[Interview has been edited for clarity and length]
[Interview has been edited for clarity and length]
Introducing our 2021 TeenTix GiveBig SUPERSTAR Duo, Leah Fishbaugh and Beth Weisberger! Leah and their mom Beth have been long-time supporters of TeenTix ever since Leah entered Cornish College of the Arts and interned with TeenTix freshman year. We caught up with Leah and their mom to tell us about their exciting history with TeenTix and recent arts experiences.
Growing up in Rochester NY and Denver, CO respectfully, Beth and Leah both were raised with a rich arts scene around them. Visiting museums or watching local plays was a frequent feature of both of their childhoods which impacted the way they see the world. Leah in particular experimented with a vast variety of arts classes from pottery, to dance, to theater and improv. As a college-aged student, they attended Cornish College of the Arts to continue this arts inspired life.
In the Cornish Financial Aid Office, Leah found a Work-Study program at TeenTix that had their name written all over it. After interviewing and getting the job, Leah’s work at TeenTix ended up extending far beyond the expectations of their internship eventually evolving into an exciting 10 year long career with us. Bouncing around from intern to social media manager and eventually Director of Communications, Leah’s work at TeenTix was integral to our organization and to their development into a working professional. Watching from Colorado, Beth was excited about Leah's work and has been a regular follower and donor to us ever since. Selfie of Beth, from Denver Colorado.
Both Leah and Beth have had a life of plentiful arts experience and we asked them to reflect on any particular shows or experiences of late. Beth noted the exciting opportunities that Hamilton’s deliberately diverse casting presented while Leah told us about a striking piece at Spectrum Dance Theater. The show, called SHOT, used the language of dance and motion to serve as biting social commentary about police brutality, a topic that has proved very poignant given the past year’s demonstrations against police violence, Beth noted.
But just as Beth and Leah have gotten to see some of the best art Seattle has to offer, they share humble beginnings from their schooling days. As a sixth grader, Beth snatched the role of Scrooge from the boys because she was the only one with the memorization skills required. Leah, on the other hand, remembers a hilarious incident from a production of Peter Pan, where Captain Hook went backstage and said “This is a total disaster!” only to find that their mic was still on. Leah is happy to know that their parents still have this priceless moment on video somewhere.
It is for these priceless memories and experiences that Leah and Beth keep arts in their lives even now as it has become exponentially more difficult. Beth continues to seek arts experiences that support her mental health and connect her to the rest of humanity. Meanwhile, Leah has concerted their efforts to creating online burlesque acts with their troop, The Devil’s Advocates, who, in partnership with several other troops created the Seattle Burlesque and Cabaret Co-op which is set to take over the space previously owned by Copious Love (a TeenTix partner). There are so many ways that art is persevering in spite of this moment, and it is thanks to the work and support of people like Leah and Beth that we are assured of a prosperous and bright arts future.
Thank you Leah and Beth for your extended support over the years and for being GiveBig SUPERSTARS!
Become a GiveBig SUPERSTAR yourself by donating [here.]
Lead Photo: Leah Fishbaugh, 2020.
Staring. Bending. Waving. With intention, these movements are all dance. Dance is everywhere. Each and every human being can find it within themselves. From the most well-known choreographer to an individual dancer just starting their career, everyone represents tiny parts of a greater community. This concept, being small parts of a whole, is the driving force behind choreographer and artist Mark Haim.
Vibrant, laughing, and quite talkative, Haim draws people in. His words and storytelling have a unique quirkiness to them, moving the conversation along in a fast-paced yet informative manner. These personal qualities are reflected in many of his works. His dances open up into impactful and profound reflections of his thinking. Watching clips of his The Goldberg Variations, This Land is Your Land, Overflow or any one of his multitude of works, it takes only a few minutes for the depth of his ideas to hit, pushing one to break down greater reflections on concepts such as humanity and time. In This Land is Your Land, dancers move along a pattern, then explore mutations of it carrying coffee cups, plastic guns, and even cellphones. The bright colorful costumes and everyday objects paired with his choreography in This Land is Your Land are a doorway into Haim’s thoughts on consumerism. There is thoughtful passion and humor in his works emphasizing the connectivity of life. Each little person, concept, and object is relative to the other, their presence ebbing and flowing with the rise and fall of each.
Haim’s choreography is a spirited, everlasting dance of balance between purely beautiful movement and firmly intentional timed expressions of thought. His experiments with this relationship are present in every piece.
“If I’m working on movement—just trying to develop movement—I start to look for the thing that isn’t there, which would be the expression and vice versa,” he said. “I don’t know if I am able to do just one. I think it's important for anyone who is making creations to feel like everything is in everything. There might be less of one thing than another but they’re all still there”
Fans of contemporary dance might remember his piece from 2019, Parts To a Sum, which explores how Haim is impacted by those dearest to him. He created a solo incorporating movements sent to him from 371 friends and relatives, ages ranging from 1.5 to 93. Videos averaging 15 seconds filled with jumping, falling; slow, focused arm movements; and even eating were sent with love and support. The final performance of these movements honored the interconnectedness of humanity. This emphasizes the building of a great artist from a foundation of many, and how the end result is the sum of all those efforts.
