Malou Airaudo was born in 1948 in Marseille, southern France, and took dance lessons from the age of eight in the Opéra de Marseille’s ballet school. In 1963 she joined the Opéra’s ensemble, directed by Joseph Lazzini. In 1965 she moved to the recently founded Ballet de Monte Carlo, led by Léonide Massine, where she danced in two Massine choreographies, the Tannhäuser Bacchanal – set design by Salvador Dalí – and Gaîté Parisienne. Meanwhile, she continued her dance education with teachers including Marika Besobrasova, Solange Golovine, Rosella Hightower, Alexandre Kalioujny, Madame Nora, Raymond Franchetti and Nina Vyroubova. In 1968, she worked with Ballet Théâtre Contemporain, led by Jean-Albert Cartier and Françoise Adret, where she performed in works by Adret as well as by Joseph Lazzini, George Skibine, Brian Macdonald, John Butler, Michel Descombey, Milko Šparemblek and Félix Blaska. It was here that she met Manuel Alum, dancer and choreographer wiht the Paul Sanasardo Dance Company](/id/paulsanasardo_donyafeuer_dance_company), in 1969. Alum was a guest teacher at Ballet-Théâtre Contemporain, and Airaudo followed him to New York in 1970. She took classes in modern dance with Alum and Paul Sanasardo, and ballet with Maggie Black. Alum choreographed the solo piece Woman of a Mystic Body for her. It was at the Sanasardo dance studio that she first met Pina Bausch, in 1971, and Pina invited her to join the newly established Tanztheater Wuppertal in 1973.
Between two worlds
Joining Pina Bausch made Airaudo one of the dancers who shaped Tanztheater Wuppertal from the very beginning. She was there for FritzFritz, the company’s very first production, and performed in the two Gluck operas – Iphigenie auf Tauris and Orpheus und Eurydike – as well as I’ll Do You In, Adagio – Five Songs by Gustav Mahler, Café Müller, Bandoneon and Walzer. Her strength lay in elegiac, dramatic roles, to which she lent unique expression. In The Rite of Spring, she took over the role of sacrificial victim from Marlis Alt, and she also played parts in Kontakthof, Keuschheitslegende (Legend of Chastity), Blaubart(Bluebeard), Arien, Auf dem Gebirge hat man ein Geschrei gehört (On the Mountain a Cry was heard) and Two Cigarettes in the Dark. Despite her commitments in Wuppertal, she continued to perform in the USA too, by invitation of Manuel Alum. In 1975, she co-founded the company La Main in Paris, with Jacques Patarozzi](/id/jacques_antoine_patarozzi), Dominique Mercy, Héléna Pikon und Dana Sapiro. During this time, she met Carolyn Carlson, with whom she took classes and went on to work with over many years, e.g. in The Architects (Paris, 1980), Chalk Work (Venice, 1983), as well as in many improvisations.
Teacher and choreographer
In 1984 Pina Bausch offered Airaudo a professorship of Modern Dance at the Folkwang Hochschule (later Folkwang University of the Arts). In 2012 she became director of the university’s Institute of Contemporary Dance. She has worked as a choreographer with, among others, the Folkwang Dance Studio, the Ballet de Lorraine and the Grand Théâtre de Genève. She also worked with urban dance company Renegade, based in Herne, Germany, where she was invited by director Zekai Fenerci to develop the pieces Schwarze Katze, Irgendwo, Der verlorene Drache, Afternoon, Robozee vs. Sacre and Drang. Since her retirement in 2018, Airaudo has been involved in rehearsing new productions of pieces from the Pina Bausch repertoire, such as Iphigenie auf Tauris at the Semperoper in Dresden. Since 2019 she has been artistic director – along with Zekai Fenerci – of the dance collective Renegade. In 2020 she and Germaine Acogny created a duet called common ground[s] in which the two dancers explore their common heritage and share their experiences.
Text: Norbert Servos
Translation: Rachel McNicholl