Februaridans 2024: Samtal med Nolwenn Lecompte
Foto: Viktor Brittsjö
Nolwenn Lecompte is one of five choreographers presenting work during the 2024 presentation of Februaridans, a collaboration between Danscentrum Väst and 3:e Våningen.
This conversation is my first encounter with Nolwenn. This rendition is an attempt to give you a small glimpse into her thoughts about her work.
In this conversation I ask Nolwenn to describe a bit of what she does and where she’s at in her current process with her piece for Februaridans at 3:e Våningen called “how are you here?” The small text I’ve already read about her piece asks:
“How do we learn to love ourselves? Do we need to? We are so insignificant in the context of the universe, and still so central in our own lives. What’s the point?”
These are such big questions, and I get a notion of the mind-boggling dizziness that can happen when swapping between these perspectives- from the immensity of each of us having our own unique life experience, to the image of us simply being small specks of dust on a pale blue dot, as described by Carl Sagan when looking at the Earth from the universe… I find there’s this slight feeling of vertigo that occurs when trying to grasp the meaning in our own existence.
Before entering these bigger existential aspects, Nolwenn tells me a bit about her background. She explains that she comes from a modern theater background in Great Britain, where the dancing focus was technical jazz and ballet. After moving to Sweden a few years ago, she started studying and found herself no longer connecting to any specific technique with her dancing. That’s when she started to explore her own movements and how to express her emotions.
– I’ve always had dance as a way to express things to myself when I’m feeling anxious, or when I’m having a panic attack, or when I feel like emotions that I can’t quite understand and don’t know how to put them into words.
I started choreographing some stories, to try to understand my own journey. And I think at any point in time, when I’ve choreographed solo performances, they’ve been very much focused on my journey with myself at that point in time.
It’s quite nice to be able to play with something else now and discover new things about myself. The solo side of things are very much introspective.
When I’m dancing with other people, then I just kind of have fun. And I really enjoy that side of things as well, where it’s about creating shapes and patterns and movements and forms on stage, but also allowing the dancers on stage to show what they feel comfortable with and what they want to develop.
I ask Nolwenn if she can share some thoughts about her choreographic processes and her current situation in dance and otherwise.
– I moved to Gothenburg not that long ago, and when I moved here, I was injured…
So, I haven’t really been able to integrate myself in the dance community yet, and things have been kind of chaotic, but I have developed a concept which I performed. It was very much an introspective, mental kind of exploring my emotions. I made a piece where I was trying to understand my relationship to my knee after my injury. It was also my first time on stage for something like a year and a half, and I started thinking about what other people will think and how it should look. But then I thought too much about that, and not enough about what it actually looks like. And it became too much chaos; not thought through enough. I really didn’t like what I produced. That was the last performance I did before this one that’s coming up now.
Nolwenn smiles. She seems quite at ease with with sharing difficult thoughts. All too often I think artists feel obliged to share an airbrushed image of how an artistic process is, when in reality, for many of us it can be messy and complicated, and never a straight line.
– But then, in that process, I did get my partner involved. He’s not a dancer, but he does a lot of movement… he’s used to “circus-y” things and moving. And I convinced him to come on stage with me.
Nolwenn looks excited and happy, she continues to talk but with more energy:
–Suddenly I have someone to play with and bounce off! And it actually went quite well. I find it super interesting to play with this person in that way, especially because he’s not a dancer. After the performance, someone came to me and said that his presence created a really interesting interaction, just by him standing on the side of the stage for a while of the performance and sort of watching or just being ready to come on stage. This time around he’s joining me on stage, although this time he can’t watch because his costume means that he can’t actually see anything.
–The idea this time is again introspective, but in a more positive way. And I think I’m trying to play with that outside/inside.
There’s a little bit of the idea of the paradox of the death of the author in this case, which is that when I’m performing something, everyone’s got their own interpretation of it.
I’ve noticed that in the past that sometimes I’ve been performing things that make me feel good, and I’m quite happy. But then members of my family have seen it, and they’re like “Is she depressed? Is she okay? Is there a problem?”
Nolwenn seems quite amused by these attempts to interpret her thoughts through her performance.
– I know everyone interprets things in their own way. And I think that’s what’s so fun about dance that you can never know. I’m never going to convey a specific message.
I want the author to die because I want people to interpret what they want from what they see.
At the same time, I’m trying to revive the author, and not worry so much about what people think. I want to show that this is who I am, this is what I’m living with, and this is how it gets better. The thing is, I am trying to convey a message, but I’m also trying not to convey that message at the same time for once.
Nolwenn seems both entertained and annoyed by her own paradox.
-I don’t really know how to explain this abstract concept, but it’s what I’m playing with. The inside thoughts and how to get them out. -And how to focus on the nice thoughts.
It’s a very self-critical process, and that’s what I’m trying to get out of at the same time. So, it’s kind of an interesting experiment for me as well. Because every time that I’d usually say “Nope, we hate this, we’ve got to change it, we’ve got to get rid of this, we’ve got to change this block, last minute, whatever it is…”
I’m trying to not allow myself to do that this time. I really try to trust the process.how are you here
Foto: Nolwenn Lecompte/Samantha Julien
And could you explain that a bit further? I wonder.
– Well, my thought processes followed from the idea that if you physically listen to another person’s body, all you hear is blood, rushing heartbeats, breaths, and they’re all quite grounding and relaxing most of the time.
But if you listen to yourself, you don’t hear that; you only hear your heart if it gets out of control, and you only hear your own personal talk all the time.
And most of the time that personal talk is more critical than anyone else could be, especially for me… So, I’m kind of investigating that that balance between inside and outside.
Speaking about the body, having an injury can be very frustrating but can also open up other ways of moving while navigating the obstacle. I wonder which directions the knee injury has sent Nolwenn into.
– I’ve started focusing more on different things.I find that the style that is kind of nicest for my knee, and my most forgiving, maybe, is Gaga [improvisation technique developed by Ohad Naharin, EN]. And I’ve always loved that style anyway. But I am trying to kind of discover my own thing and take inspirations from things that feel good from lots of different styles of dance. Now I’m getting a little bit into `flying low´ [floorwork technique developed by David Zambrano, EN] and trying to see what feels good there, and if I can push myself or not, or if I’m going to injure myself.I’m just trying to explore which direction I want to take my work in… but what I enjoy most is experimenting with my own body and what it feels like doing and how that looks and what happens there.I’ve tried not to stick to any school of thought for this piece, because I want to really allow myself to explore fully, freely and just play with different movements and what feels good.This has been an interesting process where I’ve tried not to think too hard about certain things and more kind of trust the process in my head and think you know, what, highs, lows, lightness, heaviness, shapes, directions, whatever, just see where that takes me…
I’m making a very exploratory piece this time.