Pain is a great motivator. Nor is it a morbid thing. Pain, injury and deep discomfort are almost always catalytic turning points in our lives. Anouk Froidevaux knows this intimately.
Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, she moved to Europe in 2002 to work as a professional dancer. However, a serious back injury in the summer of 2012 while living the dream of performing and touring internationally at the height of her dance career shifted her in a new direction, towards healing and teaching.
Having reached a point of physical and emotional exhaustion, Anouk knew her body was telling her that something had to change. As she started focusing on taking care of her back her deepening healing process began uncovering unknown layers: a desire to please others, a constant pursuit for perfection, a belief that she wasn’t good enough and a need to continually prove herself. She learned she had put so much pressure on herself to achieve her dreams that she’d become ill and injured.
This catalyzed a search for meaning and wholeness in her life and she started expanding in ways she’d never experienced before. By following her heart, traveling and learning how to surf she went through major healing and came out a passionate teacher.
She is now a professional dancer, performer and instructor of the movement methods Gyrotonic and Gyrokinesis.
I’m delighted to share her thoughts, insights and a wealth of creative resources here in this interview.
What does it mean to be an artist? And when did you know you were an artist (aka intensely creative person)?
The word artist for me is connected to some form of mastery and devotion or dedication to one’s creativity. An artist is someone who cannot separate who they are from what they do. It’s a way of life, a way of being and embodying.
For as long as I can remember I’ve felt called by my creativity. It was never a choice really, but more a necessity or strong impulse that propelled me through life.
Since I was a little girl I’ve been dancing and expressing myself creatively. It’s my voice, my teacher, my catalyst and my way of relating to the world and connecting with others.
When you consider the words luscious and soulful, what comes to mind? Is there anyone you know who embodies these traits? When do you feel luscious and soulful?
When I hear luscious, I think of something that is rich and fully thriving like a beautiful rainforest or garden. A colour can be luscious, a piece of fabric or a painting. Even a wonderful smell or taste, anything that’s full of life!
Soulful for me is something with meaning. Soulful is anything that comes from the heart or conveys a deeper truth.
Great artists embody these two traits through their work and self-expression. Singers like Erykah Badu or Concha Buika come to mind immediately.
I feel luscious and soulful when I’m thriving creatively, communicating from my heart and when I spend time in nature.
What do you love most about your body? And why?
Good question, we’re not encouraged enough to focus on what we love about our bodies! There’s still so much emphasis on what’s “wrong” with us or what’s lacking and needs improvement.
As I worked through healing my injuries, I got stronger by learning to love and accept my body and not see it as something that needed to be constantly perfected.
I love my body’s sensitivity. I’ve worked with it my entire life, which makes it open, receptive, highly adaptive and tuned. Because of this, I respond immediately to people, situations and environments, which can be challenging at times. For that reason though, I’m able to bring a depth to my work and I’m very grateful for that.
What brings you pleasure? What senses are involved?
Whether I’m dancing, creating, teaching or connecting with others, I get pleasure from being in an open and expansive state. I love sharing this state and seeing how it transforms people! All my senses are involved. My whole body is open, receptive and gives out a lot of energy.
I also get a rush of pleasure from riding waves, performing in front of a live audience, dancing alone or in a crowd, being with my beloved, traveling to new places and diving into new cultures, listening to and playing live music and eating a tasty meal made with love.
If you had to throw a dinner and dance party how would you do it?
Definitely somewhere beautiful by the ocean!
It would be on a warm summer evening with live music and DJs, lanterns everywhere, everyone barefoot, eating amazing food, laughing and dancing together way on into the next day(s).
Where/how do you find your inspiration?
I find inspiration from life in all its facets, from the simplest moments in our everyday experience, to huge events that transform our lives.
Traveling, getting to know people, places, cultures and languages deeply inspires me.
Music inspires me. Nature is one of my greatest inspirations, especially my love for the ocean.
Films, performances and exhibitions inspire me, as well as spontaneous encounters with people I don’t know or deep discussions with friends.
I also get a lot of inspiration by spending time alone, in my own world, doing things at my own rhythm and being in silence.
What does your ideal day look like?
My schedule changes, depending on the work I’m doing, but having the freedom to do what I love and be mobile with it is such a gift. I always give time for my personal practice which involves 10-20 minutes of meditation, eating a good breakfast and an hour or two of training, normally a combination of dance, yoga, Gyrotonic and Pilates.
I’m either teaching Gyrotonic private lessons and group classes, giving workshops, rehearsing a new production in the studio, or touring and performing. I love flowing between these worlds.
It’s also important for me take time out to travel and surf in order to recharge my batteries, reconnect with nature and replenish my soul.
What advice would you give to your younger self? How old is she when she needs this advice?
I would say, trust that powerful inner voice, which is sometimes the quiet one.
Take care not to be so concerned with pleasing others or what they think of you.
Speak from your heart, learn to say no and people will respect you.
