Montreal-based choreographer Marie Chouinard is a staple of the international dance scene for her namesake troupe, Compagnie Marie Chouinard, and her fascination with the body that has dominated her work for decades.
Pittsburgh will get a taste of it Saturday when the company performs two of its most recent works at Byham Theater to open the Pittsburgh Dance Council's 2013-14 season. The program also is part of the ongoing Pittsburgh International Festival of Firsts, which brings new works from artists across the world to the United States for the first time.
But the woman who has led a 23-year-old dance company to global prominence never intended to found one. In fact, in the beginning, even her interest in dance was questionable.
"I was really interested in digital art and performance art and installations but not interested in dance," Ms. Chouinard said.
Exposure to new artists and different choreographic approaches helped change her mind.
"Then I realized: Oh my God! Dance can be an art form. I was so happy," she said. "It was a whole new world that was opening its landscape for me, and since then I've been exploring and traveling into that landscape of dance."
Ms. Chouinard focused the first part of her career on solo works, a path she intended to stay on until it turned into a puzzle.
"I was to create another solo for myself, and I was in the studio and started on it and I was stuck," she said. "I so much needed to be in so many places, and it was because of that impossibility I thought, 'My goodness, I think I need to hire dancers.' "
More than 20 years later, she's pleased with the way things unfolded: numerous awards, international tours and a rich repertoire. In Pittsburgh, Compagnie Marie Chouinard will showcase its depth and breadth with the U.S. premiere of "Gymnopedies," set to piano music of the late French composer Erik Satie, and "Henri Michaux: Mouvements," inspired by poetry and drawings by the Belgian-born artist.
"Gymnopedies" was first staged internationally in June, and at Byham Theater Ms. Chouinard will try out the revisions she's made to the piece since then.
"It's still transforming," she said.
In "Mouvements," dancers manipulate their bodies to bring to life the art of Michaux.
"It's a game of fastness and shaping your body into the form so the audience can see what happens because the drawing is projected on the back of the stage," Ms. Chouinard said.
Despite their different aesthetics, Ms. Chouinard hopes both pieces leave audiences with a sense of fulfillment.
"I hope they take away pleasure, love for dance ... and feeling they can be totally in union -- body, mind and spirit -- with the work," she said. "I hope it's nourishment for their being."
Sara Bauknecht: email@example.com or Twitter @SaraB_PG.