Jane Avril

Various mediums
2004 – ongoing

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

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.

A Self-Taught Cancan Routine
Video stills on dibond, 30 cm/11 inches height
2004, 2021 

A Self-Taught Cancan Routine – Entrée
166 x 30 cm/65 x 11 inches
A Self-Taught Cancan Routine – Battement
166 x 30 cm/65 x 11 inches
A Self-Taught Cancan Routine – Agrandir
70 x 30 cm/27 x 11 inches
A Self-Taught Cancan Routine – Roue de Charette
134 x 30 cm/53 x 11 inches
A Self-Taught Cancan Routine – Coup de Cul
101 x 30 cm/40 x 11 inches
A Self-Taught Cancan Routine – Après Grande Écart
101 x 30 cm/40 x 11 inches

Documentation of 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.

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.

Jane Avril – Solo Cancan Dance
Video loop and installation
2019, 2021

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.

Jane Avril – Solo Dance
Video loop and installation
2019
, 2021

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.

Au Musée d’Orsay
Photograph, 120 x 85 cm/47 x 33 inches
2006, 2021
Photo by Åsa Pröjts

The photo is taken in 2006 at Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
Between 2005-2006, the clothing style of Jane Avril and bohemian women of the 1890s was my preferred everyday wear. 

I’m standing in front of the Toulouse-Lautrec painting ”Jane Avril Dancing.” The photo shows how several layers of time interact and collide – the 1890s painting with its frame, me in the style of that era, photographed in 2006 with an analogue camera – the standard photo method of that time.

Jane Avril – Maria Norrman
Video loop with voiceover
2020 – ongoing

In the video I describe my sincere and obsessive relation to Jane Avril. The video includes filmed material from my first performance in 2004 to more recent work like my participation in a cancan dance class in Paris 2018.

In other segments I comment on the making of the Solo Cancan and Solo Dance loops. I also show images of myself and her in different ages and situations.

Jane Avril – Maria Norrman – Timeline
Text, MDF, wood
280 x 52 cm/110 x 20 inches
2020 – ongoing


A timeline where mine and Jane Avrils lives are mapped out.
While her timeline goes from her birth to her death, mine is still ongoing, and to be added to as I age.

This work gives an overview of her life, mine in relation to the project, the time span, and shows both similarities and differences in hers and my life.