Enjoy life, the freedom you have and be wise with your time and energy. I’m still working on all of it!
What is your most treasured possession? Tell a little story about it.
More than a possession, I’d say my body and my consciousness are what I treasure the most, because they are the gifts and tools I have to be and act with in the world. I experience the world and communicate through my body. It’s how I express myself and connect with life.
When I surf for example, I’m confronting my fears, limiting beliefs and physical limitations. In order to transcend them, I have to focus, channel my energy and strength, trust, fully commit and stay open. The award is riding a wave and connecting with the great forces of nature. It’s a liberating experience that makes me feel completely alive and present in the moment. I have a similar feeling when I’m dancing and teaching.
These experiences are what keep me going and make life worth living.
Inspired resources: please share any heart-moving soul-shaking artistry or experiences that have moved you. What made it so powerful?
These are all such juicy questions I could go on forever and give an answer for each category! I’ll try to select just a few though:
Relatively recent interviews with Patti Smith on Youtube & Vimeo are an absolute inspiration. I call her a rock’n’roll shaman. Her message is so clear, powerful and unapologetic and at the same time she comes across as a gentle and humble soul. Also Joni Mitchell is deeply inspiring, as she’s another woman and artist speaking her truth.
Sylvie Guillem is an extraordinary dancer and activist with Sea Shepherds. There’s an amazing BBC documentary online about her career and decision to retire as a dancer and continue as an activist. These women all embody their artistry, which touches me. They make me want to be a better person, dare to be more of who I am, and contribute something positive in the world.
“The Artist Is Present” by Marina Abramovic at MOMA in 2010 was a powerful moment for performance art. It gathered and captivated all kinds of people and transformed everyone in the process. She held the space for three months and gave room for people to receive, reflect and feel. That’s what art should do, especially in the fast-paced world we live in today. It’s also what I love about performance, because it’s so direct and involves everyone. It’s unique, alive and always changing, just like life.
In 2008, I saw the performance, “Decreation” and “Kamer Kamer” by The Forsythe Company in Amsterdam and it completely changed my idea of what dance and theatre was and the impact it can have.
Two books that come to mind are, “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Viktor Frankl and “Women Who Run With The Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola-Estes.
There is a beautiful film called, “Pina” by Wim Wenders, which is an ode to the work of Pina Bausch, the pioneer of the genre Tanztheater or Dance Theatre.
Lastly, I saw an amazing exhibition called, “Making Africa: A Continent of Contemporary Design” at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao this year. I found it so powerful how it gave a new perspective on the identity of “Africa”, according to contemporary artists across the continent. It moved me, challenged my own perceptions about the world and gave me hope, by capturing another side of this massive continent that’s full of culture, innovation and creativity. It also brought up larger questions for me around identity and what it truly means to me.
Who are your favourite artists? And why?
There are so many artists that I admire it’s impossible to name them all, but here are a few who come to mind right now:
Patti Smith, Michael MacGarry, Pina Bausch, Sylvie Guillem, Joni Mitchell, Niel Young, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Baryshnikov, Rudolph Nureyev, Nijinsky, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian, Björk, Anohni, Jimi Hendrix, Bernardo Bertollucci, Federico Fellini, Nina Simone, Erykah Badu, Jimi Page, Diane Arbus, Picasso, Stravinksy, Prokofiev, Alexander McQueen, Martha Graham, David Bowie, Michelangelo, Miles Davis, Maya Angelou, Billie Holiday, Jeff Buckley, Bob Marley, Louise Lecavalier, Arvo Pärt, Mark Rothko, Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, Bill Reid, Emily Carr, all indigenous arts.
Great artists and their work on this planet play an important role in the evolution of humanity and human consciousness. They help us see the world differently, by changing the status quo. Masters at what they do, their work transcends the human experience and uplifts humanity. Also, their art is connected to a greater message beyond themselves or their personal stories, by speaking a universal language that’s timeless. They ARE their work, embodying their art by speaking clearly to all generations, classes, genders, cultures and races.
I also want to acknowledge all the artists and creative people who’ve been my mentors, colleagues, friends and soul mates. They’ve profoundly impacted my life and I’m grateful to know them all.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you and your art?
I’d just like to pass on the message to make time for yourself and your creativity. When you do, you will thrive and that sacred space can become an anchor in your life. Even if it can only live in your imagination at times, it’s yours and it’s a gift!
Simplying your approach to everyday life can become a form of art, which is one of the messages I like to pass on in my workshops and writing. Sometimes it’s not about the grand gestures or big projects, but more about our awareness and intention for things we do daily, which gives more meaning to our lives. Even walking down the street can be artful or how you spend time alone and with others. From that place life starts opening up and transforming into something quite magic.
Thank you so much Janelle for this opportunity to reflect with these beautiful questions and to connect with your community!
You can find Anouk online at dancing the moment.
pps – if you know of any amazing artists I can profile in this series, send me an e-mail with their info – I’m always excited to connect with interesting amazing creatives.