Haim is not interested in perfectly packaging his work, preferring to allow audiences to draw their own ideas with his choreography. Audiences are given the freedom to interact with his work in the moment rather than come to a performance with set parameters of how they should experience it. In his newest piece, choreographed in quarantine for film, his goal was to “almost get the focus to go from me to what was around me.” He hopes the audience will engage with parts that speak the most to them. Here, he again explores the theme of a greater whole, however instead of a community of people, it is humans, trees, wind, and air adding up to make the environment. Demonstrating a goal of chipping away at the self-importance of humans and to build towards working in unity with life around us; to respect the environment. Aiming to be part of something that is more than just himself, Haim’s choreography in this piece is almost secondary to the movement of nature around him.
When faced with challenges or lack of motivation in this time of isolation, Haim again brings back the idea of smaller parts of a whole. In the face of uncertainty, he advises people to break challenges down and approach a single part first to trick themselves into achieving the larger goal.
Haim awaits the day people gather together to experience live music and dance as part of a whole audience rather than separate viewers. He recounts “I started to cry… feeling the music live...you can’t replace that'' after watching a live dance performance by Whim W’Him in Volunteer Park this past summer where a mariachi band nearby happened to be playing. Assembling to experience a live performance is something many are craving, and he hopes the pandemic will show people the importance and universality of dance.
In Haim’s upcoming dance film WALDO: 2020 for CHOP SHOP’s virtual contemporary dance festival, viewers can watch him give back to the world around him, blending into the trees and shrubs that characterize the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest. Filmed in the I-90 corridor and on the lands of the Muckleshoot, Coast Samish, Duwamish, and Tulalip peoples, Haim provides a space for people to reflect on being part of a greater whole and humanity in relation to themselves as they are presented during the viewing experience. Emphasizing dance’s ephemerality compared to the seemingly everlasting presence of plants, this work is inspired by his reflection upon nature and its generosity in quarantine. He explores the ways he takes up space in comparison to the greater community and world. Try to spot him, first obviously in the frame, then partially hidden amongst the foliage, and finally almost disappearing into the woods to give the plants a chance to speak. Catch the world premiere of this work on Thursday, February 25, 2021.
You can see Mark Haim's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.
This year Chop Shop Contemporary Dance Festival is bringing a variety of talented choreographers. One of those creators is Mark Haim. Haim has resided in the Seattle region for about 17 years now, since he got a job offer at the University of Washington to be artist in residence with the dance department back in 2002. In the Seattle dance scene, he is well known for his work and unique creative process. Dance has been his outlet of expression and movement for 35 years. And in those 35 years, he has developed his own individualistic way of expression through the art of dance.
“That being said, I’ve been choreographing for 25 years before I got here so I already kind of had a way of choreographing and an idea of what my work was about.” Was Haim’s response when asked how living in Seattle affects his work.
Haim’s love of dance started when he realized how isolating playing piano was, after playing it since he was six years old. He was already someone who liked to move, so dance was the obvious next step due to its incorporation of movement and human connection.
Haim considers his creative process to be “illogical” and “scattered” so he has an appreciation of dancers who trust him and his process. He ensures that movement and expression are balanced in his work because he feels the utmost need for both.
When Haim reaches a block in his creative process, he takes it step by step. He always tries to keep moving forward by breaking the choreographic process down. And just trying to get something done and tricking himself into getting the task completed by making himself think he is getting it completed. He continues moving forward even when it is hard.
Haim stated that “all artists are queer in their own way.” He means that artists all go in their own artistic directions even if it goes against norms in this “capitalistic, commodity-driven society.” He wants to create works that are different—even if they are harder to sell or a struggle to create—because he believes that dance is constantly evolving. He wants art to be shared with the community and is something that helps people to bond.
You can see Mark Haim's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.
The dancer gracefully approaches center stage, wearing a tight yellow bodysuit contrasting the deep red lighting. He pushes the ground away from him with each step and the smooth movement gives the illusion of the dancer gliding on water, his feet slicing through the surface and stopping cleanly at the center of the stage.
Upper and lower body movements coincide with the beat, creating funky and rhythmic movement while sustaining the grace of traditional dance. Energy moves through his body and distributes force, allowing powerful and delicate movement. His torso and head simultaneously swayed slowly, while his limbs moved silently and smoothly.
What the audience were oblivious of was some of the dance was never choreographed step-by-step. It was instead improv that impressively looked natural on-stage. The dancer closes the performance with a cartwheel into a kneeling position and a downward gaze. It officially concludes when the ruby lights turn off, and all the audience members begin to clap and cheer for the adept dancer. Audience members erupt in applause in response to this transformational experience.
Daniel Costa is the choreographer who incorporates the “beautiful mystery” of improvisation into performances.
“I love freestyle,” he said. “I love dancing—the way I’m feeling to the music, to my body—at that day, at that time, at that hour. It’s going to shift and change all the time so it’s the most authentic, I believe, through improvisation.”
Costa is a multi-faceted artist whose style exists at the intersection of hip-hop, ballet, and contemporary dance. He believes dance can be used to express one’s true self, especially when it’s through improvisation. He understands the power of dance and how it can connect to many aspects of one’s identity.
