November Digest: A Conversation with Efren Corado

Below is a conversation with Efren Corado, local choreographer and dancer who's performed with RDT for the last six years.

 photo by Sharon Kain

photo by Sharon Kain

loveDANCEmore: We’ve heard that you're leaving RDT at the end of the season. What are your future plans?

Efren Corado: Yes, that is true. After an incredible six years with Repertory Dance Theater, I have decided to move on. I am undoubtedly nervous, excited and eager to uncover a new future. What's next? I have no idea. I need a break from the past six years. I want to find a new perspective regarding my role in the world.

Making this decision took over a year of processing experiences, the good and the bad. I asked myself to assess everything and figure out what I wanted for myself. I made my decision last spring. I knew that I wanted to give myself time to track this huge life change. I wanted to have one more season where I could savor the cumulative experiences of past years, while building new ones. 

RDT always acted as a catalyst for new adventures on stage and in my personal life. Working as a full-time artist is not easy. At the end of the day I wanted to find a way to live a more simple life. It sounds silly, but I want to invest more in my friends and my dog and to allow room for more adventures. 

What's going on this last season that you're excited about?

Diversity. We are presenting a season celebrating diversity.  It makes me happy to be dancing the work of racially diverse choreographers. In addition, we have the opportunity to work with the legendary Bebe Miller. I have been anticipating working with Miller all year. All year!

What have been your favorite experiences dancing with the company through the last six years?

I have many and I'll try to be short by giving you a few that were pivotal. 

Performing Rainwood by Ze'eva Cohen. It was a dream! Rainwood turned out to be my favorite dance for years. I wore my first unitard performing this dance. One never forgets wearing their first unitard.

Energizer and Desert Sea by Molisa Fenley. These two dances made me feel like I was an astute and educated dancer. The complexity in each work, the head space necessary to execute these dances taught me to think, to ask of myself to be better. 

Dancing historical work has brought me immense joy. Historical work is a beautiful, decadent and unforgiving creature. It demands determination and a will to fight, because most of it was made for robots and otherworldly creatures bound to gravity. Dancing my first Ted Shawn solo felt like I was a part of history. Missa Brevis by Jose Limon was my Moby Dick. One does not often get to run on stage as a lonesome soldier to a parting sea of dancers, while accompanied by a live choir of over forty singers. I felt validated and made to feel like a magical creature. I was asked to grow up, think and process information differently.

 Corado lifts a fellow performer in  Tin Tal,  photo by Sharon Kain

Corado lifts a fellow performer in Tin Tal, photo by Sharon Kain

Tin Tal by Bill Evans encouraged me to find the sensuality and strength in my body. To feel the coil churning my core, whispering all thru my body all while in sync with my partners’ heartbeat and breath. At the end of every run, I felt I had had a fully lived experience. 

There are so many! I should stop by saying just this. I loved making mistakes, and having failed, meeting myself again thru my interaction with all of my coworkers. The women taught me to listen to intuition, held my hand when I needed it. Zvi Gothiener always made me feel like an artist. These are but seconds inside six years of memories.

What else have you been working on outside of RDT, either in terms of dance or otherwise?

I have started a new work. Come May I will be presenting it through RDT’s Link Series. I couldn't be more excited!

What has recently inspired you artistically in these dark times?

A tough question.

In my mind, I cling to the prospect that change will bring less chaotic and emotionally exhausting times. In the studio, being present in my body. Knowing it's my last year has me enjoying the varying processes embedded in our daily schedule. As a choreographer, public dialogue about representation. For many years, I danced the stories of other people. I want to see a Guatemalan dance. I've seen enough white dance, Japanese and black dance. Wanting to have a seat at the table makes me feel ignited to tell my story, a Guatemalan story. 

