5 Questions With Alice Klock on her Choreographic Process with HS Pro
Unique, intriguing, and compelling are three words that come to mind when describing Alice Klock. There are a lot of different sides to the Chicago-based artist; Alice is a dancer, a painter, as well as a choreographer. She is currently in her 9th season with Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Alice has choreographed work through Hubbard Street’s “danc(e)vole: New Works Festival” and annual “Inside/Out Choreographic Workshop” since 2012. She has also choreographed for The Cambrian’s “Nexus Project”, Loyola University, Visceral Dance Chicago, Neos Dance Theater, and NW Dance Project’s “Launch”. In 2016 she was selected as a winner of Hubbard Street’s International Commissioning Project and in 2017 she was chosen as a winner of NW Dance Project Pretty Creatives International Choreographic Competition. Most recently she has been named Hubbard Street’s Choreographic Fellow and one of Dance Magazines 25 to Watch.
I recently got the opportunity to work with Alice on one of her newest creations with Hubbard Street’s Professional Program (HS Pro). Alice worked with the HS Pro dancers for two weeks for about 2-3 hours a day. During the process I chatted with her about her choreographic exploration and perspective as an emerging female choreographer. Here is what she told us:
Melissa Panetta: Working with you these past two weeks has been absolutely captivating. Not only is your movement interesting, but what intrigues me the most are the ideas behind your choreography. Do you mind explaining a little bit about the piece you created for HS Pro as well as where your inspiration came from?
The whole dance is a collection of the dancer’s dreams and memories. This is beautiful to me, and more important than enforcing some vision of my own onto the group.
Alice Klock: I created a piece called “DreamGate” for HS Pro. The initial concept came from a conversation I had with my sister about the feeling that there is some sort of dimension, or in between place, that holds the people, memories, things, that we have lost. Not a depressing place, a place almost like a dream scape, a place that we can maybe even glimpse with our waking mind. To begin this piece I asked each of the dancers to tell me what they would visit in that place, something or someone they have lost, or to give me a vivid memory from a recent dream. I created an individual phrase from your answers, and pretty much all of the material in the piece is an extrapolation of those solos. This creates an environment that is unique, and personal. The whole dance is a collection of the dancer’s dreams and memories. This is beautiful to me, and more important than enforcing some vision of my own onto the group. In the end the piece does feel to me like an exploration of this in between dimension, and I named it “DreamGate” as a marker of this idea.
Melissa: Getting the opportunity to work with you in the studio allowed me to see your choreography develop and evolve. I was fascinated by how quickly you were able to come up with movement. Do you often choreograph on the spot, or do you prefer to create movement prior to working with the dancers? How would you describe your choreographic process and structure on creating a piece?
I am never just making movement for movement’s sake, there is always a story at the source.
Alice: It is very important to me that the pieces I make be true to the dancers I am creating with. Therefore, it doesn’t feel right to create too much material away from the group. I created one phrase alone, which was my answer to the prompt I asked all of you, and started off the process with that, so that you could all familiarize yourself with my movement. So we could all start speaking the same language. From there on everything was created in the moment with the dancers. By using your answer to the prompt mentioned above, I was given an amazing collection of words, objects, images, and atmospheres to work with. With these tools I felt it was very easy to create on the spot. I do this with the majority of my creations, using information given to me from a dancer to create. This is often as simple as asking a dancer what their favorite word is, and creating them a phrase that exemplifies that word. When I am not using dancer info, I have my overarching concept to draw from. If I feel stuck I do research, and use what I discover in the same way. This process gives me a never ending map to follow. I am never just making movement for movement’s sake, there is always a story at the source.
Melissa: Being an emerging female choreographer – and recently being named one of Dance Magazine’s Top 25 to Watch – do you ever feel like there is pressure or an expectation in what you create? Does being a female in today’s society ever affect your choreography or your choreographic concepts?
I think it is the responsibility of every creator (of every gender) to make work that upholds an expansion of our previously held ideals, and to be the change that we wish to see in the art form at large.
Alice: I suppose there could be pressure on what I create, but I don’t find it useful to pay much attention to that. I think it is always more important to just be boldly and vigorously myself in what I make, and if I were attempting to fulfill some outside expectation I think I would find myself feeling boxed in. That being said, as a female choreographer (as a choreographer. Period.) I think it is paramount to break down the gender stereotypes that are still so rampant in the dance world. It is frustrating that being a female choreographer is still something that surprises, but even more frustrating is the fact that so much of the dance world still expects female dancers to be wilting flowers and male dancers to be stoic lifting machines. There is a shift happening in the culture at large, and I see the dance world catching on but it’s a bit slow. I think it is the responsibility of every creator (of every gender) to make work that upholds an expansion of our previously held ideals, and to be the change that we wish to see in the art form at large.
Melissa: I know you are also a visual artist and a painter. How does being a visual artist affect your dancing and choreography? Do both art forms influence one another and if so how?
Alice: Interestingly, the two art forms feel like very separate parts of my creativity. My visual art is very intuitive, almost like meditation. Dance and choreography is very active and all about manifesting. At the core there is aesthetic crossover, but process wise the forms mostly balance each other out. I am immensely grateful to have them both, they are a good pair!
Melissa: I know you also have been co-creating choreographic works with Hubbard Street Dancer Florian Lochner since 2016. In 2017, you both formed “Flock”, with the goal of creating work that is rooted in subtlety, kindness, and belief in the essential profundity of being human. Do you have any upcoming projects that we can look forward to, either as a solo choreographer or co-creater?
Alice: Flock will be traveling to Los Angeles this summer to make a piece together on the Hubbard Street summer intensive there. Then we will be working on a new work for ourselves, most of our work we perform together. You might have to travel to Germany to see it, as our next show would probably be for a dance festival that Florian has created in his hometown. We’ll keep you posted! Check out our Flockworks Instagram for updates.
In the meantime, I shall be pretty busy on my own. This year I’ll be making new work on Whim W’him, SALT Dance’s Link festival, Peridance’s Blueprint summer intensive, and some other exciting things I can’t announce yet.
Catch Alice Klock performing in Hubbard Street Dance Chicago’s Summer Series on Thursday June 7 at 7:30pm, Friday June 8 at 8:00pm, Saturday June 9 at 8:00pm, and Sunday June 10 at 3:00pm at the Harris Theater. The performance is full evening-length work reimagining Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16, one of his most popular and most celebrated pieces, choreographed in 1999 and first performed in the U.S. by Hubbard Street in 2000. Purchase your tickets here!
PHOTOS (from top): Photo by Colleen Klock, Courtesy of Alice Klock • Photo by Quinn Wharton, Courtesy of Alice Klock • Photo by Todd Rosenberg Photography, Courtesy of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago Fall Program (Quintett by William Forsythe) • Courtesy of Alice Klock • Photo by Colleen Klock, Courtesy of Alice Klock.