Since 2011, Claire has been a part of Malandain Ballet Biarritz. Her formal dance training took place at the Dance School of the Paris National Opera from 1998 to 2001. After continuing her training at the European Dance Center, Claire was admitted to the CNSMD in The Conservatoir de Paris and she then joined the Junior Ballet in 2005. Before joining Malandain Ballet Biarritz, she worked with Zurich Ballet and the The Finnish National Opera and Ballet in Helsinki. Recently, in 2015, Claire obtained the National Diploma in teaching dance.
Why do you dance?
Because I can't "not dance!" Dancing is my passion and after so many years dancing it became kind of "addictive." It makes me feel free and confident—something I'm not in real life. I'm shy actually, and it allows me to be somebody else.
What do you do to prepare for a show?
I usually start to prepare for the performance two hours before. First, I have a little snack, something efficient like a banana or cereal bar, but not too heavy because I need to feel "light" during the show. Then I prepare myself by doing my make-up and hair. Then one hour before, I start to warm up my body and sometimes redo some of the steps which are a bit "risky and stressful." And to finish, I put my costume on and that's it, I'm ready to perform!
What does a typical day in your life look like?
As we tour a lot, I would say that a typical day for us is a day on tour. So, in that case, I wake up around 9:00 am and go have breakfast. Then I usually have two or three hours to rest either in the hotel or take a walk in the city where we are performing, so I have a chance to discover the attractive sights.
Then I go to the theater. This is the real beginning of my "working day." I will slowly start to warm up for the ballet class which is usually around 2:00 pm.
After that, we have corrections from the previous show and we repeat some parts which were not working well, or we can also do a full run-through of the show if it's been a long time since doing the ballet.
If you weren’t a dancer, what would you be?
That's a very hard question! And I'm afraid I don’t know. I'm just hoping that I would have found a job which gives me as much passion and joy as being dancer.
What is life like with Malandain Ballet Biarritz? What is it like working with/for Thierry Malandain?
Life with Ballet Biarritz is everything except routine. As we change locations every day, each day is different and there is no way to get bored. It's also hard sometimes to not be at home so much and to live in your suitcases, but the enthusiasm that the audience gives us at the end of the performance helps us to go on.
To work with Thierry is a pleasure. As a choreographer, he is particularly musical and very attentive to his dancers; he is always open and available to us if we need to talk which is a great quality as a director. His creativity and his capacity to always surprise us with new ideas is a blast for us.
What is your role in La Belle et la Bête? Why is the piece so special/unique?
In this ballet, I'm doing the "Belle." For me, what is unique in this version of Beauty and the Beast from Malandain is the way Thierry chooses to treat the story. By using three additional characters (the artist, his soul, and his body), he brings a double meaning, "a tale within a tale," which is particularly interesting and gives a special deepness to the original narrative story. For this, he got very inspired by the version of Jean Cocteau who also used the character of the "artist" and many other symbols such as the key, the glove, or the mirror.
At the end, the most important is that all audiences can be satisfied. Either the little child who is happy to recognize and follow the love story between Beauty and the Beast, or the more knowledgeable public who is happy to be able to read different tellings of the story.
What is your biggest challenge in performing the piece? What is your favorite moment in the show?
I would say that the biggest challenge for me in this piece is to not fall into automatism. As we are performing it a lot, the biggest risk is to lose the freshness that you can have in the beginning and to not be as spontaneous as before. I always try my best to keep my reaction as natural as possible so the public can be touched and involved in the love story.
My favorite moment in this ballet is very quick and subtle, but it's the "last look" Belle gives to the Beast, after he allows her to come back home to see her sick father and before she leaves him alone to get back her family. It's not a long moment but it's very intense and powerfully touching because we can already feel the love between them.
What is your favorite part of the dance creation process?
My favorite part is in the creation process is definitely the time shared in the studio with Thierry. The moment of "trying", which will make the new vocabulary of the ballet. It can be very funny moments, intense moments, or even emotional moments. It's like a blank page where everything is possible to write.
Where is the most beautiful place you’ve ever been?
That's the hardest question ever—I can hardly choose one! The first that comes to mind would be maybe the Basque coast and its unforgettable sunsets.
Thank you for attending the performance by Kidd Pivot/Electric Company Theatre! Did you attend the film screenings or performance preview? Did you make it to the post-show talk? What did you think of the show? Join the conversation!
Choreographer Crystal Pite and writer/actor/dancer Jonathon Young co-created this piece based on Young’s experiences with tragedy, loss, grief, and coping. While I had been a German major in college, I hadn’t come across the concept of ‘betroffenheit,’ a complex term lacking a specific English translation, but that loosely refers to a state of shock and bewilderment, and of feeling unsure how to proceed in the face of a violent or distressing event.
