Blog: Lola Maury

Like her dancers, the award-winning international choreographer goes in circles to explain her work

Hero image

“What do you do?”

“I’m a choreographer. I make dance.”

“Wow, great. And who do you make dance for?”

“Oh, I work on my own projects. I create pieces with dancers and put them on stage.”

“Oh right. So what is your work about?”


When you say “contemporary dance”, people often have a ready-made picture of the art form, which is frequently far from the work I make. I don’t make people wear tights or lycra. I don’t wake up in the morning and dance to Footloose. I don’t roll on the floor naked. I don’t have a political mission. And although I’m obsessed with movement, my interests lie much more in the feeling and atmosphere created by movement rather than purely the way it looks or the message it conveys.

Thinking about the meaning is not the starting point to what I put onstage. I don’t decide what I want to say and then find a way to put actions together to show my opinions. So when people ask me, “What is your work about?” I stumble through an answer that becomes super-technical and “dancey”. Scary words, such as “structure, rhythm, transformation, tuning in” – I either feel like an idiot or someone very pretentious, wanting to show off their knowledge of dance language and vocabulary.

So, let me stop, and think, and try to really explain, what my dance work is “about”.

Maybe the kind of dance I make would be better if it wasn’t necessarily described as dance. With Figurines the starting point was a question like this: “How can I create a piece for an audience that asks them to submit physically, and allows them to go on a journey with the performer?” What I came up with is a show really best described as an “experience”. It is very much about the whole bodily involvement – for the performer and the audience.

In Figurines the audience sit wearing earplugs, and can feel, through their body, the vibrations of a deep soundtrack played by subwoofers. You sit alone. You watch the dancer spin and spin. You can feel her movements and dizziness and you will her on to keep going, almost like you are feeding her the energy. At the same time you can cling to postures and images she makes through the tiniest switch in gestures. If there is “meaning” in Figurines, it is to back off with your mind and to just enjoy the ride! Stop making sense and just be there.

It is about sensations and experiences. Something intangible, something personal. So now I start using words such as “flow, energy, introspection, soma”. But this quickly makes people assume I’m a tree hugging hippy, or very self-indulgent. So I get again the question: “OK, what is it actually about?” And we go in circles.

Two to Tune on face value is about sports and competition. Yes. You can spot tennis players: boxers; tango dancing; people singing the national anthems. But this is not what the work is about. Mainly it is about rhythm and structures. It’s made with the wish to make people connect with the accents, the suspensions, the continuous motions, the pauses in the dancers’ body, and about the performers tuning in rhythmically together. Despite being full of imagery and visual references, it is mostly about trying to depict instinct and mutual understanding on stage. It is not just mathematical tools. It involves people. It needs the senses to empathise with the rhythm. I still remember from the premiere at The Place theatre the man in the audience bouncing his head and holding his breath on every pogo jump that the dancers would do together.

It’s a challenge to find words to connect with people’s emotions and sensations. I start using words like heartbeat, breathing, cricking of the bones… Which brings it back to something a bit more concrete, the body and its components.

Maybe it is just about slowing down. I just ask people to stop for a moment and notice themselves. That can turn some people off. Or, it can have the opposite reaction and I end up conjuring a metaphysical-guru-spiritualised personality – a meditation group, for wellbeing, with music and sound bath therapies, fasting, cleanses, retreats in the mountains, etc, etc! But this is not what the work is about.

So I go again in circles. Just like the dancer in Figurines.

Figurines is at Yorkshire Dance, Leeds, 7 Oct and Theatre in the Mill, Bradford 28 October and Lola Maury curates HU1, an evening of dance at Hull Fruit, 10 Oct

If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Blog: Lola Maury

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.