Monday, October 25, 2010

Karole Armitage - On Connecting with People and Broadway's "Hair"




Karole Armitage is an American dancer and Tony-nominated choreographer. Dubbed the "punk ballerina" in the 1980s, Karole spoke about her innovative vision and past collaborations with the New Vic Council (edited with permission). Members of the New Vic Council are ambassadors for The New Victory Theater, working to broaden the public’s awareness of the importance of arts education and championing the New Victory Theater Education Program and the New Vic/New 42 Youth Corps.

On Dance Connecting with People

I read an article, front page of The New York Times, about this discovery of mirror neurons, which are the way we look at other people and we read them; are they a threat, are they sad, are they happy, how do I interact with this person? So this is what we [as dancers] are trained to do. I’m sure back when we were hunting buffalo or bison or even mammoths we were attuned to all of that because we had to know who was the enemy and who was not, so we were very empathetic because we were reading people.

I think that dance really works with that tool, we as an audience look at somebody and we go inside their mind and experience. It’s this very archaic, primitive, but very profound way of communicating that I think will be here forever and perhaps will be even more and more precious in a world that’s more and more technological and where we are lonelier and separated from each other. I believe that now is a great time for dance to have resurgence.

On Hair:

What I think is interesting is sort of cubism in motion. This way of organizing the world visually that is very complicated and yet coherent - and that’s exactly the concept I used in Hair.

They were all good movers. A few of them were trained. In the first original cast they weren’t dancers except for a couple of them. They all moved very well but it took them a long, long time to figure out when it worked well. The new Broadway cast has a lot more trained dancers and they learned much, much more quickly. It’s [a] much more efficient process, than with actor-singers who needed a lot of time to become aware of what their bodies were doing and be able to repeat it and understand the rhythm accents. But they were great. They are so talented they have such great imaginations and there are some wonderful performers. It was just so heartfelt.

There are 28 people doing different things, but they all have a common denominator, a common idea and they’re all doing their own interpretation. I’ve been doing that in dance with my company for ten years or something and no one in the dance community has ever seemed to notice it! Who’s written about it in The New York Times? Ben Brantley instantly got it and described it perfectly - that this was a principle that was really innovative and interesting. It took a Broadway show to have my most radical concept recognized.

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