To date, the company has presented over 1,500 performances at prestigious venues in Chicago and beyond, and is poised to present its latest production, “LIGHT PLAY,” at Ruth Page Center for the Arts March 13-15, 2020.
It is much easier to be lost than be found. It’s true of objects, but it is also true of ourselves, especially when it comes to identifying who we are and how we can stay true to expressing ourselves. It takes practice and dedication to discover the ways in which we can continue to nourish the very best of who we are, and if we can succeed in doing so, there is no limit to what we can achieve. Furthermore, we may just inspire others and provide them with the tools to do the same.
That is what Founding Artistic Director of Hedwig Dances, Jan Bartoszek, has been doing with her company for the last 35 years. She has spent her career dedicated to finding ways to stay true to her essence and her aesthetic, always sharing that art with the community at large and leaving inspiration in her wake. A list of complete works on the Hedwig Dances website shows 69 works that Bartoszek and her collaborators have created, and that list continues to grow as new inspirations are discovered and explored. In addition to these works, Bartosek has nurtured the creativity of many Hedwig Dances artists, providing them with opportunities for mentorship and space to create new works for the company.
For two decades (1992-2011), Hedwig Dances was the Dance Company-in-Residence at Chicago Cultural Center, where it offered the city, its residents and visitors alike some of the very best in dance, including performances, classes, and opportunities to connect and learn about different cultures through dance. Now in residence at Chicago’s Ruth Page Center for the Arts, Bartoszek and Hedwig Dances continue to nurture the creativity of the city’s artists and provide innovative, creative, mixed media performances. To date, the company has presented over 1,500 performances at prestigious venues in Chicago and beyond, and is poised to present its latest production, LIGHT PLAY, at Ruth Page Center for the Arts March 13-15, 2020.
DancerMusic Editor Kristi Licera recently had the chance to speak with Jan on the eve of this 35th anniversary concert about how she has kept her creativity alive and to get insights to her latest work, Raum. Here’s what she told us:
The Bauhaus school utilized primary colors and basic forms to rethink how art could be made. It encouraged a sensory, playful approach to art making and promoted experimentation.
Kristi Licera: Creativity is essential to artists of any discipline. But creativity is not some endless font that flows within. Rather, it is something that is alive in each of us—something that needs to be fed and nourished, especially if we hope to sustain a career and build a company whose impact is as immeasurable as yours and Hedwig Dances’ has been over the last three and a half decades. For the last few years, you have looked to Bauhaus as a means of feeding your creativity. Can you give us some insight to how you came to discover the Bauhaus movement, style, and its ideas? What impact have your discoveries made on your approach to creating dance?
Jan Bartoszek: I first learned about the Bauhaus modernist movement as part of a college art history course. More recently, I was re-introduced to it through a colleague who gave me a book about Bauhaus design theory, suggesting that my choreographic work bore some similarities. I began to delve deeper, researching more about Bauhaus history and its many manifestations.
Part of my research was to visit Germany and the sites where the Bauhaus had a school: Weimar, Dessau, and Berlin. The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation funded my trip through a professional development grant. Along the way, I met researchers and art historians who gave me greater insight into the history and development of this movement.
…part of what I do is to explore how the form of the body relates and responds to the form of the object, and to capture the inherent metaphor in this relationship.
What initially attracted me to the Bauhaus was its back to basics approach. The Bauhaus school utilized primary colors and basic forms to rethink how art could be made. It encouraged a sensory, playful approach to art making and promoted experimentation. There was also a utilitarian function; art has a role to serve the community.
This journey has led me to a continuing exploration of the simplicity of form, working with the essence of the idea, and building ideas gradually through discovery. I have always worked with objects. So, part of what I do is to explore how the form of the body relates and responds to the form of the object, and to capture the inherent metaphor in this relationship.
In “Raum,” I’ve created a dance wherein the dancers both generate the visual landscape (by using an onstage overhead projector) and dance in it.
Kristi: LIGHT PLAY features two works in its program: a reprise of Rigo Saura’s The Flowering Mechanisms and the premiere of your latest work, Raum. We were able to speak with Rigo about The Flowering Mechanisms prior to its premiere last March, and it seems to be a perfect program partner to Raum, which plays with illusion and perspective through use of different lighting sources. Can you tell us more about your inspiration for Raum? What has the process of creation been like with the dancers and your collaborators?
Jan: I am inspired by the infinite curiosity of Laszlo Moholy-Nagy’s artwork, especially his photographic exploration of light and perspective. In Raum, I’ve created a dance wherein the dancers both generate the visual landscape (by using an onstage overhead projector) and dance in it. The dance also uses two-dimensional bird’s-eye video projection of movement that is presented in simultaneous counterpoint with the live performance.
The dancers have been very engaged in this method; it’s been a lot of fun—challenging, too. Through a guided process, the dancers have collaborated with me in movement and image development. Theater artist Sharon Evans has built some of the objects for Raum, and she wrote a short three-part script that structures the dance and gives it a rhythm. Actor Mark Richard is the voice of Moholy-Nagy, and the dancers respond in a live choral commentary. Sound designer Erica Ricketts and I have had a long-distance, back and forth collaboration. I send her video and she sends me sound studies. This is our second collaboration. We worked together several years back on my work drift deep, loose. I love her sensitivity to creating “spot-on” aural environments for dance.
Hedwig Dances presents LIGHT PLAY at Ruth Page Center for the Arts (1016 N. Dearborn, Chicago). Performances take place Friday, March 13 and Saturday, March 14 at 7:30pm, and Sunday, March 15 at 3:00pm.
For more tickets and more information, visit www.hedwigdances.com/events.
To learn more about the history of Hedwig Dances, see their 30 Moving Years, which highlights milestones, events, and performances year by year from 1985-2015.