Look out Chicago. Starting June 12th Links Hall presents a week celebrating improvisational dance. Curated by Columbia College instructor, dancer/choreographer Lisa Gonzales, the festival will feature performances, workshops, jams, and discussions with internationally acclaimed dancers. With artists including The Architects at The Dance Center, Nancy Stark Smith, Bebe Miller and more set to perform, the event will certainly make a splash on the Chicago dance scene.
Our Town So often artists wind up teachers. Is this a sensible overlap?
Lisa Gonzales So much of art-making in dance happens for an insular audience. While the making of art is of vital importance no matter the audience, teaching allows artists to make a difference in the larger world. Serious practice in an art form such as dance develops the entire person, not just the artist person. As a teacher, I feel very honored to be able to have that kind of impact in a person’s life.
OT How do your art and your teaching inform each other?
LG Sometimes they feel quite separate. But as an artist, everything I do finds its way into my art-making because life and art feel fluid. Of course, I teach components of what I use myself when making work—processes of perceiving, making movement, composing, proposing questions and answers through the body—things I find useful to consider when making work. My primary goal as a teacher, however, is to nurture a student’s own creative voice rather than impose mine.
OT What drew you to work with puppets?
LG I happened into the avant-garde puppet scene in New York through a dance collaborator’s husband who worked in puppetry and had the great fortune of being asked to puppeteer. They are not afraid of story, meaning or emotion. They also value turning meaning upside down, inside out and reconfiguring it in a new way. They work with many of the same tenets as we do in post-modern and avant-garde dance, but primarily through the visual realm to get to the physical/visceral experience. The puppeteer isn’t the primary conveyor of information; the puppet or object is, so the experience is once removed from the performer.
OT What’s the hardest part of working as a puppeteer?
LG As a dancer I am used to making myself the primary component of expression, so learning to disappear the self while animating the object/puppet takes some work
OT Take us through the process of choreographing a dance.
LG For me first comes the desire or impulse. Then I need to get into the studio (if the desire hasn’t come from being in the studio already) to begin physical research. This helps me to integrate into the body ideas that have emerged through reading, writing, or experience. I may improvise and use video to capture movement that I will then relearn and compose into a larger form.
OT How does improvisational dance differ?
LG People assume improvisation is about doing whatever one wants, [but] improvisation [requires] rigor, intelligence and serious preparation through committed practice. [Everything] must happen in the moment. It may go something like this—oh, I made that movement, then I will try to connect that with the section that came five minutes before. Oh, and this meaning is emerging. I like that, so I will compose with these elements with this meaning in mind.
OT What inspired you to curate the improvisational dance festival?
LG Selfishly, I wanted to bring some very inspiring improvisation artists to my city. I wanted to open a dialogue between these artists and the improvisation community in Chicago. I wanted to create a forum for the sharing of ideas through movement practices, discussion and performance. I also wanted to expand the audience for improvisation in Chicago and educate the larger public about a form that is often misunderstood.
OT What can audiences expect from this event?
LG This will be a week of internationally renowned improvisers coming together to share work and talk about the form. Improvisers are open to the moment. Truly, anything could happen.
To learn more or purchase tickets visit http://www.linkshall.org