Nico Tower’s DanceCrush award, for being a “multi-disciplinary Seattle dance super-hero” is appropriately all encompassing. A self-described intermedia artist, she is a composer/ accompanist, graphic designer, photographer, arts educator, dancer, martial artist, and songwriter. Throughout the five years Tower has spent in Seattle, she has become a powerful collaborator and generous educator within the dance community. Students at Velocity, SHIFT Movement and Healing Arts, and Cornish, all locations where she accompanies dance classes, may be familiar with her entrancing one-person band. Currently, she is collaborating with Maya Soto on a performance called “Beautiful Carcass,” which premieres May 11-20th.
Tower began playing music for dance when she met Michele Miller, martial arts teacher and Seattle dance icon, on a martial arts trip to Hong Kong. Upon returning to Seattle, she started playing music for Miller’s dance company, Catapult. Tower had no experience playing for dance classes. However, she remembers thinking, “Okay well, what could she possibly ask for that I couldn’t figure out in some way?” She approaches accompanying and composing for dance with a beginner’s mindset, always looking to learn from the people she is working with. “I have a lot of tolerance for being really bad for a while, until it’s fun,” she says. Tower immediately immersed herself in dance, taking a class the very next day, and soon walking away from her music background as it previously existed.
Since then, Tower has become a frequent member of dance classes throughout the city. Sometimes she takes class as a dancer, but more often, she is standing in the corner behind a keyboard, guitar, looper pedal, and a collection of various other instruments. One of her many jobs is accompanying classes in Cornish’s dance department. Tower appreciates the chance to work in a conservatory setting. “You spend a lot of time telling people about yourself and what you do, and that what you’ve made your life about is worthwhile, so to get to work in a conservatory where I don’t have to explain myself, is like, this special thing.”
Accompanying class is different from performing. Tower notices that “in a dance classroom, there is focus, which is palpable, but it’s not on me… I love the format of dance classes, it’s totally changes how I teach in my music class.” She is constantly excited by getting to see growth. Standing in the corner, Tower is observing the pedagogy techniques, the students’ growth from class to class, and anything else that catches her attention. Describing the job, Tower says, “I’m essentially the goalkeeper. I basically stand there for most of the game and then I have to be on for like three seconds… it’s a lot of waiting and listening and thinking. It’s hard unless you identify as a dancer and what is happening in the room is actually interesting to you.”
Collaboration is central to the creation of Tower’s work. She has a firm sense of her values in personal relationships and in art making, and the two are inseparable to her. “That’s how I like to connect people… what I wanna do is, let’s make something! All of my longest lasting friendships and most important relationships have been with collaborators.” Her current work, “Beautiful Carcass,” is in collaboration with Maya Soto. “We have a really compatible skillset, and a really organic way of sharing power… we spend so much time outside of our rehearsals looking at spreadsheets and making lists.” Tower counts Soto as a close friend and a perfect fit as a co-creator. A shared background as educators draws them together. They approach rehearsals with a learning objective, frontloading with a discussion or article that can draw out a somatic response for the cast. Both are okay with “sitting with something that we don’t super love.” Tower says they both have a “slow burn” sense of process that gives them the tenacity and care to stay with a subject for over a year, while still having fun.
Up next, Tower is “gathering ideas, improv scores, people, resources,” basically everything she can get her hands on in the dance world. She would love to teach music to dancers, and has a dream of teaching dancers to score their own music. She is interested in performing in someone’s dance company, mentioning that Jessica Jobaris “is really interesting and cool; she has a wide latitude of how she views movement and what fits into her paradigm.” For right now and the immediate future, Tower is obsessed with working with dancers. An artist who can do it all, she is unintimidated by genre, constantly searching for any medium to make her art feel real and immediately effective. “It’s such an abstract art form, even though it’s so real because we all live in bodies. There’s a lot of ways that we can all enrich it and help the story be told, because people are so disconnected from their bodies. It’s changed my way of being in the world, being in dance.”
You can find more information about Nico Tower at http://www.nicotowerstudios.com and don’t miss her upcoming show Beautiful Carcass May 11-19, tickets at http://beautiful-carcass.com.