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Cecly Placenti, Artistic Director

  • Writer's pictureCecly Placenti

International Artist Faustine Lavie

International Spotlight Session

As an artist, I create with the goal of building community. To that end, I have developed several initiatives that connect dancers and choreographers with audiences and with each other. The Spotlight Sessions present a peek into the lives, processes, and motivations of individual artists through interviews, short feature articles, previews, and capsule reviews. In this newest section, we welcome international artists who have come to work and create in NYC with an interest in how they have been shaped by the community and how their unique contributions are adding to the rich tapestry that is the NYC dance scene. I hope you enjoy getting to know these talented individuals as much as I have, and continue to follow them on their creative paths.

Meet international artist Faustine Lavie

Faustine Lavie was born in Toulon, France where she started ballet lessons at age 3. She went on to study at the Paris Opera Ballet School and ESDC Rosella Hightower. In 2015, Faustine moved to New York City to attend the Ailey School and graduated from their Certificate Program in 2018. Since arriving in NYC, Faustine has had the opportunity to perform in works by Winston Dynamite Brown, Amy Hall Garner, Frederick Earl Mosley, Clifton Brown, Darrell Grand Moultrie, Manuel Vignoulle, and Shay Bland. She has also performed at Jazz at Lincoln Center as a performer with An Nuo Spiritual Dance and Art.

Watching Faustine Lavie dance is like watching a sun beam dance across the surface of a lake. As her upper back releases to the sky, effervescent joy bounds from every cell of her body, communicating delight. It is with strong and precise technique that Lavie is able to imbue each movement with emotion and purpose, and her clarity of line and gesture gives her the ability to communicate not only the joy inside her, but the vision of the choreographers she works with. For some dancers trained in the precision of classical ballet, the transition to contemporary forms can be difficult. Not so for Lavie who seems equally at home in both disciplines. Her ability to create strong lines while also melting into gravity, moving seamlessly into and out of the floor, showcases a keen understanding of movement principles and effortless strength.

The opportunity to develop in two different dance disciplines, while the norm in the United States, is not always available in other countries. In France, for example, young dancers must choose whether to attend a ballet or a contemporary school. Institutions that push students in both directions or give equal emphasis to both disciplines are rare. Lavie credits her move to NYC for the evolution of her skills. “Growing up I felt cut in half because I loved ballet but I also wanted to do something different and try new ways of moving.” Arriving in New York, Lavie discovered she did not have to choose and she was exposed to modern styles that are not universally popular in Europe, such as Lester Horton technique. “Now I know I don’t want to be put in a category anymore. I’m a contemporary dancer, a modern dancer, and still a ballet dancer.” Perhaps it is this newfound artistic freedom that gives Lavie her unbridled joy as a performer. No matter the reason, she enhances our vibrant dance community with her passion and we look forward to seeing her unique contributions continue.

In her own words

1. How did your artistic journey begin?

I am from Toulon in the south east of France and I started dancing when I was 3 years old in a small private dance school called Studio Marius. For whatever reason, I asked my mom to put me in ballet school and she did. She thought it would be good for me and she wanted me to do some physical activity. Her and my dad never expected that I would want to be a professional dance, but I never stopped dancing. They didn't really take it seriously at that time of course, but at age 11 I auditioned and was accepted at l'Ecole du Ballet de l'Opéra National de Paris (the Paris Opera Ballet School) and then my parents started to really believe that I could keep going. I also went to another famous dance school in France when I was a teenager, called l'Ecole Supérieur de Danse de Cannes Rosella Hightower (the Superior Dance School of Cannes Rosella Hightower), founded by the reknowned ballerina who gave the school it’s name. I then did a contemporary formation after I graduated from high school before being accepted to The Ailey School in NY and graduating from their Certificate Program in May 2018.

Photo: Larry Picture Art

2. What is your drive as an artist? What is it that you hope to express or contribute to the world through dance?

As an artist, I like making people feel something when they watch me dance. I like telling different stories to the audience, make them feel different things each time. It can be something serious about society or life to make people think or denounce something, or just to make them happy and escape the world they live in. Dance, and art in general, is a way to express, and like a conversation, it can be about anything. It's just important for me to give a meaning to the gesture. And also to change the world a little bit, either by pointing out facts that touch me and that I would want people to think about, or by promoting the beauty of art, love and humanity. Because I think the world would be so much better if people were loving and helping each other more.

3. What has been your biggest challenge and your proudest moment?

My biggest challenge as an artist was trusting myself and being confident in my talent and what I'm capable of doing. I was doubtful a lot when I was younger, especially because of my body type. I started dance with ballet and I've always been criticized because I was not thin enough. I was told a lot that I would never have a professional career. Being in NYC gave me more confidence about myself because it's more open minded here about that and companies accept different body types. But it took me a long time to overcome issues with the way I look. I actually started loosing weight when I stopped being obsessed about my body. It's not always about your body, sometimes your mind is what is holding you back. Overcoming my mind and realizing my worth as an artist was definitely my biggest challenge. If my story can inspire younger dancers and give them faith in themselves, that would be the thing I would be most proud of. But for now, my proudest moment was probably when I graduated from The Ailey School. Or when I got my first job after an audition. I am proud of those two moments because I realized how much I grew and changed since my arrival in the US. It showed me that hard work pays off and I'm really proud of the person I became, and that I'm still becoming now. Each professional experience helps me evolve into a more mature and complete artist.

4. What are you up to currently?

I'm currently working with a few dance companies here in NYC. One of them is i KADA Contemporary Dance Company, and I really love what we do and the vision of the directors. Mee Jung, the founder and artistic director, also created KoDaFe, a festival to promote cultural exchange through the arts. Performing there last June was a fantastic experience and I look forward to doing it again next season. The company also has an Annual Gala Event every year where we also have the opportunity to work with guest choreographers. It's amazing as a dancer to work with different choreographers with their own styles and ideas. I'm also a part of Nathaniel's Dance Collective and The DynamitExperience, a company founded by Winston Dynamite Brown and Latra Wilson. I’m choreographing a little bit myself as well. I created a duet called Arp 148, that was performed last June at 7Midnights Physical Research Dance Theater, directed by Jiali Wang. I plan to apply to more shows and festivals with this piece.

Want to see Faustine in action?

Check her out as a company member with i KADA Contemporary Dance Company, Arim Dance, Keiko Fujii Dance Company, The DynamitExperience, and Nathaniel’s Dance Collective.

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