Juliette Binoche takes to the stage — this time to dance

by Nobuko Tanaka

The Oscars are still in the air, and not just in Hollywood, as Tokyo is set to host Juliette Binoche — winner of Best Supporting Actress in 1996 for her role in “The English Patient” — in a weeklong run of “in-i,” a dance work she created and is performing with Akram Khan, one of England’s hottest choreographers.

Not only is 44-year-old Binoche France’s highest-paid actress, she’s also a single mom of a 9-year-old girl and a 15-year-old boy. Since premiering “in-i” at the National Theatre in London last September, Paris-born Binoche and Khan, whose family is from Bangladesh, have taken their creation to Leicester in the British Midlands, Europe, Montreal, Abu Dhabi and Sydney.

Binoche is clearly on a creative roll: she has also published a book of drawings and paintings that is titled “In-Eyes,” which features poetic commentary from film directors she has worked with, including Jean-Luc Godard, Andre Techine, Anthony Minghella and her former partner, Leos Carax (who directed her 1991 breakthrough, “Les Amants du Pont Neuf”).

Binoche may be a superstar, but she certainly didn’t act like one as she answered questions in a Japan Times interview.

It seems like a brave move for you to have accepted Khan’s offer.

I’ve never felt established and I don’t want to feel established. It’s the worst thing, because then you are kind of a stone, and life is about moving, about leaving things. When you go to a new world, you’ve got to leave things behind you. So, if you are frightened of losing, you can’t go to a new thing. You’ve got to risk letting go of everything, take the risk of being disliked, being hated, being misunderstood, being ridiculous . . . you have to take risks in your life.

What did you think when rehersals for your first dance performance started ?

I thought it was impossible to do it, that it was completely crazy and a very bad idea (laughs). I had all sorts of thoughts and feelings, but then I thought, “Wow, it’s really possible to try new things, to risk new things!” But, I have ups and downs, and sometimes I was so down, so it was a real commitment for me.

What was your motivation?

My main motivation is my thirst for life. I am thirsty; I was born thirsty. I want to learn, to know, to try, to invent and I want to reach the other. I want to learn loving. When it’s there, you go for it, so you don’t always feel like it, but when it happens you just go for it. You know, it’s a circle.

I wouldn’t call this performance “dance,” just safe dance, as it’s not a perfect form (laughs). Of course, Akram is precision and all that, but I go more with my heart, and what comes, comes. Certain people might expect dance and they may think, “She’s not a dancer,” while some will think, “Wow! I’d never have imagined it’s possible.”

It’s a cocreation between Akram and me, so some moments I would ask him, and sometimes we created it together. We recorded our rehearsals, then we chose our favorite movements and linked them, so there is lots of improvisation there.

Is there a connection between your dance performance and your drawings?

Both are related to an intimacy between masculine and feminine. What are we trying to do always, you know, to reach the other through love. And for me, there is a mysterious relationship between an actor and a director, the creator and creature. The feminine part is more receptive, and the masculine is more active. As an actor, as there is the word “act” in there, there are moments when we are acting, when we are more masculine in a way and giving it, and the director would receive it more. Then, after the show the director speaks and the actor would listen and receive. . . . So there is a back-and-forth, feminine-and-masculine kind of relationship, and it’s very interesting to me. There is a lot of expectation on both sides, and as men and women we expect a lot from each other. So the two worlds I worked in last year, my filming world and these “in-i/In-eyes” projects, are closely connected because they all relate to relationships between men and women.

What do you especially get from this “in-i” production?

The theme of our show is very important for me. It was a reflection of love. I can’t live my life in a mode of jealousy, possession and needing to own the other person. For me it doesn’t work; for me that’s not love; it doesn’t reach the love I am looking for. Normally love starts full of passion, then soon after, you’re stuck on a wall, with a relationship, jealousy and conflict. Intimacy between a man and a woman arouses the intimacy within yourself, but you have to overcome layers such as jealousy, need of possession, lust, fear of losing and all those layers we all reach at a certain point. Whether it’s through betrayal or being abandoned, it’s through big strong feelings that you realize you have to let go of something to live life or live love on a different scale.

Why do you try to take on so many challenges?

I think that our life is here for us to try something. I’m here for a purpose and not to fall asleep. It’s an awakening. There’s an urgency. I don’t mean I feel I am going to die soon, but an urgency of being where I am supposed to be. I’m put in this situation of being an actor, which is related to the public, and I need to connect to people’s creativity. “Wake up you creators, wake up. Do things, paint, express yourself and make life possible, whether it’s having children, whatever. Just wake up; it’s time for you to do things.” That’s I want to say.

I’m really interested to see how Japanese audiences react to this performance. It will probably be a new experience for them. People have to go beyond the form. There is an intensity and they’ve got to see something beyond what they expect, I suppose.

Do you expect you will be on a live stage again after “in-i?”

I don’t expect anything and I expect everything. So I have no idea what’s gonna happen in the future. I just know I’m doing a film with an Iranian director, Abbas Kiarostami, this summer and I am starting to write a script, because I want to direct a movie.

“in-i” runs March 9-15 at Theatre Cocoon, an 8-min. walk from JR Shibuya Station. From March 8 till 15, there is an exhibition of portraits from “In-Eyes” at the ZEL Cafe Gallery, a 5-min. walk from Roppongi Station on the Hibiya and Oedo subway lines. For more details, call (0570) 00-3337 or visit