At 16, Costa’s passion for improvisation was ignited. He enjoyed watching others improvise on YouTube, and these videos inspired his own direction as an artist. At 17 or 18 years old, improvisation furthered his devotedness to dance to the point where he woke up early every day to improvise in the theater before classes began. His beginnings in hip-hop also let him carry his love for improvisation throughout his career, connecting him to his authentic self any time he improvised.
The first person to formally teach Costa improvisation was Laura Peterson, a professor at Rutgers University at the time (where he got his BFA). Her teachings inspired him as he continued to study dance. Costa has always been drawn to improvisation throughout his life and career as a dancer and choreographer.
Sometimes it is important for people to distance themselves from their corporate reality, and Costa understands that movement is a gateway to one’s spirituality, physicality, and sexuality among other things—all aspects of authenticity. Authenticity is an essential part of dance, which is exactly why Costa begins choreographing dances by improvising. He believes it is the best way to communicate with others and “access a part of ourselves that we cannot articulate with other forms of language.” He continues to make improvisation a large part of his choreography, though the audience never knows how much is incorporated. Check out Costa’s upcoming performance as a part of Chop Shop’s annual contemporary dance festival.
You can see Daniel Costa's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.
*The dance described in the first paragraph of this article is not a depiction of an actual performance, but instead a creative depiction by the writer inspired by Costa's style of movement.
Daniel Costa entered the dance scene as a hip hop dancer, but even before going to college he knew he wanted to be a choreographer. Moreso, he wanted people to connect his name to the art he made.
Costa wanted his company to bear his own name because he wanted the work he created to be connected to who he is as an artist.
“The reason I wanted to start Daniel Costa Dance was to make my own work, to be on my schedule, and to focus on what I found important in dance and important in my training,” he said.
Dance as a form of self-expression, a means to share one’s art and emotion with others, is not a novel concept, but it is one that becomes further lost as the dance scene struggles and stumbles. One can only add so much to their particular version of The Nutcracker. One can only deviate from the script by so much.
But with expression comes connection, a chance to show off one’s self to the community around them. And dance is a way to do that, a chance to form powerful connections with audiences and other artists through the expression of their own bodies.
“And how to connect to community and other dancers I feel this powerful connection [with]... and to also know that my work will never be just mine, it’s always in collaboration with other folks.” Costa said.
It is this connection, this collaboration, that forms the basis of Daniel Costa Dance’s contemporary style. Each piece is unique, either through improvisation and/or unique personalization based on physicality or articulation. Costa’s role in this style of dance is not to be a hard-set director, but to be a creator of “dance vocabulary.” This style of working together allows the dancers to manipulate their own movements, altering Costa’s choreography, to their physicality, to their self. This is where dance comes in as self-expression. The dances come about through the expression of the dancer, and of the choreographer, but also through the connection and community they share.
Everything can be embodied in dance: emotions, spirituality, personas, authentic self, physicality, sexuality, gender expression.
“Dance is embodying a language that is beyond words, more primal, for lack of a better word. It is more connected to before we had language; we always had bodies, we always had movement.”
You can learn more about Daniel Costa Dance, and its titular artistic director, at the Daniel Costa Dance website.
You can see Daniel Costa work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.
2020 was a year marked by social uprising. From protests regarding Covid-19 to the Black Lives Matter movement, change has been seen in all aspects of our lives. But when it comes to the dance world, artists are often left functioning in stagnant and outdated norms. Whether it is strict dress codes that discriminate against dancers of color or harsh competition that infringes on artistic freedom, the dance community fails to allow for individual expression. According to Omár Román De Jesús, the reason why is simple: choreographers and dancers spend too much time comparing themselves. There is not enough support for one another in the dance world.
Jesús’s reasoning comes from a place of worldly experience. His choreography has been shown at a multitude of competitions including at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Festival. His theatrical contemporary dance is one that spreads positivity and highlights human empathy. From Seattle’s Chop Shop to Panama’s PRISMA Dance Festival, Jesús has made his mark. And his company Boca Tuya plans to do the same.
But this poses the question, how does one go about making said change?
For Jesús, it starts with focusing on oneself. During the pandemic, he took time to reflect within: to think about what he stands for, what his company is about, and how he can make an impact. In short, he reaffirmed his identity. However, this task of self-reflection is hard to do in a world that he defines as “a constant competition.” He noted that jealousy and comparison outweigh the amount of support artists give each other. He came to the realization that his choreography will never fit into a certain set of expectations. Rather, his art is constantly evolving to fit his desires and the desires of his audience.
As one reflects internally, they must do the same externally by shifting their energy to those around them. Jesús pointed out that his dance is for his community—those who relate to his message. He extended advice to others: if you want to make change within your environment you must “bring dance to that community in a format that can touch [them].” And that’s exactly what he did. Jesús found a cause close to him that needed help from the arts. Boca Tuya has an ongoing connection with Red Rhino, an organization based in North America that makes dance accessible to neurodiverse individuals. Jesús’s company supplies the dance teachers for Red Rhino’s classes and performances that unite the community. Both groups are centered around inclusivity, making this connection even more impactful.
