By Nicole Birmann Bloom
1. Maguy Marin started as a ballet dancer
After 10 years of training in ballet, Marin began studying at MUDRA, Maurice Béjart's famous multidisciplinary school in Brussels (1970-1988). She then joined his company, Le Ballet du XXème siècle, and toured. After working briefly in theater, she decided to go on her own, and created Le Ballet Theatre de l’Arche; she emerged in the late 1970s as part of the French new wave dance scene.
2. She incorporates elements of theater in her work
Right away, she stood apart from the other choreographers of that period for her strong dance theater aesthetics integrating the use of the voice, objects, sound, and music.
3. Compagnie Maguy Marin is an ensemble of collaborators
They are companions and collaborators including dancers, composers, administrators, and more. Together they have created 48 dance theater pieces such as May B, RamDam (seen at The Joyce Theater in 1999), Les Applaudissements ne se mangent pas/One Can't Eat Applause, and Umwelt, both seen at The Joyce, the first in 2004, the later in 2008.
With her ensemble, Maguy Marin has been the director of two national choreographic centers in France, one in Creteil, in the suburbs of Paris, the second in Rillieux-la-Pape near the city of Lyon. At both centers, Marin and her ensemble were heavily involved in the communities they inhabited.
Marin and her team now run an independent arts center called RAMDAM, also located near Lyon. RAMDAM offers dance training and residences for artists; The team is active within its current community, and have created several partnerships with organizations throughout France.
4. Two of her works have been performed more than 450 times
The first, May B, created in 1981 was inspired by texts by playwright Samuel Beckett.
Conceived as a choir, the dancers–both men and women–wear thick clay on their faces and greyish costumes. They groan, they move awkwardly, they stomp on the floor. Shortly after its creation, it became an international success.
In France, May B is now taught by members of the company to French high school students who are working toward a diploma with an emphasis in art.
The other, Cinderella, was commissioned by The Lyon Opera Ballet in 1985. This work disrupted expectations: Marin chose to present a grotesque and satirical version of the tale, reinforcing its cruel aspects to elevate emotion. Depicted as human-sized dolls, the dancers wear masks (like dolls - big eyes, fatty cheeks) and wigs. Some characters wear oversized costumes that make them look big and distorted. The décor alternates between a doll’s house and a toy store.
5. Maguy Marin has won two awards for lifetime achievement: the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award in modern dance in 2003, and the Venice Biennial Golden Lion Award in 2016.
When she received the Scripps award, she said, ''I don't recognize myself in this world that is being made for us with its market economy, media, consumerism and varieties of increasingly complex oppressions, one of which is identified with war. I am not a fanatic, but I don't accept this world as it is.''
Today Maguy Marin continues to defy conventions with her unique creations.