 Corado with Lauren Curley in Donald McKayle’s  Rainbow Round My Shoulder,  photo by Sharon Kain

Corado with Lauren Curley in Donald McKayle’s Rainbow Round My Shoulder, photo by Sharon Kain

October Digest: Photography by Jessie Young and Molly Heller

Jessie Young is a tremendous dancer and photographer who lived in SLC for several years before moving to Seattle, Chicago and most recently NYC. She’s coming back to town this fall to present some work with Molly Heller and possibly do some teaching, at which she excels. She’ll be in SLC November 25 through December 1, and she and Molly are planning a house show tentatively scheduled on Friday November 30. Don’t miss her! In celebration of her imminent arrival in Utah, I asked Jessie to share some previously unseen images from her ongoing collaboration with Molly, remember this /. She writes, “remember this / is an ongoing project exploring personal folklore and archival myths through photo portraiture and collage with a kind of analogue approach (what does that even mean? but yes). I worked with Molly in her backyard at night sometime around June or July 2014.” Without further ado…

—SBH, editor

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September Digest: A Postcard from Europe

For September, I decided to post my own reflections on some work I've seen while traveling. Perhaps you'll be inspired to share something in the same vein.

—Samuel Hanson, editor

I have been traveling in Europe for the last month, I started out by visiting friends and artistic collaborators in Berlin and Copenhagen, as well as spending time with my sister who has been studying art history here for the last few months. The two of us are now in Cornwall in the UK where we’ve been joined by the rest of our family. I’ve seen a lot of art and dance while in Europe and since submissions for the journal have been very quiet this summer, I thought I’d take some time to share with you all some impressions from my travels. 

 Dajana Lothert/Tanz im August

Dajana Lothert/Tanz im August

In Berlin, I wanted to take advantage of Tanz Im August, a huge annual dance festival, but I was only able to get a ticket to one event, Isabelle Schad’s Inside Out, which I attended with my old friend and formerly Utah-based choreographer Lindsey Drury. As we entered a vast concrete room and joined the crowd sitting on the floor, a canvas bag writhed of its own accord in the gigantic void inscribed by the audience. Anyone who has ever practiced setting limits on their own movement to hone their improv skills would have appreciated the way this human puppet explored perambulation. Sometimes it was a plastic bag blown from a beleaguered city tree, a wry bear (the mascot of Berlin), even an anthropomorphized insect with a sense of humor that flauting Kafkaesque expectations. Then after what felt like about sixteen minutes, a naked woman was unceremoniously helped out of the sack by a few attendants dressed in black who soon joined a Greek chorus of about twenty similarly dressed dancers in their twenties and thirties. 

The large group of dancers, dressed in black dance garb each went through a prescribed series of tasks involving exploration of the ways in which their arms might move with or without the resistance provided by what they were wearing. It reminded me of that Merce Cunningham piece making fun of Graham where he dances with a sweater with no head hole – if that solo had been subjected to a minimalist explosion into a forty minute piece. It was strange and lovely. 

After that, we went upstairs, to a series of galleries where smaller groups danced looped material in pairs and trios. Three women traded a scarf back and forth while executing a series of precise steps that might have been translated from a book of bee dances. A pair of scantily clad men wrestled, interwove limbs, calmly unknotted themselves and seemed to consider their own capacities for symmetry and entanglement. 

The obvious comparison for me as an American, especially downstairs, was to another European choreographer who’s work I hadn’t been able to get a ticket to at Tanz im August, Anna Teresa de Keersmaker. But the comparison I found myself making upstairs was to the visual artist Paul Chan’s brilliant work with balloons, of the kind you see at used car dealerships. Chan is able to make these bags of air and plastic into moving evocations of humanness denoted by empty space. Here the was Chan’s work in reverse, the very present bodies of the dancers somehow reduced, made empty, mysterious. 

 Berliner Kindl brewery turned art center

Berliner Kindl brewery turned art center

I’m still not sure what to make of Schad’s work. I will say that the performance took place in one of the coolest buildings I’ve ever seen. It’s the old Berliner Kindl brewery building which has been converted into the Zentrum for zeitgenössische Kunst, which I think is just German for “Center for Contemporary Art”. Here is a picture.