Creating dance that leaves an impact and a lasting image takes time. When referencing the time period choreographers are often expected to make pieces, Jesús stated, “Three weeks isn’t enough to create something memorable.” It takes time to reflect, it takes time to find your community, and it takes time to physically create the art itself. Jesús finds it a challenge to accomplish all three, as his identity and goals are always changing so his dance must follow suit. In order to do so, Jesús has found himself relying on his dancers and on their artistic ability. Rather than follow the standard choreographic process, Jesús has allowed his dancers’ personalities to inform his works. Their individuality is what makes his choreography so relatable; audiences see the unique emotions of each dancer on stage.
Jesús’s lesson on making change can be summed up in a few comprehensible steps: reflecting inwardly, connecting directly to those you want to impact, and taking time to thoroughly think it through. To see how Jesús’s dance follows these steps watch Boca Tuya’s performance at Chop Shop’s virtual festival here.
You can see Omar Román De Jesús's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.
There’s no denying that Covid-19 changed peoples’ lives immensely. And for many, that impact has been devastating—especially for dancers and choreographers. As lockdowns were mandated and studios shut down, the dance community persevered, doing relevés and pirouettes in living rooms and choreographing pieces in narrow kitchens.
Therefore, one might assume that up-and-coming contemporary choreographer Omar Román De Jesús would speak of the immense challenges of producing dance over Zoom and being unable to work with dancers in person. Instead, he described the pandemic as “enlightening”.
This optimistic outlook perfectly represents Jesús, who speaks with an easygoing smile and articulates his experiences with deeply introspective, open-hearted, and honest thoughts. And although Jesús admits Covid “wasn’t good for him,” he seized the opportunity to re-evaluate his priorities as a choreographer and the impact he wants to make in the dance world.
Jesús has an impressive resume from performing internationally in Japan, to creating works for the Joffrey Ballet, and winning multiple choreographic competitions. However, he felt pressure to constantly create groundbreaking works to please his growing audience and gain more recognition as a choreographer.
During the pandemic he’s been using his free time to sit and think about what his company, Boca Tuya, is about and what he stands for. He began to pay less attention to people’s expectations and focus more on the company’s central mission of “spreading sensitivity, kindness, and joy in humanity.” Now, every time he goes into the studio he explores new genres and focuses on bringing lighthearted joy to audiences.
And the driving force for his inspiration is the diverse artistic backgrounds of his dancers. Unlike many choreographers who force their dancers to mold to their creative vision, Jesús prefers to take a freer route, letting his dancers and their unique stylistic backgrounds influence and shape the piece.
Furthermore, Jesús sees this collaboration of experiences and styles as the driving force of the central challenge to “find the world where we exist together.” He believes letting the dancers’ personalities inform what the characters are makes things more genuine, and brings out the best of them. And by watching his works, one can see his philosophy come to life. With dancers leaping into air with exhilaration and traveling through abstract patterns, the viewer can feel freedom and self-expression within the dancers that is only possible with an open-minded choreographer like Jesús.
Not only have Jesús’s dancers been shaping his works, but the themes of his work have begun to shift. When starting out, Jesús, like many young choreographers, tried to make his mark by creating pieces that were profound and about social change. And although he acknowledges dance is a powerful tool to communicate these ideas, he states that “to create social change you have to work with the community directly.” And true to his message, Jesús now works in partnership with a community organization called Red Rhino, to teach dance classes to people with disabilities.
But with recent social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, he feels that the dance world has become oversaturated with artists trying to make bold statements about social justice Therefore, he is beginning to transition into focusing on relaying a much-needed message of hope, and a sense of continuity and joy. For example, his premiering piece for the local dance festival Chop Shop is similar to a soap opera and is a more theater-dance style. The piece is called Los Perros del Barrio Colosal and follows six characters that face unique challenges in an adventure-filled imagination.
This evolving growth of Jesús’s style and content of his works seems to be an eternal journey. “I don’t want to be recognized as the person who does one thing. Like the guy who does Hispanic pieces,” he says.
Instead, during the pandemic Jesús realized that he values quality over quantity. Like many well-known choreographers, he doesn’t want to create a hundred thousand pieces all focused on a similar idea. For the future, Jesús is inspired to create work that is progressive and memorable, that “spark conversations or make people feel something.”
Those in the arts world who are struggling with similar obstacles may find inspiration in Jesús. Even in dark, unprecedented times, people can find time to reflect on our values, and our future. And hopefully that reflection lets people discover their real priorities, in spreading kindness and support. Because when it comes to change in the dance world, Jesús said the constant competition is toxic, and the community should “support each other.” This wise yet simple message isn’t only applicable for dance, but an essential message to remind all people of the power of reflection, community, and kindness.
Learn more about Jesús’s company at bocatuya.com. You can see Omar Román De Jesús's work Los Perros del Barrio Colosal, at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.
Lauren Horn is reimagining her dance career by shaping it around her own joy. She was dancing in a studio before she learned to read, and “the dream of dance” was explained to her very specifically: Practice dance. Practice some more. Then join a “Capital-D Dance” company.
“Barely anyone can get to that,” Horn said.
Majoring in Psychology as well as Theater and Dance, Horn took a different route with her work. Now, she is working towards the lifelong goal of having a sustainable dance career—one that works for her and brings her joy.
