Jane Avril

Video still from artwork where artist Maria Norrman interprets and invokes dance artist Jane Avril.
The artist in a dancing pose, dressed in cancan clothing.

Various mediums
2004 – ongoing

This project is about French dance performer Jane Avril (1868-1943) who was a model and friend of Toulouse-Lautrec. From the very first time I saw images and photos of her, I’ve felt connected to her personality and artistic expression. It was like finding a soulmate, or a reflection of oneself.

Since 2004, I’ve tried in different ways to get close to her and her era, including reading and researching about her life, recreating her clothing style and wearing it as everyday wear, visiting her places in Paris, staging and interpreting her dancing.

Jane Avril – Solo Cancan Dance and Solo Dance
Two video loops
2018

Video still from artwork where artist Maria Norrman interprets and invokes dance artist Jane Avril.
The artist in a dancing pose, dressed in cancan clothing.
Video still from artwork where artist Maria Norrman interprets and invokes dance artist Jane Avril.
The artist in a dancing pose, dressed in cancan clothing.
Video still from artwork where artist Maria Norrman interprets and invokes dance artist Jane Avril.
The artist in a dancing pose, dressed in black 19th century clothing.
Video still from artwork where artist Maria Norrman interprets and invokes dance artist Jane Avril.
The artist in a dancing pose, dressed in black 19th century clothing.

No filmed recording exists of Jane Avril dancing, but written sources describe her movements as very energetic, erratic and jerky. She is described as having a refined strangeness and elegance. Avril improvised while performing and drew the movements from within herself.

In two video loops I try to channel her while performing and immerse myself in her stage persona. In the first loop I invoke her as the solo cancaneuse with an alluring, seductive smile, but with a hint of madness.

In the second loop she is the sombre slow dancer who improvises her movements as she channels a convulsive power from within, and sinks into a rapid, ecstatic twirl.

Performance documentation 
8 m x 40 cm, 314 x 15 inches
2004 

Video stills from artwork where artist Maria Norrman interprets and invokes dance artist Jane Avril.
The artist in a sequence of cancan dancing poses, dressed in a pink and red gown with a red hat
Video stills from artwork where artist Maria Norrman interprets and invokes dance artist Jane Avril.
The artist in a sequence of cancan dancing poses, dressed in a pink and red gown with a red hat

My first attempt at getting close to the movements and feelings of Jane Avril, by performing a self-taught cancan routine in front of an audience at my high school.

Photo documentation of performance in Paris
2006

Photo of the artist Maria Norrman dressed as dance artist Jane Avril, standing in front of a Toulouse Lautrec painting of her.

Photo by Åsa Pröjts

Between 2005-2006, the clothing style of Jane Avril and women of the 1890s was my preferred everyday wear. 

The majority of garments were made by me. Sometimes worn in a more performative manner as in the photo from the d’Orsay museum in Paris, but the majority of the time it was just the style I felt most comfortable with wearing since it made me feel connected to Avril.

The Dance Lesson
Video loop, silent
2018


Camera: Robbert Vera Ek

Video still from artwork where artist Maria Norrman partakes in a cancan dance class. She is taught by a teacher, along with two other participants.
Video still from artwork where artist Maria Norrman partakes in a cancan dance class. She is taught by a teacher, along with two other participants.

The Dance Lesson documents my participation in one of choreographer Monika Knap’s cancan dance classes in Paris. 

Although Avril wasn’t primarily a cancan-dancer, she did perform the dance at venues such as Moulin Rouge. 

This evocative and physically demanding dance, a symbol of bohemian Paris is here shown in training. The video loop shows movements, interaction and gestures of the students and teacher.