This transcript is from an interview that was first published on 7th of November 2018, in the lead up to her Chunky Move season of Nether . This transcript has been edited slightly to help with clarity, the audio of this episode and more information can be found here.
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The interview started by asking where did dance start? [1:37]
Lauren Langlois: I just don't remember always being in debt - I started when I was five. My mum put my sister and I into dance. We joined some school called Shirley Holloway Dance Academy in Perth, and then after that we moved on a to school called Dance Arts. I was a bit of a comp kid… I did everything. Ballet, tap… we had a theatrical course back then, Jazz, contemporary, sort of came later. We were like what is this weird style that's coming up? I just kind of did everything. I did a lot of exams, and performed a lot in groups, and solos and duets, that sort of thing. I didn't really like it.
Andrew: What didn’t you like about it? [2:22]
Lauren Langlois: I used to get nervous, going to rehearsal. I'm putting myself out there and having to dance in front of people in a rehearsal setting I found really nerve wracking because I was quite a shy kid, a bit introverted. So, my stomach was always in knots, going to dance class. But whenever I was on stage for performance, I really loved it.
Andrew: So, you kind of live for that performance moment? [2:53]
Lauren Langlois: I don’t know about back then, but I used to be scared about performing. I would just be in knots, and I wouldn’t want to eat, and I’d be like “Mum, I don’t want to go!” and she'd be like,
Andrew: Was your mum a dance mum? [3:06]
Lauren Langlois: I think she's a bit of a closet dance mum. She didn't behave like any of the other Dance Mums. She wasn’t bitchy, she didn't say anything bad about any of the other students. She was really fair. To be fair to her, she saw something and wanted, to bring it out of me… I thought I didn't want to go because I was scared - but she wanted to push me.
Andrew: Do you still get nervous? [3:32]
Lauren Langlois: I've learned to deal with it in a different way. I get excited.
Andrew: When did that shift? [3:40]
Lauren Langlois: I think just with a bit more experience and confidence in myself and my abilities. But yeah, I still get nervous before every job. “Can I do this? I don't know.” I just sort of have these little conversations with myself. I don't think it's uncommon. It's just performance anxiety.
Andrew: Do you have any tricks to deal with performance anxiety? [4:19]
Lauren Langlois: No, I think it's all sort of embodied now. But when I was at dance school, in New Zealand I would make posters and put them up on my wall. Posters with sports people doing amazing feats and quotes and things like that. And I’d just read them aloud and do mind exercises. It's strengthening for the mind. And it's kind of weird, but I have a fascination with Rocky Balboa, the boxer. I've watched all his movies in my training years, just again and again. And I don't know, I just really connected with him.
Andrew: You are on stage and people are watching you, so to have some nerves around that is unsurprising. Most people in their work lives will have nervous moments before a meeting or something. But, their whole job is not performed in front of other people in the same line. You've worked a lot as a dancer, but you've also kind of crossed over into acting. Do you recognize any distinctions between the dancing body and the acting body? [5:36]
Lauren Langlois: I approach what I do, especially with performance, from the perspective of an actor. I work a lot with narrative and figuring out a story for myself, or a reason for being on stage from the beginning to the end. And it's mostly just an internal sort of dialogue or world that I create for myself. And, I think I've always done that, I need that reason. I think I'm also a bit of a closet wannabe actor. I studied acting throughout school, and then after high school, I went to Curtin University and did a communication and cultural studies course. I only did it for a year and a half. I just took up all the acting performance courses and sucked in as much information as possible. I had a secret dream to audition for NIDA, or WAPPA - to go down that path. But, then I had an instinctual feeling a year and a half into the course that, I was only 18 - I didn't feel like I had enough life experience. I was very sheltered, growing up. So, I thought, I'll go back into dance, and I'll create my own path and end up on the other side as an actor in some way, shape, or form, because I love physical theater. And I always wanted to do that. I think in some ways I have found that, through this journey in my life.
Andrew: Does the dance facilitate the voice and other aspects of acting, like the interpretation of text? [7:26]
Lauren Langlois: Yeah, like when I worked with Anthony Hamilton, Keep Everything - he had a lot of tasks and exercises that used the voice and certain practices, and I learned a lot from that. Working with Anouk, I've been able to exercise my acting muscles especially in Complexity of Belonging with Falk Richter. They both really pushed that side of me. You could see that they wanted to bring it out. In terms of practicing voice and things like that - it's instinctual mostly. I have certain exercises and things I like to do as a part of my process. I do need to use my voice, but they are just things I've learned along the way or picked up from other actors.
