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L'école de danse de Québec

Paco Ziel at L’EDQ : an intercultural creation where passion is at the heart of it all

1 décembre 2023

In the autumn of 2023, Paco Ziel, renowned dance artist and co-artistic director of Vías, a Montreal-based dance company, was at L’EDQ for three weeks. In this portrait of him, learn about his experience with our students and discover his inspiration for his creations and his thoughts on creating without losing one’s fire.

In the autumn of 2023, Paco Ziel, renowned dance artist and co-artistic director of Vías, a Montreal-based dance company, was at L’EDQ for three weeks, partly to give technical classes to our students of the Professional Training Program in Contemporary Dance, and mostly to prepare an original creation with the final-year students of the program. In this portrait Paco Ziel at L’EDQ : an intercultural creation where passion is at the heart of it all, we present his inspiration for his creations, his experience with our students and his thoughts on creating without losing one’s fire.

Paco Ziel is a highly skilled dance artist and performer who arrived in Canada only 11 years ago. A graduate of l’École supérieure de ballet du Québec, he has danced with renowned dance companies such as Cas Public and Rubberband over the years. Working primarily in Montreal has allowed him to know the environment and the artistic approaches from there, however, he had never had the chance to create in Québec City before now. So, when invited to be one of the guest choreographers of Repères 3, the mid-term showcase of the Professional Training Program of L’EDQ, he felt honoured and appreciative of his experience, since it allowed him to get a hint of Québec City’s artistic scene through collaborating with these emerging artists. For Paco, touring and performing is a one-directional approach without real access to exchange, so he found working with the students of L’EDQ very inspiring.

Being an interdisciplinary artist who is very active and motivated to learn and create, when asked about the first thing he wants to pass onto future professional dance artists, Paco emphasized the importance of constantly nurturing one’s curiosity and remembering to keep one’s passion for their art in their hearts and spirit : 

I want to pass onto them the passion and [the idea] to approach everything with curiosity [and] to stay open.

Aside from it being usually part of an artist’s aim, Paco’s approach of staying connected to his heart and spirit through his passion for dancing might be deeply rooted in his cultural background. Coming from Mexico City, his Mexican roots inevitably and admittedly influence his work in general. According to him, being in Mexico is an immersive kind of experience due to all the rhythms of life and the full bodily experience of the arts and music Mexico has to offer, which are all part of people’s spirits there. To reflect this in his work for L’EDQ and as a clin d'œil to his artistic signature, he even hid a little subtle section of Mexican cumbia, a traditional South American music genre, in the choreography he created for the students.

Coming from a culturally different background, this by now established performer on Montreal’s artistic scene, explains that what he appreciates most about Canada is how welcoming it is culturally-speaking and how much it accepts and values diversity. This means that whatever he has to offer, there is always openness that he encounters.

So what is it he had to offer to L’EDQ for Repères 3?

A choreography that is the constant evolution of 15 dancers slowly moving together through different pictures in a free, continuous flow of expression (a notion that we can also find in the company’s vision) that eventually turns into a composition, in harmony with the music. In Paco’s view, oftentimes, dance pieces are about the audience’s experience and their emotional reactions and responses to provoke a dialogue with them – however, this piece is solely about the audience watching the individual and collective journey of these soon-to-be professional dance artists, who all get their moment to shine in the spotlight.

For the audience, this piece is not only about watching movement evolving on stage, but also about being part of and witnessing the students’ journey : we do not know where they come from and we do not know where they are going to be afterwards, but in the present moment, we can catch a glimpse of their journey towards becoming professionals.

© Paco Ziel
©Paco Ziel
© Paco Ziel

Dancing, the passing on of the footprint of our past encounters

For Paco, dancing is basically a constant conversation between people, their bodies and the footprints of past encounters in them. To him, movement is a result of our body translating the impulses and imprints present in our body, coming from all the experiences we have lived and all the people we have ever worked with. And since those teachers, dancers, artists we meet along the way are also carrying the imprints of previous people and artistic signatures in themselves, a new creation is born out of all those worlds meeting halfway.

He found it important to emphasize it to the students as well : whatever they are capable of doing in their art right now, that is the imprint of all the experiences that they have had with people they have ever worked with or learnt from. He believes that this is how a new generation of artists will become the "holders of the fire" who are ready and eager to create : with the appreciation of the past and the imprint of those before them being carried on and evolving through their art.

An inspiring, yet challenging creative process

Being very passionate about what he is doing, Paco arrived in Québec City already full of ideas and objectives, knowing quite well what he wanted to create and transmit. A week before the creation started, he had the chance to meet the final-year students at technical classes, allowing them to "scan each other’s energies and creative impulses". Therefore, at the moment of creation, the students had already been exposed to his approach, his choreographic language as well as the way he moves or the imprints that his dance carries, which made it much easier for everyone to enter the creative process. 

