Laura Dannequin is a French-born choreographer/performer/dancer/maker and she is currently based in the UK. As a maker, Laura has created many works throughout the years. Including the most recent one Hardy Animal (2014). Hardy Animal itself received positive feedback from public that the work was later followed by the bookwork version with the same name. Laura’s works are described as beautiful, hypnotic, and inspirational. Her brilliant work brought her to receiving a Dance Bursary Award from the Arts Council Ireland in 2010 for her choreographic research into improvisation methodologies.
Recently, I got the chance to get in touch with Laura and here is what Laura had to say about her work and her life as an artist.
When and how did you fall in love with dancing and choreography?
In the first instance, I studied theatre. During which time I met and studied with Phillip Zarrilli who introduced me to various modalities including tai chi and kalarippayattu (a martial art from Kerala, India). As I worked with him, I realised how fed I felt by working physically and learning through the body. When I finished my studies, I started working as a freelance performer. Soon after that, I got lucky and landed a very exciting job with Saburo Teshigawara’s company Karas. That gave me a real taste of working as a dancer as well as the confidence, despite my lack of ‘proper’ dance training, to begin to think of myself as a dancer and to pursue it as a career.
Then in 2006, I moved to Ireland to take part in Daghdha’s mentoring programme in dance and choreography. Working with artistic director Michael Klien was a great time of growth both as a dancer and also in terms of how I think about and understand choreography.So it hasn’t been a love-at-first-sight story, just a number of encounters that have kept me curious and interested.
How does being a choreographer and a performer influence yourself?
My work offers me the opportunity to consider what my values are, what I want to be a part of, and what I want to put out into the world.
What do you think is the most important thing in performing?
Acceptance of what one is, of what’s happening right now.
In The Making (2010-2012) © Laura Dannequin
Now about your work. How do you describe your work?
Every new work feels different to the one that’s come before. I’ve worked in various forms, from installation to dance to autobiographical solo work to the creation of a bookwork. So it’s hard to describe them as a whole. If something ties them together though, I’d say it’s a desire to explore bodily being in the world: the dancing body, the social body, the diseased and medicated body. I’m interested in making work that is present, live, raw, and sincere.
My friend and colleague James Stenhouse of Action Hero recently wrote a piece on generosity versus cynicism in performance work (you may visit Little Acts of Hope).
In a nutshell, it’s about how easy it is to be a cynic because there’s so much we can point the finger at and laugh at or comment on or be ironic about. But that doing so feels like the easy option. The lazy thing to do. I agree with that.
I’d say it’s a desire to explore bodily being in the world: the dancing body, the social body, the diseased and medicated body. I’m interested in making work that is present, live, raw, and sincere.
You’ve produced many works, such as Land, Dance Dark Dance, and the latest one is Hardy Animal. Which one is your favourite or the one that you think is the most influential to you and why?
It’s difficult to pick one. Right now I’m working on Of Riders and Running Horses with Dan Canham of Still House, of which I’m the associate director, so it’s hard to think of anything else at the moment as I’m really excited about what we’re proposing through this work.
As far as existing works are concerned, I’m still touring Hardy Animal. So that’s the one that matters the most to me right now. It’s also a very personal work -about chronic pain which I suffered from for about 4 years- so I’m pretty invested in it.
The solo I developed through Deborah Hay’s Solo Commissioning Project (In The Making) had a massive impact on me both as a dancer and person. It’s a lot about perception and seeing and letting the world penetrate you and for me that seeped into all areas of life, with a stark difference in my felt experience. I remember coming back from that project and people who knew me could see me being and dancing differently. She’s a very special lady.
Hardy Animal (2014) © Laura Dannequin
How do you want people to feel when they see your work?
I recently heard Marten Spanberg on Nature Theatre of Oklahoma’s OK Radio said that for him a good show is not one where he leaves the performance space praising the performers or talking about how good a particular bit of the show but rather, thinking about his own life. He described how in one instance that translated into an urgent desire to call his brother. So the work he saw had a direct effect on how he chose to conduct his personal life. This idea that audiences can connect to their own selves or humanity by watching live work really chimes with me. Of course it’s seductive to hear people say nice things about my performance/dance/choreographic /writing skills, but ultimately I’m interested in those things opening up something in the audience that aren’t about me at all. And these things are beyond my control and as varied as there are people in the room.
What is your dream performance like?
The architect Frank Lloyd Wright wrote that “Simplicity and repose are the qualities that measure the true value of any work of art”. I really love the sound of that. However, I also love chaos and loudness and unashamed abandon. So something that has space for either one of those things or both done sincerely.
Lastly, how do you see yourself and your career in 5 years?
I hope I’m still able and inspired to make work. I really have no idea what shape or form that might take. If the Tories get in power again at today’s elections I might be living in Scotland, or Barcelona.
(These questions were answered by Laura on May 7th, 2015 before the result of the UK General Election was announced – the Conservatives won.)
For updates and further information about Laura and her work, visit her website LAURA DANNEQUIN.
Land (2006) © Laura Dannequin
Elsa Hestriana, 2015.