Andrew: You have that skill set. You have a very powerful voice. It’s always quite fun when dancers are asked to speak, and, they don’t have the skills or the technique or they haven’t been fostered to bring it out. You’re confident in that space. Every time I see you use your voice, it’s been very embodied and grounded. Moving from acting and dancing in to choreography, what’s that like? The process is very different. [8:27]
Lauren Langlois: Oh, there's a lot of reflection going on. It feels like I’m in the middle of a hurricane, or storm, and it's all circling around me, and I'm just trying to come to terms with it all. It's been quite an organic process in some ways. Since joining Chunky Move in particular, I've been asked to give my own creative input a lot during the work. So yeah, all of the research… I'm sorry, I've lost my train of thought.
Andrew: That's fine. I mean, obviously, that transition from dancing to choreography happens for some people quite naturally, or it’s the drive, for other people there is no interest. What are the things you reflect upon? [10:10]
Lauren Langlois: [10:16]: I have all this information in my body, through working with many different choreographers, and having some incredible experiences on stage as a performer. It’s like this moment of a blank canvas - I don't really know where to start. This part of me, that's like, what are you going to start with? What are you interested in? Last year is when my interesting choreography started to come to the surface. I had my first development in Berlin when I received this tiny revelation of where do I begin? And I found that I was interested in starting from a theatrical perspective, so I really am inspired by a lot of theater-based methodologies, like Stanislavsky, Peter Brook, Mike Leigh … even clowning exercises. I like to take some of those exercises and work with them in a way where I can eventually find movement or physicality from them. I guess that's the start. But, when thinking about my Next Move piece, I think do I want to use text? or how do I use my voice? Or how do I bring everything I know into this one work? Then I also feel like I need to take the pressure off and just start at the beginning. What kind of movement am I interested in? And let's go from there and craft movement and see what comes out. It's a bit of a process. It's exciting, but I'm overwhelmed by the experience. In a good way.
Andrew: Has it changed the way you have watched dance in the last year? [12:06]
Lauren Langlois: [12:12] Yeah. Specially to do with time, I mean not all pieces are one hour pieces, but I like to watch dance and think about the journey of time, and what happens at a particular moment. I think about pace and when I'm most interested in the dance, or when I lose interest. I think a lot about performance… my experience as a performer is something I would love to give to other dancers, especially to do with creating characters and monologues. I really am interested in that and bringing out internal states, so I would love to impart that knowledge. I'm just trying to figure out maybe ‘how?’ I watch dance really differently - I think when you're a young dancer, you kind of think “Ooh, look at that cool move!”
Andrew: I hear that all the time! Choreographers may be thinking about the bigger picture and how the bodies are working together, as opposed to honing technique or individuals’ personalities. Having worked with so many choreographers, is there anything you have borrowed or learned and added to your reflection process? [13:13]
Lauren Langlois: Yeah… I have worked for Anouk for a long time – the past seven years. And her fascination was always to do with bringing out the individual. She focuses on a person's identity or who they are. It’s been a big part of my process and revealing myself. I think we connect that way creatively, because for me, it's important to be in a vulnerable space as a performer and as a choreographer and as a dancer, so that my instincts can come out – without them, I don't really know what to do.
I really like the way Sydney works with energy in a space. I think it's fascinating the way you'll be watching this beautiful sort of craftsmanship, something that's going on, and then suddenly, you're somewhere else and it's a different physicality – a different moment in time. Like, how did I get there? She really tricks the eye – I think that's remarkable.
I'm inspired by Prue Lang and the way that she works. The process is amazing… just her meticulous nature and the way that she dives into movement and works out the complexity of moving. I've never worked with anyone who does that before. I feel like I've learned a lot from her.
I admire Anthony Hamilton for his sets of play and how that is worked into his development. I've learned a lot from him. He's someone that uses his instincts really well. When we were in the creative process of Keep Everything, it was wild… we would come into the studio, I had just come from Sydney dance company, where it was like, boom, boom, boom, we do this, let me do this. It was a very structured and audited environment, but I struggled with it. Don't get me wrong, there was a lot of good in it. It was great environment for me to be in that I learnt a lot from. It's a very particular way of working, though. You can't just go into the space and be like, ‘this is how I am today, and I'm going to be in this mood’ - you must gauge the energy and work with everyone as a team. And that's something I learned from that. But with Antony, working with Keep Everything, we would come into the studio, and he would just start playing games. And he'd be like, ‘Let's do this now! what's going on next?’ But it was just his way of allowing the creative juices to flow. A sense of play. I think that's really important in the process.
