INSIDE: Robyn Mineko Williams and “Echo Mine” at Dance for Life 2019
When people who knew Claire Bataille talk about her, time and time again you see how profound her impact on people was, how she enriched them, how she inspired them.
The more important something is, the less its importance can ever be measured. The more profound someone’s impact on others is, the less you can ever describe exactly what that impact was. This is especially true of those who inspire us, because of all the gifts that can impact our lives, few are as important as being inspired.
Inspiration is a process. It’s an enrichment of who we are, a process by which someone shows us something unspoken and unseen about who we could truly be. It doesn’t have a clear beginning, because it starts with how that person, the one who inspired us, became who they are. It doesn’t have a clear ending either, because it’s a process that leads to countless others, to other impacts, other inspirations. When an artist, a teacher, or a friend inspires someone, it not only impacts that person’s life, but through them, many other lives. How could you ever measure that?
Claire Bataille was a legendary artist, a widely revered teacher, and an important friend to many people, for many years. She was one of the four women who were founding members of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and as a dance artist, her performances were an essential dynamic in the meteoric development of Hubbard Street into an international icon. As a teacher, Bataille instructed, guided, encouraged and inspired more than a generation of dancers and choreographers, whose careers now help to define dance and choreography around the globe. As a friend, only her friends could ever really describe the importance of knowing Claire, but when you hear them do so, it’s more than inspiring.
The chance to create on someone I had admired and revered for so long and for so many different reasons seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity.
When people who knew Claire Bataille talk about her, time and time again you see how profound her impact on people was, how she enriched them, how she inspired them. But she did this for so many people, and in so many ways, that even if there were some measure of her importance to one of them, that could only be a start at recognizing her real impact. Still, it could be a very good start.
Robyn Mineko Williams knew Claire Bataille as an artist, as a teacher and as a friend. Two years ago, they began working on a new project together, a project that became the evening length work that Mineko Williams completed after Claire’s passing. It’s called Echo Mine, and at Robyn’s site RobynMinekoWilliams.com, she describes it this way: “Echo Mine is a new work inspired by and created alongside Chicago dance icon and founding Hubbard Street dancer, Claire Bataille. The full evening performance explores the importance of legacy, artistic lineage and the everlasting essence of its muse, Claire.”
At Dance For Life 2019, Robyn Mineko Williams will present an excerpt from Echo Mine, and on December 7, 2019, the full evening work will be presented at Chicago’s Harris Theater. We asked Robyn about Echo Mine, about Claire, and about Dance for Life. Here’s what she told us:
I’ve always known her to be a force; however, this process, under these circumstances, allowed me to see just how that strength knows no boundaries. I think this is important to celebrate and share.
Johnny Nevin: For many people who know dance, the announcement that you would be presenting an excerpt from a new work “inspired by Claire Bataille” at Dance for Life must have seemed like an ideal choice. Everyone in the Chicago dance community knows of Claire’s immense importance and impact, a lot of them know of your friendship with Claire and your many connections to her, and more and more people around the world recognize your work as a choreographer. Yet the description “inspired by Claire Bataille” is not really complete. Very few people realize that your new work Echo Mine did not begin as a tribute to Claire; it’s actually the completion of a collaboration with her. Can you tell us the extraordinary story of how Echo Mine came to be?
Robyn Mineko Williams: I originally conceptualized Echo Mine over two years ago. I sheepishly asked Claire if she might entertain the idea of my choreographing a piece on her and she amazingly said yes. The chance to create on someone I had admired and revered for so long and for so many different reasons seemed like a once in a lifetime opportunity. To observe how she would take on my movement and to realize what part of my craft is actually part “Claire”, the full circle of lineage, was just such an exciting possibility. A creative process with Claire also meant a great excuse to spend more time with this woman I have the utmost respect for and completely adore. I planned to examine the intersections that occur between art, work and an artist’s personal life and find out about Claire and my commonalities (or differences) in this respect.
At the time of her diagnosis in November of 2017, I was not sure if it’d be possible or right to continue the process but Claire agreed to move forward with what the two of us had come to refer to as “our secret little project”. Although the outcome of the process has shifted and evolved from the onset, the thing that continues to define the project for me is Claire – her past, her present, her future, her impact, her courage and her grace. I’ve always known her to be a force; however, this process, under these circumstances, allowed me to see just how that strength knows no boundaries. I think this is important to celebrate and share.
It’s an evening of joy, reflection, heartfelt support and respect that you can feel in your bones.
Johnny: Before you became so recognized as a choreographer, you danced. You danced many places around the world, first with River North Dance Chicago and then with Hubbard Street, but just as importantly, you danced in Chicago. You’ve been part of the Chicago dance community for many years, and year after year you’ve seen that community come together one night each summer for Dance for Life. Why do you think Dance for Life is such an important part of Chicago dance?
Robyn: I love that Dance For Life is a true blue coming together of the community. You can feel this on the stage, in the wings, in the audience, everywhere. It’s an evening of joy, reflection, heartfelt support and respect that you can feel in your bones.
Robyn Mineko Williams will present an excerpt from her new work Echo Mine, “a new work inspired by and created alongside Chicago dance icon and founding Hubbard Street dancer, Claire Bataille” at Dance for Life Chicago 2019 on Saturday, August 17th at 6pm at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre (50 E Ida B Wells Dr, Chicago,
IL 60605). Tickets are available by calling the Box Office (312.341.2310) or online from The Auditorium Theatre.
The full evening-length performance of Echo Mine will take place on Saturday, December 7, 2019 at 7:30pm at Chicago’s Harris Theater. Tickets are available from the Harris Theater Box Office (205 E. Randolph Drive, Chicago, IL, 60601) by calling 312.334.7777 between 12:00pm and 5:00pm Monday through Friday,
and online from The Harris Theater.