There is more than 120 years age difference between rising star Soko and turn-of-the-century icon Loie Fuller, yet the two disparate artists have more in common than you might imagine.

“She was just a very charmed, multi-hyphenate woman,” said the Bordeaux-born actress of the true-life character she portrays in the new biopic The Dancer. “People today are put in small boxes and its very reductive: you can only be one thing. But (Fuller) didn’t let that happen; she was all these things at once and I do that too.”

Indeed she does. Soko (whose proper name is Stéphanie Sokolinski) has certainly explored several arenas of creativity in her 32 years. As well as carving out a successful career as a singer-songwriter in France, Soko has directed her own music videos, become a social media maven and even earned a César nomination (France’s equivalent to the Oscars) for her acting.

Those accomplishments aside, Soko insists telling the tale of little-known Fuller has been the most rewarding experience of her life. After all, the inspiring 19th-century artist was a pioneering Belle Époque dancer who innovated modern dance in an era when women were only beginning to be recognized for their mark on society.

“To me it’s very relevant to be as creative and as big — to challenge yourself as much as you want every day,” said Soko of Fuller’s big ambitions, which also included revolutionary advances using theatrical lighting and fabric in dance.

“She’s a super strong woman, she’s a feminist (and) the more I got to know her I was like, this story really needs to be told.”

For Soko, however, telling that story would also prove incredibly physical. Director Stéphanie Di Giusto sequestered Soko to five weeks of intense training in order to master the considerable upper-body strength of Fuller’s gorgeous choreography, which includes twirling nearly 350 metres of flowing voluminous silk.

“(Di Giusto) said the dance is really challenging but we’ll have a body double so don’t worry; I was like, wait, what?” laughed Soko, who insisted on learning Fuller’s dances. “To me the only way to become her was to go through intense training — you don’t want to be a pale imitator of her art.”

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