Meet Your Faculty: Nicola Conraths-Lange

  • Nicola Conraths-Lange works with Comparative Arts students in 2017.

  • A drawing of Niki by Interlochen Arts Academy alumnus Don Dixon (IAA 93-96).

  • Niki works with dance students in 2014-15.

  • Niki works on the Seed to Symphony project in 2014-15.

Director of Comparative Arts Nicola Conraths-Lange is a dancer, choreographer and author. Born in Rome, Italy, Conraths-Lange began her ballet training at the Balletto di Roma before moving to London to study at the London Studio Center. In addition to her dance training, Conraths-Lange holds degrees in communications, psychology and theatre from Eastern Michigan University.

Conraths-Lange's artistic work is influenced by Greco-Roman culture, psychology, food cultures, nomadism, foreign languages (she's fluent in four), world literature and the healing arts. At the heart of much of her work is an interest in intercultural exchange as a vehicle for evolution and understanding between artists and humanity. She’s also interested in projects where artists have the opportunity to discover and develop a shared vocabulary, working together over time and across disciplines to create pieces that are truly collaborative

Conraths-Lange has also conducted research on injury prevention and performance enhancement for dancers and musicians. Her research has been presented at conferences in Singapore, Europe, Israel, New Zealand and elsewhere. She is also the author of several books on wellness for performers and the co-founder of Logokinesis Publishing.

We sat down with Conraths-Lange to learn more about her artistic journey and interests.

You’ve studied a few different arts areas. Can you tell us a bit about your journey?
I began dancing at a very young age. I came out of the womb a breech baby, and knew I wanted to use my legs for something. I come from a very musical and artistic family: my dad sings, both of my parents play the piano and my mom is a photographer. I also grew up in Rome, which is a highly-charged city with the history of art, and a lot of beautiful churches, and so I have a big interest in art and architecture and just southern Europe in general. After my high school degree, which I did at a bilingual German-Italian school, I moved to London to dance full-time at vocational school, the London Studio Center. I had a wonderful time there. We always got free tickets to the opera house, so I watched everything I could get my hands on. I lived in London for five years and started getting my first jobs there, and did also a fair share of traveling. After that, I moved to the United States and went to college for communication and theatre arts. I also have a minor in psychology, which is why I'm very interested in education for the gifted, which ultimately got me here to Interlochen. While I was dancing I had quite a few injuries to my lower back, which got me interested in pilates and gyrotonic. I did a lot of studying in rehabilitation for dancers and musicians, so that's been part of my side career as well.

What’s your favorite artform?
My favorite art form I would say is sculpture. It's something I don't really know or have a lot of training in, but I think it is the most beautiful combination of structure and movement, which is something I seek to balance in my life and in my work as well.

Who is your favorite teacher that you’ve ever had? Why?
My favorite teacher is Anita Young, who teaches at the Royal Ballet School in London. I always loved her energy. She was a fine dancer and very funny performer, and she had so much elegance and wit about her, and she was fast. I've always enjoyed her sense of humor. She really took the artform very seriously, but not herself, and I think I tried to do that too. I think it's dangerous when we start to impose our own person onto the art that we're making, so I think it's good to keep a sense of humor and keep perspective.

Where do you find inspiration for your personal work, and for Comparative Arts projects?
I find inspiration for my work in my life. Often times, I meet people and they know something that is interesting to me. Typically there's just one small set of events, and I see the whole project in front of me. I see the end product very clearly, from set design to certain scenes, which is probably why I normally don’t get scared by large projects. I love when problems come up, because I think they make me think sharper and help me find even better solutions. Filling out the blanks and giving poetry and light and shading to the work is really all the conversation with the students and with my collaborators.

Who are some of the artists who inspire you?
Definitely Ohad Naharin, the ballet director of Batsheva Dance Company. Painters and artists along the centuries have also inspired me. I'm getting into film lately, which has been a new genre for me. I would also say Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker and Pina Bausch, both European choreographers.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given by one of your teachers?
I can tell you the worst advice I've been given by a teacher: one of my teachers said that I was too intelligent to be a dancer, and I think that that's something that offended me deeply at the time. I'm interested in developing leadership for young women in that area, as I myself am getting different opportunities. So I've received lots and lots of good advice from teachers, but I think that particular negative one taught me to be resilient and just move forward with what you believe in.

Coffee or tea?
Definitely coffee.

If you were an animal, what would you be?
I would probably be an elephant. I like them.

Who is your favorite musical artist?
That's a really difficult one. I'm going to say Brazilian music.

Want to study with Nicola Conraths-Lange? Join the Comparative Arts program at Interlochen Arts Academy.