TEACHER PROFILE: LAUREN LANGLOIS
Originally from Western Australia, Lauren Langlois’ performance career has taken her around Australia working with the country’s leading companies and choreographers. Soon, it will lead her overseas to Europe for a new adventure with Peeping Tom (Belgium). Lauren first encountered Countertechnique in 2012 whilst working with Artistic Director Anouk van Dijk at Chunky Move, and became an accredited teacher in 2016. Her love of movement and embodiment of theatre is a special relationship that fuels her approach to dance.
By Madeline Harms
First, tell us a little about your background and when you started dancing:
I started dancing when I was five and did all of the different styles of dance, including ballet, tap, jazz, and theatrical. I went to a competition school and performed a lot in group works. When I was 16, I took some time off dance to focus on my academic studies. I then went to university to pursue being an actor, studying communication and cultural studies and a range of theatre and performance courses. After about two years I realised that I missed dance and decided to go back to it. I think the break was really good for me because it meant I could figure out who I was without dance and it gave me space to find what else I enjoyed. I studied classical ballet full-time for one year, then transitioned to contemporary dance, moving to Wellington to train at the New Zealand School of Dance.
How do you look back at your years of professional training?
My experience in New Zealand was amazing. I went from being in Perth at age 18, questioning what I was doing, to an explosion of new experiences and the world opening up at 20. I was learning things all over again. I loved being a student and this is something I have never let go of. Each opportunity to work with someone new, moving city or country, is an opportunity to learn and this will never get old.
Tell us a bit about your early career and experiences, and how you found yourself in the world of professional dance.
My first job outside of school was with Australian Dance Theatre, under the direction of Garry Stewart. It was a great first job because I had to cut and splice between many different styles in rehearsal and during performances. I felt thrown into the deep end. Reflecting back on that time now, I realise that my head was just above the water, but I survived it! I stayed with the company for three years and then my own artistic needs began to shift. I joined Sydney Dance Company shortly after and was there for one year and it was completely different. I went from a company that was very much about finding your unique identity and individuality as a performer, to a company that was more focused on the team aesthetic. It was just different and was another huge learning curve. As my time with Sydney Dance was ending I began the process of breaking out independently. There was definitely a fear there, as most dancers go through when beginning this journey, but I had a gut instinct that it was what I needed to do.
When was your first encounter with Countertechnique?
Soon after leaving Sydney Dance Company, I auditioned for Anouk van Dijk at Chunky Move in Melbourne. This was a big process and I had never been through an audition like that before. It was my first time experiencing Countertechnique and I remember Anouk pulling me aside one day, asking me to use less energy and to do less. It was the first time that someone had told me to focus on one thing at a time. In the past I had just thrown movement and ideas out there, what I thought the choreographers might like or what I had seen other people do. She told me to make a choice and stay with it and see where it would go, then once I wanted to move on, make another choice. She told me that this is what being an artist is all about, which was a huge light bulb moment for me. I had never had such clear direction.
The next day I approached the Countertechnique class in a whole new way. I reduced my energy by about 50% and just stopped trying so hard. I worked with this all day, taking the pressure off and making choices. I stopped trying to give other people what I thought they might want, and instead tried to enjoy the moment and be present. This is a big part of Countertechnique - seeing what is in front of you and taking each task as it is. This has become extremely valuable for me as an artist, to know that my ideas and what comes from me is enough.
Once you started your first creation with Anouk and training in Countertechnique, what did you find the major difference of approach that struck you the most?
The mood or the feeling of the classes and rehearsals was just very direct and straight to the point. There was a real clarity around what you need to do with your body and what the process is, without end-gaining. It was just a very clear and pragmatic approach.
How would you compare your warm-up and training before and after discovering Countertechnique? In approach to rehearsal and performance?
Anouk taught me to utilise everything I can in warm up so that I am ready for anything. I learnt how to figure out where my edges are in order to get myself warm and ready, so that I can be completely free and available to work efficiently. Before discovering Countertechnique, warming up for a performance was a mixture of classes and exercises that I would remember, as well as improvising on the spot and doing anything that would get me warm - but it would always zap my energy. Learning Countertechnique through Anouk, and having that to fall back on, has been really helpful. The structure of the class is now familiar and I know that it will get me warm and the movement and tools are in my body. It is something I can rely on and I know works.
Why did you decide to become a Countertechnique teacher?
I was beginning to make my own choreographic work and take on more leadership roles and I felt a natural pull to become a teacher as a part of that process. Anouk is a fantastic teacher and facilitator, who throughout the course of my career has shared a lot of valuable information. So I wanted Countertechnique to be the beginning of my teaching journey, wherever it would take me. It’s a great start in learning how to be a leader and how to deliver information clearly.
What do you like to focus on in your class?
The most important thing for me is to create a warm, friendly and comfortable working environment where people feel like they can ask questions. We can kind of have fun, tell a joke and not take ourselves too seriously. I think that many dancers feel a lot of pressure to perform and do everything right all the time. I like to ease the tension and make everyone feel good about dancing!
What is your favourite thing about teaching Countertechnique?
It’s a well-formulated class and I think that’s what I love the most about it. I really like the class skeleton and the structure. I like the way the exercises accumulate and build from one thing to the next; I think it’s really efficient. You can focus in on technique and then by the end of the class you can move big and use space. The approach and the use of tools is also wonderful. For me it is just so important to be able to articulate information and exercises clearly.
Soon you will be embarking on an exciting new chapter! Moving to Brussels, Belgium, to begin working with Peeping Tom. If you can, tell us a bit about the new project and how might you see Countertechnique playing a role in this new chapter?
Yes, it is a whole new adventure! A wonderful opportunity to hone in on my craft and what I really love about performance. I will get to work with new people, be in a new space, a new country and maybe even learn a new language. I just love how things can change so quickly.
Countertechnique will definitely play a role in this new performance project. I think everything I have learnt through Countertechnique will help me embody and perform the work. My role in the piece is quite theatrical and I will have a lot of text, but it will also be physically demanding. There is a section where I will need to throw myself, repetitively falling to the ground. This kind of movement cannot be “faked” or look like “safe dance”. There is an aspect that must look real and where theatricality comes into play - which is what I love. This will of course be very challenging!
Having trained in Countertechnique and having lived it in my body, I’ll be able to draw on those vital tools; to use energy efficiently and disperse it into space, be present in the moment and keep calm in order to be available to let go into it and not become tense thinking about the difficulty. I have to be in the present, in the task, and work with the double presence of being in my body and my surroundings at the same time. When you’re on you’re on!
The Countertechnique Teacher Profile Interview Series is a bi-monthly publication, initiated in October 2017. Madeline Harms is an Australian dancer and writer, currently based in Mainz, Germany. Learn more about Madeline on her blog Travelling Dancers.