A short talk with Céline Janou Weder: Vienna State Ballet.
I was quite excited about this particular interview. Having already talked and discussed ballet and dance many times (and on the most various levels) with Céline Janou Weder, I had that certain feeling that time would not be enough.
I could not have been more right about it.
Sometimes it is quite challenging to talk to her, with her. Her points of view are precise, based on pure experience. I once wrote about her intelligent role readings (a comment which was quite misunderstood at the time, I must say) and ever since then, I have not stopped to think about this particular fact. This is what makes her dance more alive and exciting. She does not rely only upon the physical side of „the ball“ but seems to never stop questioning her reasons, motives, her „whys and becauses“, her „call“ for interpretation. Intelligently, brilliantly...
Many years ago I met Miss Weder for the first time exactly on the evening in which she had „fallen into a trap“. Now you will probably ask „What?“. And, to be quite frank with you, I mean exactly as I say it... Have you ever looked for the meaning of the word „trap“ in the dictionary? „A trap is a device which is placed somewhere or a hole which is dug somewhere in order to catch animals or birds“ or „ A trap is a trick that is intended to catch or deceive someone“. On Miss Weder's case, it was a combination of both... I was sitting in the audience during a performance of Natalia Horecna's „Contra Clockwise Witness“ in which Miss Weder was supposed to disappear all of a sudden falling, quite surprisingly for the public, into a „hole“ center stage. In this particular evening, there was some neglect from the production's technical side and the mattress that was supposed to be „down there awaiting her“ was simply not there. It is needless to speak about the shock. In fact, I can only mention that she did not leave the stage and managed to dance in „Études“. Chapeau!
I met her at the canteen after the show and it was visibly obvious that she was in „shock“.
„When did you arrive in Vienna?“
„Well, it was in 2008... this is my 11th Season at the Opera! Time simply flies... First I worked for two years at the Ballet Zürich, with Heinz Spoerli, but this experience was not exactly what I had expected. As a young girl I much admired Mr. Spoerli's company and I still do – especially all he did for the Ballet field in Switzerland! But perhaps I just did not fit into the company. After that, I spent three years in Basel – modern and modern... In fact, I did not only once use point shoes on stage... It was a very pleasant experience to work with Richard Wherlock. He gave an immense joy to dance. I would even call it „movement joy“! Yes... we worked with many modern choreographers„
„And then Vienna with its Opera Balls, Swarowsky crowns and „Schlagobers“? “ I smile...
Céline also smiles – she knows where I want to get to... „There was this little girl inside me that wanted to be a swan, Odette and Odile and it was a chance... White tutús, point shoes in a very „classical“ Opera House... I had planned auditions throughout the autumn I had just had a serious hip injury - but after my very first audition, here in Vienna, I got the job! This came as a surprise for many because they always thought of me more as a modern dancer, always sending me just in this direction... „
„Funny that you should mention that – one of your qualities that I most admire is the fact that you can do „both“ brilliantly: you can be a contemporary, strong modern dancer but you can also be „the“ classical dancer combining technique with a perfect style, adequate to each performance. Many international soloists and principals could learn from you. Not only Style but this adequate radiance that you bring to each role. You really stand out… “
She blushes a bit and says quite “It makes me very happy that you are saying this. It is very important for me... there are so many ballet languages, so many different styles and not only in the classic repertoire „
„And it should be said“, I say firmly, laughing, „that every ballet company would be very happy to have more dancers like you. I know many that can only do „this or that“. Many that can dance bare feet and are terribly insecure on their toes. Tell me about your training. The key to all this must be somewhere on your early training“
„I had the privilege to have Caroline Llorca as my teacher in Munich for two years. She was among the first „westerners“ to study at Vaganova's in order to become a teacher. She is French and she taught also Flamenco. She had at the same time „fire“, passion and temperament (that for me combines humour, character, disposition and ALSO temper!) which she cleverly mixed with „style“. Heads, lines, hands, fingers... nothing would go unnoticed!“
„The world is such a small place. I know her. I have interviewed her last January... And that is the fascinating thing about it. The generosity of one teacher giving all this knowledge to the next generation„. In fact, I wanted to ask a question – but it is too early for that... too early to ask this question... But wouldn't it be wonderful to have Miss Weder giving her knowledge for future generations? This feeling of „duality“ that should be so important to every company in order to have more versatile dancers?
Glad to have thought of that: duality...
„Back to 2008,“ I say, „This seems to be a very important year... many dancers that are still with the company auditioned that year!“
„Yes, you are right: Ioanna Avraam, Laura Nistor, Masayu Kimoto, Kiyoka Hashimoto, Eszter Ledan, Richard Szábo... „
„Dear Céline, when you start rehearsing for a new role... how do you get hold of the character in combination with the specific technical demands?“
„ The work at the studio, the understanding of the specific movement language is combined with the complete understanding of the coach's wishes... Style, basic forms, structures... and the comprehension of what the choreographer wants to „say“! Questions like „What is this role?“ are not quite easy ones to answer especially if you somehow separate the role in two parts: the physical and the emotional sides... and the personal interpretation of the role is completely connected with the body language...even though I always try to face the emotional side as a kind of „open end“, it keeps growing with time. I would not say „changing“. „Growing“ is a much more accurate word to describe that!“
„This all sounds so plausible but it is surely not an easy task...“
„Yes,“ she adds, „because one should not forget the personal freedom of one's own interpretation There is no „imitation“ of a role!“
„Please, tell me, in just some seconds, quite spontaneously: which are your favourite choreographers?“
„Kilyan“ and I must say that she needed only one second to answer that but she added shortly after that „Hans van Mannen“ and commenting „Pina Bausch and Crystal Pite are very interesting choreographers, I would love to get the chance to dance something from them“
„And about the technique's abuse and exaggeration... „
„Oh, Technique fascinates me but I chose to be a dancer. An artist. It is all about interpretation, different languages – we talked about that... Otherwise one should opt to be a gymnast... „ she laughs „But to be quite honest: I think this is going to change! People will begin to value the arts again“
After a second of reflection, I have only one thing to say: „Your word in God's Ear! And Thank you for such a nice talk...
A plesant afternoon full of joy, discoveries and various themes - yes, as usual, Miss Weder and I did not have enough time to talk about everything… but what else could we have expected? When should we start with the second part of this interview?