— Académie

Published on June 18 2016

Leah Hausman: The flying body coach

Master class avec Leah Hausman
© Vincent Beaume

It all started in 2011. British choreographer and director Leah Hausman was asked to stage La Clemenza di Tito by Mozart at the Festival. She was then invited to run a workshop on movement as part of the Mozart residency. It was an instant hit. She’s taken part every year since 2013.

Could you sum up what you do in a few words?
Someone once said to me: “You are the flying body coach!” It’s a bit like that. If I see a singer who’s uncomfortable in their skin, I try to find a fast way to make them feel better about how they move and perform. During work sessions with the Académie, the body first has to be warmed up, open and relaxed, like a child getting ready to play. I remind the artists how the body works, how our skeleton and especially our spine is built as we tend to forget to be natural once we’re on stage. I make them literally wear a mask so they remember that they don’t just make music with their heads but also with their bodies.

You’ve been the coach at the Melody & Creation and Chamber Music residencies for two weeks...
I don’t like to call myself a coach… that’s not at all how it is! I see myself more as a sort of guide. I’m by their side. Like with the singer who couldn’t jump. I took his hand, we jumped together and it worked right away! I try to give them as much energy as possible.

Which “fault” do you most often notice in artists?
Singers have the annoying habit of making movements which have nothing to do with what they’re saying! It’s subconscious. Some sway left to right or keep their head looking towards the room whilst their body turns. And that’s no matter their level! We have to remind them how the body naturally moves. This body work opens the mind and enables them to be in the here and now, to stop worrying about the notes they’ll have to perform in three pages. You have to use the energy in the moment!

You’ve also joined the Kalîla wa Dimna team…
In Kalîla wa Dimna, the singer Ranine Chaar often tended to lift her hands up when she sang without realising. I gave her a stick and asked her to hold it in both hands whilst she sang. The penny dropped… everything changed afterwards.

Every culture has its own body language. How do you work with artists from all over the world?
Generally speaking, French body language is very small and very precise. Americans make far bigger movements; with the Germans it’s neither big nor small but more direct. You have to adapt to every artist standing in front of you. In any event I try to respect and like who they are. I try to find everyone’s body. Sometimes I try an exercise and if it doesn’t work, I accept it. It means the artist IS like that. I don’t want them to become something they’re not but instead introduce them to their strengths.

Choreographer Leah Hausman will introduce one of her masterclasses to the general public on July 5th as part of the Mozart residency. Meet at Hôtel Maynier d’Oppède at 12 noon.
Text by Saskia de Ville on June 15th 2016.