Touched by the resilience of residents and nursing staff in CHSLDs, Marie-Denise Béat has created a choreographic universe full of humanity, to warm the hearts of the elderly, but also to move the public.
Currently in the process of creation, the young choreographer hopes to be able to take the stage next fall with her project. Fireflies. In the meantime, she is testing her equipment in CHSLDs, with her first inspirations.
“When I saw that all my artistic projects were going to be put on hiatus, I wanted to feel useful and I chose to go and work in a CHSLD,” recalls Marie-Denise Bitez, referring to the first wave of COVID -19, in March 2020.
For four months, the young dance performer, who collaborates in particular with the company Nyata Nyata, has completely changed her daily life. As a service helper, she shared the daily life of the residents, helping them to dress, eat, go to bed, etc.
Despite the fact that she knew the area well, her mother having been a nursing assistant herself for 18 years, Marie-Denise was overwhelmed by the experience. “Everything is very mechanical, it’s unsettling. You realize, as an artist, how lucky you are. And that you have a lot more freedom, she said. Many nursing colleagues were in full swing shift and were called for a third mandatory overtime, a TSO [dans le jargon] ! »
For Marie-Denise Btez, the lack of freedom is also glaring for residents. “The times for meals are very precise and we cannot deviate from them. We pay taxes all our lives and, in the end, we can’t even decide our time to wake up or to eat dinner.
It’s really sad ”, testifies
she does. Although she deplores the functioning of a structure that she describes as “unsuitable”, Marie-Denise also experienced “unique” moments of complicity during her stay, both with the nursing staff and with the residents. These inspired her to create again.
When she arrived at the CHSLD Louis-Denoncourt in Trois-Rivières, Marie-Denise Béat learned that her father’s aunt was living there. She then decides to go and meet him: a reunion that will change her life forever.
“He’s the most resilient person I’ve ever met. She had diabetes, had both legs amputated, had to undergo three dialysis treatments a week and, despite everything, she lived life to the fullest, enjoying people, festivals and restaurants, ”says Marie-Denise Béat, a big smile on her lips. .
At all her shifts, the dancer would visit her “matante Dupont” to show her dance videos and above all to chat with her. “She spoke loudly, laughed loudly and above all, she had an incredible listening capacity,” she recalls.
Last December, exhausted by the pandemic situation and the lack of social activities, Mr.me Dupont decided to stop dialysis. She will die 10 days later. “She is the first breath of the play, but also all the extremely resilient people, both residents and staff, that I have met,” adds the interpreter.
Feet on the ground
From her first days in a CHSLD, Marie-Denise Btez took notes: postures of residents, habits, contact with nursing staff… “I drew on these observations to find a creative process that made sense. Resilience is the basis of the project and it seemed logical to me that it be done in collaboration with the CHSLDs, ”she says.
Thus, for several months, in collaboration with the interpreter Aaricia Laperrière Roy, Marie-Denise Btez built a 15-minute solo in the studio, inspired by her experiences. After the exploratory phase in the studio, the moment came for the presentation in a CHSLD. “It’s not a show. We do one on one. We present the solo three or four times in different rooms, then we film, we note the reactions, the comments. Then we go back to the studio to continue working, ”she explains.
With Fireflies, Marie-Denise Btez wants to demystify “the daily life of less privileged people”, show their strong resilience, convey a little positive and hope in a difficult period. “I remember a lady who only became lucid once or twice a month. I saw it, it was obvious, like a flash ! Normally, she barely spoke and, at those moments, her gaze changed and she started to make long sentences, to ask lots of questions… It was impressive, and so sudden! Like a firefly that lights up in the dark, ”she explains when mentioning the name of her project. flashes of light, again, like the little luminous insect.
It is not a spectacle. We do one on one. We present the solo three or four times in different rooms, then we film, we note the reactions, the comments. Then we go back to the studio to continue working.
A long-term project
To elaborate Fireflies, Marie-Denise Btez received a grant from the Canada Council for the Arts for the first time. It is thanks to this that she can pursue her idea and above all surround herself with several collaborators such as, in particular, the choreographer Emmanuel Jouthe who will become her artistic correspondent from January-February. It will also count on Montreal dancer and choreographer Ford Mckeown Larose, who will act as rehearsal for the piece, and Josiane Rouette, composer and musician.
In fact, in addition to the solo, which she has just completed with Aaricia Laperrière Roy, Marie-Denise Btez would like to choreograph a trio or a quartet as a second step, and perhaps even a second solo. She hopes to build an entire piece, made of three different segments, about an hour in total, on the subject of resilience. It could be presented on stage next fall “in the best of all possible worlds”.
In the meantime, the one who is also artistic director of the Impulse dance studio and teacher at Propulse danse continues her visits to CHSLDs to refine the first section of Fireflies, or the solo. Even once the final piece is ready, the choreographer wishes to continue these meetings. “It’s give and take,” she said. It keeps us feet on the ground, it connects us to our subject and to the people who are in this resilience. It is essential in the process. And for their part, it entertains them a little, it takes them out of their daily lives. “