Exploring Creative Courage: Charles-Alexis Desgagnés


Dancer, improviser, choreographer, teacher, artist

Based in Montréal, Québec

This month, we had the pleasure of featuring the one-of-a-kind artist Charles-Alexis Desgagnés. Blending conceptuality and vulnerability with the technicalities of contemporary dance, Charles-Alexis is a diverse creator that carries courage so vital to every young dancer. His experiences creating different capacities of his own work, competing on the Québec dance TV show Révolution, and his aspirations as an artist truly define his originality. Read his inspiring testament below.

Photo by Marie-Ève Dion

Photo by Marie-Ève Dion

What is the greatest thing that dance has taught you? Has this lesson translated into other aspects of your life? I would say that the greatest thing dance has taught me over the years is courage. In its earliest forms this meant, “To speak one's mind by telling all one's heart”. Each time I dance, whether it be on stage, in the studio or elsewhere, I try to live by that quote in the most authentic way possible. Using vulnerability as a dancing tool and portraying it as a strength rather than a weakness is also something extremely important to me; it has become part of my choreographic processes.

 I try to live around the philosophy of showing up - whether it be on stage, in class, when teaching or especially when presenting my choreographic work. Dance often acts for me as this form of personal development auto-regulator. It elevates my self-worth, gives me internal validation, provides an outlet to unleash my inner demons, and most of all let me connect to this place of oneness with myself, my surroundings, and others. Dancing is ironically what has kept me sane over the years. It has helped me keep in check my feelings of otherness, feeling like an alien, and never fitting in.

 All of these characteristics have had tremendous impacts in my day to day life, especially in the way I choose to communicate with people. It has helped me become more empathetic and more compassionate towards myself and others.

You took part in the first season of Révolution, the biggest television dance competition seen in Quebec. Describe your experiences working on this project. Being on a show like Révolution was fantastic in many ways. It offered me a way to showcase to the general public what I do and extend what contemporary dance can look like outside of a commercial setting. I really do think that if you want things to change or evolve, you have to be the change you want to see from inside out. That's what I tried to do with the show. I had such beautiful messages and feedback from it, as well as some amazing professional and financial opportunities after. 

Being now established and secured, I would like to use more and more my voice politically to elevate our craft as artists and dancers. We are worth so much more than what we think we are. If we want to get our society to change their limiting beliefs about dance, we have got to evolve our beliefs first as a community. I definitely believe TV shows like Révolution help for that. Of course, they are still machines with agendas, casting, favourites, and production teams but when you enter the game you are aware of that. It was intense physically and mentally but I am extremely glad I did it, although once was enough :). 

Photo by Romain Lorraine

Photo by Romain Lorraine

As a creator, what project in your dance career have you been the most proud of and why? I am most proud of the two versions of my first show “Mue Érable” I presented, one in 2018 with 28 dancers and one just recently in September 2019 of myself in solo format. The concept I followed involved the colored fabrics I used on Révolution. These fabrics were everywhere on the stage and represented shedding parts of me - whether they be physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual. In the first version I produced, choreographed, directed, organized, managed, and funded everything myself. It ended up being an amazing life experience, and the students and professionals involved in it looked amazing. I then decided to bring it back for Festival Quartiers Danses but only with myself, focusing on the journey of a character. It is a 45 min solo that demanded a long internal process and it immensely challenged my vulnerability. I grew stronger and tender from it for sure! I am looking forward to working on it again, improving it and then performing it around Canada!

What advice would you give to the next generation of aspiring dancers, choreographers, and creators? I would advise them to speak one's mind by telling all one's heart, and to surround themselves with loving people and teachers. Don't let the indifferent people contaminate your process, but instead love them from a distance, because it’s safer that way. I would also advise the youth to always get up when you fall, but even better, learn how to fall without hurting yourself. Always show up, keep on working, and keep on presenting yourself. Just because somebody says that you or even your work isn’t good enough doesn’t mean it is true. Don’t limit your beliefs. If you want something, go on and get it. Nobody is going to do it for you. Lots of love :)

For more inspiring work from Charles-Alexis, you can check out his Instagram (@ca.desgagnes), website, or Facebook page.

Erin Lum