People Like You marks the live performance Seattle debut of Rachael Lincoln and Leslie Seiters, though some Seattleites may have seen their film, May and June, at last year’s Next Dance Cinema. A character piece examining intertwined lives, May and June enveloped the audience into the world of these characters while exploring the complications of closeness. People Like You delves into similar territory creating a window into the lives of two women, but instead of fictional characters, the lives of Seiters and Lincoln themselves are on display.
Though the work originally premiered in San Francisco, Seattle owes the privilege of hosting People Like You to the fact that Lincoln joined the UW Dance Faculty in 2013. She balances her work as a professor with performing as a part of the world renowned dance company Bandaloop. Seiters, also a dance professor, teaches at San Diego State University, directs Leslie Seiters/little known dance theater, and performs with an improvisation collective known as LIVE. The work of Seiters and Lincoln is often described as whimsical; however, it is the openness and unaffected directness of their distinctive movement vocabulary that makes People Like You a must-see show. Read on to hear from the creators/performers themselves.
SeattleDances: Tell us a bit about your partnership. What drives you to continue making work together despite living so far apart?
Leslie Seiters: I think we started out as good match, but also have practiced and learned about how to be in collaboration together. It helps that we learn from each other and respect each other as much as we do. Our long time collaboration as directors/performers/people helps us to begin a process without starting over. But also our familiarity can create space to be divergent and even lost. There is a looseness that I might not feel if I didn’t have an experience working with Rachael over time, and I really value the stupid ideas and lost-ness that can end up being the most guiding.
The long distance part has almost always been there. We met as dancers in Jo Kreiter’s company in San Francisco, and that peer camaraderie underlies all our work together. But since then we have mostly lived apart, and our work together is shaped by an extreme on/off schedule. We are either intensively in process, usually for a week at a time, then we leave it completely. Because of this we take many years to make something together. And the piece has to absorb our change during the longer periods of time in process of making. Rehearsal can feel like returning to an earlier version of me or us. I have become interested in how our work together stays current even though the timeline is less continuous.
Rachael Lincoln: The unadorned answer is that I love working together. I trust and admire Leslie’s aesthetic, I like how our differences inform each other, and I’m always curious about what will happen when we get together to make and perform something. The specifics of our working process change each time we meet, but there is a familiar core and history that builds upon itself.
The nature of our long distance collaboration leads to multi-year processes of building, editing and performing a piece. It can sometimes be frustrating to have such an on/off practice, but I’m interested in what happens when a piece marinates for so long. We tend to rework sections or even the structure of a piece each time we perform it, so the material feels living and relevant for us as we return to material that can be many years old.
SeattleDances: Over the course of your dance/creative partnership, you have both become dance professors. How has this influenced your work? Or has it?
Lincoln: I can’t say that it’s specifically influenced the work, but it has definitely given us a platform to make it. We’ve had many residencies at SDSU and now are being hosted and funded by a grant that comes through UW.
Teaching a population of students with a wide range of exposure to dance, I often think about artistic accessibility. I feel good about challenging an audience, about taking risks and working in a way that feels less known or comfortable to me or an audience, but I’m not interested in shutting people out. I’m aware of the fact that many of my beginning dance students will be in the audience for this show, watching a piece that may have nothing to do with any dance they’ve seen before (if they’ve seen dance before at all). Being an active dance-maker and performer keeps me motivated to find ways to talk about how to enter/understand/appreciate the small corner of the dance world we belong to.
Seiters: I work to cultivate the relationships of teaching, directing, and performing as practices that inform, influence and sustain each other. But because I began working with Rachael before teaching was so prominent in my schedule and attention, our work together often connects me to my pre-professor self. Which is really useful. It is always a kind of gauge for where I am now, what has changed or shifted.
SeattleDances: When did People Like You begin? What became the instigating idea?
Lincoln: People Like You began in 2010. We had spent the five years prior making/touring an attic an exit, a stylized, otherworldly, and very detailed evening length piece, and were ready for something different. For PLY, we decided to employ a process that used time and distance and gave ourselves a series of assignments to accumulate material. (For example: 20 seconds a day in front of the computer camera, ten minutes of videoed improvisations/day, specific writing assignments, etc.) I think as we began this new process, we were questioning the necessity of a certain kind of ambition and drive to make art and have it seen. (Do we have to have shiny public personas to ‘succeed’? The right combination of social media savvy and elusiveness? The right connections?) We did want to be making dance and having it seen (funded, recognized, praised, admired, emulated, exulted), but we also wanted to have lives that were slower moving and our own.
Because PLY was/is being made in short intensives over the span of 5 years, we’ve each been through moves, career changes, the birth of a child, moments of loss, moments of glory, some doubt, some surety, some limelight, some darkness. I think the instigating idea came from putting ourselves in the work—it ended up being an exploration of the messiness of wanting both smaller and bigger lives, wanting to be both a part of it all and outside of it all.
SeattleDances: The title of the piece is People Like You. Is this a rejection of the idea of sameness? Or an embrace of it?
Seiters: Yes, it’s both. Wanting to stand out and blend in. An audience member who saw an early version of the work spoke about the “dueling desires for recognition and retreat.” That still feels central to the work.
Lincoln: Yes. Both. I think it’s also an acknowledgement of what we imagine is a shared experience of wanting opposing things. Of wanting (and not wanting) to be like (and liked by) everyone else, just like everyone else. Also because double entendres are fun.
SeattleDances: Last year at Next Dance Cinema, you presented the dance film May and June in which you portray twins. Do you feel that you have been circling the idea of being alike?
Seiters: Yes, that twinning was such a strong practice in an attic an exit that it might have become part of our collaborative DNA. As a duet team, we tend toward sameness, which can tune audience (and us) to a certain type of connection. Relating. Even empathy.
SeattleDances: Is there anything you would like to say to the audience before they see the show?
Lincoln: This is a piece I want to learn more about. I would love to hear any thoughts or experiences after seeing the show.
Seiters: Please Come.
People Like You runs at Velocity Dance Center this Friday and Saturday, June 5-6 at 8PM. Tickets are available through Brown Paper Tickets.