It was not, however, a one-directional experience he wished for these 15 students to live; instead, he wanted them to be active participants in the process rather than "bodies that dance his choreography". So, the actual work started by everyone opening up about their preoccupations and current emotional state in order to take all that energy and all those emotions and eventually implement them in the choreography. By consciously considering the students’ own aspirations and their way of interpreting ideas, he managed to create a safe space where everyone dared to be part of the creative process while staying open to other ideas so that their two worlds and ideas could meet in the middle.

The challenges? Mostly, it was for Paco to understand during the creative process that the creation goes beyond transmitting a choreography : aside from his experience as an artist and a performer, he was there also to share his life experiences with the students, who are not yet professional artists and who, therefore, are not used to the working conditions of professionals. So, he had to find a way to make them push a little bit forward to find inspiration and go beyond their maximum. As he said, it does not matter how much they advance, what matters is that they continue going forward and find a way in themselves to get up the next day, focused and motivated to become a better version of themselves and of their art then the day before. Why? To keep their passion and fire alive.

The creation : a transdisciplinary harmony through different art forms and disciplines

Paco Ziel is a transdisciplinary artist who is professionally trained in dance, but who, thanks to his curiosity and thirst for understanding different media in detail, is also a self-taught photographer, cinematographer and an electro-acoustic composer. His main interest is in how any medium can connect to dance and to the flow of movement of the body, and how one can breathe movement into all these media and artforms. 

So, when asked about his objectives for this piece, the most outstanding one was wanting to create the music that gives the base for the choreography by himself – something that perfectly reflects the multidisciplinary aspect of his choreographic signature. And if his ideas do not work with the choreography and the students? Well, it is part of the process. He arrives with the main tableau for the music - which can sometimes be only sounds - and then he tests them with the artists to see how the choreography can react to the rhythm and how the emotions can evolve and (re)surface throughout the proposed sounds and music. And if need be, he adjusts them until they have a result that works best with the choreography. All this requires openness and flexibility from all parties involved and is a perfect learning experience for the students about the true, adaptive nature of a creative process.

Paco’s advice to the students? Learn to create outside your comfort zone!

Choosing a career in dance is choosing a difficult profession where it is not easy to stay on track; so keeping our passion alive is of utmost importance. What might be even more so is to accept working feeling uncomfortable instead of going for comfort. Because in a situation of familiarity where we feel like we know everything, our heart, body and spirit tend to show signs of tiredness to urge us to move on as soon as possible to somewhere uncomfortable if we want to create something new – because whatever it is we are doing in a comfortable place, it is no longer nurturing our creativity, our heart and our spirit. Feeling unmotivated is a sign that it is time we challenged ourselves to open up to new propositions, be it for learning purposes or to find new creative ways; because otherwise, our heart, spirit and body get exhausted – and that is not a place an artist wants to be. That is "not a place of creation". So, keeping this out-of-the-box way of thinking in mind and accepting to find comfort in the uncomfortable is the only way forward and up. 

This is food for thought for us all and coming from a successful international artist that has left his home country to create in Canada and immerse us in his intercultural work – it is one to remember. 

What is next for Paco Ziel?

After Sabor de mi corazón and Flesh and Sound, two new performances of Vías, his and his wife Diana León’s dance company, recently presented on Montreal’s stages, Paco is ready to make big changes in his life by quitting Rubberband after 10 years to focus on doing more choreographies and creating more pieces with Vías. Among his goals for himself and the company are finding, sharing ideas and collaborating with artists from diverse disciplines, with the hope of an eventual Canada-wide tour. 

Québec’s artistic community seems very supportive of what they are doing and so are we at L’École de danse de Québec – understandably, because through their art, we get the chance to be exposed to an inspiring, transdisciplinary experience that transcends cultures and countries, and eventually, brings us closer.

L’École de danse de Québec wished to thank warmly Paco Ziel for having shared his thoughts with us!

L’EDQ welcomes several guest artists, choreographers and professors every year to initiate students to diverse creative processes.

Photo credits (cover) : Diana León



Paco Ziel's original creation will be presented on stage at the Maison pour la danse de Québec within the framework of the mid-term show Repères 3 of L’École de danse de Québec's Professional Training Program in Contemporary Dance on December 7-8-9, 2023.

Get your ticket and come and witness the talent, interpretive skills and authenticity of these up-and-coming dance performers.

Price (in person) : 18$ or 15$ (30 years and less) - general admission, service charges and taxes included


The mid-term show Repères 3 of the Professional Training Program will also be available online sera également disponible en ligne in the form of a recorded webcast from December 15 to 22, 2023.

*Tickets on sale via our online box office from November 29.

Price (webcast) : 12$ - general admission, service charges and taxes included