Dance writer Lauren Warnecke of Art Intercepts (www.artintercepts.org ) reflects on her experiences as a dancer & choreographer exploring “The Art of Partnering”: the theme of our final Moving Dialogs of this season, occurring at Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts’ performance penthouse this Monday, November 18th from 6:30pm – 8:30pm.
Re-imagining the Partner
As a dancer-in-training I only ever did two lifts. Playing the part of the Maid in The Nutcracker, I had one lift at the end of the party scene in which Uncle Drosselmeyer gave a boost to my final Italian pas de chat before dashing off stage left. The other time was during a summer workshop rendition of Rodeo, in which the boy (the one boy at our studio, who was significantly scrawnier than me) hoisted me into a split jump – or at least, that was the goal. In the middle of rehearsal he stopped and insisted that I was too big for him to lift.
My response? “Just put your hands on my waist and I’ll do it myself.”
These were my first and only partnering experiences until I got to college. So, the irony of asking me to reflect on “The Art of Partnering” is pretty thick, and I’ve spent a good chunk of time staring at a blinking cursor on the screen trying to prepare something intelligent to say on the topic. What do I know about partnering? Not much, actually.
As an undergraduate dance major, the concept of partnering became a little bit broader as I began to realize that it wasn’t all split jumps, fish dives, and supported pas de chats. I spent a couple semesters taking contact improv, and after several really awkward attempts at it I started to understand that lifting is more about physics than it is about strength or size. The men lifted the men, the women lifted the women, the women lifted the men. Being taller and bigger than the average dancer, I found a level of comfort in the role of the lifter that I had never experienced before, but there’s a learning curve to the whole thing that I really missed out on. The late start into partnering has left me unable to use it effectively as a choreographer; attempts at incorporating it into my dances have been arduously forced, and, if I’m honest with myself, it shows.
I’m left in awe of the people who will surround us for Monday’s Moving Dialogs: The Art of Partnering. Each is pushing the envelope of physicality in partnering by creating innovative interactions between two people (and sometimes more than two, and sometimes more than people). Perhaps more exciting than their fancy lifts is the re-imagination of what a partnership can look like. Historically, partnering meant the man lifts the woman, which almost automatically lends itself to heteronormative love stories. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but I’m pretty sure we covered it in the first couple centuries of Western concert dance.
We are conditioned to find the love story in man/woman partnerships. This isn’t exclusive to dance – television partnerships like Mulder and Scully, or Benson and Stabler were driven by an underlying desire to see them get it together and make out already. So if a choreographer takes the traditional boy-meets-girl love story and sets it on two women, wouldn’t it then be perceived as a gay love story? Maybe (and I’m pretty sure I saw that dance last year), but creating partnerships that are outside the man-woman norm opens the work to other interpretations too. With ambiguity comes possibility.
So it is with the impressive guest list at the final Moving Dialogs of the season. Local dance heroes Benjamin Wardell and Michel Rodriguez (AKA The Nexus Project), the versatile DanceWorks Chicago and dance theater maven Julia Rhoads are joined by Minneapolis-based choreographer Rosy Simas with French composer François Richomme and Canadian First Nation dancer Daina Ashbee. Rounding out the line-up is the illustrious Joe Goode visiting from San Francisco. Moderated by curator Baraka de Soleil, each artist will offer their insights surrounding partnering in all its various iterations, and true to form with this season’s previous Moving Dialogs, one never knows what might happen after that. All I’m saying is, I’m wearing pants so that if I happen to find myself in a piggy back with Ben Wardell I’m ready for it.
Monday, November 18
Moving Dialogs: The Art of Partnering
Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Performance Penthouse
915 E 60th St.
RSVP NOW for this closing Moving Dialog of the season and become part of this thoughtful conversation and experience!
members of DanceWorks Chicago
Moving Reflections blog contributor: Lauren Warnecke