INSIDE: Hedwig Dances’ “SEA LEVEL: Above and Below”
Those inspirations, whatever they may be, often influence the entire experience of making dance — and of seeing dance …
Inspiration, elusive and mysterious as it may be, is often the heart of artistic expression. Because dance can embrace so many kinds of expression, it can be just as expansive in its sources of inspiration, from personal to universal. Great choreographers may find inspiration a lot of different places: in everyday experiences and emotions, in the exploration of carefully thought out concepts, or even in the celebration of a simple personal perspective. Those inspirations, whatever they may be, often influence the entire experience of making dance — and of seeing dance — from the way a choreographer interacts with the dancers, to the way an audience experiences what choreographer, dancers and designers bring together for them.
Hedwig Dances’ SEA LEVEL: Above and Below, which the Chicago based Company will perform at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts on Thursday and Saturday, March 21 and 23, brings together two uniquely inspired and distinctively imaginative ideas in dance. The Company describes the evening this way: “Both pieces play with illusion and perspective, combining poetic choreography with sculptural artifacts provoking human connection and wonder” — an enticing introduction to be sure, but we wanted to find out even more. So we asked choreographers Rigoberto Saura and Taimy Ramos about these promising new works — Saura’s The Flowering Mechanisms and Ramos’ A Flor de Piel. Here’s what they told us:
The idea is to reflect the operation of that machinery, sometimes complex, sometimes more simple, but in a way that can be transmitted through the dance …
Johnny Nevin: Your new work The Flowering Mechanisms embodies an array of fascinating ideas: the way that the mechanisms of technology can be beautiful, the way that individuals bring their own beauty to the larger mechanisms they are part of, but also the way that modern technology’s constant surveillance is such a threat to that very beauty. In addition, the entire idea seems to have been also inspired by the musical score, which combines symphonic and electronic music. Can you tell us a little more about these ideas, and how you’ve brought them together in the creation of The Flowering Mechanisms?
Rigoberto Saura: There is an irrepressible technological development in our lives today that absorbs us and attracts us, but in the same measure it gives us a sensation of feeling constantly watched, leaving us naked in a very subtle way. It is precisely this sea of sensations that is contained in The Flowering Mechanisms. It’s a minimalist work, in which the bodies with their movement recreate in a broad and dynamic way the internal beauty of all of the machinery of technology. The idea is to reflect the operation of that machinery, sometimes complex, sometimes more simple, but in a way that can be transmitted through the dance, so that the movement reflects the similarity of bodies and technology.
I found much of my inspiration to develop these ideas in the music — it became a key part of how I could realize this torrent of ideas and sensations that I imagined. The score is the interpretation of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra of a composition by Mason Bates — Alternative Energy. Under the direction of Riccardo Muti, the performace is a masterful mix of beautiful symphonic melodies and extravagant mechanical sounds, which is very much the central idea of this work.
This is the first time that I’ve choreographed to symphonic music. It has been a great challenge in my creative development, but I am glad that I think I was able to find all of the key pieces I needed to put the work together.
As I grew as a visual artist, I started to understand how much I still owed to dance and to the artistic language it had given me …
Johnny Nevin: Your new work is entitled A Flor de Piel, which is a poetic expression — and as you’ve said is also a romantic expression — that describes feelings that are very strong, very vibrant, very rich. The work is inspired by two large-scale visual works — collages — that you’ve created in your other persona as a painter and visual artist. How does the intensity of feeling that is expressed by the phrase ‘a flor de piel’ relate to what you are exploring, first in the two collages, and also in the movement design for A Flor de Piel?
Taimy Ramos: When I moved to Chicago the linguistic barrier, being away from my family, the clash of culture and another infinity of small details created in me a vacuum that I really wanted to fill. So I began to turn to the visual arts in my personal time, and I began to use that to filter negative experiences — both past and present — as well as the emotions that accompanied those experiences through a sieve of painting, collage and sculpture. I began painting, gluing and restructuring recycled objects in installations. With each brushstroke and cut of paper, I healed. The sour part of my days passed through my work and, on the other side, beautiful art arose.
The expression “A Flor de Piel” describes a feeling — and these could be many different feelings, that is so strong that it’s like a flowering, but is so personal that it’s like it’s part of you.
Although I was working with tactile materials, I saw the potential for dance in each object that I used. As I grew as a visual artist, I started to understand how much I still owed to dance and to the artistic language it had given me. I saw that for me, both forms of artistic expression were linked, because they brought me self-understanding, release and acceptance. They are gifts that allow me to work through my emotions and find peace.
That’s how I began to create work with future choreography in mind. I painted and sculpted, imagining scenes where my creations came to life. I had a deep need to explore the ways I could turn something static into a dance and I began to feel this need as if it occupied the space just below my skin. The expression “A Flor de Piel” describes a feeling — and these could be many different feelings, that is so strong that it’s like a flowering, but is so personal that it’s like it’s part of you. I could almost feel this desire opening its way through me, and creating a choreography born out of my art pieces was the only thing I could think about. So I decided to use this creative urgency and some of my pieces as the main source of inspiration for my choreography.
That’s how I began to create work with future choreography in mind. I painted and sculpted, imagining scenes where my creations came to life.
Hedwig Dances presents SEA LEVEL: Above and Below on Thursday, March 21 at 7:30 pm and on Saturday, March 23 at 7:30 pm, at Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, Chicago, IL 60610. Tickets are available online from Hedwig Dances.