Today we welcome for an interview Marco Oranje, contortionist, artist, dancer, choreographer…. but above all a beautiful person and an extraordinary contortion trainer. My words are not senseless as I have personally seen the results of his work on myself and many other people.
It’s a honour to interview Marco in our blog.
Be attentive, we’ll speak about many important details that will help you to know if you’re born to be flexible and what you should do to get more flexy 😉
Marco Oranje – Photo by Jimmy Brown
Tell us a few words about you: where you come from, how you came to contortion.
I was born in a family of boatmen, had a very complicated and very painful childhood.
I lived my youth in host families and host homes. At the age of 12 I started classical dance in duet with a girl of my class who had been refused to the Academy following her audition. At the beginning, classical dance allowed me to leave home and to live at least once a week the real life of society.
Very quickly, my dance teacher saw talent in me. She helped me with all her forces so that I could get an audition at the Het Nationale Ballet Academy in Amsterdam (Paris Opera level). To my surprise, I was admitted. The Academy helped me to find a host family with whom I lived during 2 years until I was 18 years old.
Then I stopped everything to get into the nightlife with everything that goes with…
1 year later, Michael Clark, a contemporary English choreographer (I was his big fan) was coming to do a show in Amsterdam and was looking for extra dancers.
With my big ego, I introduced myself and even without having taken classes for 1 year I was admitted… The day of the show, when the curtain opened, I felt in love with the scene.
It allowed me to get back to my classes and work as I have never done before. This decision allowed me to join the company Introdans in Arnem (Holland) where I was a trainee replacing the entire program.
At the end of the year, I left to make my career abroad: 4 years at Essener Ballet Germany, 2 ½ years at the Ballets de Monte-Carlo Monaco and finally, the Bordeaux Opera. It was there that overnight, I made the decision to leave the world of classical and contemporary dance because I did not feel happy.
After giving my resignation, I went up to Paris and literally knocked on the door of the Moulin Rouge to ask if I could have an audition… that I had the same afternoon and where I was also engaged.
This beautiful place made me fall madly in love with the French Can-can which became my specialty there as Boneless Valentin (flexible soloist).
With my contract, I traveled all over the world to live my passion with can-can.
The day I was invited to see Muriel Hermin’s “Crescend’o” show, I had a 3rd artistic passionate love – contortion. I realized that this is what I have always been looking for.
As a result, for a year I trained day and night to get more flexible (while staying on stage at night in can-can). A year later, a strange coincidence made me replace the contortionist of the same show I had seen at Crescend’o.
And my contorsion career began.
So you are a real artist and not only in contortion. Today, what is your main job?
I am above all an artist: I dance, practice contortion and aerial acrobatics (rope, hoop, silks, fixed trapeze), I sang, played comedy. I am also a choreographer and director.
My main desire today is to transmit my expertise in flexibility and coaching of body fluency.
This includes everything that is part of the body such as stage fright, femininity etc but my main activity in coaching is contortion.
So the answer is: coaching but not exclusively, if I like an art project I do it!
So I have to stay in shape.
You should often hear “I’m not flexible and I’m not 20, so it’s too late for me. What do you say to that kind of thing? Is there an age for flexibility?
My answer is very clear.
If we compare the flexibility with the bike, everyone can ride a bike but not everyone will do or wants to go for the Tour de France.
Of course, the younger you start, the faster you get results.
One can become flexible at any age (seen by experience).
I started at the age of 30 and despite the fact that I was a dancer, I saw that the flexibility was not the same for contortion, so I had to go back.
I still had two advantages: to have a body awareness and the discipline of the classical dance world.
After all, it’s all about determination.
If we look at Indian yogis, they do contortion until the end of their lives.
We can age very well practicing contortion if it is well done.
Marco Oranje – Photo by Romain Al’l
You accompany a lot of athletes and I really see that your method is almost a miracle. How did you build it and what makes it so effective?
I do not pretend to work miracles at all.
Thanks to my many injuries, I could find in my own body a way of working without too much damage.
I work a lot the active flexibility because it gives faster results and the body gets deep muscle training at the same time.
After the flexibility has become a real passion for me.
I first create a relationship of trust with the student and together we try to go very far.
Humour helps a lot.
Yes yes, I work exclusively with humour because it brings out the endorphin and suddenly we are less focused on pain and suddenly we stay a little longer in the positions (to gain more flexibility).
Then there is the notion of mind, we talk about it a little bit later.
Many people think that they are not flexible and generally during the 1st sessions students gain a lot … but it is false most of the time, because this flexibility is already in the body without knowing and thanks to the established confidence the body goes further.
It can be very impressive.
The body is really amazing!
We do not have all the possibility to take regular classes with you in Paris. How to build a practice of flexibility / contortion alone?
I do pretty much workshops or private lessons, I give a lot of exercises to do at home.
How to build the practice?
1: The placement above all !!!!
I laugh a lot but I am very maniac about placement because with a good placement we avoid a lot of injuries!
