Interview: Meet the teacher - Diana Le Quesne

Wednesday 30 November 2016

Diana Le Quesne 
Photo: Nic Gotch

Diana trained in classical ballet in L’Aquila, Italy, the city of her birth. She started by studying Contemporary Dance and Mime at the age of 13, and later on, continued in Florence at the Bottega del Piccolo Teatro directed by Orazio Costa. After obtaining a degree in Architecture, she moved to Milan where she combined her love of design, dynamic movement and digital to experiment with relational aesthetics.

From 1996-2009, Diana combined running her own design studio with teaching at Milan University, exploring disruptive forms of expression – mixing print, installation and immersive multimedia. In 2000, Diana began collaborating with the Ta Matete living gallery, an experimental art gallery in Rome. Ta Matete provided Diana with a platform to mix her passion for theatre, dance and digital. She realised a series of immersive multimedia installations that invited gallery visitors to become protagonists in the space, through collaborations with local dancers, musicians, video artists and coders.

From 2005-2013, she continued to work across genres by fusing interactive design and fashion (Prada, Costume National, Guru), dance and multimedia (Hybridome with Ariella Vidach and Claudio Prati).

In 2011 she came back to dance, her first passion. In 2013 she started to teach classes for women over 30 only. Alongside the classes Diana is exploring new ways to tell their stories which mix reportage, mixed media, movement and everyday life.

How did you start dancing?
I started very young, at around 5 years old and from a pure love of dance! There was no pressure from my parents, who are academic and always pushed me to do my homework first. I felt dancing in my heart and for many years I planned to be a ballerina or an actress – I liked to move my body and dance in a group. I lived in a small city with few opportunities but was lucky because the closest school to my home was very good! It was run by a teacher who was very passionate and used to call in teachers from Rome. We were coached in the Vaganova Method and danza moderna with the choreographer Renato Greco.

Who have been your heroes and inspirations in dance and in life?
I have many heroes and I’m always inspired (it’s like a curse), greedy to find and discover more from others…..

Pina Bausch is definitely my first hero at the moment because her dancers look like ordinary people dancing with a great awareness of their bodies. As the quality of the movement is genuine and the intention is pure it allows dance to become a great and powerful tool to communicate emotions. What intrigues me is the irony, the research of movements, the great geometry and the sharpness of her storytelling.

Twyla Tharp is huge inspiration for the use of such a large vocabulary, music and mix of movements. There are no limits to the mix of genres and I find this brave and poetic: brave because she doesn’t hide behind a genre, and poetic because when good movements come together to flow in a sequence, the result is a new composition and aesthetic.

Lester Horton and Alvin Ailey because they gave dance back to the people and they used dance as a communication system rather than a representation. Also because I really believe in the Lester Horton dance conditioning technique as a fast track to bring people to dance with a full range of motion.

In life I’m fascinated by many different icons from Diane Arbus to Harry Houdini, Laurie Anderson, Vanessa Beecroft – in general artists who love diversity and aren’t afraid to follow their own ideas. Creativity can be really powerful when it’s part of your skin. Sometimes it’s better to explore less and consolidate more rather than following your passions randomly – I still need to learn this! In life Laurie Anderson is definitely one of my idols for her sharp, sweet mind and because her art is genuinely how she is. Her way to tell stories is how she feels; there are no gaps between herself and her art.

Your motto is?
A Buddhist one: don’t expect applause – it means relax your expectations, try to be yourself and do what you feel it is right and good…so I now understand that I don’t necessarily need to arrive somewhere. I’m enjoying the journey I’m on because its unexpected. After many years working on the edges of movement with models and other artists, I’m back to my original language of body movement . I explore this process with ordinary people, doing ordinary movements to discover the limits of our bodies. The question is how can we create a extraordinary expression using our bodies within limits? We are forever growing.

What drives and motivates you in your work with women over 40?
My clients include models, actresses and dancers but also a lot of professional, intelligent and qualified women who lack of self-confidence when they are not at work. Women are restricted by families, work, failing marriages… There’s a lot of pressure on women constantly to think that some women can be perfect but they’re not. My work is about releasing that pressure in 3 ways: 1) we’re okay with not being perfect, 2) we can become more self aware and self confident using our body ‘let the beast go…. ‘ (giggle) 3) efficiency: we spend less effort but achieving more!

You’ve been teaching classes in London for over 3 years, and your classes are always popular. How do you keep it fresh?
I describe myself as a very impatient human being! My first client is myself and I hate to do the same things all the time. I like to change exercises and combinations, try new things. I started my own routines based on dance conditioning workouts. I didn’t invent anything new, but the combination of centre and barre, cardio and stretch seems to work for women after 30 and the body becomes stronger, lean and feminine. Freshness is achieved through the conversations we have while we exercise…and we change the routines every day, apart from warm up and cool down.

What’s been the best dance advice you’ve been given and by whom and why was it such great advice for you?
‘Make things simple’ – just do what you can and do it well, given to me by Daniel Squire who was helping me with my back injury and to come back to pirouettes. It opened a door.

Have you had the opportunity to be an advocate for dance, e.g.public support role of dance / arts something like e.g. British Council Ambassador?
I’ve been in the UK since 2011, so not yet, but I’m building a community of women dedicated to dance as a form of release. This group/dance company, Women Dance:10×4×2, which was created from women who take part in my classes, have been working with me, thinking about our lives and creating choreographies based on our stories. Through an interview and documentary format we are analysing and transforming our experiences into movement. I have Heather Robinson, a great Australian producer from the Silversun Media Group, who produce educational programmes, working with me. Kay Roberts is setting up a charity which will help us to involve women in other areas of London and the UK to create a form of art installation in which dance supports the community enabling women to release their emotions, develop a sense of belonging and bond with other women. No words needed, or pictures, just interactions.

Women Dance 10×4×2
The mission is for women between 40 and 80 to form a free dance company comprised of more than 40 dancers. The company is a mix of desire to dance and fitness training but feeds on life experience.

How do you spend your down time?
3 children, a husband, not much free time to go down town…anyway Tate, Sadler Wells, the Boogaloo in Highgate…


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