In London, I went to the Tate Britain to see Anthea Hamilton’s installation “The Squash”. It’s another big budget dance piece that I’m not sure what to make of. It claims to be based on a photograph of Erick Hawkins doing some kind of imitation of a Hopi dance, which the artist found and then lost. 

In both towns, I was honestly more wowed by the art museums more than anything else and by how strangely quiet these cities both are at night. I spent a lot of time in the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum and one of the state museums that had a lot of 15th and 16th century alter pieces — those German Marys that are covered in hair from head to toe and the like. And some Caravaggios that were amazing. The Bahnhof had a bunch of Joseph Beuys stuff and a really interesting exhibit about a small town in Armenia where an old Soviet factory was trying to turn itself into a contemporary art center as well as an exhibit about West African sculpture as the origin of European modernism. Its important to make time for work outside of your own wheelhouse. 


August Digest: Kate Mattingly on Criticism

As a contribution to your August reading list, loveDANCEmore is pleased to offer this thought-provoking piece on dance criticism by U professor and former NYTimes writer Kate Mattingly. At a time when so many of the structures of our world seem to be falling apart, the questions asked here about how we engage critically with dance and represent its importance in our world are critical ones for all of us to be asking right now. This is productive summer reading...

My sister recently moved to Guatemala to teach middle school students and told me a story about one of her first faculty meetings. A long-time teacher at the school stood up and said, “Our students aren’t motivated,” to which my sister, not exactly making friends quickly, responded, “Maybe our classes aren’t motivating?”

For me, this anecdote speaks to the harder aspects of self-reflection and self-critique, and applies to the practices of dance critics and criticism readers.

When I hear someone say, “Dance criticism is useless,” or “I don’t like the way critics write,” I often ask, “Why do you think criticism exists?” 

If we look at the history of criticism, from articles published in the late 1920s to today’s platforms like loveDANCEmore, we notice clear changes in forms and functions of dance writing. When I was writing for the New York Times in the 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century, I was intrigued by criticism’s ability to access far more “audiences” than a dance concert. For instance, even if 10% of Sunday’s “Arts & Leisure” readers looked at the Dance section, that was 100,000 people. Very few theaters for dance accommodate this many attendees, especially as the artists I was writing about were working in 100- to 300-seat venues. 

As someone who teaches courses in dance criticism, I have developed my own theory (which is also my dissertation project, now becoming a book) that dance criticism is not a stable or consistent practice, but rather a constitutive force that shapes and influences the performances we see. For many people, dance criticism is equated with dance reviews and valued for its evaluative and archival properties. I counter this definition by pointing to the multiple ways that critics have policed and circumscribed certain approaches to performance, as well championed and validated others. 

It’s essential to remember that every era in dance – from the modern choreography of Martha Graham to the postmodern performances of Yvonne Rainer – had a critic who framed its tenets: John Martin for Martha Graham (in fact he coined the label, “modern dance”) and Jill Johnston for Rainer and other Judson Dance Theater artists. Each “successful” choreographer (George Balanchine, Mark Morris, and Sarah Michelson, for instance) had a critic (Edwin Denby, Joan Acocella, and Gia Kourlas, respectively) who documented and promoted their ideas. Because dancing is kinetic and kinesthetic, bypassing verbal language in its presentation of concepts, writers have played a crucial role in contextualizing, recording, and circulating choreographers’ performance.

If we recognize how critics’ writing has changed, we can also notice how the 21st century and its digital technologies radically alter the criteria that critics employ. Three years ago when The Atlantic published “The Death of the American Dance Critic,” not a single website or blog was mentioned even though the majority of dance reviews read today are accessed online. This oversight speaks to the antiquated nature of today’s dance writers who established their reputations in the 1970s and 1980s. Today’s two full-time dance critics, Alastair Macaulay and Sarah Kaufman, possess some of the most uninformed perspectives on new work. On May 20, 2018, when Macaulay wrote a review of Giselle, he chastised Isabella Boylston: “A fraction more eye makeup and greater use of dynamic contrasts might make her project twice as powerfully.” His writing is eerily similar to the critic Théophile Gautier who commented on women’s bodies, writing about Fanny Cerrito in 1846 that, “she has blue eyes which are very soft and tender, a gracious smile despite its perhaps too frequent appearance.” What does this say about Macaulay’s writing if it bears such similarities to a critic who has been dead since 1872?

