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Preview: Send/Receive

Laboratory Dancers
Photo by Bjorn Kavanaugh
Seattle’s dance scene is about to get infiltrated by Chicago. With hints of Madison. And a little Seattle too, of course. With Northwest New Works in full swing at On the Boards and the Seattle International Dance Festival about to begin, June is full of performances by out-of-town guests. Send/Receive, which opens at Washington Hall this Wednesday, June 12, at 8:00 PM, is anchored locally by MaryAnn McGovern and Dancers, who transplanted from Chicago in 2011, but adds to the out-of-town mix with the Chicago based group, Laboratory Dancers, among others. The idea came about when the Laboratory Dancers (led by Emily Lukasewski and Alexandra Subak) were planning a tour. The group decided to share an evening with MaryAnn McGovern, and soon a few others joined the bill: Kate Corby, a choreographer based in both Chicago and Madison; Jessie Young, a Washington native who makes work in Chicago; and Peter Carpenter, a dance professor at Columbia College—in whose classes many of these artists originally met. Send/Receive promises to be an evening of socially-motivated dance—one gets the sense that this is dance you can sink your teeth into, dance that takes on some of society’s most nagging problems. To get the scoop on this diverse program, SeattleDances interviewed the choreographers whose work makes up Send/Receive.


SD: Tell us a little bit about the work you are presenting at Send/Receive.


MaryAnn McGovern: I will be showing A Recipe for Polarity Part 2|Echo Chamber. It is the second in a series of short pieces that explores American Political Polarization (the first was presented at the BOOST Dance Festival in March). This particular work implicates mass media outlets as being catalysts for polarization. I would consider this piece to be a bit of a departure from the pieces I have shown in Seattle. It’s dark, maybe a bit sinister.
Peter Carpenter: The piece is titled Rituals of Abundance for Lean Times #7: Divisions of Labor. I began working on the Rituals of Abundance cycle in 2011 as a means to interrogate perceptions of scarcity that became increasingly vivid in the wake of the recent global economic recession. In finding alternative economies and value systems—often in human exchanges that evoke bravery and compassion—this collection of dances comments implicitly on societally pervasive failures to equitably distribute abundantly available material resources. Rather than levying this critique in a single direction outward from the performance, I try to reflexively unpack my own choreographic processes as evidence of the way in which power reproduces itself throughout the production of the dance event. This solo specifically looks at the privilege of the solo choreographer/performer and the ways in which inequitable labor practices manifest in our lives.  
Kate Corby & Dancers in Go
Photo by Yi-Chun Wu 
Kate Corby: I am bringing both an old work and a very new work. The piece from 2009 is Go.It was originally made with my company but the Laboratory Dancers are performing it in Seattle. This is the first time another company has learned our work so I’m very excited to see the final product. The second work is a brand new solo that I am still finishing called Growing Season. It began as an embodied investigation of rapid growth plants (i.e. bamboo and sunflowers), but has morphed into an exploration of the female body and the performance of gender using a metaphor of plant growth.
Jessie Young: My piece, now titled Overnight, started out as a sister-project to an evening length work I was developing at the same time called ASH/LEIGH. I was working with two separate groups of dancers and wanted to create continuity between the movement in each rehearsal. That went out the door after the first rehearsal. What I realized (which is so obvious to me now)- each group was functioning on a very specific dynamic and I wanted that to be the core of the work. Working with the Laboratory Dancers, I had the privilege of coming into an already intimate group. They had all danced together before, and I picked up on their immediate intimacy with one another. I took this closeness and created a context for it: a kind of devolved sleepover. That is where I came into the title, Overnight
Laboratory Dancers (Alexandra Subak and Emily Lukasewski): Laboratory Dancers have seven pieces of choreography coursing through our muscular memory. For Send/Receive, we have selected two separate works to be presented: Emily Lukasewski’s Count My Allies on Wednesday and Alexandra Subak’s Iota on Thursday. 


SD: Some of the works in Send/Receive deal directly with current events and social issues. What is your process like for turning current events or social issues, which are so tied to history, into dance performance, which deals in abstraction? Why do you use dance to address the current state of the world?


MM: The process for each piece I create is really dependent on the subject matter. I think the biggest difference from piece to piece is the beginning of the process, where the base material for the entire work comes from. The key for me is to find a way to draw out the conversation points through movement, then layer in hints through thoughtfully crafted text that reinforces the idea. Creating dances helps me to viscerally explore an issue and get to the core of why it is important to me. Art promotes dialogue, and more than any other form, dance has the power to bring humanity to an issue.


Choreographer Peter Carpenter
Photo by John Sisson
PC: Ultimately, I’m interested in celebrating and being responsible about the privileged position of the artist in society. I’m obsessed with abundance and gratitude right now. How do we make gratitude manifest? It’s not enough to feel it—how do we act from a place of gratitude. And then, I’m also interested in power—how do we know it when we see it? How do we hold it and not know that we have it? How does privilege make itself invisible to those who hold it?  How can dance vivify these questions?  


KC: I use choreography as a lens through which to research something that interests me. The process is usually circuitous and involves the distilling of concepts into improvisational movement assignments. The abstraction happens in this distillation of ideas. I use dance to address the current state of the world because it has been my tool since before I really knew much about the world. Also, the possibilities for multiplicity in dance offer us something culturally unique and important.


JY: It is my belief that we are always dealing with current events and social issues within our work—whether directly or indirectly. Making work, especially when you’re working with people, is enormously affected by all that is surrounding us in current events. I am constantly challenged by the use of the word “abstract”— as I understand it, when something is abstract it is apart from concrete realities or specific objects. In dance, I have found that more specificity in the concept and movement is necessary. When I create movement, I do not feel I am working with an abstraction but rather an actualization. 


LD: Lukasewski’s Count My Allies is at once emotional and political. These concepts seem to go hand in hand. One is abstract, wordless, complete energy. The other is an intricate web of plots, schemes, speeches, and money. Yet, they rely upon each other in a symbiotic hypnosis, causing people to enter deep fits of loyalty and betrayal. Rahm Emmanuel made promises to me, a Chicago citizen. He whispered in my ear, “I will provide you more arts education funding. I will attend your dance performances. I support and value the creative endeavors of our city’s struggling artists.” Oh, I was lulled into star-struck rapture, believing our great mayor. But, as all infatuation eventually sours, my heart was broken when his promises evaporated, leaving me hurt and bruised. A dance piece allows for emotional exploration in a physical realm…In an ideal world, Rahm would see this dance piece and enter terms of political rectification, while crying his little eyes out and not knowing why.   


Send/Receive opens at 8:00 PM this Wednesday, June 12, at Washington Hall. Tickets are available here.