French choreographer Manuel Vignoulle creates more with his heart than with his head. ‘For me, life is the greatest source of inspiration.’
Even as a 9-year-old boy, Manuel Vignoulle already had a pretty good idea that he later wanted to be a choreographer. ‘I was always full of ideas, busy improvising in the living room. I already took my first ballet lesson at the age of 6, and when I was 8 I started learning modern dance. During the lessons I’d be at the back of the room doing my own steps, to the exasperation of my teachers.’
But it was to be almost another 25 years before Vignoulle would truly start focusing full-time on choreography. ‘My parents advised me to see first whether being a professional dancer might be right for me.’ And dance he did, first as a student at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Danse de Paris, then later at companies such as Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève (Switzerland) and Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (United States). He also guested at other companies, including La La La Human Steps (Canada) and Het Nationale Ballet in the Netherlands.
In his years as a dancer Vignoulle came into contact with many exceptional choreographers. One of his first major role models was the choreographer Redha (full name: Redha Benteifour). ‘I met him at a crucial point in my life. I was 21 and feeling quite disillusioned with dance. I wasn’t being challenged any more, just always being asked to do things I was already good at.’ Then he encountered Redha. ‘Redha is a modern jazz choreographer, but we did everything, commercial jobs, television, musical, opera, fashion. I liked his movement language, and also the way he was able to fit into all those different worlds. Redha gave me back my passion for dance.’
Vignoulle also cites Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Andonis Foniadakis as important sources of inspiration. ‘I can identity very strongly with their ways of moving, but I also like the club atmosphere of the work of Hofesh Schechter and the special worlds created by the Spanish choreographer Cisco Aznar.’
At the age of 35 Vignoulle decided to devote himself to choreography full time and he also set up his own company in New York: Manuel Vignoulle – M/motions. ‘I don’t see myself as an intellectual dance-maker – I work more intuitively. I dance and choreograph more with my heart than my head. Of course, there’s always an idea behind each choreography as well, but what drives me most is a feeling, a specific atmosphere. And a deep connection with the dancers is also very important to me.’
Connection was also the starting point for the award-winning EARTH, a choreography for three dances – which audiences can soon see in full in Aqua (2022/2023 season). ‘I wanted to make a piece in which all three dancers are almost constantly in physical contact with each other. EARTH is about the connection that we, as people, always share with each other.’ Vignoulle is also making a new work for Introdans’ upcoming Bach programme in 2023; this will be an ensemble piece in which Vignoulle and the dancers go in search of their own personal essence. ‘For me, life is the greatest source of inspiration.’