Mon Dec 19 2011
Photograph: Anna Finke
You were born in France, right? But you barely have an accent.
Yes. Well, my father's English-Canadian and my mom is French so I was born and raised in France, but my dad, from the get-go, spoke English at home. So my dad would speak English and my mom would speak French. And it was never a very rigorous thing. For most of my life, until I was a teenager really, my dad would speak English and I would answer in French. There was no, "You have to answer in English," it was just this integrated thing and I could do whatever. So that's why I don't have a French accent. But I never lived in Canada.
Where were you born?
I was born in Rouen, which is near Paris, because my dad was an ice hockey player. He was professional when I was first born. So we lived in the north for five and a half years and then moved to Montpellier right before primary school—first grade—and I went through my entire school life there.
So you studied dance at what age?
I studied it from 10 to 12 and then I stopped and then I started again when I was 17.
Was your mother a dancer?
No. She was an athlete. She ran. She did marathons and stuff like that, but she had back problems so she could never become professional. So she was always kind of a fit person also, and I have amazing pictures of her teaching aerobics in the '80s: She's basically in a pink unitard with a little belt and a side pony all poofy. It's the best picture ever. It's funny because aerobics used to be so big and then it went away. And now it's coming back in different forms, like Zumba and step classes.
That's right. Zumba is a form of aerobics.
I don't really know much about it, but it feels like it is the Latin version of it. I have to say, aerobics are really...I studied that in college. My thesis was the effect of aerobic training on modern dancers. It was actually very interesting. I don't know about here, but in Europe, modern dancers tend to not be so fit. And I just noticed that: We weren't really cross-training when I was in college and then I got into aerobics and I thought, Oh, that'd be interesting to study. So I had a group of I think 20 dancers that I trained for eight weeks, three times a week, and saw their maximum heart rate and their oxygen intake before and after and how it changed their mood also.
Yeah. It turned out that it didn't make that much of a difference in terms of their general fitness level because they would be more fit, but they would also have more fatigue, so it would kind of even out. They would be more fit, but they would be more tired. But in terms of their mood, it turned out that they were a lot happier and in a lighter mood and less likely to be depressed, which I think for college is probably a great idea. [Laughs]
Weird! And you saw no bad physical results? Well, I guess it wasn't long enough.
And also I was like, You are in college. You are responsible. You should know your bodies. If you're tired, you stop. It wasn't like a ballet class they had to take where they couldn't stop. It was a little more lenient in that way. I cotaught it with another girl. It made me super fit because I had to be doing it the whole time and screaming.
Did your mother teach you how to teach aerobics?
No. I just did it myself.
I'm sorry, but I got excited and started skipping ahead. When you were ten, what kind of dance did you study and why did you go in the first place?
When I was seven years old, I started drama because I had this friend in second grade who was a total drama queen and she was like, "Oh, I'm going to drama class." And I was like, "Oh my God, sounds great. Let's go." So I went to drama class and my drama teacher actually used to be a dancer, so a lot of her classes were infused with dance or movement-based tableaux or sequences. I was kind of like, Maybe I want to really dance, like completely dance. And then I went to a little gym in the town I lived in and sort of did it, and it was fun. I was the best little boy there so I got to be Adam in the end-of-the-year show. Adam and Eve. Whatever. I liked it and then my dad—very professional athletelike—was like, "Well, you know, you're serious about this, you should go somewhere that means something. If you want to be a dancer later, you shouldn't be at this gym. You should go to a conservatory." So off I go to the conservatory in Montpellier for modern. And it was too serious. I had to wear a gray unitard, which I was not happy about. [Laughs] I also had to take singing classes and I had to learn how to read music just to be a dancer and that I really didn't like. I was like, I just want to dance. Why do I have to do all these other things on the side? Tried ballet for a second in the conservatory world. Hated it. I did it for two weeks then stopped. At 12, I didn't want to do it anymore.
Socially it just seemed too awkward and too hard to be a boy dancer, and I felt like I didn't want to do it that badly that I was willing to risk social suicide. I mean, it's a little dramatic, but you know? People started making fun of me because I was dancing, and I was like, you know what? I don't need it. So I dropped that but kept doing theater the whole time. So it kept this physical part a little bit alive. And then also I did some opera stuff, which also involved very physical sequences. And so it was always there in the back of my mind—dance. And at 17, it was just one of those things where a friend of a friend had a mom who had a dance school that needed boys to lift for the-end-of-the-year show. I was like, "Fine I'll do it." It was three weeks of classes and then the show and the teacher said, "You have to dance. You have to come back next year to my school and you have to dance. You have so much potential." That summer, I had a really hard choice because I knew that I was basically choosing my career. If I wanted to seriously go back to dance, I couldn't do theater as well. I needed to decide, is it theater or is it dance? And it was really hard because I'd done theater at that point for more than ten years and I had performed in the Avignon Festival. Ultimately, I felt the need for something more physical so dance made sense. And the way I justified that a little bit was, well, if I want to be an actor later on, I can. If I want to be a dancer, it's now. It's not in 20 years. The following year, I went back to that smaller school and just did everything, and it was great because I really got a lot of attention from the teachers. I did modern, contemporary, ballet, hip--hop—everything.