Art Maker: Leah Fournier, dancer and choreographer

  • Dancer Leah Fournier, seen here at the School for Contemporary Dance & Thought in Northampton, has performed in New England, New York state, France and a number of other places. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Dancer Leah Fournier, seen here at the School for Contemporary Dance & Thought in Northampton, has performed in New England, New York state, France and a number of other places. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Dancer Leah Fournier, seen here at the School for Contemporary Dance & Thought in Northampton, has performed in New England, New York state, France and a number of other places. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Dancer Leah Fournier, seen here at the School for Contemporary Dance & Thought in Northampton, has performed in New England, New York state, France and a number of other places. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Published: 7/18/2019 4:33:44 PM
Modified: 7/18/2019 4:33:34 PM

Leah Fournier, who describes herself as a an “improvisor, dancer, and dance-maker,” grew up in Maine, studied kinesiology and contemporary dance at Indiana University, and now lives and works in the Valley, teaching at both Pioneer Valley Ballet and the School For Contemporary Dance & Thought in Northampton.

But Fournier’s dancing also takes her to a number of other places, including back to Maine, to Cape Cod, to Philadelphia and to New York City and France (she’s had residencies in the two latter places). 

Hampshire Life: Talk about the work you're currently doing. What does it involve, and what are you trying to achieve?

Leah Fournier: The work I make right now is entirely collaborative with my dear friend and creative partner, Amelia Heintzelman, under the name Middle Space Dance. Our work together is a never-ending experiment in live performance through the medium of improvised and choreographic movement. 

HL: What do you draw inspiration from? Do you ever have any “Eureka!” moments?

LF: Inspiration comes from many points: an exceptionally composed frame from a movie, an imaginative passage from one of the many fantasy epics on my bookshelf, the embodiment of people and things, observation of the work of others and being inside the processes of those I admire and with whom I’m lucky to be in the same room.

I enjoy trying to find newness by making “wrong” decisions or attempting impossible tasks. Moments of absolute confidence in a choice do happen, though they come after a lot of trial and error. I’ve been working on trying to feel that way consistently and to trust that my intuition/sleeping brain knows what it’s doing. 

HL: How do you know when your work is finished?

LF: Jeez, is it ever? I guess when there is nothing left to add or change, or when any change would alter it irretrievably — when the pieces are put together in a way that feels good and right and I feel happy to show it to others. 

HL: Name two artists you admire or who have influenced your work. What about their art appeals to you?

LF: Only two? Here are some of many. Pina Bausch — she was a genius who made work that’s simple yet incredibly complex and phenomenally human. Trisha Brown because she was wild and articulate and was able to capture it. Selene Carter, my college professor, who taught me how to relish in the unknown and has given me tools I will use forever.

Then there are Barbie Diewald and Shaina Cantino, who I am currently in works with, who challenge me do things I didn’t know I could and make work I admire and am so happy to be a part of. And my dearest friend Amelia because I can trust her unequivocally. 

HL: What's the most recent exhibition/concert/book reading/other event by another artist or group that you've attended and enjoyed?

LF: I just returned from a residency started by performance artist Jemila MacEwan in upstate New York. We were a group of ladies in the Catskills sharing our processes with each other, cooking together, swimming, dancing, singing, watching, listening. They were performers and visual artists and powerhouses who deeply inspired me, with art-making outside of my own methods that has me eager to get back to creating. 

HL: Do you listen to music while you're working? What kind? 

LF: It changes as I grow tired of one thing and move on to another. Right now I am loving the old classical classics, in particular long, mournful opera. 

HL: If you weren't an artist, what do you think you'd be?

LF: I dream of being a podcaster, not because I think I’d be good at it, mostly for the lifestyle. 

— Steve Pfarrer

Leah Fournier, dancer/choreographer Shaina Cantino and actor/illustrator Rose Proctor present a contemporary dance theater duet and installation at Northampton’s A.P.E. Gallery, July 18-20 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $12, with some price flexibility. Email lisathompson@apearts.org or call (413) 586-5553 to make a reservation.




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