Q&A with Eric Gauthier: Canadian dancer back with his company at the NAC after a 30 year break

Eric Gauthier’s company Gauthier Dance has achieved a reputation for charismatic performances that shows off technical skill with a sense of humour. The Montreal native talks to Artsfile’s Peter Robb in advance of his performance on Saturday at 8 p.m. in Southam Hall.

Q. Eric Gauthier, this is your company’s NAC debut. Can you talk about what that means to you at this time in your career.

A. This is a fabulous and perfect moment as we are just celebrating our 10th anniversary. And this marks my first performance at the National Arts Centre in 30 years when I danced in The Nutcracker by Les Grands Ballet Canadien, when I was 10 years old.

Q. Your company is presenting what seems to be a very ambitious fully packed performance on Saturday. Can you walk me through what the Ottawa audience will see?

A. The audience will be served with a five course dinner (featuring) five different styles of dance. Every time the curtain opens, expect the unexpected.

Q. Do you get back to Montreal often? Are your parents and siblings still there?

A. I only manage to get home once a year. I wish it was more often, but yes my wonderful parents and sister still live there, and they will all make their way to Ottawa for the homecoming.

Q. Many Canadian dancers have made their way to Europe and Germany in particular. Why did you “cross the pond?”

A. I was 18 and I got the chance to join the Stuttgart Ballet. I thought I would go there for two years, experience Europe and come back, now it’s been 20 years.

Q. In addition to following your mentor Reid Anderson to Stuttgart to join the ballet there, was there more opportunity in Europe to work, to fulfill your artistic dreams?

A. I do have to be honest, dance is, in a way, more appreciated there. You get about 10 minutes of curtain calls at the end of shows, plus flowers and once in awhile a bra thrown on stage! Ha ha ha! No, really, there is a kind of magic in the air whenever we perform, and I will try hard to reproduce this moment on Saturday!

Q. In your company are there any other Canadian ex-pats?

A. Unfortunately at this very moment, no Canadians. But there are French, Austrian, Australian, Spanish, Italian, Bulgarian, American … my dancers are from all over.

Q. From what I have read, you have happily settled in Stuttgart, married and have two children. It is your home? Would you ever consider coming home? What would lure you back?

A. Yes, indeed, Stuttgart is my home. I have my wonderful little world built around me there … three amazing children, my gorgeous wife, my sweet little house and of course my company. But coming back is not out of the question. Never say never.

Q. From your vantage point in Germany, what is your perception of dance in Canada in 2017?

A. I was speaking yesterday with Karen Kain as I was attending and watching class at the National Ballet of Canada.. and will watch the general rehearsal of their new Pinocchio. I was so very impressed by the strength of the company, there is great energy and great dancers, so that made me very happy to see. As a young festival director myself of Colours International Dance Festival, I have invited many companies over to Stuttgart from here.. like Company Marie Chouinard, Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal or in three months from now Louise Lecavalier. I am a big fan of our dance scene in Montreal.

Q. From what I have read you were a very young hockey fan before being bitten by the dance bug. What was it that caught your attention and turned you to a dancer’s life.

A. Yes, I was crazy about hockey and then I saw the musical Cats at the age of nine and that was it. My new mission was to learn singing and dancing so that one day I would stand in stage in that production. But I saw Cats again a few years back and I don’t need to do this anymore, I am very happy with my life’s path.

Q. Do you see similarities between the athleticism of the hockey player and the modern dancer?
One often forgets, how physically demanding dance is. My dancers are probably in better shape than most hockey players, and they for sure have more teeth.

For tickets and more information about this performance please see nac-cna.ca.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.