Interview Review: Sugar Space's Suite | Buzz Blog

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Interview Review: Sugar Space's Suite

Posted By on February 15, 2011, 4:21 PM

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This past weekend, Sugar Space hosted Suite: Women Defining Space and City Weekly caught up with the three choreographers to ask them each three questions about their work and the performance.---

Emily Haygeman

There's a common stigmata that "men choreograph and women dance." What's the significance of a performance like Suite, which spotlights women choreographers?

This statement actually presents an interesting dynamic (and has prompted some interesting retorts), because I think dance, in some ways, is perceived as a predominantly female art form. If you attend a dance class around town, it is likely that most attending will be women. However, men receive the majority of the funding in the art form.  For example, in 2000, 13 of 18 modern-dance choreographers who received a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) grant were men, and the men tended to receive larger amounts.  

The significance of a performance like Suite is that it provides local women choreographers such as myself with the proper supports needed to see a show through from conception to closing night. Sugar Space provided us with rehearsal space, a technical director, and a mentorship program through meeting with last year's participants. At the end of the day, we even get to pay our dancers, which is unfortunately a very unusual thing if you are an independent artist. For me, doing this show also took away my personal stigma that choreographing for audiences at this point in my life is just "too much" and "too expensive." It made the process affordable and approachable.

You’ve studied Modern Dance and Psychology at the U. How do these two mingle and manifest in your work? And, secondly, how so in "Rites and Returns" (pictured above) which for me, dealt with domination and submission?

I find that these two paths complement each other really well. I think everything an artist studies or experiences influences his or her work. There is some quote that talks about how art is the process of constantly writing one's own autobiography, it's this completely subjective experience that gives us the chance to really see another's perspective. So, yes, my dances tend to be "psychological" in nature in that I really try to pay attention to and highlight the human element in which people morph and react in relation to one another.  There are also so many so-called human tendencies that we study in psychology that I find fascinating and try to bring into my work.  

It's interesting that you say "Rites and Returns" dealt with domination and submission because when I started choreographing, I wanted the dancers to struggle against the platforms, which would create a harsh and immoveable environment.  As we went along, I realized that the environment could change, that sometimes the dancers were to struggle against the environment and one another, and sometimes they would very literally be "held up" by those same components.  A lot of the choreography for this piece was influenced by my recent experience with death. My mother passed away this past August, and as I began to form the movement, I realized that it was inevitably going to be about my experience with grief, how I saw the world both as harsh and insanely unfair, but also mysteriously supportive. The landscape of the dance truly became the landscape of my psyche at that moment in time, translated into movement. 

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The two bare-backed dancers in "Rendering 2" didn't face the audience in this provocative and alluring piece. This is your exploration into movement creation and storytelling from the back. Please explain this theory and exercise. 

I am interested in relating story and meaning without using the usual cues for this, which tend to be the face and front of the body.  Especially in our Western culture, we tend to be very frontal.  This piece experiments with the stripping away of those typical cues, and attempts to convey a relationship between two people in this way.  The second element to this piece is the inspiration of the beauty of the human form.  Simplicity is often overlooked in favor of more overt, obvious movement.  I find that the beauty of the human back, of the muscles moving while breath fills the body, is a profound pleasure to watch.  I told my dancers "My mouth waters every time I watch you do this piece."  And it does.  The sensuousness of the human body, without being compromised with overt sexuality, moves this piece.  

Joan Mann

Your piece "kills." seemed ethereal: an intro quote from Fear and Loathing, gold glitter, music by Clair de Lune and Necro and a coming-to-the-other-world-after-death feel. 

My intent was ethereal. Kills took that path from the beginning. I wanted to capture that feeling of distraction and illusion. Being here but not really being “here.” The Fear and Loathing quote hit it on the head and the projection of poppies were all tangible ways to loose yourself but it wasn't really about drug use. There are many other ways to loose yourself and I was trying to get at those as well. I went to see The Wizard of Oz play with the Utah Symphony and never stopped thinking about those damn poppies!

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The inspiration for "kills." comes from '80s gore karate and experiments with ocular orgasms. Explain.

If you haven't seen the movie shogun assassin, I recommend you should. Gza's Liquid Swords album was created becauce of it and it has inspired  just about every Quentin Tarintino movie. It's an orgasm for the eyes. I say that because it's what people want to see and want to pay to see. It can be the simplest of pleasures but if it makes your pupils pop, you're going to want more. I try to create with that in mind. Most of my movement stems from that idea. It's been my handy little creating tool and I like it.

This is the second in a three-part series that you hope to exhibit as a public arts piece. Please describe the trilogy. More ocular orgasms? And when can we expect to see it in full?

I'm finishing Part 3 and adding a couple more pieces to a show/event/gathering of sorts this late summer. I also plan on exhibiting a piece but the details on when and were will be a surprise. It will travel all over the city and if you catch a glimse... Fantastic

Elise Williams

Is process of developing Suite, as a whole, one of collaboration?

We actually worked with the mentors from last year, and next year we will mentor new women. My mentor was Erin Romero, who was great. She was very supportive and gave me advice whilst still freedom to make my own choices. Working with Emily and Joan was great too. I had no idea how these various pieces would fit together, but I think it covered a broad scope of choreography genres.

Why did you choose classical music Phillip Glass and Mozart—for both of your pieces? Talk about how you decide what music to use for each piece in general.

I actually had two choices of music for "Denial" and didn't decide until a week before the show. Sometimes a piece of music grabs me, other times a movement phrase will pop into my body and then I search for music. I narrowed it down to Phillip Glass and a much lighter piece and ran the piece with both until the week before until I felt comfortable with my decision. I tend to use music without words and classical because I was raised on it, and I was trained in ballet first. I worry that words will box me in, though I didn't feel that way in "Ode" because of the foreign language. I really admired the other women's musical choices especially since I felt that alliteration is beyond my scope at this time.

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Your piece "Ode to the Restaurant Business," set to "Ode to Joy," was the grand finale. You choreographed multiple forms of dance—including modern and ballet—along with sheer mayhem (for example: champagne chugging) for a humorous and well executed work. Talk about your inspiration and the choreography.

I work in the restaurant business and have for ten years to sustain my dance career.  That is basically where the inspiration for the 'Ode to the Restaurant Business' came from. There is always multiple things going on at anyone moment so that was what I focused on incorporating. I wanted to show all these different things happening, building and then colliding when one server tries to save the day. The characters are all stereotypes from an insider's view, the prudish/ cocky engagement table, the obsessive maitre d' running the show, the odd guest out on a date night, the guest who sends the food back, the ornery chef, and, of course, the servers sneaking drinks on the job to stay sane. I wanted to create a busy scene where the eye could be amused wherever it went so using different disciplines seemed logical (plus three of the 'dancers' had no dance training whatsoever!). I started with the servers and maitre d', added the guests, and the whole thing just grew from there. I must credit the dancers for developing their own character relationships, their amazing acting jobs and lots of improv! CW

Photos by Brian Parcells

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