2: The warm up !!!!! Make sure that the body is really hot.
It’s like an elastic: you put it in the freezer and you pull after … it breaks !
You put it in very hot water and you can extend it a lot, much more.
Are there any safety instructions to follow when working alone?
It joins the answer from before: warm up + placement.
And I add the lifestyle, including more sleep because the body needs more rest when you go to the extreme.
After, I never work a figure if I can’t do it. I prepare the body earlier by muscling or softening the place that needs it. After that I can ask someone to spot me.
But I will use the fewest accessories possible. The scorpion (shrimp) descents by the sofa or against the wall … or even worse on the bricks, bristles me: never and especially never alone !!
Imagine that you miss the descent and you fall badly on the neck. You can even black out or worse be paralyzed (it’s extreme but the risk is there)
Who is there to catch you?
It’s good to have big challenges but not at any price.
Marco Oranje – Photo by Pappy Stevens
What’s more efficient: one hour sessions several times a week or big sessions once a week? Why?
I always say: it’s better a big session than several small ones.
Why ? Because the warm-up time stays the same. But for a little session, when your body is heated, it’s almost the end of the session. It is also very demotivating because you do not have time to do a lot of exercises so you see very little progress.
In addition, the most difficult thing in general is to warm up. Once you’re hot, you’re much more motivated.
With a long session, you can insist and repeat several times and the results will motivate you to do more.
It is very important to take care of the motivation !!!
Everyone does not know that contortion is not only the work of the body but also of the mind. How are both linked and what advice can you give to get even faster results?
I think that today, we understand more and more that a positive mind is more fruitful than negative thinking.
Example: If you tell yourself all day that your knee hurts…. Well at the end of the day, you have a big risk of knee pain.
I’m not saying it’s simple as an approach, but it’s very important.
To change these thoughts, I always suggest to reassure the body first with the little phrase “everything is fine” it may be simplistic but it is effective.
The body is like a child: a reassured and encouraged child does miracles.
I was not a positive person at all, I had to do a lot of work to change that in my work and in my life.
But the results are convincing…
Are there any foods that can improve or decrease flexibility?
I do not want to go into too much detail about food because there are too many contradictory theories.
I am radical with sugar because it is the worst thing that the muscles can undergo, it is a real drug and in addition it is addictive…
It is essential to drink much more than someone who does not work flexibility: water, herbal teas. On the other hand, coffee and black tea dehydrate and alcohol, we know what it is …
I drink red wine and beer from time to time but I avoid any strong alcohol.
Afterwards, it is important to take dietary supplements, vitamins and minerals because the contortion evacuates much faster than other sports because the muscles do not hold them due to the fact that they are pulled to the extreme.
Marco Oranje – Photo by Karo Cottier
Does contortion affect health and in what way? What are the precautions to take to maintain your health and strengthen it even more?
Yes and no ))
Of course, when you go far, there is a risk of damage.
That’s why I work as much as possible with the muscles and not on the bone.
It’s nice to have a great level now, but I always say: think when you’re 80 and you’ll have to go out shopping and party, why not, but if your body is kaput …. it’s difficult to enjoy the life.
Know your body and your limits well and be aware that you can not have everything. There are figures that are not for everyone.
After, it’s good to have a good address book of people who can treat you and in whom you have absolute confidence.
I advise to regularly see osteopaths or chiropractors to put the body in its place (it avoids damaging the body that is not in its place), even if it does not hurt.
For me it’s every 3 months in times of big trainings.
You have to invest in your body, health is priceless.
It’s disappointing to hear “I don’t have money because I’m taking classes, I have to buy this or that …” My answer: your body, you have only one, till the end of your life.
And to suffer in your own body, I wish it to no-one so look where your priorities are.
And the rest !!!! It’s part of the training … or rather the rest is a workout. Because it is only when one is at rest that the brain will classify all the information. It also happens to achieve a feat just after a weekend or vacation. Why? This is because the body and the brain continue to work even (especially) if we rest.
If you had to give advice, what would it be?
- Do not be afraid of injuries it’s annoying but hey, it’s also part of the game and one more reason to listen to his body even more deeply.
- Have fun while working, it motivates. Find a buddy with whom you can train (even occasionally), it helps to keep motivation.
- Do not compare yourself to the others, the flexibility is personal.
- Rather find solutions to seek flexibility elsewhere than to insist on a part that can not relax because it inevitably causes injury.
Marco Oranje – Photo by Karo Cottier
Thank you Marco for this passionate interview !
I hope you’ll note all the precious recommendations of Marco and especially take the opportunity to go to his workshops or invite him to your studio as we do it here at Ecole de pole dance Keelin Pro.
Believe me, this investment totally worth it. Personally, I’ve taken already a dozen of workshops and turn back with huge pleasure every time.
By the way, as any great coach, Marco always invents new exercises. So you have no excuses ! 😉
And to give you an example of what a non-flexible person can do thanks to Marco, I share with you my progress pics. 😉
My progress thanks to classes with Marco.