Critics like Macaulay and Kaufman hold as ideal today’s more conservative choreographers and cover events at the largest venues (primarily Lincoln Center and The Kennedy Center). Due to their lack of knowledge about current approaches to dance-making, artists who are exploring new methods or working with ideas that move beyond “modern” and “postmodern” dance often go unrecognized and can’t access the wider readership-audiences that mainstream critics reach. 

Historically, each generation of choreographers creating new movement vocabularies had a writer who understood and connected with their ideas. As Miguel Gutierrez wrote in his manifesto “The Perfect Dance Critic,” “The perfect dance critic gets excited when she sees something that’s different, unusual, challenging, or thought provoking, rocks her world, and writes about it with accompanying vigor. The perfect dance critic writes in a way that is contemporaneous with the time we are living in. The perfect dance critic knows when it’s time to quit, change careers or retire.”

In the four sections below, I suggest different ways of creating and engaging with dance criticism, drawing from historic and current examples. My intention is that this piece sparks dialogue, which is a crucial and fundamental aspect of any kind of arts criticism. 

1. Kinesthesia

While some people may define dancing as expressing feelings or illustrating music or narrative, I tend to notice what makes dancing different from other disciplines: it communicates kinetically and kinesthetically. This is because kinesthesia, or the sensations that are transferred to observers through watching dancers, distinguishes dance as an art form from senses that are prioritized in disciplines of music, theatre, and visual arts. I am most interested in choreography that develops a particular movement vocabulary and generates images and ideas kinesthetically. This is especially important to me as someone invested in higher education because students who major and minor in dance spend numerous hours every week in technique courses. 

Of course, the conundrum with writing about this criteria is clear: kinesthetic engagement is felt rather than communicated through words. In the late 1960s and 1970s, as a response, in part, to the evaluative style that deemed some performances “good” and others “bad,” critics like Deborah Jowitt turned to a descriptive style that focused on “capturing” dancers’ movements. While this approach was valuable as a type of document or snapshot of a performance, it often left readers without a sense of whether the show was engaging, captivating, or accomplished whatever intent it set out to explore.

When we look at the history of criticism we see pendulum swings between critics that describe and critics that judge. For example, Clive Barnes began a review of Judson Dance Theater in 1966 with, “Disaster struck the Judson Church in Washington Square last night. Correction: total nothingness struck the Judson Church in Washington Square last night, struck it with the squelchy ignominy of a tomato against a pointless target…”  

Criticism by Jowitt can be seen as a response to this more dismissive or authoritarian style, but it’s equally important to remember that description itself is subjective because we see our world through the filters of our own biases and preferences. In dance criticism, there are writers who notice certain of these elements – movement, music, sets, costume, lighting, performers – more than others. Equally important, performances that communicate kinetically and kinesthetically open themselves to multiple impressions and interpretations. When a critic prioritizes description they tend to replace these diverse responses with one “reading” or record of an event. 

2. Positionality

This brings me to a second point, also from Miguel’s manifesto on “The Perfect Critic”: “The perfect dance critic discusses the implications of the different cultural representations of gender, race, sexual orientation or class in the work. The perfect dance critic acknowledges his own cultural position when addressing these issues, and how that cultural position may shape his feelings or responses.” I find it far more interesting to read reviews that account for the frames through which an event is seen, rather than to read writing that pretends the writer’s point of view is a “universal” one (see earlier examples by Macaulay, Gautier, and Barnes).  

