Jacqueline Beck trained in dance in Zurich and New York and then worked as a dancer for five years. Since the age of 30, she has been working in her chosen profession as a choreographer. She has built up a dance school in Liechtenstein and also teaches contemporary dance to young professional dancers. Among other things, she was the house choreographer at the Cinevox Junior Company in Neuhausen am Rheinfall and her choreographies have won international awards. About ten years ago she rediscovered the passion for photography, which she developed at a young age. This year she is exhibiting her photographic work publicly for the first time – in combination with a dance piece. Jacqueline Beck lives in Schaan and is 59 years old.
Where and how did you grow up?
I grew up in Schaan. My mother was a housewife and my father worked as a trustee and was the head of Schaan for many years. As my parents often had to attend official functions, I was allowed to spend a lot of time with my grandparents in Grabs.
I loved watching my grandmother Amalie, who worked as a homeopath. When parents came to collect ‘Mali’s’ magic tooth pellets for their children, they were always full of praise about the positive results of this medicine. This made me very happy, because then my grandmother’s face beamed with contentment. My grandfather ‘Michel’ was a locksmith by trade and his craft also fascinated me as a child. I loved the smell of his workshop and I used to watch him work for hours on end.
When I look back, my parents and grandparents gave me a lot of good tools to take with me on my artistic path.
Could you describe your professional background?
I completed my dance training at the Zurich Dance Theatre School and at the New Dance Group Studio (Sophie Mazlow) in New York. After my training I was engaged as a dancer with Zurich Dance Theatre and Contemporary Dance Zurich under the direction of Paula Lansley. At the age of about 30 I ended my dance career and began to work as a choreographer. Since 1994 I have created several choreographies for the Cinevox Junior Company, TAK Theater Liechtenstein, Daburu(T) Tanz & Theater, Carambole Tanz & Theater, Walk Tanztheater/A and many more. Since 2015 I have been a lecturer at the Kunstschule Liechtenstein and since 2017 an examiner at the Höhere Fachschule für Zeitgenössischen und Urbanen Tanz in Zurich.
Were there certain events or stations that were formative for your career?
Participation in various competitions abroad was certainly formative for my career as a choreographer. In 1994 I won 3rd prize at the International Choreographers Competition in Hanover. In 1996 & 1999 I took part in the International Ballet and Modern Dance Competition in Nagoya / Japan. In 1996 we reached the final and in 1999 I was choreographer for the silver medal winners. Participating in these important competitions for choreographers was exciting for me. I could measure myself against others in the world of choreography and simultaneously they opened new doors for me.
Were there certain people who were formative for your career?
There were many important people who supported and shaped me on my artistic path. First and foremost my mother Agathe. As a single mother, I would not have been able to follow many artistic paths without her. She gave me incredible support in looking after the children and was always there for me in difficult times. I have been very lucky in my professional career. The profession of choreographer is very male-dominated. Nevertheless, wonderful opportunities arose for me, which I gladly seized.
Has your environment supported you in your career?
Not everyone around me supported me. To some, my career aspirations seemed utopian and they probably secretly hoped that I would throw in the towel. But that only strengthened my resolve to go down this path.
What are your current activities?
Photography is very important in my artistic work at the moment. I am lucky that I always meet people who like to be photographed. I love to stage my pictures and transform my protagonists into artistic figures. I can fully live out my love of fashion in dressing the models. Since I don’t have to make a living from photography, I feel an infinite amount of freedom, as no pressure is built up and my creativity can flow. I will remain a choreographer all my life as the desire to invent dances is always a part of me. Therefore everything is open…
Does what you are currently doing fulfil you?
Yes! If my job no longer fulfilled me, then I would have to quit and look for something else. I am only good at my job when I feel a passion for it.
What or who inspires you in everyday life?
When I develop dance theatre projects, it is always the music that is my artistic driving force and that awakens images in me. Music is a tremendous inspiration! In photography, it is the human being that fascinates me and also the environment in which I photograph the models.
What or who gives you strength and energy in everyday life?
My friends and my family.
There are ‘magic moments’ when everything seems to fit. Moments that fulfil, inspire and give strength. Moments that confirm that the effort is worthwhile and that what you do is meaningful and valuable. Have you already experienced such moments in relation to your own activities?
There are many such moments in my work as a choreographer and I also experience this magic in photography. They trigger feelings in me that are indescribable. I am at a loss for words.
Are there moments when you doubt what you are doing?
I often doubt myself and always think that I should have done this or that better. However, these feelings are also what drive me forward as an artist. There is no room for arrogance. I need the challenge and like to take on big tasks.
In retrospect, can you find something positive in difficult moments?
When a project was difficult or there were problems with individuals in the group, I always swore that I would never do that to myself again. In retrospect, however, it was precisely during the difficult projects that I learned to listen to myself and that led me to make better decisions in the future. Since I always have to deal with people in my projects, I also had to work hard on myself and learn that stubbornness won’t get me to my goal any faster. I always had to feel anew what a certain group needs, how I can move forward most efficiently without exerting too much pressure. My artistic standards are always very high. I have learned that I can rely on my experience. I can look back on many, very successful works and draw strength, self-confidence and energy from them.
Is there anything you would do differently in retrospect?
I wish I had enjoyed my time as a dancer more, when I was active on stage. I put a lot of pressure on myself, I was very self-critical and worked intensely hard. That time was short and went by insanely fast. I look back on that time rather wistfully.
Do you want to contribute to society with your activities?
I can observe that society’s interest in dance has grown. Contemporary dance is no longer a dance style known only to a select few. Dance has a power to touch the innermost in people.
Is the recognition of other people or the public important to you?
For me as a performing artist, it is important to have the recognition of the public. To feel the audience, the reactions of the individual… The recognition does not dictate my artistic work but it is important and nourishes me as an artist. It pushes me on and gives me self-confidence.
How well can you live from what you do professionally?
I can live well on it. My salary comes from various sources. On the one hand my teaching, then my work as a choreographer and directing at the theatre, such as Grimm & Co., and the realisation of my own dance and theatre productions.
Is there something that is particularly occupying you at the moment?
I am intensively involved with photography at the moment. There is something very fleeting about dance and you can’t freeze the magical moments. With photography I can capture extraordinary people and stories in pictures. Working as a choreographer is always a big part of my artistic activity. At the moment I am working together with Katja Langenbahn on the dance & theatre production ‘die Vernissage im Anderland’ at GZ Resch in Schaan. Part of this production is also my first photo exhibition in Liechtenstein on 14/15 November 2020, which I am very much looking forward to.
What are you most grateful for in life?
For my friends and family. For everything I am allowed to learn from other people.
For making my dream of dancing and working as a choreographer come true. With photography I can discover another form of my artistic expression. I am grateful for that.
This interview is part of the project ‘Magic Moments’ by Kunstverein Schichtwechsel, in which people are interviewed about their careers, activities and their magical as well as difficult moments.
Curated by Stefani Andersen and Laura Hilti, Kunstverein Schichtwechsel.
Supported by Kulturstiftung Liechtenstein and Stiftung Fürstl. Kommerzienrat Guido Feger.
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