Monique Poirier
Publications Articles• Livre

Coquinot et Fleur-de-Jade

Livre Coquinot et Fleur-de-JadeL’histoire raconte les multiples aventures de Coquinot , un jeune panda qui est à la recherche du Thé-des-Hautes-Montagnes, élixir destiné à guérir Fleur-de-Jade, sa petite sœur malade.
Une histoire empreinte d’espoir, de tendresse, de courage et de sagesse.
Pour les enfants de 4 à 99 ans.
Auteur :  Monique Poirier
Illustrations : Élise Tétreault
Coût : 10$ (frais de poste inclus) Payable par chèque
•  Vous pouvez vous procurer le livre, en envoyant votre demande par courriel :


Play, Dance, Express Together

by Monique Poirier

Excitement, curiosity, anxiety were in the air on this Tuesday morning. For the first time, dancers and music improvisers met for a unique collaborative experience. It all started last January when I was asked to substitute for the Dalcroze Eurhythmics teacher during the winter semester by the music department of St-Laurent College. As the usual teacher devoted the semester to improvisation, it seemed natural for me to accept this challenge and to dive straight into this unexpected experience.

The music program in this CEGEP or college offers an education level which is a step between high school and university. It is essentially the first level of specialization in music. Two large programs are offered: one in classical music and the other in jazz music. Dalcroze Eurhythmics is part of the classical music program for all instrument players and singers. We must note here that registered students have different backgrounds in music and different backgrounds in playing an instrument.

Even if I had some pedagogical goals to meet relative to the Dalcroze Eurhythmics, I was given “carte blanche” where improvisation is concerned. Nevertheless, it was suggested that I renew the collaboration between the dance department and the Eurhythmics classes which is what had been done the previous year and had been successful.

For my background I must add that while I was training forMusic for people Music for People at the beginning of the ’90s, I also explored different dance methods and body awareness approaches, among these approaches were dance improvisation with Nicole Laudouar in Montreal, the Feldenkrais approach and the Rio Abierto system in Buenos Aires. As a classical pianist, I felt that with time body awareness and dancing had become forgotten aspects in traditional music education. Strangely, in our classical repertoire, we play waltzes, sarabandes, rhythmic pieces as those we find in Bartok’s music…. So, for years, I literally felt a hunger to explore different methods of free movement and body awareness. This experience of guiding music students through this adventure of improvised music accompanying choreographies was a gift for me. During the past years, in my own workshops La musique au Coeur de soi (“Music at the Heart of Oneself”), I led groups in which I suggested improvisational activities connecting music and dance, usually improvised movement and improvised music at the same time. However, for this new experience, I would have to guide music students in creating music for already structured choreographies by almost professional dancers in the context of an academic program. Another new aspect was guiding so many different instrument players, from recorders, to the tuba, without forgetting the trombone, trumpet, flute, guitar, cello, violin, marimba, bassoon…

From the beginning of the semester, I guided 4 groups of 10-15 students working together for 2 hours a week. Most of them had never experimented with improvisation. During the first half of the semester, we explored improvisation, using different improvisational principles, trying to refine their listening and their capacity to react to a variety of musical situations and styles; learning how to know when to dive, when to retreat, how to dare. On my part, my own improvisation was the leadership part, trying to find the right balance between making allowances for their freedom, leaving them their uniqueness, and guiding them, suggesting ideas, giving them useful guidelines. By the middle or the semester, we felt quite ready when the time for collaboration with dancers came.

The original project was that each dancer had to create a solo choreography, inspired by a cherished theme and then perform it to music. Guided by a short text that they wrote about the choreography, I matched each dancer with a duet, trio or quartet. It was sometimes an intricate puzzle for me to make groups, because I had to deal with the available instruments in each group, the theme and the involved personalities… So, I had “strange” groups such as a duet formed with tuba and voice, a trio formed with trombone, marimba and percussion…I remembered this statement in the MfP Bill of Rights: “Any combination of people and instruments can make music together”. I had to practice this statement!

Musicians and dancers would get to know their team members on the spur of the moment and musicians would have one hour at the most to explore and build music that would fit the choreography, they would then present the performance which would be filmed. During this short hour of team work, each group was able to become familiar with the choreography: quality of movement, speed, tempo, expressiveness, rhythm, stops, climax, and so on. They explored together, shared their visions of the creation and tried different things. Each musician could play his instrument, but anyone was allowed to use voice, small percussions, even silence… During this rehearsal period, I quietly supervised each group, helping them when necessary. One of the expected traps was to try to play the same music that they played during the exploration time and subsequently, not be as alert and aware during the performance itself. They had to build on their explorative work while staying on the edge…  When the time for the performance came, dancers, musicians, dance teachers and me were very curious and excited to view and hear the results.

I still remember one of the performances where the female dancer started her choreography using a wheelchair, expressing very deep themes: euthanasia, death, revival. The duet of musicians, a pianist and a French horn player evoked and supported the choreography wonderfully; it was magnificent and very moving at the same time. Another dance student performed on the theme of innocence and curiosity. Once again, the duet of clarinet and violin followed the choreography so well and emphasized the theme to perfection. Both silences, in the choreography and in the music were quite relevant. We could feel the dialogue between the dance and the music.  The different groups were amazing.  In fact, each performance showed its own richness, its own uniqueness, a surprising sensitivity. All the musicians dealt with the different combinations of instruments very well and this led to a point where musicality transcended, no matter the means.

So much creativity, involvement, sincere collaboration, so much listening! Music students as well as dance students enjoyed the experience, even if many of them found it challenging and sometimes quite difficult but all expressed their delight in participating in this special event. For musicians, a new impulse, “the live movement” brought them to new possibilities, new expressions, and different ways of playing the instrument. For some of them, they were less busy with “what they should play” and were more pushed by the expressiveness living in the dancer’s body. Some reported gaining a new feeling of self-confidence, because they realized that they could do things they would not have previously believed possible. For dancers, it was a unique experience to dance with live music and even on “made-to-measure” music. Some dancers utilized the recorded improvisations for their final public performance. The videos were put on the college website and students were encouraged to view them.

I was happy that the experience was so successful, but more than that, I felt admiration for those musicians in the making. As a leader, this leadership experience confirmed the idea that you do not have a lot to do… The key itself is in the attitude; trusting and letting go; listening and giving permission. Finally, I feel honored that my work has allowed me be a part of the huge artistic potential and expressiveness that lives in each human being.

Monique Poirier

Monique is an MLP graduate, a classical pianist and a music teacher. She holds a master’s degree in music education. Monique currently teaches ear training and theory at Cegep de St-Laurent in Montreal and teaches piano in a private setting as well. She leads piano improvisation and open-to-all workshops. For information about the workshops and for listening excerpts the improvisations, visit her web site:

Page 14-15-Fall/Winter 2010-2011 Connections