Many critics belong to older generations that were not educated in critical race theory and intersectionality in the same way that today’s college-aged and graduate students are. This is unfortunate because performances are political events that can reinforce and/or resist dominant systems. Attending to the ways that artistic events influence political, economic, and social decisions is a fascinating endeavor. Unfortunately, many dance critics still subscribe to Arlene Croce’s idea that, “I can’t review someone I feel sorry for… overweight dancers, old dancers, dancers with sickled feet… dissed blacks, abused women, or disenfranchised homosexuals.” Critics like Croce see their role as policing and safeguarding the borders of dance, which, for them, should remain predictable and escapist. 

3. Dialogic Criticism

For decades, dance critics have approached their role as experts who know better than the artists how to define and contextualize their creations. Sally Banes said in 1989 at a Dance Critics Association convening, “…as critics we remain – and I would argue should remain – distant observers. Who wants to coauthor their review with the choreographer?” 

My answer is “I would.” I am deeply interested in the ideas and processes that generate an artist’s work and I think more knowledge about forces that shape events is useful to readers and audience members. Recently attending Ballet West’s National Choreographic Festival, I heard from choreographer Jennifer Archibald that the dancers of Cincinnati Ballet were challenged by Salt Lake City’s altitude, and this anecdote made its way into my review. Part of Banes’s issue with “coauthoring” may be that she thinks a critic’s integrity is compromised or the review is more of a press release than a critical document.

I think criticality is an act of generosity, a form of evaluation that sharpens our ways of articulating ideas and offers frameworks for evaluating the impact of an event. For those of us who value dance as an art form and have seen how it can shift assumptions and inspire new ways of thinking, we bring expectations with us. Personally, I’m drawn to events that include a sense of dissensus or disruption, that defy my expectations. I am also drawn to movement vocabularies that have been carefully developed and articulated. 

4. Digital Technologies

Today’s websites are gems for dance writing. Unlike The Atlantic writer, Madison Mainwaring, who refuses to acknowledge websites as platforms for dance discourse, I see digital technologies as life-boats for dance. In contrast to many critics, like Elizabeth Zimmer, who has written, “The current collapse of print media is disastrous for the arts, especially experimental, low-budget work,” it’s blogs and platforms like loveDANCEmore that keep current artists’ ideas afloat, visible, and circulating through our conversations. At a time when newspapers’ critics lack the tools to see and write about new work, and when papers like The Salt Lake Tribune are letting go of numerous employees, websites are the places where conversations percolate. I think time is better spent investing in these platforms than rallying for limited print coverage or for writing by antiquated critics.

Moreover, the dialogic nature of platforms and social media, where people can comment, agree with, and challenge points of view, creates a more multi-vocal and representative arena for criticism. One of the best definitions of criticism that I’ve read comes from Rebecca Solnit, who advocates for a “counter-criticism” that “seeks to expand the work of art, by connecting it, opening up its meanings, inviting in the possibilities. A great work of criticism can liberate a work of art, to be seen fully, to remain alive, to engage in a conversation that will not ever end but will instead keep feeding the imagination. Not against interpretation, but against confinement, against the killing of the spirit.” This “being seen fully” keeps me writing because I keep searching for ways that words can inspire us to see dance with more curious, inquisitive, and appreciative eyes, minds, and hearts.

June Digest: A Conversation with Kathy Adams

Kathy Adams, who has written dance criticism for the Salt Lake Tribune and Dance Magazine among other publications picked up the phone a few days ago to call me (Samuel Hanson, editor of this digest) in Brooklyn. We chatted about dance in Utah, New York and elsewhere past, present and future.

 Kathy Adams visiting San Francisco to see the work of Justin Peck

Kathy Adams visiting San Francisco to see the work of Justin Peck

Sam: Kathy, I’ve missed your voice for the last couple of months at the Tribune. You were my prime source for keeping up with dance in my hometown. I understand from talking to you just now that what happened to you was anything but personal. But I'm still struggling to understand what's going on.

[Since the time of this conversation, the Tribune laid-off 34 staff members, including Arts section editor Anna Cekola, and the only arts staff reporter Ellen Fagg Weist. Prior to these cuts, the freelance staff had been eliminated as a cost-saving measure to spare staff positions, a plan that obviously did not work.]

