Mon Dec 19 2011
What kind of modern was it?
It was Matt Maddox. Kind of like old jazz. But infused with the teacher's own style. So some of the exercises were still tendus and plis, but with weird arms, you know? I feel like center [exercises] was more his style.
You were 17. So were you going to go to college or university?
Well, at that point I was still in high school because I did my—ninth grade twice because I was just having too much fun partying and not going to class.
That's funny. So you were a little older than the others.
Yes. I graduated at 19 instead of 18. Dance gave me something. It wasn't like, Oh I have to finish high school because I have to; it was like, I found this thing that I love, that I want to do. So I've got to finish. I've got to graduate so I can really start dancing. It gave me an incentive and a purpose, which was really great. And then I quickly realized that since I was seven, I've always been like, I don't want to be good, I want to be the best. And it was this stupid thing that I said, but as I grew older, I realized that it was kind of true. Whether it was acting or dancing, I couldn't just be good. Working with those people when I was 17, I realized that I would kind of always have to switch environments and try to surround myself with new teachers, submit myself to new challenges to keep growing. I spent a year at that school and they really helped me because they believed in me. And I was also dancing in this small company of theirs so I had performing experience the whole time. But then the following year I was like, I need more. I want more.
Where did you go?
To this other school that had a preprofessional training program that was sort of arranged around school hours. So you would start really early or go in the morning and there you have seven or eight different teachers. They had ballet, men's ballet, modern, all this different stuff. And that taught me so much also. It gave me options.
So you mentioned boys' ballet too, so you were with other guys?
Yes. Yeah that was a great thing. And it was taught by an old ballet dancer. A man. So that was also really great because it was my first...well, it was great to have a dancer who was really masculine. When I left the first school, they didn't want me to leave. I don't know if they were insulted, but they tried to make me feel bad about leaving. Telling me that I wasn't ready, that I was too sure of myself, and that I thought I was the best. And I was like, "That's not what's happening, I just want to see something different, and you should be able to let me go." I wanted to move on as quickly as I can because I started late. So very early on, I was like, Okay that's something that's going to happen in this world: People are going to grab onto you and try to fulfill something of their own through you and you have to recognize that right now. You have to watch out for that. Because when they said that, I remember being like, Maybe they're right, maybe I'm not ready to leave, maybe I should stay here another year. And also for them to say that I was overconfident and that I thought I was so great when it was not true—it kind of threw me a little bit. I remember talking to my mother and she was like, "Don't listen to them. If you feel you have to move on, move on. People are always going to try to hold you back because they want you to be good but not great and certainly not greater than they are. You just have to figure out what you need and go for it. You're not going to be a dancer by not ruffling any feathers." That was a really important lesson and definitely both my parents helped there. Also my dad, having been through a professional career was like, "People are going to try to make you what they think you should be and it's not about that."
Where did he play hockey, by the way?
He was in multiple cities, but he was twice French champion in Rouen the year I was born and in Nimes.
What did you do after that in terms of training?
I went to the preprofessional program, learned a lot. On the side, I was also taking class with another two people that had nothing to do with either worlds. And one of them, one day, just mentioned the Laban Centre. She was like, "You know, you should look into Laban. It's close, but it's not in France and one of my students went there and she was really happy." I've always been super, 100 percent into where I am now; I'm not a big planner. And so of course, I graduate high school and I haven't really looked into anything because I was in a professional program and had all this stuff going on. So all of a sudden, I graduated and I'm like, I don't even know what I'm doing. And I know I don't really want to stay here. So I just went and auditioned for Laban without doing any research or knowing anything about it really. I got in; but I also got into the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School in Canada. And so then again, I had two choices that seemed would totally determine my career. That was the summer of being 19. Really what was at play was do I want to be a ballet dancer or a modern dancer? The Canada/London choice did help. Do I want to go to Winnipeg, Canada, or London? London sounded so much more exciting. And also the thing about being great, not just being good, I felt like I could be a good ballet dancer, but I could be a much better modern dancer. And so eventually, that just became the clear choice. I moved to London and went to Laban.
Is that where you started Cunningham technique?
Yeah. I had heard of it beforehand, but I didn't really know what it was. I didn't know who he was. I had never seen a show or even a video. And then in college, of course, we studied him in dance history and we actually had Cunningham technique three or four times a week my first and third years. The first year, I was taught by a guy who had never been in the company, but had studied at the studio. And my third year, I was taught by somebody who was in Rambert and I think had maybe been in Duets and had some experience with Merce. Not a lot, but Merce had come to coach them or something. And his approach was much more physical and sort of aggressive, which I liked. Because Laban was as much about experiencing as about reflecting on things, which I found really frustrating at times because having started late, I was like, I just want to learn. I just want to dance. I want to experience. I don't want to think about it. I don't want to talk about it. I just want to do it.
You felt impatient.
Right! It was late already for me. He was totally like, "You just have to do it. Do it. Do it again. Do it again."
Who was it?
Gary Lambert and also this other woman, who was in the Graham ensemble back in the '80s and was American. She was teaching us Graham and had that approach where she was a lot more aggressive, which I loved. Eventually, that's why I moved here to the States—it was to find more of that aggressive, assertive training approach.