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MOVEMENT

MARIÉ

ON DANCING FOR HERSELF, FOR BRANDS AND ON STAGE PERFORMANCE 
MA
How’s your mind and body at the moment?
MNLG
At the moment, in all quarantine uncertainty, mind and body are running into each other. It can often feel like one fall asleep just as the other is waking up.

MA
Where do you come from and how did you grow up?


 
MNLG

I like to say, out of the blue, to echo the sentiment of one of my favourite writers, Deborah Levy, who writes a lot about the precarity of belonging, especially as a foreigner or a mixed person. To answer the question, I come from Berkeley, California and grew up between there and Ichikawa, Japan.
 
MA

When did you first begin dancing?
 
MNLG
I started ballet when I was 5 or 6. I stopped for a while because my child mind thought it was nonsense to go on weekend mornings. I returned to ballet when I was about 10 and trained intensively, Vaganova-style, for the next decade or so—every day after school, most weekends and all the way to the Bolshoi Academy, albeit briefly.
 
MA
Have you ever considered dance as a professional practice?
 

MNLG
I suppose I did when I started to train more seriously, during my teenage years. However, it was more like a mirage: Difficult to reconcile with academic or other artistic ambitions. Unfortunately, the school I was training at did not prepare the students for what a professional practice could look like. Most of the girls in my level became severely injured, myself included, by the time we reached the pre-professional level. For me it was hip dysplasia that concluded the “dream”.

MA
When the injuries occurred, how did you shift your trajectory after all those years of training? How did you heal from it?

MNLG
My injury occurred gradually as a result of my training. It was also misdiagnosed and undetected for a few years until the “only option” was surgery. I stopped training then. While I continued to dance (less), I started to do yoga during that time. This helped strengthen areas that were weak and misaligned from overuse. It was important to step away from the mirror, not be preoccupied by looks, and rather lean into how things felt. I spent a longtime ignoring pain.

MA
What’s dance for you?
 
MNLG
I recently read a piece, Dance in America by Lorrie Moore, that really resonated with me given my own difficult history with dance and not quite knowing what it meant to me all these years. The protagonist, a dancer, says: “Dance begins when a moment of hurt combines with a moment of boredom. […] it’s the body’s reaching, bringing air to itself.” She goes on to describe movement and refinement. Then acknowledges that while it’s all made up, she too is enlivened by her words. It brings such an honest moment to dance which is often seen as this ephemeral, awesome art full of energy. It alleviates the pressure to know that it’s all made up. It gave me to the permission to let go and move with my own rhythm.


MA
Who have been your biggest influences in dance?

MNLG
Lupe Calzadilla one of my teachers early on. She brought vibrance and equality to the stifling hierarchy of Vaganova training. Lupe also noticed that I had bad eyesight, which helped clarify how I saw myself, quite literally. It’s hard to imagine now that everything was a blur before. With her, I learned to find joy in improvisation and choreography.

MA
How’s your training patterns like?
 
MNLG
Sporadic. In fact, I’m very much in the process of getting back into dance. Finding the mental energy is the most difficult right now. I’m thankful to my body for how much it remembers and reminds the pessimist in me that I can still dance.

MA
I'm amazed by how muscle memory works. Do you memorize choreography easily after detaching from dance?

MNLG
It’s always taken me longer to fully grasp choreography, musicality, or even academic concepts. This hasn’t changed by being detached from dance. Perhaps my long-term (muscle) memory is stronger. Some people just need more time/repetition than others, so I try not to see it as an inconvenience even though it’s often seen as such.  

MA
Where do you draw inspiration from when improvising a dance piece?

MNLG
Music, often abstract, plays an important role in shaping gestures for me. I can’t say it’s one thing or the other. Improvisation comes from a place I don’t really understand and often the doing itself is the attempt to arrive at a form of interpretation.

MA
Do you take time for yourself? What’s your typical routine like?