Kathy: I think it is well worth anyone’s time to listen to the May 15, 2018 podcast of Radio West for a deeper analysis of why the Tribune and newspapers across the country in smaller markets are either sinking or swimming.

Sam: I will check that out. I know that newspapers in general are having a rough go of it. I’ve thought the Trib was doing a pretty good job with “hard news”. I’ve followed their coverage of the Bears’ Ears debacle. But I and others have missed your writing on dance.

Kathy: Thank you. I think investigative reporting is the lifeblood of a civil society. But young people need to learn to pay for news. Just because you can read it for free doesn't mean you should – someone wrote, edited, re-edited, designed and did the layout for every article. They all need to be paid.

Sam: I agree. So are you writing for any other local or national publications? I know you’ve done a lot at Dance Magazine in the past...

Kathy: I do have a query into Dance Magazine right now after receiving a call from them for pitches on a particular subject. But I've become somewhat involved in local politics. I'm the vice president of my neighborhood League of Women Voters, and am a delegate for Utah State District Two. Both positions are only because I failed to step back off the line quickly enough and was left standing as the volunteer.

Sam: Good for you! Are there things going on in dance that excite you that I might not know about?

Kathy: I've been paying a little more attention to what is going on in LA, because it’s closer and since my daughter moved from NY to LA. I bought tickets for her to see LA Dance Project (next best thing to being there) at The Wallis. Her report back was very positive. Last year I wanted to see what all the fuss was about regarding Justin Peck so I flew to San Francisco to see SFBallet perform his work and found all the fuss was about his immense talent.

I check out things I come across such as New York Live Arts online – I recently watched some of Rashaad Newsome's work.

Regionally, SALT Contemporary Dance out of Lehi has made positive strides in the last two years. They commissioned several works by the NY-based choreographer Brendan Duggan, who is refreshingly creative, and recently hired Nick Palmquist to teach and create a new work. I ran across Palmquist on Instagram, he teaches at Broadway Dance Center and danced with American Dance Machine, the company that reconstructs Broadway choreography for the concert stage, so his work reflects the historical elements of jazz and adds a new flavor.

What are you seeing that interests you?

Sam: I would love to learn a little more about what’s going on in LA. It’s interesting though that you bring up Palmquist or Newsome because I often have this experience where I ask friends of mine outside New York what they’re interested in and they bring up things that are happening here that are just outside of my orbit. NYLA (formerly Dance Theater Workshop) is a space I make it to sometimes but it’s not really on the circuit of places I’m visiting almost every weekend. Even within the so-called “downtown” scene (although most of us don’t live in downtown Manhattan anymore) there are these little cliques you find yourself in. The last time I was talking to Liz Ivkovich, another Utah choreographer and performer, she brought up another show at NYLA which I had no idea about. I did see Bebe Miller’s show (with Susan Rethorst) there recently which I loved.

Kathy: I first saw her work in Ohio. I think she was one of a generation of artists who toured to NPN sites in the late eighties, before the national funding for dance really started to dry up. I was also fortunate to see Bill T. Jones, Creach/Koester, Stephen Petronio, Doug Varone at that time when their careers were first launching into the national spotlight. But whose work are you interested in now in NYC?

 Jessie Young, NY-based choreographer who trained in Utah

Jessie Young, NY-based choreographer who trained in Utah

Sam: Jessie Young, who went to school with me at the U, has arrived here by way of Seattle, Chicago and lately the Urbana-Champaign grad program. She went to school with a woman named Jess Pretty who did a beautiful solo I saw a few nights ago. Jonathan González’s show at Danspace took some pretty incredible risks; Jasmine Hearn, who’s also an incredible singer; the beguiling Emily Wexler; and Adrienne Truscott and Mariana Valencia, two powerful women who use a lot of text in creative ways. Heather Kravas, a Seattle-based artist who I think is doing what people think Beth Gill’s work is doing, taking formal tools of choreography and stretching them to their limits to put the performers under a certain pressure. Do you know Charles Atlas’ work? I loved his video show at the Kitchen recently, so much history. I could go on and on. It included a video about Merce Cunningham that I think was the first time I ever saw modern dance, long before I was ever in a dance class when my dad used to take me to the Utah Film and Video Center which is where UMOCA is now. It was a wonderful space destroyed by the Olympics.

