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By Candace Bouchard
Oregon Ballet Theatre soloist Candace Bouchard is an elegant, meticulous, and versatile dancer. She savors the challenge of highly technical roles, such as Dewdrop in Balanchine’s Nutcracker, while also welcoming the experimentation of more contemporary works—it’s a process she calls “sacred.”
Bouchard grew up in St. Louis, MO, where she received her early ballet training with St. Louis Ballet. At 16, she continued her training at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and eventually went on to study at Ballet Academy East in Manhattan. In 2003 she joined OBT as an apprentice, and she entered the corps in 2004. There she has danced a broad range of the repertoire, from Balanchine’s Apollo to Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude. She has also founded and choreographed for OBT’s Uprising series, a collaborative effort among OBT dancers and local musicians that brings classical ballet to intimate, nontraditional venues.
One of my first memories is running around the garage while my dad was doing something useful—fixing a car, building shelves, organizing his tools. I was jumping off the garbage can, yelling, “I’m a dancing butterfly! I’m a dancing butterfly!” I don’t know where the desire to dance originated. As long as I can remember, I’ve loved moving to music.
After much begging, my parents put me in ballet before they knew what that would eventually entail. For years, I took tap and jazz as well, mostly just to be dancing as much as possible. I don’t know why it was always ballet for me. Somehow, the long lines and lush music gave me both the structure and the space to put all my emotions. I was a quiet child, but when I danced, be it in the studio or in my bedroom, everything that mattered in my world came to the surface, floating out of and around me like a pulsing, color-rich mist.
I think my first pair of pointe shoes came at age 11. For me, they were just another tool toward building a life full of dance. I knew that to continue in ballet, I needed to dance on pointe, so I did. It wasn’t about the magic of the pretty pink shoes that the other girls were wrapped up in—sleeping with them under the pillow and such. But I wanted them badly because it meant I was one step closer to being a professional dancer. As soon as I learned that was a job you could have, it was the only option for me. I enjoyed school, I enjoyed learning, I enjoyed challenges wherever they presented themselves. Nothing, however, could compare to the emotional, intellectual, and spiritual fulfillment of ballet class or the pure elation of performance.
Today, the reasons I dance remain the same, but I understand the drive a little more. I see beauty around me all the time. In a perfect sunny day or in the expression of immense grief, I know there are incredible, universal rhythms presenting themselves to us all, binding us to each other and to all that we don’t yet understand. Often, they flit by without being observed. There is a need in me to take those moments in, let them saturate me, and then meticulously squeeze them out into the world. So many people have to spend their work weeks taking care of the necessary tasks that keep our lives running. I don’t want them to feel they have to give up on the magical for the sake of security, success, or sanity.
In performance, there is a chance to stand up in front of my community and share the most full parts of life with whoever is willing to watch. Everyone deserves to feel these extremes of emotion—these perfect, elegant dimensions and proportions that resonate in all of us. However I can bring that to people, I will. Yes, we struggle to live the life of an artist, but through that struggle, we experience something so rare, delicate, and powerful that there is no question of having it any other way.
Dancing allows me into the sacred space inhabited by the infinite, the glorious, the profound. The space that no superlatives can adequately describe. The opportunity to occupy that place both drives me and leaves me feeling that I owe a debt to the rest of the world. Performing is an attempt to repay that debt. Dance is both my blissful struggle and my elusive solution.
Bouchard as Dewdrop. Photo by Blaine Truitt Covert, Courtesy OBT ©Balanchine Trust.