MNLG
Both too much and not enough. I’m working on that balance.

Routine is also in progress. It’s difficult to answer these questions, especially in quarantine… I could say I have my coffee and do this and that, but I’m wary of painting a seemingly productive picture because routines can become misconstrued or idealized so quickly on digital platforms. Generally speaking, I have some hot water, a coffee, and see where the day takes me. 


MA
Have you ever felt anxious when performing?

MNLG
I’m sure I have, but I don’t remember a particular instance. I can get quite anxious about normal life things, so when I know what I have to do—such a performing a choreographed piece—it’s actually less daunting than the potential of entering a confrontational meeting, for example.

MA
Being a dancer can sometimes lead to self-sabotage and self-doubts. How do you overcome those negative feelings?

MNLG
For a long time, it was never really clear how negative feelings could be translated from dance environments to distort other life circumstances because so much of it was normalized. I’m still identifying these doubts and how one might overcome them, whether they be physical or mental. I was always very “slow” at learning combinations or choreography and the projected inadequacy of that still affects me. In those moments, it helps to acknowledge that it was all made up!

MA
If there's anything you'd like to change in dance education, what are the supports you wanted to have when you were a dance student?
MNLG
To not ignore pain or periods. An honest conversation about strengths and potential with realistic career paths. An environment that supports dance and academic ambitions.

MA
How is it like working as a dancer for brands, dancing for yourself and dancing onstage? Do you feel different in those situations? Do you feel more of or less of yourself depending on who watches you dance?

MNLG
Working as a dancer for brands can be confusing because most of the time, the photographer is not a trained dancer and usually photographs fashion models. As I think this over, the difference, perhaps, between a model and a dancer, is that not every pose is a potential picture? While there are of course dancers who are models and vice versa, I think the mistranslation lies more with the photographer and their eye for capturing movement, i.e., knowing what a transition is or not, being able to identify the quality of a gesture… turn-out, good vs. bad sickle etc. I can’t help but be disappointed when a photographer can’t communicate or highlight the tremendous skill and perfection a dancer has worked for. The angles that flatter models don’t necessarily do the same for dancers. This isn’t to say that all photography should flatter, but that models and dancers are not necessarily interchangeable.

Dancing for myself leads to the most laughter. Especially in the dark!

I haven’t been on stage in over 5 years, so it’s hard to say. When I was training, it was more about making an impression on the teachers than personal fulfilment.


MA
How frequent are you on social media?

MNLG
I’m on Instagram more frequently than I’d prefer. Then again, there are opportunities emerge simply by swiping. I wish it weren’t so muddled.

MA
How do you feel about the increase use of digital mediums for dancers?

MNLG
It seems democratizing. I’m no longer active in a specific dance community, so I can’t speak to the real-life impacts outside of my own experiences. I just hope it doesn’t take away the stage from professional dancers now that online formats have been implemented. Or the possibility to be in studio, face-to-face.

MA
Do you think the act of dancing is ephemeral or permanent?

MNLG
I think the act of dance has aspects of both, but it is not one thing or the other. I’m more interested in what happens in-between or beyond dichotomy. Even to get to the point of dance, as an act, requires the combination of fleeting urge and willingness to sustain it, among, of course, many other physical and intangible things.

MA
What are the ways for you to escape those digital spaces and focus on the real life?
MNLG

I read a lot. Getting outside is the most important part, especially without my phone.

MA
What are your expectations of the world to be post-pandemic?

MNLG
By now, I’ve stopped having expectations because so much has been disrupted by expecting something to simply work out. This isn’t to be cynical, but rather to find consolation in what is rather than what could be. I hope, at least, that I will be able to go on my exchange to Beaux-Arts in the fall. Now, there’s an element of surprise and relief if something goes as planned. That’s enough for me.


INTERVIEWEE: MARIÉ
PHOTOGRAPHY: MARIÉ
EDITED: C/A





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