Kathy: I know Charles Atlas’ work...

As you go about your so-called circuit in New York, you should keep a little journal of things you see along the way. I remember just walking home from the train one night and as I passed a vacant gravel lot, there were several Butoh dancers slowly sliding down ropes with spotlights on them. It turned out to be Sankai Juku. That’s part of what makes New York special.

Sam: I really should start doing that.

Kathy: Do you ever run in to Laja Field in New York? She and her husband have a new company called LajaMartin...

Sam: Maybe I should start by going to Laja’s show. I actually ran into them at the airport recently when we were both coming back from Salt Lake. They just had a show at the Westbeth building where Merce Cunningham used to live. A slight digression: As you know I don’t get to the ballet much, but circling back to Justin Peck I did hear a very lively discussion about his work on Reid and Jack Ferver’s podcast, “What’s Going on with Dance and Stuff”. Bartelme is an interesting person, one of those people on the edge of the ballet world but also “downtown” dance. It’s important to get out of one’s little niche world and see what else is going on in the place where you live, that’s part of what I loved about Atlas’ show, it was all of this history, from Merce to Michael Clark to Ishmael Houston-Jones to Dancenoise and points between mixed with images from CNN and the Iraq War. But it was almost like he hadn’t edited anything out. Often in history we get the hagiographic, canonized version. In my circles it’s the eighties now and also Judson, Judson gets canonized a certain way. The irony being most of these people are still alive. But there are things left out, like African-American choreographer Dianne McIntyre’s work with jazz musicians and dance improvisation that was happening at the same time just in a different part of the city.

Kathy: I think it would be great if more people recognized Dianne McIntyre as a groundbreaker – she is from Ohio like me (haha). I just subscribed to “What’s Going On With Dance And Stuff” – thanks for the suggestion.

Sam: Are you fed by artistic or cultural interests outside of or related to the dance world?

Kathy: I’m very interested in visual art, yet I don’t find it necessary to integrate dance with visual art. Except in places where it occurs naturally, combining mediums is often clumsy. Wherever I travel, I seek out live performance and art exhibits. Art is the most telling aspect of any city or place.

Earlier this year I went to a 35-year retrospective of Kerry James Marshall’s work at the LA Museum of Contemporary Art. Since that time, the Obama portraits by two other African American artists caused quite a stir so I was glad I’d seen Marshall’s work up close in a gallery setting and could make an informed opinion about the aesthetics of the Obama portraits. I think Marshall’s work is more mature and complex than Amy Sherald's painting of Michelle Obama. Kehinde Wiley’s portrait of President Obama captured his essence and the iconography will be explored and analyzed throughout the ages. Wiley is accomplished at portraiture, but Sherald’s lack of experience in portraiture was apparent to me. I understand all the sociological implications of choosing Sherald – it still looks like a piece of commercial art to me.

I also went to an installation in LA at the 14th Factory curated by artist Simon Birch, it was a self-guided immersive experience. I’ll send a couple photos to you Sam.

 At the 14th Factory in LA, photo by Kathy Adams

At the 14th Factory in LA, photo by Kathy Adams

I spent a couple weeks in Hawai’i this winter and went to the Honolulu Museum of Art – I saw David Hockney’s L'Enfant et les sortilèges, a permanent exhibit at the Spalding House. Then I went to the main HMA that houses the largest collection of Hawaiian and Polynesian cultural artifacts in the world. It also has a nice collection of contemporary art, the Doris Duke Theater, and when I was there a tour of Shangri La, Duke’s home in Honolulu.

Sam: What else inspires you these days?

Kathy: I’m inspired by Eric Handman who consistently produces intelligent work. Most choreographers describe their process as collaborative now-a-days – but when Eric’s work goes up on stage it reflects the people that were there in the room.

