All PIFF documentaries are good. Some, of course, are better than others. Then, there are those that are spectacular.
And, that adjective is more than appropriate for the much-anticipated Herman Stoat: Mon Chemin Compliqué.
Conceived and produced by Pussyfoot Productions, this film about the life and work of the renowned dancer, choreographer, and founder and artistic director of the eponymous dance company has been in the making for more than four years. Yet, it received its official title only last year, after Stoat and his company’s assistant choreographer Gustav Hermelin created the dance, Le Chemin Compliqué, for the 2014 Celebration of the Winter Solstice.
“That was how we knew we were done,” Stoat said in a PRANCE magazine interview last month. “Somehow, with that dance and that title, we’d come full circle.”
Stoat knows a lot about circles, having danced professionally for years before founding the Herman Stoat Dance Company. And while he’s achieved a level of artistic success that was previously unknown in The Park, that success, which includes being named Choreographer of the Decade by PRANCE Magazine, has come at a cost.
“You might say that I survived success,” Stoat jokes in an early scene in the film. “But you might also say that I didn’t.”
Even Stoat fans who watched the choreographer’s reality series three years ago on Vertebrate Vision TV will be surprised at the physical, mental, and emotional pain this film uncovers and how complicated a road Stoat has travelled.
A Park refugee, both Stoat’s parents died at the hands of Humans.
“They were in their prime but, unfortunately, so were their coats,” he says matter-of-factly.
Left to his own devices, the young Stoat found his way to The Park, where he was taken in by a family and raised, as he says, “with love and care.” But there were problems in the household, jealousies among the family’s natural offspring, and expectations he could not meet.
“Early on, I discovered my natural talent for dancing and it saved me. I could go off on my own, explore my ideas, and set my moves to music,” he says.
It was during that time that he discovered the effect his moves had on others, as well.
“It was almost hypnotic, the effect. I noticed crowds gathering and they were mesmerized by my dancing. Suddenly, I found I couldn’t stop and they didn’t want me to, either.”
Stoat danced himself into Park history, but there came a time when he did have to stop for a while, after the anguish of his early years caught up with him.
“I’d packed it all away and suddenly, after I won a few awards, it all came tumbling out. I needed some time alone and even contemplated retirement,” he says.
Fortunately for Park dance lovers, Stoat finally returned to the stage refreshed and ready to take on new challenges, including teaching, working with artists in other genres, and calling for more diversity of species in dance. And, he reveals in the film, there is even more to come.
“There are days when I wake up and I think, ‘I’ve only just begun,’ ” he says with joy.
Herman Stoat: Mon Chemin Compliqué will screen at the Park Cinema on Friday, October 2 at 2:00 p.m. and on Sunday, October 4 at 4:00 p.m.