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.

A Self-Taught Cancan Routine
Photographs, each image 40 x 35 cm, 15 x 13 inches
2004 

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.

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

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

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

This photo is taken in 2006 at Musée d’Orsay in Paris. I’m standing dressed in this style in front of a painting of Jane Avril. The photo shows how the 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.

The format of the photo is life size, for the the figure of me to mirror the viewer.

Jane Avril – Maria Norrman – WORK IN PROGRESS
Video with voiceover
2020 – ongoing

With a voiceover, I speak about my feelings concerning my relation to Jane Avril.
From my first performances to more recent work. The loop includes video material from the self-taught cancan routine from 2004 and my participation in a cancan dance classes in Paris in 2018. In other segments I comment on making the Solo Cancan and Solo Dance loops.

I also show and comment on images where I compare her and myself.

Jane Avril – Maria Norrman – Timeline – WORK IN PROGRESS
Wall text
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 the time span, and shows both similarities and differences in hers and my life.