We kickstart our Festival blog this year with Olé Khamchanla, Festival Director of Fang Mae Khong Dance Festival and Founder, Choreographer and Dancer of Kham Company. As we continue to deepen our relationships through digital means, we invite you to our little virtual space – where we unmask and take time to care for the human element behind every artist.
Dear Olé, as an artist living and working between France and Laos, how has your life changed during the pandemic?
The biggest impact is that I have to rent a house. For five to six years, I didn’t have my own home. I travelled a lot. When I’m in France, I used to live in my company’s apartment.
The year the pandemic happened, I was meant to tour to five countries. Since the lockdown in France, I’ve been living in the mountains in France. I have to buy a sofa, live a normal life.
How did this situation affect you emotionally?
I saw the benefit of taking time away from being an “artist”. It was a nice moment for me to do different things, although I’ve lived in France for so long. It was good to see snow again.
I started to see the distance between “me”, who is an “artist”, and “me”, who is just a “human being”. That’s very interesting for me. I’ve had this thought for many years: I am a dancer, but one day, if something happens, I can also live without dancing.
Your sense of “detachment” seems to be very positive, as something that also empowers your creativity.
The key thing is to have an open mind and challenge yourself. How can you continue to be positive and “be” with a new situation, especially when it is not your choice?
During the pandemic, you created a new trio, Proximities with three French dancers. Tell us more about it.
I’m working with French dancers from ballet and from contemporary dance instead of hip hop for the first time. I wanted to expand my vocabulary. I wanted to renew, be exposed to something I am not comfortable with.
I wanted to also explore the concept of the proximity between ballet and classical Laotian & Thai dance. I found many similarities in these dance forms, in the codification; in the long process it takes for students to learn these techniques.
Proximities is also for a way for me to be close to Laos. How we can be close to something or someone even if we are far away?
You must miss your homeland Laos very much. And even though you are so far away, you still managed to organise a dance festival in Laos in 2020. How did you manage that?
I organised it here from France. It was the first year I couldn’t be there. 2020 was the also the first year our festival did not have international artists.
In Laos, it’s very different from France where we have support from the government. It’s very ambitious to live as a dancer in Laos. That’s why we created a black box there for artist residencies and created a dance festival there, where no other festival exists.
We have to do what we can with what we have. If we start to feel pressure and see only the challenges, it’s not a good thing for us. You didn’t choose this work to be afraid, right? You choose this work to be happy and to share. If you are afraid, it is not going to work. The most important is to do what you do in a positive way and with heart.
So in 2020, we discovered new local artists and created many interesting collaborations. One of the things we did was propose and realise a performance that featured a collaboration between 8 local dancers and 8 photographers. It was very positive to see exchange between these two communities.
Do you have any message for your fellow artists?
The pandemic situation is here. We can also be positive in this dramatic situation. We can still continue. The power of one’s mentality is very important.