Sandrine Monin is a French dance artist, having danced, choreographed and taught for companies such as Phoenix Dance Theatre. She is currently in the research and development phase of creating her newest piece, ‘The Shopkeeper’, a duet between herself and actor Paul Dunphy. She takes some time to sit down to chat about her rehearsal process, what it has been like working with an actor and her advice for aspiring choreographers and theatre makers.
To start with, tell the readers a little bit about yourself.
My name is Sandrine Monin and I am a French dance artist. It is always hard to pinpoint exactly what I do! I am still a performer, I am a teacher and I am a choreographer. I have been living in England for almost eight years now. It has become my new home!
What can you tell us about what you are currently working on?
So I am devising a dance theatre work mixing contemporary dance and comedy, as well as theatre to raise awareness about mental health issues and depression.
What inspired the idea behind the piece?
I have had the idea in my head for a good year and a half, almost two years now and it’s slowly crept up because I have close ones, relatives, suffering from depression and I’ve also realised so many of my friends and people I knew were suffering. I felt like there was something that had to be said artistically because people tend to hide it and keep it for themselves and I think if we try to – even with art – talk about it and expose it then it is becoming less of a taboo and a stigma and people are a bit more open to talking about it.
What has been the most challenging throughout the process?
It was really interesting to work with an actor because I wanted to challenge myself to not get fully stuck in movement. As a dancer and a choreographer it is easy to just create material and I wanted to focus more on the story that I wanted to say. So having an actor and someone who is not necessarily a fully trained dancer forces me to look more into normal people, be more relatable for the audience, and being forced to get the narrative to exactly what I wanted to say. I want to use the movement to tell that story and not to get, kind of deviated by my love of movement and actually not reach the story.
What are your hopes for this piece once this week of research and development is over?
Getting to the actual production stage, getting the composer to make a whole piece, working with a designer, going back to the studio with my other performer, to just make it! After working with all those very, very inspiring people I have had coming in and doing the research, I feel like we will be ready to take it on to the next stage, put on the show and my aim is to perform it around the UK and to show it to people.
How has the process been so far?
It has been a bit of a rollercoaster, the creative process! It started slow, just working out who the characters were, what was the story we were trying to tell, and how to tell it. We were really experimenting, trying things and going like ‘yep that doesn’t work!’ or ‘yes maybe there is something there’. We had a lot of input from different creatives, from theatre and dance and a dramaturg.
The second week went really quick, we came up with twenty minutes of the work in like, two days. It felt like everything was falling into place and it was really, really exciting. We felt like we really had something and then the acting dramaturg came along and she looked at every single scene and every single detail. I know as a creator that is something you need to go through to take the show to the next level. She rejigged the piece, and we had this broken glass and we had to rejig it back together. This was the painful part of the process but it is really exciting also because you know that you need to go through it. You need to grieve some of your ideas to take yourself to the next stage when the story starts unravelling a bit more truthfully. It just keeps going like this, so a rollercoaster but overall it is great.
Do you have any advice for aspiring choreographers?
Curiosity. It is definitely something that has been helping me throughout my career. When I was a dancer I went to shows and watched videos, trying to get inspired. It’s the same as a choreographer, even more now I go to shows that are very diverse, from theatre, circus and dance, trying to see what inspires me. Look at life and what is happening around us. Be curious in life in general.
To find out more about Sandrine Monin’s work and to stay up to date with ‘The Shopkeeper’, you can follow the links below.