Times Of India Kolkata

Michael Jackson was very sweet with us: Annalouise

, TNN | Oct 15, 2012, 12.00AM IST

Michael Jackson was very sweet with us: Annalouise
Annalouise Paul
Doing the Flamenco to the beats of the dhaak is no mean feat. But to Australian choreographer and dancer, Annalouise Paul, the movements come naturally thanks to her mixed heritage. On Saturday, she kept the audience at The Palladian Lounge spellbound. She has danced with Michael Jackson, assistant choreographed Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies, collaborated with operatic tenor Placido Domingo… In town to perform for a contemporary dance festival, Annalouise is also in search of her roots — her father was born in Kolkata and lived here till 1947. We caught up with her for a tete-a-tete…
Where does the boundless energy come from?
I think it comes from my mixed lineage. Flamenco can be performed by people aged nine to 90 unlike ballet that’s age-bound. The energy has a lot to do with these Flamenco movements. The move can be as subtle as just turning your head to the right but it’s done with intensity and passion. It’s not about looking beautiful and perfect. It’s about the spirit that matters. And the energy flows from this sense of freedom.
Your father was from Kolkata…
My father was born in Kolkata and was a Safari Jew. But he left in 1947 along with the British, roamed the world and settled in Australia. My mother is English with a Russian background. She didn’t like England and so she too went and settled in Australia! My parents were divorced when I was very young so I didn’t get to see my father a lot. This is my first trip to India and Kolkata. One of my productions is inspired from my cross- cultural history.
Is that how you relate so strongly to Indian forms of expressions? Absolutely! It’s this weird concoction… Spanish ancestry, Indian roots. I grew up eating a lot of curries but I knew that part of my culture is also about fish and chips! It was important to present my works in India. It’s something like a pilgrimage, uncovering my father’s roots.

How was it working with Michael Jackson? Were you intimidated? The strangest thing is, big stars are the most gracious people! I started dancing quite late — at 19. I finished my training in England and then lived in Los Angeles for seven years. I danced for one of his videos, In The Closet from Dangerous. Naomi Campbell was also there.

You’re blushing... (Laughs) We spent seven days shooting in the desert. It was during that time when Michael was involved in all that controversy! In spite of that, he was nice to everyone, though we were a little cagey when he was around. I’ve also worked with Arnold Schwarzenegger in True Lies and with opera singer Placido Domingo in LA. They’re all very humble people and that’s what has taken them this far.

What IS contemporary dance? The principle and definition and the reason I believe contemporary dance has taken on this name is because it consistently pushes its own boundaries. The principles of Flamenco and any other traditional or classical dance, Kathak, for example, is that they’re deeply rooted in rhythm and a fixed grammar. They can be contemporized but can never become contemporary.

Tell us something about your upcoming projects? I have two productions lined up. One is a new work where I’m working with an Egyptian drummer. The other is about body percussion and has six dancers doing Indian, Flamenco, Aboriginal, Polynesian, contemporary and Western movements. It’s called Mother Tongue.

Don’t you feel like going back to Hollywood? I will, if it’s the right job. LA is very work-focused. When you have a job it’s fun. When you don’t, it can be quite tough. My LA experience has fed into what I am today. I’m happy living in Sydney for the time being. I’m still working for television, have my own dance company. Unless, of course, I fall in love with someone in LA!

CPAN Interview with Annalouise Paul


Today we meet professional choreographer and actor, Annalouise Paul.

How did you start your performing career?

At nineteen I decided to become a dancer and started training in Sydney taking classes in beginners ballet, contemporary and Flamenco to develop my technique.

How long have you been performing? 

I completed my formal training at twenty three at the Laban Centre for Dance and Movement in London and have been performing as a dancer and actor ever since.

How is independent dance different from the commercial world? Would you recommend dancers or performers to try both?

Vastly different! They differ greatly in the type of work they require and provide. For example Independent artists are working with their own concepts and ideas that they are passionate about, often regardless of the pay involved. Commercial work still involves passion for performing but as an artist it involves more of an interpretive role as rather than a creative or collaborative contribution. In saying this, it doesn’t make you less of an artist and I would encourage anyone to explore both worlds! I strongly believe that as performers the key is not to limit yourself and definitely try a bit of both.

Who have you worked with and what impact have they left on you? 

I’ve worked with artists such as Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Placido Domingo, and choreographers like Bill T. Jones and the common link with all of these artists and major stars is that they work the hardest and in any occasion I had to work with them, they were the most gracious in terms of appreciating the work that I contributed

How did you get to where you are now today? 

I started my training in Sydney then moved to continue in London where I worked in a mixture of independent and commercial projects. In London, as an emerging artist, I had the opportunity to work in various operas and develop contemporary dance choreographies with the support of arts councils. After that I moved to Los Angeles to study acting and continue to work commercially as a dancer and choreographer. Eventually I started to land small roles in shows like Days of Our Lives,feature film I’ll Do Anything and various commercials. After spending 12 years on the road, traveling to various countries and working abroad, I decided to return to Sydney and bring my choreography here. An injury in 2002 led to a break from dancing, after which I was introduced to FORM (formerly known as Western Sydney Dance Action).

My accumulation of experiences from Sydney, London and LA, drew in me a desire to fuse everything together and so I started focus on the creation of new dance works that included live music and narrative and propelled me to develop my own company, Theatre of Rhythm and Dance. Just recently I returned from Spain where I did professional development and also attended the International World Dance Alliance Conference in Kuala Lumpur, where this year’s subject was Dance Hybridity; a concept that is very relevant because of the current political climate surrounding Multiculturalism.

What advice would you give to cultural performers starting out in Western Sydney? 

Approach councils and different organisations like FORM and CPAN so that you know what opportunities are out there, and how and when they are available. Always do your research to find work and opportunities to collaborate with others or develop your own work. Approach and be involved with advocacy groups like Groundswell so that you know what the bigger picture is and what contribution you can make to it. Generally though, the best advice that I can give to performers is when you start to build your networks, see them as relationships, not just people who can give you a job.

Annalouise is an actor and choreographer. She began dancing at 19 years old in contemporary and flamenco dance and soon after moved to London staying for five years before moving to Los Angeles to study film acting and pursue work for a further seven years before settling home in Sydney where she now resides. During her time overseas she worked on A-list feature films, music videos, television, commercials and opera and worked with artists, directors and choreographers such as Michael Jackson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Placido Domingo, James Cameron and Bill T. Jones. As an actor Annalouise has embodied a multitude of cultural ethnicities, characters and accents and her love for storytelling lies at the heart of her own arts funded works, practise, research  and the formation of her company Theatre of Rhythm and Dance and Flamenco Red. Annalouise has a long history of working in arts education schools and in tertiary education and on projects with grass roots communities exploring richly diverse cultural content that can be offered in the creation of uniquely Australian works. Her recent initiative Groundswell Creative Thinkers Creative Solutions aims to consult and work with Government in the formation of a peak advocacy body for NSW and multicultural arts policy for development of cultural diversity across Australian arts and media.

To find out more about Annalouise Paul visit her website http://www.annalouisepaul.com.au and to find our more about Groundswell look at  http://groundswellctcs.blogspot.com/