It’s a very special time for dancer Alexis Fletcher – not only is it her Birthday (today!), but it is also her 10th Anniversary with Ballet BC! Alexis has come a long way since she first joined the Ballet BC family 10 years ago, having performed the works of internationally renowned artists such as William Forsythe, Crystal Pite and Johan Inger, among many others. We sat down with Alexis to reflect on her career with Ballet BC, and here’s what she had to say!
What has been the highlight of your career at Ballet BC?
When I was trying to come up with highlighted moments, there are many and I felt more honest saying that every single experience defined and shaped me in some way, and each feels significant to me in its own right. Each piece I dance and each choreographer, director, or other artist I work with teaches me something and changes me in some way. I have been lucky to work with a great many incredible dancers and creators, and have been exposed to extremely varied and diverse ways of moving and composing dance. After each performance I am a different person on the inside than I was at the beginning.
I feel kind of strange being asked about career highlights right now because even though ten years can sound like a long time, for me this feels like the beginning and that I have barely scratched the surface! I hope I am lucky enough to be dancing for many, many years to come – there is still so much to learn and to share.
Where do you draw inspiration from?
For me, dancing is a way of being in, and connecting to, the world both spiritually and physically. I believe that one has the potential to contribute to others in a positive and influential way by first developing one’s own lifelong practice of self-awareness and discernment, and then moving outwards from there. However, I specifically will mention here my yoga, Pilates and meditation practice, and the many teachers who come my way through this practice and way of seeing. This creates a context from which to view life. Much of my inspiration comes from the art itself and the everyday act of showing up in the studio – by art making and sharing we ask each other to come into contact with something greater than ourselves and to FEEL something together. We ask each other to put down our electronic devices and be in a room together to listen, perceive and watch closely. You, the audience, challenge me, the performer, to come into my own presence so that you also can come into your own presence. Considering the things happening in our world, I believe in the importance of arts events of any kind to do just this, and I am inspired to better myself because of this.
Do you have any specific rituals you do before a performance?
Before I perform I like to create a map or “Score” that helps me to articulate my intentions for the performance itself, and that also helps me enter into the world or spirit of that specific show or piece using relevant parts of myself and my life. This map, among other things, will include specific ways of warming up the body and focusing the mind, using music I love that inspires me to enter into a certain mood or feeling before a piece, and imagery I have found throughout the rehearsal process that relates to specific moments and movements I am exploring in that show. Really all the rituals are about being properly warmed up and in an optimal physical state for the show, and about preparing the mind so that I can be as present and feel as free as possible in the actual moment of performing.
When all that work and preparation has been done – the biggest part of any performance is the moment of surrender that must happen when you finally do step on stage and have a brief moment in time to share something with other people. At this time I say a prayer, because at this point and on some level it hopefully is not about “me” anymore, it hopefully is about something much larger and greater.
What has been the biggest challenge of your dance career?
I think my mind is both my greatest challenge and greatest friend. It is my mind that makes me restless and dissatisfied and passionate enough to search for more every day and to try and figure things out, but it is also my mind that presents me with fear and doubt. It shows me all the places where I am limited – both in my physical understanding of my work and otherwise, yet it is also what opens me to possibility. I always feel that there is more for me to explore and to tap into, and often my challenge is that I want so earnestly to understand and achieve everything right away that I stop myself from having trust in my process and intuition! When I am able to do this I have better focus and greater insight. The intense physicality of dance and therefore its connection to the complexities and miracles of which the body is made – both structurally and energetically – makes me especially aware and challenged by the limitations of my own mind. However, I get to explore this on a daily basis in the studio and this is a huge blessing.
Working with the mind and with self-awareness is a lifelong path and I imagine that I will always have to work hard, finding the bravery and courage required to keep evolving.
What are other hobbies/activities you enjoy outside of dance?
Outside of the studio I am passionate about developing the Bed and Breakfast/vacation rental business that my husband Sylvain and I run out of our house. As a couple, we both connect to our creativity here in a different way than we do in the studio, which for me feels like a wonderful balance in my life and work. It is a lot of work to run a business outside of our commitments to dance, but we feel incredibly inspired by creating a welcoming space for people from all over the world, and we feel fortunate to be able to connect with people from different cultures and all different walks of life. We get to have our own “global village” right in our own home, and we draw a lot of energy and joy from this.
In addition to this, at present I am working on some of my own choreography and also another project where I am excited to get the chance to “be on the other side” and actually co-curate and produce a show with my husband – wait for more detailed information on this to be released shortly!
What do you look forward to for Ballet BC’s 30th Anniversary Season?
Many things! I have seen a few different eras during my time with Ballet BC, and each one was important in its own right and for different reasons. I am happy to see Ballet BC moving forward with the vision it currently holds and I am honoured to be a part of that vision. It is wonderful on many levels that Ballet BC is beginning to tour more again and that there is the chance for the pieces to have a longer life and to be shared with more people. I believe that the new pieces coming into the repertoire this year have the potential to expand, challenge, and evolve not only us as artists, but our audience as well in a new way, and I am truly excited about this. On a personal level, I am happy to see some favourite pieces coming back that I was part of the original cast in – this is always a chance to re-examine and go deeper into a work. There are always more layers to be discovered coming back to something a second time.
Alexis would like to express her gratitude to those who have impacted her career:
It is rare to have an opportunity to publicly say “thank you” and show gratitude to the people who inform our journey. Therefore, I would like to take the time right now to do just that. Of course I will not be able to name every person here, but as I said before every single one of my wonderful colleagues, coaches and the exceptional choreographers we work with at Ballet BC become my guides, influences and friends in their own unique ways. I want to acknowledge my gratitude to Artemis Gordon and Lynn Sheppard at Arts Umbrella for seeing something in me all those years ago and for helping me learn the skills required to bring it forward. I am also incredibly grateful for, and indebted to, John Alleyne for believing in me at the beginning and giving me my first job – the opportunities I was given by him are ones I will never forget, and they inform me to this day. This leads me to say how extremely fortunate I am to now be working with Emily Molnar. I deeply respected and looked up to her for many years before I worked with her, and I absolutely continue to do so these many years later. My parents Ken and Suzanne, my husband Sylvain Senez, my dear friends Maggie Forgeron, Makaila Wallace, and Odette Slater inspire me daily and are my teachers, mirrors, and my sources of unconditional love inside the studio and beyond.
Special care and support has also come from Olivia and Sebastien Senez, Lindsey James, Hope Pelletier, Brian Paterson, Cathy Gordon, Vince Walker and Larry Chan. I am constantly grateful to everyone involved in my early training on Vancouver Island and to the expertise and guidance of the teaching staff at Arts Umbrella.
~ I am also deeply grateful for the time I was lucky to spend studying with Grant Strate and Glenn Gilmour. They are both greatly missed and I carry them with me always. ~