Growing up in small-town in Connecticut, Horn’s vision of dance was shaped largely by the African culture and community fostered in her studio. She was put into class at a young age for exercise. But dance would eventually bring much more to her life. Horn was shy, and used movement as an outlet, starting with tap, moving on to modern and ballet—she just kept dancing. The fact that she didn’t talk much in her youth is ironic—considering that much of her career now is talking while dancing. In the present, she is still struggling with her goal. The thought being ingrained into her that her ideas mean less because she is not in the “Capital-D Dance” industry, Horn is constantly striving to accept herself outside of that narrative, and respect her worth as an independent artist.
One part of this goal is her culture and ancestry. Racial diversity in “Capital-D Dance” is lacking, and Horn is proud of her Blackness. She described this feeling as that she is the sum of her family and her ancestors—a powerful message. Her stage name, Lauren Horn//Subira Vs. Movement, embodies this. Subira is her middle name, something that feels central to her. It is a word with origins in Swahili, and means “Patience is Rewarded.” Horn is constantly trying to be patient—a quality she feels is hindered by the use of social media.
Lauren Horn is Subira Vs. Movement. This is not only a movement company, it is also text based. Essentially, she talks while she dances. This however, is a gross understatement of what her work is. It is not only an exploration of her own identity, but encourages the audience to reflect on themselves. She brings things back to the present: how does one’s interactions through technology make a person feel? Watching Horn perform is an immersive experience, with deliberate setting, lighting, and costuming.
Like many, she has struggled to navigate creating art through the pandemic. “I miss the stage,” Horn says, speaking for both herself and for many performers globally. She asks herself, “What is the standard for art in a pandemic?” and “How does one even create dance when you are stuck inside?” Dance-lovers have plenty of interesting options to choose from as artists try to capture their attention through the screen. However, her work is unique in that even before COVID-19 it involved many digital elements. In fact, technology is the focus of many works of hers. Horn’s personal favorite of her pieces—Techn0Whore— explores identity and the internet, in the same space. She assumes her online personality and asks questions about what identity is on the internet. In talking about the background behind the piece, Horn mentioned the question “Why did posting in seventh grade feel so fun, and now it doesn't?” Asking questions like these is her constantly changing process in creating—having conversations with people about her feelings, and their feelings, channeling that into movement. She had a lot of fun creating this piece, something that ties back into her goal of working to bring herself joy.
Horn has been thrown into the focus of her work, namely technology, which is a lot. Her upcoming piece @Me, will be showcased in the CHOP SHOP: Bodies of Work festival on February 4, and explores this concept. In her words, @Me is an immersive piece that looks at the chaos of being trapped in a pandemic with a computer being the only outlet to reach people. This piece made Horn realize what her art is and how it makes her feel. It helps her deal with the struggle that her art is smaller right now than it ever has been. She questions herself—“Maybe I’m a Luddite,” or wakes up wishing she was a “Capital-D Dancer” at times. But that is the point of her work, to ask questions, and to explore them.
You can see Lauren Horn's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.
Illuminated by cool lights that switch from moonlight blue to pale green to an ethereal violet, Lauren Horn dances lithely. Her powerful figure, clothed in loose white pants and a flowing shirt, catches text and images projected onto the stage. She is dancing her own choreography, in a piece called Techn0Whore. Through this dance, she takes on the personality she assumes online and through social media to invoke the audience to question their own internet identities. To Horn, that’s what her work is about: Using performances to incite conversations about one’s identity and worth. Worth can mean a lot of things. The worth of an art form. The worth of a person. The worth of a relationship.
Some of the first things people tend to notice about Horn are her brilliant grin and clever words. When asked about her stage name, Lauren Horn // Subira Vs. Movement, she responds that it reflects much of her identity. Subira is her middle name, which means “patience is rewarded” in Swahili. Horn constantly challenges herself to be patient. “Vs. Movement” is a postfix communicating how she never cowers in the face of new things, but rather prefers to face them head-on. On the topic of identity, Horn has deep pride in her Blackness, a core piece of her work.
“I’m proud of the fact that my family is here,” she said. “I’m proud of the fact that I’m the sum of my family and the sum of my ancestors.”
Horn’s work is unique. A movement-and-text-based artist who describes herself as one-of-a-kind, she fuses written text, speaking, and dance into beautiful performances. Her choreographic process begins with an exploration. First, she comes up with a prompt, or some sort of question she wants to answer. Then, she answers organically—both through her words, and through movement. Talking while dancing, that is her craft. After going through multiple prompts, her body and mind are in the zone to create. This art form that she has created for herself is expressive and distinctive.
Professional dancers often face many external obstacles in their careers, but Horn’s biggest struggle is the “dream of dance.” In the professional dance industry, the worth of a dancer depends on their success.
“If you’re good enough, you can make it to a top dance company, perfect and happy. But what happens to everyone else who tried to get to the top? If I'm in a higher level dance company, that means my ideas are meaningful and others’ aren’t?”
Battling with the lie that is “what it means to be a dancer,” Horn is always asking herself how to make dance something for everyone, without some people’s ideas being deemed unworthy.
