Monday, October 18, 2010

Karole Armitage - On Creating Movement (post 1 of 3)

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.

Nothing that I do is unison. Having all the dancers absolutely dance together in perfect union is something that was great when Louis XIV was trying to show the stability of his royal world but that does not reflect democracy; that does not reflect funky, neurotic, contemporary sensibility where we are much more individualistic in this country. So I’ve been doing this kind of “non-unison” movement. It’s almost like cubism in motion, you see the dancers facing all directions. You know how in Picasso you would see the nose in all different directions? So you see the same phrase in all different directions, from multiple angles, multiple perspectives.

And when you do something like an arabesque (you know the iconic position with the leg up and back like this), I ask each dancer to interpret the arabesque so one does it on the floor, one is jumping, one is high, one is tilted, one is… you know. There is this kind of seeing each step not only from different angles but also from different levels and this just creates something. It’s very articulated and yet it’s very dense and cloudlike and it just somehow feels like a post-relativity quantum world. I mean, we no longer think that our solar system is the center of the universe and that everything runs like clockwork. We are just not in that reality anymore and … artists should take classicism and turn the dial slightly and reflect both knowledge and social habits and social ways of being and sexuality and all those things in new ways.

One of the other things I’ve been very influenced by [when] thinking about making movements is that [movement] isn’t always vertical and horizontal. Vertical and horizontal stability was stage ballet. Even modern dance comes from this tradition of representing … it’s always been about stability and control and mastery. Now, I’m very interested in the fact that we are not always masters. Japanese calligraphy is full of curves and so… I’ve been enveloped in a language that’s all about the sinuous pathways of making movement rather than taking positions and vertical and horizontal lines. That just makes it look different, makes it feel different and gives it a different philosophical tone because you’re seeing paths rather than arriving at positions, which is sort of more materialistic. These are the ways that dance changes the experience of what you’re seeing – it’s really through how the body moves.

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