Dance | No Graffiti Required: Trent Call and Ririe-Woodbury take their “urban” collaboration in an unexpected direction. 

The concept was simple enough: Collaborate with a local graffiti artist to see what kind of immediacy and rawness the contemporary urban art form could bring to the world of modern dance. n

“I first approached Trent [Call] with the idea of taking graffiti as a point of departure,” says Charlotte Boye-Christensen, artistic director for Ririe-Woodbury Dance Company. “For me, this project was initially inspired by his dynamic; he is such a versatile artist, and I like the contemporary feel of his work. But although I started choreographing the piece with that in mind, it evolved into something completely different.”

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That’s a bit of an understatement. This weekend, when RWDC presents Interiors, an evening of Boye-Christensen’s choreography—including the collaboration with local artist Call—there won’t be graffiti anywhere near the production. Sure, the idea of graffiti is where the creative process was sparked, but plenty of other things quickly began to inform the work as well. Boye-Christensen became immediately tangled with many different aspects of the of the human condition: sexuality, aggressiveness, violence, interpersonal relationships, impersonal relationships, attachments, detachments, not to mention the way that we all tend to haphazardly disregard and discard one another.

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“I wanted to get at the inhumane aspects of all that,” she explains, “while hinting at the innateness of it all, the animalistic energies of humans. I felt that those things would be interesting to translate into dance, and I wanted to use a kind of urban energy to infuse the work.”

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Sound a bit heady and discombobulating? Rest assured that in many ways, the piece is just a modern-day love story, albeit a somewhat sadomasochistic one. For Boye-Christensen, at the end of the day, relationships are what are important—whether it be family, friends, collaborating partners such as Call, or even the dancers. As she choreographed, the movement material became tremendously complex, which meant additional challenges. With such hypermovement, a concrete textural background—as opposed to a figurative one—became a necessity. You need a strong foundation, otherwise the audience is left wondering what they are supposed to be looking at.

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So with the need for a strict environment and the departure point of an urban landscape, it would make sense that some sort of graffiti set design would be called for. And, really, that was the plan. Instead, what Call and Boye-Christensen decided to develop was a film collage—image after image after distorted image.

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“At first it was going to be a painting or something,” says Call. “But as we got further in, film seemed like it would work far better. I thought that maybe I would do some kind of stop-motion painting, and I moved pretty quickly into more of an environmental and textural background feel.

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“The idea of a desert light is the first image that came to mind, and after that I just played with things. All my work is based off of spontaneity; that’s how I approach everything. Things work out, and sometimes they don’t, and then this happens and that happens. But the spontaneity is what is key. My part in this was really simple, and the whole piece is really minimal.”

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Although simple, setting that urban aesthetic was critical. For instance, both Call and Boye-Christensen are drawn to the British graffiti artist Banksy. Call refers to him as today’s Picasso or Caravaggio, specifically his often ironic approach to art. Banksy makes use of contemporary political and social context for striking juxtapositions, always with a sense of irony commenting on the current human condition.

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“I’m not interested in stuff that is blatant,” says Boye-Christensen. “I wanted a sophistication and refinement to it in terms of the images Trent chose to work through, and with. … [It] was interesting to use this scenery, this landscape that we are in. For me that points to a very exterior place, the natural context we are in, and to an interior place, the psyche that follows that.”

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Often the images in Call’s resulting film are so distorted that they do create a rather base textural environment, whether through a gradual evolution of an image, or through distortion and abstraction. According to Boye-Christensen, he has such an innate understanding of composition and movement, even within his stills, that it has been amazing to put that together with dance.

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So, although graffiti was the instigating aesthetic, Call’s use of such images—dogs, trains, leaves—has such an inherent rhythm that film seemed the natural choice. It ultimately creates an environment that is distinctly urban evoking the constant movement and energy of a cityscape. Contrast that with the driving simplicity of a score provided by Nick Cave’s gritty catalog, and the extreme physicality of Boye-Christensen’s movement vocabulary. What you end up with is a uniquely dynamic artistic endeavor—with or without the spray paint.

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INTERIORS
nRose Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South

nDec. 11-13, 7:30 p.m., Dec. 13-14 @ 2 p.m.
n355-ARTS, ArtTix.org

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