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“It’s really giving me and my dancers the dance that we wanted to do.”

Kim Lusk was awarded a DanceCrush award for her evening length work, A Dance for Dark Horses, which was presented through Velocity’s Made in Seattle program in March 2018. Lusk recently toured this work to Jacob’s Pillow, a historic dance hub in Massachusetts that is home to America’s longest-running international dance festival and “the dance center of the nation” according to The New York Times. SeattleDances caught up with her to chat about that experience and what’s on the horizon for Lusk.

Erin McCarthy and Alex Pham performing at Jacob’s Pillow.
Photo by Christopher Duggan.

SeattleDances: What was it like to present at Jacob’s Pillow?

Kim Lusk: It was great. We were on the Inside/Out stage, which is outside with the beautiful mountains in the background. All day long it almost rained and then right at the last minute we got to perform outside, which was really exciting. It’s such a magical place to be because not only is out in the woods, but also [there are] hundreds of people who support dance and are excited about dance and just want to talk about dance and see dance. And how special is that, you know?

SeattleDances: What was it like to restage A Dance for Dark Horses a year after its premiere?

KL: It was surprisingly easy. The dancers I work with [Erin McCarthy, Alex Pham, Shane Donohue] are just the most gung-ho, calm, smart people to work with. We rehearsed for three days right before Jacob’s Pillow and put it all together, changed some transitions and made it work. It needed to be 35 minutes and the original piece was an hour. 

It was really fun, I did a little showing at Bainbridge Dance Center, which is where we did a residency before that. I teach ballet out there and it was really awesome to have students and parents. I grew up on Bainbridge so people who I went to high school with and my teachers from high school and, you know, the local brewer came! To share that with them before we headed out was also really awesome because it’s a trek, so not all of those people came out to Seattle to see the show. Being able to do it a year later was really awesome. 

Performing at Jacob’s Pillow. Photo by Christopher Duggan.

SeattleDances: What does A Dance for Dark Horses mean to you? Has this meaning changed over time?

KL: Oh, yeah. It’s totally changed over time. As a piece of work in itself, it means a lot to me that it is a lot of really full-out, technical dancing mixed with this dry humor, because that’s just what I want to do as a dancer. It’s really giving me and my dancers the dance that we wanted to do. I think because it has that joyful quality to it, it has also drawn in a lot of people, and so I’ve met a lot of people through it. I’ve been able to talk about dance with people who have never seen dance before. Maybe that was the first show they went to, but because it grabbed them in a way, I’ve been able to spread the good word about dance, which I love doing. 

Yeah it’s changed, especially coming back a year later. It’s never done, but I’m excited to take that and do something new. 

SeattleDances: What are you working on next?

KL: I’m actually going to grad school next year [in the fall] for architecture [at the University of Washington]. My intention is to completely stay in the dance world, stay choreographing, stay dancing. But, you know, all of us have another job, so this will just be a way to be creative in my other job. I’ve talked to my dancers about doing something again and they’re all gung-ho. We’re starting to disperse more and more throughout the country and the world, so because of grad school and that [dispersal], it will just be a slower process. But, I’m [wondering], can I do a dance performance for my architecture projects? I’m just excited to see how they come together. And then once I’m through that or during that what kind of dance stuff comes out of me. 

SeattleDances:  How has your choreography changed while presenting work here over the past five years?

KL: It kind of feels like I’ve been working on the same project, and it feels like I’ve been trying to add more story into it and more layers, and a little more grit to it. Especially in college and the first couple things I did in Seattle it was very “this is an exploration of this movement idea.” In a duet that I did with Erin McCarthy, we did the entire thing in a one count canon, so we were off by one count the entire time. So that’s very “this is the score and we’re just going to do it.” And then it’s fifteen minutes long, so after fifteen minutes of watching two people be slightly off from each other it starts getting at “oh, what could this mean?” And so I think from then on I’ve been trying to more deliberately put on “oh if we do this and this, and we put this next to this, then, hopefully we can give the audience a feeling of this.” 

Shane Donohue, Kim Lusk, Erin McCarthy, and Alex Pham performing at Jacob’s Pillow.
Photo by Christopher Duggan.

SeattleDances: Is there anything else you would like to mention?

KL: It’s important to me that the people that I work with get credit for all that they do. Erin, Alex, and Shane also totally made Jacob’s Pillow possible. And Ryan [Hume], who made the music. None of this has happened to me on my own. You know, I do a lot of work, but having these people around me has made it possible to do all of this, and be sane while doing it, and have a fun time while doing it, and do split leaps sometimes in the middle of the show! All the things.