A glimpse inside the mind of Caroline Laurin-Beaucage
Updated: Apr 24, 2019
By Eva Nkurunziza
Caroline Laurin-Beaucage is an instructor at the University of Concordia where she shares her passion and technical knowledge in contemporary dance with her students. She is also a talented performer and an ingenious choreographer. Laurin-Beaucage thrives at the intersection of art and science. Being diagnosed with a visual impairment that has a neurological origin launched her on a path of discovery. She was determined to understand her own diagnosis. The research sparked something in her that lead her to seek a deeper understanding of the innerworkings of the nervous system. Her initial interest for the visual system snowballed into what her work is today.
The path that she took included taking part in the Convergence Art-Sci Sci-Art conferences series. On March 8, Caroline Laurin-Beaucage presented Looking Inside to Unfold at the Montreal General Hospital. She shared a deconstruction of her creative process with the audience and spoke about Ground, which is the result of a collaboration between l’Organisme and Montreal Danse. Laurin-Beaucage is the founder of l’Organisme, a platform that allows choreographers to share their creativity and resources to produce collaborative artwork. The piece Ground is performed by five dancers who are facing the crowd on individual mini-trampolines. The performers stand next to each other face-to-face with the audience. The choreographer shared how she decided to strip bare the set of Ground to emphasize the elements that she put together and offer an enriching experience to her audience. Presenting to the public what was imagined by Laurin-Beaucage represents a physical and psychological challenge for the performers that translates into an aesthetically pleasing and complex final product.
The circadian rhythm, also called biological clock, greatly inspired Laurin-Beaucage when she created the choreography of Ground. The part of the brain that manages this clock is called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The whole system is a gift and a curse to humankind. It allows us to naturally wake up for work around the right time, even when we forget to set an alarm. It also makes the first few days of a trip to a different time zone challenging. Under average conditions, the biological clock retains a monotonous cyclical nature. The function of the SCN inspired Laurin-Beaucage to create a choreography that retains the same sequence of movements while leaving the monotony out of her artwork. The choreography of Ground included a series of upper body movements in addition to the vertical movement created by the bouncing. The cyclical nature of the choreography did not prevent the performers from displaying their individuality and strain created by the length of the presentation.
Caroline Laurin-Beaucage created a choreography that required synchronization from the performers who had to rely on their peripheral vision to stay in sync. She based herself on our innate ability to sense and mirror each other. Indirectly, the choreographer referred to mirror neurons. These neurons are thought to be the reason why we yawn when we see someone else yawning for example. The scientific community has been attempting to demystify mirror neurons. Various theories assign the abilities to synchronize and imitate movements of other people to these neurons. The performers did undergo an extensive training to master the ability to be in synchrony with individual that they cannot see clearly without constantly counting. Laurin-Beaucage rightfully assumed that their biological predisposition to synchronicity aided by their training would allow the performers to embody her vision.
Arts & Science
The speaker mainly undertook the scientific research part of her project on her own. She was transparent about the challenges that it represents to individuals who have no theoretical scientific background and formal scientific research experience. An attendee inquired about her tricks and tips to dive into material with scientific jargon that was previously foreign to her. This question emphasized why an organization like the Convergence Initiative can be helpful to launch students into professional careers that involve an interaction between arts and science. Laurin-Beaucage’s response was that perseverance and being unafraid of making mistakes was the answer. Caroline Laurin-Beaucage’s scientific curiosity and the mix of her artistic spirit, determination and fearlessness are the elements that allowed her to produce fascinating artwork such as Ground.
Edited by Nicole Avakyan