Horn spoke about how shifting as a dancer from in-person to virtual performances has affected her work. “Smaller,” she started. She doesn't like to feel this small. The shift made her realize what matters is not what her work is, but what her work makes her feel. @Me, her newest piece premiering in the CHOP SHOP 2021 festival on February 4, is immersive, meant to express these feelings of being trapped in a house in a pandemic with a computer as her only outlet.
Horn’s big-time goal is to create a sustainable career for herself. Not something determined by external standards like whether or not she’s a dancer from a prestigious company, but a career where she can set the standards herself. She seeks creative liberty, and wants to be compensated for her worth. And that’s what she’s all about. Always seeking to make choices that respect her worth.
The worth of artists is often dismissively decided on the surface level by viewers who will never glimpse the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the artist’s work. But Horn pushes back by determining her own worth. She’s unique for getting her viewers to reassess their own worth. Dancing her way through unanswerable concepts like worth and identity is what makes Horn an artist.
You can see Lauren Horn's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.
A trio of dancers flow through breathtakingly graceful motions. They fly across the stage, sweeping their arms up above them and reveling in the fluidity of their movement. Audience members sit before the performers. Many of the viewers appear to be lost in awe at the artistry and communication between each dancer.
Audiences are essential to the performing arts. A piece might be thought-provoking for a viewer, or make them see a reflection of themselves in the work performed on stage. Dancers on stage paint a vivid image; it’s up to those seated under the dim light of a theater to interpret it.
Unfortunately, audiences no longer get to experience the thrill of live theater. COVID-19 has put a temporary halt on the world of live performing arts that dancers and audience members alike crave. Over the course of the past year, many artists have had to alter their creative process due to challenges, such as social distancing, putting the dance community on hold. Brooklyn-based choreographer Nicole von Arx, for example, is exploring ways of performing to reach a new audience in a new world; in many cases, that audience is a virtual one.
Her dance film titled Bright Night, premiering at Seattle’s virtual dance festival CHOP SHOP on February 4, embraces these challenges that quarantine has brought to both performers and audience members. As the pandemic rages on, theaters that many dancers call home and the hundreds of seats that fill them have been left dormant. Von Arx’s latest piece is inspired by the feeling of isolation the pandemic has brought. While filming Bright Night, she felt a lot of sadness, as did the dance community as a whole, not being able to perform live or connect with audiences in real-time.
“I didn’t want to put a facade on top of that feeling,” von Arx said. “I actually really wanted to embrace that feeling of desperation and loneliness.”
The title of the piece is a contradiction in itself; it’s about brightening the darkness we feel. According to von Arx, “... it’s important as artists to allow people to feel sad, as well as happy.”
Von Arx has a powerful relationship with her dancers who bring her visions to life and play a key role in her work. She often collaborates with dancers who are already familiar with her movement style and choreographic vocabulary, in order to communicate with them best.
“There’s a moment in the rehearsal process where I really have to step back and look at what I have to say,” she said. “You can give emotions and imagery to a dancer, but there’s a point where you have to step back.”
What she has to say with her choreography often has a lot to do with the audience.
Von Arx explains that her recent creative process has more to do with the audience ark, what the audience members feel, than the performance on stage. She believes a performance is relative to the viewer, and instead of just the performers on stage going on a journey, she wants to have the audience be involved on that journey as well.
In December 2020, she premiered her solo Nine. Von Arx had the opportunity to perform for a limited live audience, in which everyone was spread apart and wore masks to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Having not performed for months, she wanted so desperately to connect with the people seated before her who were also yearning for performance. For that reason, during the performance, she incorporated moments of collaboration with the small and intimate audience. She performed a free and easy-going monologue, in which she asked questions such as, “How are you?” and “What are you feeling?”, and gave them directions to stand up or turn around 360 degrees.
For von Arx, witnessing these moments of interaction, laughter, and joy after months of their absence was extremely compelling. In regards to her creative process and inspiration, she said, “I think that’s my journey and how I’m going to delve more and more into connecting with audiences and taking them into a journey because, why not?”
You can see more of von Arx’s work on her website.
Nicole von Arx's work is featured in CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.
In our world today, we eject our opinions onto others. We lack the capacity to merely listen. However, choreographer and artist Nicole von Arx does not want to continue with this norm. With her art, she hopes to connect with the audience and give viewers a space to raise questions, find answers for themselves, and be able to engage in ambiguous discussions with those around them.
During the pandemic, people have been isolated in their homes, not interacting with others as much as they used to. The global pandemic, social unrest, and changing economic situation has led people to question the world that we live in, and finding answers to those questions proves to be extremely difficult. But, von Arx offers audiences a unique and fulfilling experience through dance; one that is not typical to stumble upon. She provides an immersive experience where the audience is a part of the journey that the dancers are creating. Through this mutual relationship between the audience and von Arx’s choreography, emerges an area for one to unpack questions and attempt to find the answers we all need.
Open, grounded, and present. Inquisitive and real. Strong, passionate, with expressive brown eyes; von Arx is a storyteller, not only through dance, but also through words. Earlier this year, she was able to perform—outdoor and socially distanced—her solo Nine. There’s a part in the show where von Arx is not dancing, but instead asking the audience specific questions such as: “Hello. How are you?” and “How are you feeling right now?” In addition to her monologue, von Arx incorporates moments of interaction and has the audience stand up, do a 360 degree turn, or raise their hands.
