulate accessories created by Marie-France’s classes. In doing so, they create the choreographic formations (lines, circles, etc.) for a parade that will circulate in the school.
- The celebration takes place in the afternoon of the last day of our visit, at the school (hallways, gym, school yard).
- We believe that having students play an active role in the process of preparing a collective ceremony strengthens their sense of belonging to their school community.
The workshop requires non-reusable materials to create the accessories. The cost is $50 per day of workshops. Marie-France’s workshops can take place in the classroom, while a larger area (the gym or daycare) is required to work on movement and choreography with Sonia (in the case of the “Body shadows” project, Sonia also needs a completely dark room; it must be possible and easy to cover the windows with cardboard or dark fabrics). A cart on wheels will be needed to carry art supplies from one class to the other. Reserving the gym, along with functional speakers, is necessary for the final afternoon to present the collective creation.
Phone : 819 205-1848
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