Interview with Miriam Gourfink

January 21, 2013 | By Kathryn Hamilton

French dancer and choreographer Miriam Gourfink presented her work this January as part of French Highlights, a survey of contemporary French choreography at venues around New York City.

Can you talk about the work you have been performing as part of ‘French Highlights’?

I presented three pieces at CPR this week:  Corbeau is based on the ability of the dancer to feel atmospheric pressure like a bird.  How to use muscles to feel the air:  to contract muscles or release muscles, or to be in relation with the air, and also a lot of consideration of orientation: like a migrating bird.  For Marine it is a solo based on the novel by the famous American writer Joyce Carol Oates, the novel is Black Water.  It’s about a girl locked in a car that is sinking, and she is trying to breathe.  So this is exactly the opposite, which is why it makes sense to present these two together.  [Marine] is all about how to feel inside this deep water and to try to breathe, to get some air, to go up to get some breath.  The last piece is much more of a performance, it’s about how to push myself through difficulty, because I am supposed to breath in a very thin way, according to the score, but I am always using my arms for support.  And when you use your arms for support, your breath is much more difficult to work with.  So this is the confrontation between these two.  That is why it is a monster, because it is like a monster who is trying to breathe. 

You’ve said that your work with the breath of the dancer is connected to their presence on stage.  Can you describe what kind of ‘presence’ you are looking for in your dancers?

I’m looking to feel better, or to give myself and the audience something 'bio' (organic, natural).  It’s an increased life inside the performance, for me, the dancer, and the audience.  It’s really about how to increase life.

Are there any American artists that have influenced you?

There are so many.  The one I really love is James Turrell, because it is all about frequency and vibration.  And in music it is La Monte Young. 

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