Andrew: What are you trying to explore with the work you are creating now? [16:56]
Lauren Langlois: We've been exploring a lot about embodiment of internal states, and how those states can translate or transform into a choreographic form of language. So, looking at what is underneath the surface, what rests inside the body and how that can come out into the outside world. This started back in Berlin, Tanya Liedtke Fellowship. I commissioned a friend of mine to write a story about a dystopian world, where specific scenarios and circumstances happen, and I use that story as a platform to jump from and create my own. I got the dancers to create characters within the story, through a lot of these theatre-based methodologies that have been I have researching. They based their characters off people that they know, and then created their own mannerisms, idiosyncrasies, traits, and ways of walking in a space – creating their own kind of movement language. And then I took one of Stanislavsky’s sense memory animal exercises and got everyone to research their favorite animal - the way they gait, the way they breed - all those sorts of things. And then I took them to the park and we played our animals, so it was fun, but a lot was gained from the exercise. What I wanted them to do was to pick out certain textures and qualities of these animals, and then I wanted to splice them with the research from the dystopian characters and put them together to create these otherworldly creatures that move in a very particular way. So, that's kind of where it all started, and for this next project I wanted to take that world we created and just kind of use it as the starting blocks. I see it like Star Wars, how you have like all these different sequels and epilogues and prologues, all these different versions. Next Move works in a similar way - it's derived from the same but it's a different story altogether, it's following one person's journey. It was a duet and now I’m making it solo.
Andrew: Did changing from duet to solo alter the dynamic of the performance? [19:45]
Lauren Langlois: I think it does. In the last development, Jimmy & I worked a lot on bringing out these internal states and running these different images and stories and memories and it took a long time to establish a movement vocabulary between us. We worked a lot one on one, getting feedback, coaching, and working as directors with levels - bringing out certain levels of the states and bringing them back down. It was a very one on one process. We did some duet work together, but I don't know if we ever really connected or found a way of traveling together in that world. I found it quite hard being on the inside and then having to step out and craft it. Some people can do it well, and John Lloyd is a master. I felt like it was a big feat, and I had to be real about the decision… I had a long think about it, and I would much rather for this opportunity, as big as it is, to be on the outside and just keep that one job my everything. I'm good at focusing my energy on one thing at a time.
Andrew: I guess in some respects being in that room and having that relationship that already established, you are still in somewhat of a duet. [21:10]
Lauren Langlois: Yeah, it’s just in a different way.
Andrew: What animal would you have picked for the park exercise?
Lauren Langlois: I was also taking part in the task. It was a giraffe.
Andrew: Why a giraffe?
Lauren Langlois: I really like giraffes, they are a bit long and lanky, I think that they're an interesting animal. I had this moment where I was inside of a bush, and I started eating these leaves that were on this tree thinking, “yeah, this is what a giraffe would do.” And I didn't realize but the leaves are like this poison. I got all these bumps on my skin, and it was really itchy. My tongue got a little bit swollen. So that was interesting. Had to go to the chemist to buy something.
Andrew: Giraffes know what leaves they can and can’t eat.
Lauren Langlois: Exactly! For such a long time, I've just been absorbing a lot of information, and often collaborating, but that conversation is now changing. I’m aware of the fact that I'm someone who internally processes a lot, and it's hard for me sometimes to share my process because it is so internal, ingrained, and embodied… it's a real shift.
Andrew: That can become so automatic because it's just what you do. It's just how you get up, and that's how you work in a room. And it just becomes part of your practice. Is it hard? [23:06]
Lauren Langlois: Yeah! It’s hard trying to keep it connected to the vision but knowing that the vision will shift and change as the work progresses. Because I am such an instinctual person, I really trust in the process and allowing things to evolve and come up, so the work can make itself along the way. I completely plan, I go in with an idea of what I want to get done, and what I’m looking for, but I also process it. Things come up along the way and surprise me. It can be hard, in a dance context, to write or talk about your work before it's made – I think it's a real art. And then some people do know what they want to make, and they come in with a very clear idea of how to go about it. I find that fascinating.
Andrew: Yeah, you’ve got to an articulate an idea so clearly, but you still don’t really know what you’re doing yet.
Lauren Langlois: You must talk about your process, and even then, you don’t know. It’s really good practice. I’m looking forward to more opportunities.