When Hedwig Dances present’s Bartoszek’s newest work Futura, the audience at The Dance Center of Columbia College will get to see a multi-dimensional example of how she does this, and of how rich the results can be.
Collaboration is inevitably a form of exploration, and it often turns out that those artists who are most open to exploring the shared creativity of collaboration are also the boldest in their search for other kinds of creative exploration. When you let your energy and your vision and your imagination get tangled up with the visions of your collaborators, and do it voluntarily, you’re just bound to find yourself exploring ideas that you would not have found on your own. It’s very much the same when you discover a world of new ideas, a history of different thinking, or any other idea that you just know that you want to explore more deeply.
Jan Bartoszek’s career has been a master class in this principle. Dance, of course, is almost always a complex cooperation between choreographer, dancers, designers and many others, but Bartoszek has made such creative cooperation both a priority and an art in her work, often in innovative and boundary-defying ways. When Hedwig Dances present’s Bartoszek’s newest work Futura on November 1st through 3rd, the audience at The Dance Center of Columbia College will get to see a multi-dimensional example of how she does this, and of how rich the results can be.
In Futura, Bartoszek explores in dance the complex and compelling ideas of Bauhaus, and does so with an equally complex and compelling cast of collaborators. We asked Jan to tell us more about the revolutionary ideas of Bauhaus, its influence on so much of what we know today, and how she and her collaborators imagined Futura. Here’s what she told us:
It was forward-looking and idealistic in its fundamental belief that art and design are a source of social transformation.
Johnny Nevin: The Dance Center of Columbia College, where your new work Futura will premiere on November 1st – 3rd, describes the work as being ‘inspired by Bauhaus Modernist art’, and the work is clearly the product of an immense amount of research and thought. Can you tell us a little about Bauhaus, and why this very influential movement interested you? Many people may not be aware that dance was part of the original Bauhaus movement — was that aspect of Bauhaus part of your original inspiration, or does your creation of a full evening work inspired by Bauhaus come from a different, broader inspiration?
Jan Bartoszek: The Bauhaus modernist school began in Germany at the close of the First World War. The word Bauhaus means “house of building.” It was forward-looking and idealistic in its fundamental belief that art and design are a source of social transformation. The focus was a unity of the arts and its expansion to include crafts. The Bauhaus aesthetic is clean and stripped of ornamentation. It values experimentation, abstraction, and the unity of form and function. The Bauhaus was never one thing. It has countless iterations, as evidenced by works as diverse as Oskar Schlemmer, Marianne Brandt, Anni Albers, Lazslo Maholy-Nagy, Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, Wassily Kandinsky and many other influential artists whose works have made a lasting impact.
During the Nazis’ rise to power, the Bauhaus School was shuttered. Many teachers left Germany and spread the Bauhaus curriculum and aesthetic world-wide. Two leaders of the Bauhaus movement, Laszlo Maholy-Nagy and Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe settled in Chicago. Maholy-Nagy launched the Institute of Design as the New Bauhaus (which is now a graduate department in the Illinois Institute of Technology). Mies Van Der Rohe designed the campus and headed the architecture department at the Illinois Institute of Technology. These two artists were at opposite ends of the spectrum in their individual approach to design. Mies Van Der Rohe was highly structured in his approach. Conversely, Maholy-Nagy was always exploring and experimenting with new forms. They have had an enormous influence on the arts in Chicago.
Although it is known mainly for architecture and design, the Bauhaus has a strong legacy of performance and dance.
I’ve long been drawn to the Bauhaus School’s “back to basics” approach which drew me to make not one, but two research trips to Germany. I visited the original Bauhaus sites in Weimar, Dessau and Berlin where I met with historians, choreographers and researchers which helped shape my foundational ideas for Futura. My study of Oskar Schlemmer’s work was especially significant to my creative process. I had the opportunity to see a live performance of Schlemmer’s “Bauhaus Dances” by the great performer and choreographer Gerhard Bohner in a program “German Dance: Living Memories with a Future” at MoMing Dance & Arts Center in 1989. MoMing (1974-1990) was at that time the leading venue for contemporary and experimental dance performance, and, in my early career, it was my artistic home.
Although it is known mainly for architecture and design, the Bauhaus has a strong legacy of performance and dance. The theater work began when the Bauhaus moved to Dessau and built new buildings to house the Bauhaus school. Within the main building, the stage is at the center and it opens to a large gathering space and cafeteria. On this stage Schlemmer explored many of his movement ideas and influenced generations of students and artists.
In 2019, Hedwig Dances will tour Futura to Germany for the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation’s Open Stage to mark the Bauhaus Centenary.
For this show, Hedwig Dances has been instrumental in bringing the Institute of Design (ID) and Bauhaus Dessau together for the first time in 80 years to create an opening to Futura. During a week-long workshop, ID students led by Torsten Blume (Bauhaus Dessau) and Jeffery Mau (ID) with Jason White of Leviathan, created Fractals, a prelude to Futura. Fractals features Bauhaus-inspired costumes, video, movement and poetry performed by five ID graduate students.
In 2019, Hedwig Dances will tour Futura to Germany for the Bauhaus Dessau Foundation’s Open Stage to mark the Bauhaus Centenary. This is a great honor for Hedwig Dances to participate in the celebration of the Bauhaus legacy alongside so many inspirational presenters.
We work with a wide range of world-class artists, across disciplines and media, to produce compelling contemporary dance with soaring imagery, original music, and movement that provokes human connection.
Johnny: One of the ideas that Bauhaus explored was that of dealing with space. Is this some of what you are exploring and expressing in Futura?
Jan: The Bauhaus ideas are rooted in spatial concepts and geometries. These ideas are so basic that they are open to infinite possibilities. In this latest work, I explore how dance shapes, and is shaped by society, art, architecture, and design in the 21st century. I focus on space, particularly the idea of confinement and freedom, as well as parallels between the Weimar era and our own time. The dance examines opposing movements in which the force of one movement becomes the energetic source for another reactive/opposing force. These movement and visual metaphors are relevant to our time when so many freedoms are being challenged.
My investigation of Bauhaus principles in Futura is consistent with my career-long exploration of inter-disciplinary dance practice and performance. As dancers we explore cultures and ideas that make our work visually exciting and emotionally rich. We work with a wide range of world-class artists, across disciplines and media, to produce compelling contemporary dance with soaring imagery, original music, and movement that provokes human connection. In Futura, I continue my practice of working with a core group of creative collaborators, including Richard Woodbury (music composer), Sanja Manakoski (costume designer), Alexander Ridgers (lighting designer), Jason White with his Leviathan team (video design) and Hedwig’s superb company of dancers. I see the performance work we create together (both process and product) as a ritual powerful enough to break down barriers, bring people together, and create dialogue. I believe that dance is as much a research science as an extension of the humanities, and I continue to be intrigued by the question of why people dance and how we interpret and understand what is being communicated non-verbally through movement.
Hedwig Dances will present Futura at The Dance Center Columbia College Chicago on Thursday, November 1st, Friday November 2nd and Saturday November 3rd, with all of the performances beginning at 7:30pm. Tickets are available online from The Dance Center Columbia College Chicago or by phoning the Dance Center Box Office at 312-369-8330.