There are two sections to the performance. The first half of Betroffenheit portrays the inner workings of the mind through repetition of speech and movement—how one replays scenes and thoughts over and over after a tragic event. The five dancers of Kidd Pivot eerily interacted and manipulated each other and Young, representing Young’s traumatized mind and the demons he constantly fights. They also acted as part of a gaudy cabaret act that portrayed his addiction as a coping mechanism and substitute for emotion. It is a thoroughly engaging mix of modern dance, tap, Fosse-influenced choreography, and salsa.
The second half of Betroffenheit is more focused on pure dance—brilliant, complex, and raw. A duet between dancers Tiffany Tregarthen and Cindy Salgado features perfectly synchronized sequences of unforgettable robotic/street dance moves. In addition, a solo by Jermaine Spivey was mind-blowing—superhuman, powerful, and elegant.
Betroffenheit is a truly unique mix of dance and theater unlike any I have ever seen. It is simultaneously nightmarish and spellbindingly beautiful. I was awestruck by how accurately Young and the Kidd Pivot dancers portrayed the post-trauma mind and one’s efforts to cope with loss and overpowering grief. Describing the piece in brief, I would say that it is filled with raw emotion and dramatic perfection. It grabbed my soul and drew me in from the first mind-boggling moment. I am not sure if I moved—or even breathed—during the entire performance.
I walked out of the theater awestruck by the strength and synchronized precision of the dancers, the visually engaging set, lighting, and effect, and the fascinating puppetry. I am extremely excited that our Northrop patrons will be able to witness the power of Betroffenheit, and I will be sure to see it both nights in Minneapolis!
Last spring when the Northrop marketing department was first presented with the 2016//17 Dance Season line-up, one show immediately stood out to me. Perhaps it was because of the promo photos—where our season was filled with the trademark confectionary ballets and ground-breaking contemporary performers we expected—the stark and unsettling photos of a dancing clown and asylum-like set just didn’t fit.
Or, perhaps it was because the show was explained to us as a “dance-theater hybrid,” a form that broke the mold of the traditional dance performances Northrop presented, and to a self-proclaimed theater nerd like myself, that was incredibly exciting. Or, maybe it was because this macabre mystery show was based on a true story and had an equally mysterious name: Betroffenheit. Whatever it was, I was intrigued.
Color me thrilled when learned I would have the chance to attend a performance at the Newmark Theater in Portland, Oregon last April. I had read the show’s promotional materials, learned that Betroffenheit was the product of a partnership between choreographer Crystal Pite (of dance company Kidd Pivot) and Electric Company Theatre’s Jonathon Young. I dug around some more and found that Young, a Vancouver-based stage and screen actor (who had roles in some major films over the years including The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and The Fog) began creating Betroffenheit in response to a personal tragedy (the passing of Young’s teenage daughter, nephew, and niece during a family trip).
With that knowledge, I wasn’t sure what to expect from Betroffenheit. The loss of a loved one is arguably one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome, but the sudden and tragic loss of a child is something I couldn’t begin to comprehend.
The German word “Betroffenheit” has no exact English translation. The closest equivalent we have is “consternation,” and that’s the very predicament I found myself in after seeing this unbelievable piece of theater. I had no idea how to properly and fully explain what I had seen to my colleagues when I returned to Minneapolis.
The story is not your average re-telling of the stages of grief. Nor is it the typical narrative warning of the consequences of addiction. Betroffenheit invites you into the mind of an individual who has experienced unspeakable tragedy, only to find himself battling an entirely different enemy: his own inner demons, the result of the “perfect storm” of PTSD and addiction.
The demons present themselves as characters in “The Show”—likely an allusion to Young’s profession, or from the need to go through the motions of daily life after a tragedy like he experienced.
“The Show” presents a vivid and emotional picture of PTSD and addiction, using flashy costumes, clever theatrical effects and dialogue, Broadway-caliber staging, and superb acting by the small-but-mighty cast. At times, the show used humor—a welcome break from the intensity—bringing a sense of levity to Young’s seemingly unavoidable descent into madness.
And then there’s the dance! Just like the title of the show is untranslatable, so are many of the emotions elicited throughout the performance. When words failed Young, the choreographic genius of Crystal Pite was there to carry him through.
The dancers in Betroffenheit are physically transcendent, transitioning throughout the show—first representing the menaces within Young’s troubled mind, but then evolving into the necessary evils he must defeat to reclaim his life. I found myself holding my breath during a profoundly moving dance sequence in the second act, hoping the increasing intensity and desperation portrayed through the frantic movements would break, affording him a sense of peace at the end of his journey.
In my opinion, Betroffenheit is one of the most important pieces of dance-theater performing today. It is one of those shows that stays with you, forcing you to look within and ask yourself how you’d react to the same situation. Anyone lucky enough to see this show witnesses Jonathon Young relive—during every performance—the very tragedy that stole his young family, but also the very thing that got him through his darkest times. It is beyond riveting.
As The Guardian stated, Betroffenheit is one of the “must see” dance events of 2017.