“Life has its own rhythm, you can’t go faster than the music”
Nick Coutsier dances to his own rhythm. The Brussels-native, found dance when he followed his intuition and he hasn’t slowed down since. It’s the classic tale of hard work, passion and dedication. Yet, perhaps the most striking thing about Coutsier isn’t his body’s artistry, but how he tackles life’s nuances with equal effortless eloquence.
It’s what led him here, on posters plastered across Berlin as the face of HOODOO, the ambiguous six-week show turning the Spiegelpalast into a Louisianan utopia. By the time we met him, he was a familiar face. It was after the show, when the hypnotic character from HOODOO was replaced with Coutsier’s soft-spoken, restless charisma, that we realised his creative spirit extends far beyond dance.
SARAH OSEI How did your journey as a dancer start?
NICK COUTSIER My journey as a dancer has been quite interesting. Since I’m an only child I used to get bored very easily, so my mum would always try to find activities for me to discharge all that energy into something productive and not just me annoying her. When I was a kid I did all kinds of activities. I did horse riding for ten years, and I remember I always liked the physical effort of it. But as long as I can remember, in all of these different activities I was always dancing in a way. The thing is, I didn’t take my first class until I was thirteen, not because I wanted to learn how to dance but because I was dancing already. So when I’m asked when I started dancing, I don’t know. I know when I took my first dance class, but I’ve always been dancing.
“The beautiful thing is I’m learning so much of my life through dance.”
Then I did hip hop and commercial dance when I was seventeen, and I just wanted to take over the world, haha! I went to Los Angeles for two months to be a commercial dancer, but then at some point I felt like I needed more than just the physical effort. I felt like “Now I wanna be a dancer and I wanna know what dance is, I wanna know what quality is, I wanna know the depth of that physical effort.” So when I came back to Belgium I did an audition for the Royal Conservatory in Antwerp for contemporary dancing and I got accepted. For the first time I really felt like I was at the right place at the right time and since then it’s been a rollercoaster, things have been very quick in momentum in terms of the working field and also in terms of how I felt I was growing up as a dancer. The beautiful thing is dance is part of my life, but I’m learning so much of my life through dance.
Studying contemporary dance gave me so many tools to develop myself as a human being. The fact that I get to work on my body every day tells me so much about how I relate to people, how to have empathy, how to deal with the world we live in today. It’s been very interesting, because of course I love dance and dance is my passion, but I love even more what dance has to offer to me. In the sense that I get to travel a lot, I get to be in spaces with people that are very talented and very diverse, and encounter people that I would have never encountered otherwise. To make something that has a bigger impact as art. I get to make my mum proud as well, haha, that’s very important. And I get to challenge myself everyday. All of this is through dance.
SO As a dancer your body is everything, your toolset, your resume, your expression – everything. I feel like because of that – and correct me if I’m wrong – as a dancer to love what you do, you need to also love yourself. Is that true for you?
NC That’s very interesting. My art and my job is me, is my body. I can’t speak for everybody else, but for me, to learn to control your body, you need to have self-confidence in what you do. In a way, always looking at what your body does like this also brings a lot of insecurity. Actually the most talented dancers, the ones that have the most control of their bodies, are often the most insecure. I have a bit of that, what makes it so difficult is when someone gives a feedback on my performance it’s directed at me.
SO Yeah, it’s personal.
NC It’s personal, it’s directed at my body. It’s not like a photographer or filmmaker, where the project that he’s making is outside of him, you know? So I think I’m a confident person, it’s how I’ve been educated and the truth that I received from my family. But as a dancer, sometimes I try to challenge myself not to be confident anymore and to be in a zone where I actually feel more uncomfortable. Because with dancing I think being uncomfortable or being in vulnerable places is where creativity finds itself, and as a creative this is where I need to be.
SO What has been the biggest challenge you had to overcome?
NC I think that the biggest challenge I had to overcome was just to make the decision to go for it, saying to myself “I wanna be a dancer and I’m gonna make it.” Every decision that you make only takes two seconds. Before that it’s you in your mind, thinking about it too much, but the decision itself only takes two seconds and after that it’s just about making it happen. So the biggest challenge were those two seconds when I decided to become a dancer.
SO How do you feel when you dance?
NC When I dance I feel so many different things and it changes all the time. I can feel thrilled, empowered, insecure, vulnerable, depending on the work that I’m doing or the choreographer that I’m working with. I think my work as a dancer is like that of an actor. Of course I like to feel free when I dance, but sometimes I like to feel constrained or vulnerable. If there’s one emotion that I always try to feel when I’m dancing it’s just to feel honest. The moment that you are honest you allow yourself to truly feel emotion.
SO How did you feel today when you were shooting? You looked so confident and powerful.
NC Yes! Well, I felt nice, I felt cool, it’s sunny in Berlin, it’s great. I felt like I was hanging out with friends and we’re just doing something cool together. That’s something that I truly like is doing collaborations and just creating together. At the end of day, of course I’m the one in front of the camera, but it’s not only about me. It’s about what we’re making together.
SO How did your work with HOODOO actually come about?
NC HOODOO was kind of a really big surprise. A few months ago I met Spilios, who is the creative director. We met in Berlin and had an amazing conversation about life and art. A few months later, he reached out to me for me to be the model, the face of a project called “HOODOO”. So I flew in, we did that shoot and that was supposed to be it actually. Then I met Victoria (Lucai) and Nick (Samples), who are the two producers and they told me about the project. At the time I had a really hard time understanding what it was, I couldn’t really grasp it, but I could tell it was different from what I’m used to doing. And then I met the casting director for a coffee and we just had a good conversation. Two weeks later I received a mail saying that they want me for the job. So it was a very big surprise… I really didn’t expect it.
SO The best things are surprises.
NC Totally! That’s how I like to do things. I’m so humbled and privileged by the fact that I get to work with such amazing people. I’m privileged to the fact that I did not have to do so many auditions in the past few years to get to work, it always starts with a meeting… To meet beautiful people that are open to me, from a very genuine place. And this, again, is how it happened with HOODOO.
SO How’s your experience been in Berlin with HOODOO?
NC I’ve been in Berlin a few times, but this is the first time that I get to be here for a longer time period, so it’s been exciting. Also because mid-April is a fantastic time to be in Berlin – the sun is coming out and it’s a city that has a very interesting, a very singular energy. I met amazing people here already. It’s even more interesting because HOODOO is a world in itself as well, it’s like a little island in the middle of Berlin. What I cherish the most about this project is the people I’ve met, the fact that we all – by coincidence or by destiny – gathered here to create something together.
“Life has its own rhythm, you can’t go faster than the music.”
SO What are you looking forward to the most in your career… in life?
NC In life… I look forward to keeping on being curious, creative and daring to be vulnerable, because so far this is how I have been living my life and it’s been great. I mean, of course it’s been challenging at some points, but it’s been good. I think this is one of the blessings that I received from my mum, that she trusted me a lot and she always supported my choices, she was always saying “If you want to do this, I trust you. Make it happen.” So I always wish the best for myself. As much as I like the present, I look forward to the future. I don’t look forward to one particular thing, but the idea is just to look forward, because it’s only by being excited for the future that the future’s going to be bright, right?
SO That’s true.
NC And you have to start now. One thing I love to say is that it should always be about vision, patience, work and love. Vision means daring to look into the future; work, because you need to put the work in; patience, because life has its own rhythm, you can’t go faster than the music; and love because you can’t do anything without love!