Mathilde Lin is a multidisciplinary dancer, choreographer and model, raised between France and China. After training at the Rudra Béjart school in Lausanne, Mathilde joined the IT Dansa company in Barcelona, followed by a season at Żfin, Malta’s national repertory company, dancing under the direction of Paolo Mangiola. Now based in London, Mathilde seems to be perpetually on tour with various companies, alongside teaching at dance school House of Mass and starring in Harry Styles’ music videos. We caught her on a rare day off to discuss her attitudes to work, life and comfortable dance clothes.
How did growing up between France and China inform your practice
and the way you see the world?
It was a unique and powerful experience, growing up between two countries. It shaped who I am today. It enabled me to adapt to new cultures and ways of living and thinking. I also think it made me less afraid of the unknown. I’m very grateful for it.
How would you describe your approach to dance and choreography?
I’m always experimenting, both as a dancer and when I make my own work. I like the challenge of learning new skills, getting out of my comfort zone and working with different teams. I try to surprise and reinvent myself constantly. For me, that’s where the fun lies.
Which dancers and/or choreographers do you admire?
I tend to admire the people that are around me — colleagues, friends, students, choreographers. I’ve been lucky to work with many amazing artists who have helped me grow and taught me a lot.
The life of a dancer is famously tough, both physically and mentally. What do you do to unwind and relax?
It is! Especially the constant travel, so when I’m not working I like to be home. In winter I love the cinema, in summer I like to cycle around Paris. I also enjoy a good cup of coffee with my best friend. We can talk for hours and hours about our thoughts and feelings.
What do you like to wear when you’re not working?
Comfort is the most important thing for me! I have to be able to move in my clothes, to dance, to cycle, to sit on the floor. I like clean, simple shapes and versatile colours that work in any situation.
Back in February 2020, you starred in Isamaya Ffrench’s gloriously demented music video for Yves Tumor’s Gospel for a New Century. Does dancing for film require a different approach to live performance?
Yes totally. For me, it’s a completely different job. My first passion was performing live, so I have more experience in that context and I think it’s a very unique thing that must be protected, especially in the age of social media. I started dancing for film later in my career. You spend less time actually performing but when you do, it’s more intense. I’m interested in the possibilities it offers you as a performer. It’s a different way of connecting to an audience.
You recently collaborated with Harry Styles on the video for As It Was, which has garnered 202+ million views in the two months since it was released. How did that partnership come about and is that a number you can wrap your head around?
The assistant to the choreographer of the video, Yoann Bourgeois, knew my work and put me forward for it. 202 million (now 236 million) is definitely not a number I can get my head around! But then again, that’s part of the fun of this career. One day I’m performing in a cave for 50 people, the next I’m shooting a music video for one of the most famous singers in the world.
Do you have a philosophy regarding how you teach choreography and dance?
I do have a kind of philosophy, which I apply to teaching but also to my own career. The basic principles are: Never try too hard. Observe others with a keen and generous eye. And finally, Dance to feel better, not worse.
Do you think the culture of professional dance is becoming more inclusive?
As with many creative industries, especially those that centre on body image, the culture of professional dance is flawed. That being said, I do think change is starting to happening, just as it is in the rest of society, but the progress is slow.
We are still facing serious gender inequality. According to a study by the French Ministry of Culture, men are disproportionately represented across the industry, receiving more funding, opportunities, prizes and recognition for their work than women.
What are you listening to at the moment?
I’m always listening to a mix of different things but I do have some favourites that follow me everywhere. IGOR by Tyler the Creator, FKJ’s new album, V I N C E N T, and Little Simz.
What makes you excited about the future?
I like to focus on the near future — this afternoon, tomorrow! The rest will follow.
The greatest adventures I’ve had have come out of the blue, completely unplanned. That makes me excited for the future.
Finally, we ask all of our Journal interviewees to complete the following phrase:
You Must Create… your own ways