“A hypnotising, meditative trip.”
Not just for the audience but also for the dancers, choreographer Jasmine Morand – who often dances in her own production MIRE – knows. “Of course we expected that we would constantly see ourselves, looking in the mirrors, but it turned out to be different. Instead of twelve naked individuals we turn into one image together, one breath, one sound.” The viewer decides how to experience it all: standing and seeing the dancers’ bodies through the gaps in the installation walls, or lying down and seeing the dancers – and yourself – through a giant mirror like a live fresco.
She might be Swiss, but Jasmine Morand created her first choreographies in Rotterdam about sixteen years ago. She’s reliving memories of two early creations that were staged in the Laurenskerk and at Lantaren Venster. “Oh, when I think back on those pieces now,” she says, a little embarrassed. Before Morand (Zürich, 1977) came to Rotterdam, she had never once considered a career as a choreographer. She was educated in classical ballet in Geneva and at the Académie Princesse Grace in Monaco and went on to dance at the Ballet National de Nancy et Lorraine, Ballett Zürich and the National Ballet of Slovenia. “All three companies had a classical focus, but I didn’t really engage with what I was doing anymore. I missed the connection to the world around me.” That’s how the experienced ballerina ended up amongst modern dance students at Codarts Rotterdam in 2000. “That’s where the spark ignited. I created choreographies with other students, as a joke at first, I discovered Japanese Butoh dance and slowly but surely I got caught up in the current of choreography.” When she participated in Siwic, a Swiss coaching project for young choreographers, that spark grew into a passionate fire. “Until that moment I had only created pieces for myself. Here, I publicly worked with two, four, ten dancers; every moment was a new challenge and I discovered how much I enjoyed connecting to the dancers, how fundamental that dialogue with them is to me.”
In 2008, she founded her own company in Vevey, Switzerland, with the curious name of Prototype Status. “The first reason is that ‘Prototype’ is referencing my dad,” she says, laughing. “He built engines for race cars and always talked about prototypes. And also, I don’t believe we artists create anything. I believe that we dissect what already exists, regroup and then put back together in a creative and hopefully surprising manner. And with each new composition you create a new prototype.” She nods in agreement when I mention that George Balanchine – generally regarded as the greatest choreographer of the twentieth century – always said: ‘I do not create. God creates, I assemble.’
“Besides, I don’t want to take myself too seriously,” says Morand. “These days, you only need a bank account and some formal documents to have a company, on paper. I think that’s such nonsense, of course you don’t have a full-fledged company, you only have that ‘status’. Hence, Prototype Status.” Morand’s oeuvre now consists of about twenty ‘prototypes’ that she uses to offer the widest possible audience new experiences and points of view, despite her belief that almost everything has been done in some way or another. “I constantly ask myself questions about space and perception and imagine how I can challenge existing customs, for instance concerning the location and participation of the audience.”
In her 2012 duet Underground, she first played with the concept of voyeurism. The two dancers are in a semi-transparent ‘plexibox’ and the audience can choose how to approach the performance. “Underground was like the baby version of MIRE. It was meant to be a museum installation, people could walk in and out of the performance space. But,” she says, amused, “when they made a noise the whole system turned off and everything went dark.” She already toyed with the idea of naked dancers for Underground. “But I backed out because when you see a naked couple, most people immediately think of a romantic relationship.” MIRE is mostly about the shape and beauty of the naked body, she says. “Not just the raw beauty of the real body up close, but also the contrast of the sublimated, kaleidoscopic beauty of the reflections of the twelve bodies.” The mirror on the ceiling plays an essential part in that. “It creates a heavenly image, almost like the painted ceiling of a church. Moreover, the mirror helps you escape gravity: you can make the dancers float, in a way.” For the audience, according to Morand, MIRE is a moment of peace, an opportunity to ‘go on a journey’ and escape the reality of everyday life. “In 2017, MIRE was selected for the Swiss Dance Day, an event for theatre programmers. At those events people run from one performance to the next, all day long. But after seeing MIRE they came out relaxed, with a lovely look on their face that said, ‘thank you’. Some literally said: ‘That was just what I needed’.”
Author: Astrid van Leeuwen