“When I started with The Spectators, I made all these sections and then looked at how they would fit together,” explained Pam Tanowitz to writer Gia Kourlas in last Sunday’s New York Times. “What skin is it going to live in? That’s really why I’m a choreographer: It’s how I understand the world.”
Opening tomorrow, Wednesday, May 15th here at New York Live Arts, The Spectators is Tanowitz’s newest work, commissioned by us. In the Times article, Tanowitz also goes on to discuss the process of self-critique she has undergone in the making of The Spectators, and what she has learned over the past few years while working on this commission.
“Ms. Tanowitz’s approach is simple on the surface: she makes steps to music. Yet in her deeply rigorous excavations of ballet and classic modern vocabulary, she gives potentially antiquated steps a fresh feel,” writes Kourlas.
Read the full story and join us for the world premiere this week to see what Ms. Tanowitz has in store for us.
Each season New York Live Arts (Live Arts) selects three (3) writers to produce written pieces known as “Context Notes” to accompany each show on the season. Context Notes are published in Live Arts programs and are intended to frame questions, spark discussion, and explore/expand the experience of seeing work on the Live Arts stage. This year, Live Arts seeks to include new voices and diverse perspectives by issuing an open call for writers.
Context notes writers will receive an honorarium of $1000 (USD), as well as one to two complimentary tickets to the Live Arts presentation for which they are writing (depending on availability) on the 2013/2014 season. Samples of past context notes can be found here on the New York Live Arts blog.
Applications are due by 5pm on Monday June 3rd, 2013. No late applications will be accepted. Please direct all questions to Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Producing Associate- Humanities and Engagement at firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently had the pleasure of stepping into a Pam Tanowitz rehearsal/world. And what an extraordinarily complex world it was…
When I arrived, Tanowitz and her dancers were diligently working on the first section of her newest work, “The Spectators.” The rehearsal space was calm and quiet; tightly controlled, yet relaxed. There was an energetic orderliness to the space that she and her dancers had created together. Inside of it, Tanowitz was confident and contained like a horse whisperer, cueing each dancer by saying their names, and then watching closely for the subtlest of details. It was a private dialogue, barely audible to an outsider. Yet, as I watched, it quickly became evident that Tanowitz is a champion of movement. She embodies a deeply committed somatic knowledge and an unequivocal love for the steps themselves, the discipline, and the rigor associated with traditional dance forms. Tanowitz is a devoted craftsman and a formidable part of a long dance lineage.
Tradition: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of ideas, action, or behavior.
Experimentation: the testing of an idea
Tanowitz’s work sincerely exists somewhere between these two defining, artistic standards. She is well versed in formalism while setting it up in a contemporary framework, making her work exist as a kind of experimental homage to classic forms. Of her unique vision and methodology, Tanowitz says:
These explorations of time-honored, codified movement vocabularies allow for new forms to be born from what has already come. I attempt deconstruction to arrive at a new place – a new way of seeing and most importantly, a new way of understanding the human being in movement.
“The Spectators” breaks down formalism whilst simultaneously preserving it. The piece works to carry recognizable traditional movements into abstraction through a series of subtle, striking movements. It’s a kind of classical dance, re-imagined.
During the rehearsal, I was sitting in a chair, transfixed by the seamless laboring of these dancers. Together and alone, her dancers emit a string of shapes and designs, with a kind of cunning(ham) precision. My attention was held captive by their relentless control and beauty. Tanowitz’s movement logic is both voluminous and austere with a barely contained virtuosity, brimming beneath every moment. Her work is careful but strong. Narratives slip in and out and a deep, textured emotionality persists.
There are so many crucial elements that make up a Tanowitz world. Each element is held in place and supported by one another – creating a complex aesthetic ecosystem. “The Spectators” is a mature mixture of solo and ensemble work that boasts elaborate steps, formations, and complex lifts, all foregrounded by a minimalist soundscore. The end of section one features a beautiful solo that concludes with a dancer powerfully stomping her feet into the ground, with the rest of the ensemble drumming along – a crescendo moment that brings the whole piece into a seductive, percussive unity. It’s moments like these that make “The Spectators” rich with varying emotional tones. There exists a kind of latent tension and yearning, an unquenchable desire to belong inside of this particular Tanowitz world.
Balance is a good word to describe the entire work. There is an innate balance between form and experimentation, between the rigor and risk of each movement. There is balance between solo and ensemble material, a balance of live music and movement. “The Spectators” is sensorial and textured yet, minimal and cerebral. It is an exercise in both technique and emotionality. It features innovative physical geometries, creating images of bodies, methodically carved out in space. It all comes together to create an eerie equilibrium that will haunt you.
Photographer Ian Douglas spent seven days working with the staff of New York Live Arts to capture images from the Live Ideas festival, including behind-the-scenes moments and intimate performance shots.
Take a moment to peruse this photo recap of our inaugural Live Ideas festival exploring The Worlds of Oliver Sacks featuring Douglas’ images, as well as a few by photographer Cherylynn Tsushima.
Burr Johnson has been choreographing and presenting dances in New York City since 2009. His works have been shown at Dixon Place, Judson Church, Rooftop Dance, Elizabeth Dee Gallery, Josée Bienvenu Gallery and Danspace Project/St. Mark’s Church. In May 2012, Danspace Project presented the first full evening of his work with Special Collections and Shimmering Islands. Johnson has performed in the works of Walter Dundervill, Christopher Williams, Helen Simoneau, Shen Wei and John Jasperse. He holds a B.F.A in Dance and Choreography from Virginia Commonwealth University. In his spare moments away from Dance he is in Bushwick, either gardening or snuggling with his cat.
Burr Johnson’s Long Division consists of the second draft of a group dance for four fronts. Departing from his previous practice of guiding artistic creation in response to the spaces in which works would eventually be performed, in Long Division Johnson uses the seating of the audience as a starting point. Called “long-limbed and striking” (The New York Times), Johnson, known for creating “promising choreography” with “delicious qualities” (The New York Times) explores themes such as physical implication of audience members, proximity and diversity of vantage points in Long Division.
Studio Series: Burr Johnson
May 10 & 11 at 6pm
Sign up for Burr’s Shared Practice, May 11, 1:30-3:30pm, $15.
Studio Series receives generous support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Foundation For Contemporary Arts, and The Puffin Foundation.