I was also emotionally inspired when Doug Varone came to Utah recently and performed at the Marriott Center for Dance. The symbiosis of the U dance students with the professional RW dancers and Varone’s exceptionally skilled dancers (including our very own Brad Beakes) coming together in a performance felt very personal and emotionally rich for me. How better to inform the audience about the value and potential of dance than by experiencing our community on stage.

When Doug Varone and Dancers performed in Cincinnati in 1987 on what I believe was his first company tour, it coincided with the very beginning of my writing career. As an audience member last month at the Marriott, I had the sense of watching an entire career evolve from a seat in the front row.

Sam: Varone certainly has had an influence on this community through the years. Through his work and others connected to him. I wonder about the sustainability of even those sorts of lineages though. Lately when I come home to Salt Lake it looks different. There are more new condominiums and the endless sprucing up of downtown seems to just be getting more intense. I have friends – not so much dancers off the top of my head, but painters, musicians –who have long viewed the city as a kind of haven where they could make their work in seclusion and not have to worry too much. I feel like it’s a place where such marginal lifestyle can now not so easily be indulged. Do you feel that change in the dance world in the last three years?

Kathy: Honestly Salt Lake is still so much cheaper than any other major city. There’s more work now that doesn’t announce itself. You have to watch it and put together the clues to figure out where the artist is going.

A few young SLC dancers who I’m watching are Eliza Tappan, Breanne Saxton, and Katherine Adler, who now lives in Massachusetts. I've always wanted to do an article on how one builds a dance career as a freelancer in a small market. It would be about the positives (freedom to choose projects) and the negatives (scheduling, budgeting, stress). I envisioned the three dancers mentioned above as good interviews. Maybe you can write that story Sam!

Sam: Another person I might add to that list is Emma Wilson, who I interviewed last month. She reminds me a little bit of Adrienne Truscott who I mentioned above – who I worked with in Liz Ivkovich and Alysia Ramos’ piece about Terry Tempest Williams last year. Alysia’s soon headed to Brazil I think, she was at Oberlin, but Liz is still in town and very talented, I hope they reprise their collaboration. Anyway when I was last visiting my folks I saw Emma Wilson at 12 Minutes Max doing a solo about the perils of love and imaginary friends. I used to love Amy Freitas’ work and I admire her ability to organize people into regular gatherings, I don’t know what she’s up to now.

 In the foreground, Adams' mother dancing with RDT dancer Ursula Perry in an improvisation workshop for aging populations in 2016 lead by St. Louis-based RDT alum David Marchant. (Marchant's workshop was separate from Claudio's work referenced below.)

In the foreground, Adams' mother dancing with RDT dancer Ursula Perry in an improvisation workshop for aging populations in 2016 lead by St. Louis-based RDT alum David Marchant. (Marchant's workshop was separate from Claudio's work referenced below.)

Kathy: I spent the past year researching and writing an article on Juan Carlos Claudio’s organization Grey Matters, because I think it is at least as important for movement to be relevant in marginalized communities as it is for those seeking out daring and adventurous forms of contemporary dance.  

I’m also excited to see Omar Karrum who’s coming to Salt Dance Fest, he’s someone I know nothing about from a scene I know little about...

Sam: It seems like there’s a lot going on in Mexico these days, but I’m also uninformed about the larger situation for dance there, outside of Performática, a wonderful festival in the state of Puebla that I’ve been to twice. A lot of people I met there now live up here in NYC and Europe. Did you happen to go to Hilary Carrier’s last Dance Company concert at West High? I was sort of moved when I found out that it was happening last night as I was performing a solo in Queens. Natosha Washington is taking over as they have long discussed.

Kathy: No! Hilary is the most practical yet creative person in the world – and she never encourages me to come to her shows. Natosha Washington’s show at the Tanner Center about two years ago was also tremendous in terms of movement invention and continuity.

Sam: No one could replace Hilary but I think Natosha will be amazing in that role that has historically fostered the beginnings for so many dancers that are now spread out all over the world.