She vividly remembers the audience laughing, engaging with the show, and talking to those around them.
“It was beautiful… To be on stage and witnessing that after months and months of not interacting with audiences and having them go through all of these emotions, was super powerful,” von Arx said. “I think that’s my journey and how I’m going to delve more and more into connecting with audiences and taking them into a journey.”
This was the moment von Arx knew she wanted to make art not only for herself and the dancers on stage, but for and with the help of the audience.
The revolutionary idea von Arx has reintroduced of allowing others to work ideas out for themselves starkly contrasts with how our society operates. Instead of viewers choking on a barrage of various opinions, von Arx instead allows one to breathe and think for themself.
“I want to raise questions that give answers,” von Arx said. “I’d rather give a chance for people to express themselves than try to tell them what to think.”
Von Arx stands out in the dance community. She is an artist who cares about the audience and whose purpose is to connect with them in order for the viewers, or rather participants, to grow individually.
A pivotal moment in von Arx’s creative journey was when she received an enlightening piece of advice. The advice? Listen to others. When the moment comes, when one feels like inserting a comment into another’s story, “That is the moment where you have to take a deep breath and let the person tell the whole story,” von Arx said. “Let them shine and go through that journey because they also need to let out those emotions and tell you that story. And it will feel different… you have to let people express themselves.”
Von Arx allows her audience to shine and have the space to disassemble and explore ideas, so that we can better understand ourselves and each other. And from there, move forward.
And now, von Arx is giving audiences a chance to utilize this priceless space to engage in her journey and explore ideas for themselves. On Thursday, February 4, CHOP SHOP is presenting the world premiere of von Arx’s dance film Bright Night.
“The moment we filmed it, I had a lot of sadness, and I think in dance, there is a lot of sadness right now for our community and not being able to perform and connect with audiences. I didn’t want to put a facade on top of that feeling, I actually wanted to embrace that feeling of desperation and loneliness.”
It’s a contradiction between the utter darkness of the night and how we can brighten up those moments. In von Arx’s short film, she allows us to reflect on those darker moments and validate them, so that we can begin to engage in conversation around our harder times.
See the CHOP SHOP premiere of von Arx’s short film Bright Night on Thursday, February 4 to embark on a journey, explore questions and answers, and to participate in von Arx’s connective craft.
You can see Nicole von Arx's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.
Mere weeks after a successful CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival in February 2020, the world was fully enveloped by the maw of a 100-year pandemic.
When festival administration duo Lizzy Melton and Eva Stone began conceptualizing what next year’s performance might look like they were left wondering…
“How do we plan for this?”
What quickly became clear was that CHOP SHOP would rely on artists unlike ever before in the event’s 13-year history as a virtual approach—while uncharted territory—was a given.
“[The choreographers are] all artists that have already been presented at CHOP SHOP, and they’re artists that we each chose...not just for loving their work, but because we thought they would have a particularly interesting perspective creating dancework in this moment,” Melton said.
Rather than following their typical process and operating under an application period, Melton and Stone believed letting go of the reins was a more appropriate model for this season.
“We love these artists and we trust them so...we just got out of the way,” Melton remarked. “Artists are dealing with enough, they don’t need a couple of arts administrators telling them what to do.”
The virtual format also lent to surprisingly broader horizons that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. For instance, at least four different states were represented in a Zoom Master Class hosted by choreographer Nicole von Arx last month, a scenario which would have never occurred any other year.
Accessibility is a recurring theme this year, and not only with respect to schedule accommodations or distance. All of the programming involved with CHOP SHOP 2021 is either free or “pay what you can.” Melton reported that such a model wouldn’t be possible if they were dealing with the typical challenges and costs associated with gathering in a physical space.
“I think we have to explore these opportunities because even after the pandemic, so much has to change...this moment is asking us to get more creative than we have been in the past, and I think we have to.”
When asked for her prediction on where the arts will fit into society in a post-pandemic world, Melton’s definitive appreciation for creators is more than apparent.
“If you’ve enjoyed [books, music, movies, TV, furniture, housing, food] and any of those things have made the pandemic easier for you or lifted your spirits, then you have relied on arts and culture to get through this,” Melton said. “I think we have to honor that.”
Following a year marked by civil strife, loss, and isolation Melton believes artists should serve as a primary inspiration as people move forward.
“Artists embody so many qualities that I think we need more of in the world—collaboration, recognizing each other for our unique gifts, willingness to be vulnerable with one another and share, the way artists build trust with each other to get their work done...I want to see arts and artists embedded into every aspect of society”
In the meantime, Stone and Melton will continue to serve their community the way they know best, and that’s through sharing the joys of dance.
"As the producer of CHOP SHOP, I am thrilled that despite a pandemic and a devastating blow to the dance community, we have kept this festival alive!” said Stone. “Creating a platform for these brilliant choreographers to be innovative during a very challenging time is the one true joy. With careful thought, collaboration with our artists, and good planning, we found a way to pivot our festival to an online format that supports these incredible artists and benefits them as well as our viewers."
