It was February 2007, in Quebec City, during RIDEAU’s annual gathering. You and I were sharing the same table in a restaurant in Old Quebec City. You had been listening to me talk for a while about a theater solo I had just seen; why it was so powerful. The last day, at the Palais des Congrès, in a room that was emptying, you invited me to a table. You told me that you wanted to go back on stage; that you hadn’t done it for twenty-five years; that despite your injured leg, in your head, you still danced with your body intact. You proposed to me to be your outside eye. I accepted, because it interested me, this artistic battle between desire and reality.
That same evening, we are in a mini-bus that takes us back to Montreal. It’s night time. You tell me about Mr. Toupie, your cat, who had an accident; like you, he has iron rods in one of his paws. It’s 2:30 a.m. when we arrive in front of your house. You insist on showing me your garden. We pass through the alley, it is winter. Leaning on a Frost fence, under a pale light that sweeps over a large space where I can guess trees, paths, wooden benches, you tell me that you bought the house because of that garden.
A few months later, I join you in a studio. We start working together. I watch you create a solo from start to finish. From the outside eye, I become your playwright. The show will be called Confidences d’un corps. You invite me to work on other shows afterwards, many of them for children. Over the years, I discovered your desire to combine dance with other media; song, stories, music. On March 4, 2020, Le trésor integrates songs, visual arts and puppetry. In this show that pays tribute to children’s imaginations, hence its title, I find from the outset that the puppet, which is a cat, resembles you; it has your comic side. Immediately on stage, he makes us laugh, he is very conscious of the audience, all his performances are original, imaginative. He also has your tragic side with all those iron rods he has to carry around.
During these thirteen years, we made countless trips together in my little car, to go to schools in Pointe-aux-Trembles or the North of Montreal. In classrooms clear of desks, I see you intervene with the children with a rare elegance and the same respect, when you offer them a starting point to improvise. For the majority who have just arrived in the country and don’t yet speak the language, the movement allows them to speak from the depths of themselves. I even see you create a short performance with elderly people who have difficulty moving around, inviting them to use chairs, always with the same elegance and respect. It is these very rich human experiences and car journeys that will bind us together.
Last January 31, when Arnold phoned me to tell me that you had passed away, I immediately had a picture of your garden. Arnold invited me to come over to the house if I wanted to. I declined the invitation; I think that you are in the process of transforming yourself into a garden. I don’t want to disturb you.
Two days later, I agreed with Marie-Ève, one of the rehearsal directors of Le Trésor, to go for a walk on Mount-Royal. A snowstorm is raging. We share our memories of you in the whirlpools and gusts. Sometimes we have to stop because the flakes become spears. We laugh because of that; a kind of happiness to talk about you in the storm, moving with effort. When we arrive at the top, at the belvedere, our eyelashes stuck by the ice, the snow full of our hoods, we are like on a boat in the middle of a thick fog, the city has disappeared. In this place where we see nothing, we stay a moment without moving, in silence, to greet you.
In the following days, I often find myself irritated while walking around the city: no longer able to see cars stopped with a running engine, no longer able to see masks thrown on the ground that will end up in the necks of gulls, no longer able to see elm trees being cut and replaced by other elm trees. I hate it when I walk. I am finishing a novel that I started right after Le Trésor. And suddenly I hear you very distinctly saying to me: Stay focused, Lise.
We are rehearsing Le Trésor right now to allow the dancers to keep the memory of the show, while waiting for the halls to open again. I am invited to come and see rehearsals. Every time I go in, every time I walk in, every time I do the code to get in, every time I walk up the stairs, every time I open the studio door, every time I greet each member of the crew, every time I watch a dancer go on and on and take a few notes, I stay focused on every moment; on this artistic battle that is always between dream and reality.
Who was PP, I am asked? He was the hard worker. He was joy incarnated! He was an inspired dreamer.
March 8, 2021