Most regular Herräng visitors recognize Marie N’diaye as the artistic director of the Daily Meeting Chorus Line. She and her group of talented jazz dancers entertain the audience with sophisticated rhythms in sparkly costumes. Fewer people know that Marie is also a researcher with a Ph.D. in neuroimmunology. She applies this nerdy side to swing dancing too and loves to dig deep into the history of the dance.
By: Sara Arvidsson Editor: Odella Schattin Cover photo: Lindsey Appolis
Eight women enter the stage dressed in sequin shorts with feathers around their wrists. High kicks, fast feet and flowing arms. They are synchronized, but each of them puts some individuality into her movements. Marie N’diaye is dancing front and center with a big smile on her face. One of her passions in life is showcasing the legacy of the chorus lines and inspiring the swing dancers of today to learn from the female dancers of the jazz era.
– Chorus girls knew their shit. They did it all. They could tap, they could sing, and they could dance.
The Daily Meeting Chorus Line was formed in 2012. Marie choreographed ten new group numbers during the first summer, two for each week of the camp. Now they have some 55 different routines in their repertoire. Over the years, Marie has come to realize what a deep well of inspiration the chorus line dancers are.
– The chorus girls saw every show in town and they stole and borrowed steps and made them their own. So when you watch the chorus line you see most of what was happening at a particular point in time. They kept all the ideas, all the steps, and all the rhythms. The fact that the footage of these dancers was ignored for so long really limited our understanding of vernacular jazz.
When Marie N’diaye arrived in Herräng for the first time back in 2010, she had her entire life packed in two suitcases. She knew little about Sweden, but was just about to move here and start her doctoral studies at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. She went directly from the airport to Herräng for two weeks of dancing. She didn’t know what to expect.
– It was super weird to come to this small village in the middle of nowhere and recognize so many faces. I remember going to the musical they had that year and seeing Skye Humphries in a golden blond wig with curls and a harp and wings, playing the role of an angel. I was laughing so hard and thought, “Where am I?! What is this place?!”
Growing up, dancing was a natural part of life. Marie explains that if you can walk you can dance. Everyone in her family danced modern jazz and, as part of her family comes from Guadeloupe in the Caribbean, they always danced the Caribbean partner dance zouk at birthday parties and weddings. Swing dancing came into her life as a gift. Literally. She was living in Montreal at the time and got swing dance lessons as a birthday present from a friend. She liked it immediately and continued to take classes.
– It was nice to dance together in a social setting. Lindy hop is such a happy dance so it’s easy to get hooked. After a few months, the owners of the dance studio asked if I wanted to teach Lindy hop. I said no, because I was busy with my studies. After a few more months they asked again. This time, I said yes and ten years later I am still teaching swing dancing. Now Marie teaches at Chicago Swing Dance Studio in Stockholm and at Herräng Dance Camp. At this year’s camp, she is teaching Lindy hop and the chorus line track, that is being offered for the second time.
What is the difference between the chorus line track and the solo jazz track?
– The chorus line track is more performance-oriented and the group does a few performances during the week. We also try to incorporate some basic tap steps. But I always teach jazz inspired by chorus lines, even in regular solo jazz workshops.
Marie thinks people should look more at chorus girls and women in general for inspiration. She is also inspired by entertainers like Dawn Hampton who contributed a lot to swing history in other ways.
– We tend to forget the women, but they are so inspiring and so good. In the beginning, I learned from male dancers with a male style. Then I started to look at other people who did the same steps, like Jeni LeGon, Marie Bryant, Katherine Dunham and, of course, Norma Miller. I look more like them than Al Minns, so maybe their body movements make more sense for me.
Marie stresses that everyone can find a lot of inspiration from chorus line dancers.
– I get as much inspiration from Dorothy Dandridge as from the Nicholas Brothers, so why shouldn’t male dancers do the same? You might not want to dance in the same style, but the steps are there.
How does the fact that you are a researcher influence your attitude towards dancing?
– Being a researcher means I am a nerd. I love facts, and the impact of facts on life. That has helped me in reading books, finding clips and asking people questions whenever I can. I like to dig into things and to understand them on a deeper level.
ABOUT: Marie N’diaye
Family: Parents, five siblings including Hanna N’diaye who is also a Lindy hopper, 12 nephews and nieces, 42 cousins on her mom’s side and lots more on her dad’s side. Swedish family: Adoptive sister Alexandra Alhimovich, goddaughter Rubina. Adoptive mom Kerstin Sihlberg and annoying little brother Anders Sihlberg.
Home: Where my people are. I have a home here in Älvsjö, Stockholm, one in France, one in Montreal and one in the Caribbean.
Interests: Anything nerdy. Dancing, science, reading, theatre, musicals, comics and action movies especially Marvel movies.