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. 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 and building a shrine in her honor (work in progress).
Jane Avril - Solo Cancan Dance and Solo Dance
Two video loops
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 had a sort of refined strangeness and elegance.
I've reimagined her performing and recorded two of her dances, and tried to immerse myself in her stage persona.
In the first dance I invoke her as the solo cancaneuse with an alluring smile turned seductive with a hint of madness.
In the second dance she is the sombre slow dancer who improvises her movements, channeling a convulsive power from within to get into a rapid ecstatic turning.
A selection of still images from a performance documentation
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 clothing made by me, worn in Paris
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 with the photo from 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
The Dance Lesson documents a cancan dance class by choreographer Monika Knap in Paris. Although not your regular cancan-dancer, Jane Avril did perform the dance at venues such as Moulin Rouge. I took lessons and learned the basics of this very demanding and often ridiculed style of dance.I took the knowledge from the dance lesson and used it to reimagine Avrils special form of cancan for the video loop Jane Avril - Solo Cancan Dance.