Pandemic life is nothing new: it’s in the headline of every arts event, and it’s the center of every news story, hashtag, and home. It is shocking how rapidly a single word can trigger dread and create a sense of isolation, or even mania, within an entire population. In these many months, the world has faced a great deal of change, and while isolation has proven to be one of the biggest challenges, we all have found ways to create the personal interactions we so intensely crave. Art has been a surprisingly integral part of these interpersonal interactions—watching a live stream from your favorite singer can be just as engaging as a phone call with a friend, and viewing short films on Zoom together brings us that much closer to the ones we care about. The opportunity to become invested in art and creativity is, in many ways, more accessible than ever. Arts organizations have adapted to COVID-19 by utilizing their websites to increase interactivity with hope of adding the personal touches that help thaw the loneliness of their audiences and supporters. Theater and dance companies have faced the same challenge: how can a theater bring audiences the gift of a show and continue to offer cherished community spaces when they aren’t physically open? This summer season, the artists of local dance company Whim W’Him had to find that answer for themselves.
“We decided to pivot into making dance films” says Whim W’Him artistic director Olivier Wevers. Before COVID-19, the dance company’s summer season XALT was set to consist of two live shows—MANIFOLD and The Way It Is. These pieces intended to explore the human journey and bring the audience into an intimate storyline, latching onto the personal, yet universal, emotions of the audience members and artists alike. But COVID-19 spun the arts world on its head, leaving many dance companies unprepared and in search of new ways to reach audiences. XALT’S MANIFOLD, choreographed by Penny Saunders, and The Way It Is, choreographed by Wevers, use dance to perfectly capture the loneliness of quarantine. It is strangely comforting to see the socially distanced dancers in these performances tread carefully, so as not to step into each other’s space. Whim W'Him dancer Andrew McShea and company dancers performing Olivier Wevers' The Way It Is during a pop-up appearance at Myrtle Edwards Park in Seattle. Photo by Stefano Altamura.
Barb Hoffman just wanted to draw on clouds. Now, her film, What We See in the Clouds, is up for a jury nomination at NFFTY, the largest youth film festival in the world. This week, I had the privilege to speak with her (virtually) as well as the young artistes behind God is a Lobster, another film debuting at the festival, to discuss their experience making films safely in the age of COVID-19. Let’s see what they’ve been up to:
In Hoffman’s What We See in the Clouds, she has her friends describe what they see in various pictures of—you guessed it—clouds. Then, Hoffman expresses the descriptions visually by drawing on top of the images, blurring the line between reality and imagination. Essentially, she crafted a cloud-centric Rorschach Test and conveyed her results through mixed-media animation. She chose this technique because “telling stories with actual imagery that we’re used to, plus images on top of it gives [the film] a sense of magical realism that I’m very intrigued in seeing.”
Introducing our TeenTix GiveBIG SUPERSTAR, Hana Peoples! Hana is one of fewer than 20 people in the whole world who has donated to TeenTix during GiveBIG every year 6 years in a row! She is a TeenTix alumni who recently moved back to Seattle after graduating from UCLA with a Masters in Cinema and Media Studies. Hana is currently starting a part time internship with Telescope Film where she will be helping with their international film database. In a recent interview, we got to know Hana and hear about her arts experiences with TeenTix and beyond.
Hana was first introduced to TeenTix by a friend, and together they attended a show at Pacific Northwest Ballet. At the time, Hana went to Holy Names Academy for and always felt like she didn’t quite fit in. She enjoyed theater and dance, but didn’t want to perform. Hana (right) and her friend Lena at her last TeenTix event, PNB's The Nutcracker, in 2013.
Arts Essentials pairs young people with arts leaders for conversations that matter. Join us for a new interview every week! Arts Essentials with Sumeya & Betsey
TeenTix New Guard Member and Newsroom Writer Sumeya Block sits down with Betsey Brock, Executive Director of On the Boards for a conversation about how art has impacted their lives and how they find connection in a virtual age - all while painting their nails! Arts Essentials with Eleanor & Becs
Fellow TeenTix Press Corps writer, Rosemary Sissel, and I were honored to interview Seattle Art Fair’s curator and artistic director, Nato Thompson. The Seattle Art Fair 2019 took place at Centurylink Field Event Center August 1-4.
You’ve attempted to create a wide array of different objects and pieces of art and magic that evokes the curiosity rooms of the 16th and 17th centuries, and reading your curatorial statement, it’s almost as if these rooms contained everything. So how is it possible to curate everything?
A tunnel of captive trees reflects itself into infinity. Pieces of wood arranged in the shape of Africa cast the shadow of a face. Another face, painted by many tiny newspaper words, loses its eye.
The Fair is a river of continual images, inviting viewers to look at, question, and interact with collections from nearly one hundred galleries from around the world—and the variety is staggering. A head is suspended upside down by steel cable. A nose is a shoe. A plunger is glass.
The boy with the warm brown eyes walked away down the sidewalk, turning back to wave before rounding the corner.
Think about that sentence. Visualize it. What did you picture? A busy city street or a suburban neighborhood? A teenager or a young child?