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Interviewee name, by artist name

The events of the past six months may have shaken the dance world but, for Guillaume Côté, there is an opportunity for innovation in this contemporary moment. No stranger to Toronto audiences, Côté is a revered principal dancer and choreographer at The National Ballet of Canada. In 2018, the NBoC premiered Côté’s full-length choreographic work Frame by Frame, an experimental, multidisciplinary collaboration with filmmaker Robert Lepage that interweaved various media to tell the life and work of another Canadian filmmaker, the legendary Norman McLaren. While the NBoC and other large-scale performing arts venues have been forced into hiatuses in recent months, Côté has continued bringing film and dance together. He has created short films with both the National Ballet of Canada and the Festival des Arts de Saint-Saveur, where he is also the artistic director, and is currently beginning work on a performance piece for the Lighthouse Immersive exhibit space. 

Recently, Côté sat down with smART Magazine editor Michael Zarathus-Cook to discuss the intersection of dance and technology, immersive art and his latest projects. 

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Sticking with Lighthouse Immersive, what do you feel is uniquely possible in that particular space versus a more traditional space like The Four Seasons or, as you just mentioned, other more experimental spaces that you've been in? 
 

I find that space immensely exciting in so many regards. I find the possibilities are a little bit endless. That's a bit of the problem at the moment, as well. It’s endless in a way that we have to find a new way of structuring a show. What is a show? What is a performance? Is it an experience like Sleep No More in New York where you go to a space, you choose your own adventure and there are many things going on in different rooms? Is a performance something that you sit and enjoy? Is a performance something that is immersive? Or is it something that is more of a display? It brings in so many questions and a venue doing that is really great. 

 

Many of my friends are into the visual arts. When the Van Gogh thing was commissioned to come here, they were kind of going ugh, because they’re purists. They feel that Van Gogh’s paintings should be looked at in a museum in their original format. I’m going, well, what if thousands of people are more attracted to going to see them come to life and being immersed in them than going to the museum? Then, you're winning. In the same way with dance, I feel that, yes, it's great if people go see a three-hour ballet at The Four Seasons. But what about a performance experience that could last 25-minutes where they walk around this really fantastic venue and the dance is kind of around them, or interacting with them?

 

I find that, for Toronto, this is a first. It’s very exciting – I’m so curious what the Toronto community will find to create within this space. I had instantly about 12 ideas of things I wanted to see happen here. The key is to praise Svetlana and the production company who has put it together. It’s the investment and the risk: in order to develop something in that space, you’re going to have to invest a substantial amount of money to be able to develop something that’s curated and created for that very space. That’s challenging. 

 

The space is so beautiful. It’s challenging because it’s intimidating. I’m a big fan of Show One and the production companies that have come together to do the Van Gogh exhibit because I find that this was very much the right content for that room to work to its full capacity. For me as a dance artist and as a choreographer and creator, I’m thinking of ways that I can maximize the entirety of that space in order to make that space make sense for whatever we're presenting –  not just trying to use that space just to use a new space. Let's use that space for what it can really be, which is a phenomenally different experience, an immersive kind of experience. 

Sticking with Lighthouse Immersive, what do you feel is uniquely possible in that particular space versus a more traditional space like The Four Seasons or, as you just mentioned, other more experimental spaces that you've been in? 
 

I find that space immensely exciting in so many regards. I find the possibilities are a little bit endless. That's a bit of the problem at the moment, as well. It’s endless in a way that we have to find a new way of structuring a show. What is a show? What is a performance? Is it an experience like Sleep No More in New York where you go to a space, you choose your own adventure and there are many things going on in different rooms? Is a performance something that you sit and enjoy? Is a performance something that is immersive? Or is it something that is more of a display? It brings in so many questions and a venue doing that is really great. 

 

Many of my friends are into the visual arts. When the Van Gogh thing was commissioned to come here, they were kind of going ugh, because they’re purists. They feel that Van Gogh’s paintings should be looked at in a museum in their original format. I’m going, well, what if thousands of people are more attracted to going to see them come to life and being immersed in them than going to the museum? Then, you're winning. In the same way with dance, I feel that, yes, it's great if people go see a three-hour ballet at The Four Seasons. But what about a performance experience that could last 25-minutes where they walk around this really fantastic venue and the dance is kind of around them, or interacting with them?

 

I find that, for Toronto, this is a first. It’s very exciting – I’m so curious what the Toronto community will find to create within this space. I had instantly about 12 ideas of things I wanted to see happen here. The key is to praise Svetlana and the production company who has put it together. It’s the investment and the risk: in order to develop something in that space, you’re going to have to invest a substantial amount of money to be able to develop something that’s curated and created for that very space. That’s challenging. 

 

The space is so beautiful. It’s challenging because it’s intimidating. I’m a big fan of Show One and the production companies that have come together to do the Van Gogh exhibit because I find that this was very much the right content for that room to work to its full capacity. For me as a dance artist and as a choreographer and creator, I’m thinking of ways that I can maximize the entirety of that space in order to make that space make sense for whatever we're presenting –  not just trying to use that space just to use a new space. Let's use that space for what it can really be, which is a phenomenally different experience, an immersive kind of experience. 

Sticking with Lighthouse Immersive, what do you feel is uniquely possible in that particular space versus a more traditional space like The Four Seasons or, as you just mentioned, other more experimental spaces that you've been in? 
 

I find that space immensely exciting in so many regards. I find the possibilities are a little bit endless. That's a bit of the problem at the moment, as well. It’s endless in a way that we have to find a new way of structuring a show. What is a show? What is a performance? Is it an experience like Sleep No More in New York where you go to a space, you choose your own adventure and there are many things going on in different rooms? Is a performance something that you sit and enjoy? Is a performance something that is immersive? Or is it something that is more of a display? It brings in so many questions and a venue doing that is really great. 

 

Many of my friends are into the visual arts. When the Van Gogh thing was commissioned to come here, they were kind of going ugh, because they’re purists. They feel that Van Gogh’s paintings should be looked at in a museum in their original format. I’m going, well, what if thousands of people are more attracted to going to see them come to life and being immersed in them than going to the museum? Then, you're winning. In the same way with dance, I feel that, yes, it's great if people go see a three-hour ballet at The Four Seasons. But what about a performance experience that could last 25-minutes where they walk around this really fantastic venue and the dance is kind of around them, or interacting with them?

 

I find that, for Toronto, this is a first. It’s very exciting – I’m so curious what the Toronto community will find to create within this space. I had instantly about 12 ideas of things I wanted to see happen here. The key is to praise Svetlana and the production company who has put it together. It’s the investment and the risk: in order to develop something in that space, you’re going to have to invest a substantial amount of money to be able to develop something that’s curated and created for that very space. That’s challenging. 

 

The space is so beautiful. It’s challenging because it’s intimidating. I’m a big fan of Show One and the production companies that have come together to do the Van Gogh exhibit because I find that this was very much the right content for that room to work to its full capacity. For me as a dance artist and as a choreographer and creator, I’m thinking of ways that I can maximize the entirety of that space in order to make that space make sense for whatever we're presenting –  not just trying to use that space just to use a new space. Let's use that space for what it can really be, which is a phenomenally different experience, an immersive kind of experience.