La MaMa Blogs: 6 QUESTIONS: Chris Masters - La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival

Thursday, May 15, 2014

6 QUESTIONS: Chris Masters - La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival

photo by Robert Flynt.

Chris Masters presents his new piece, A Willful Host, "an exploration of self-exploitation," May 22-25, as part of the La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival. Here, he answers our six questions.

1. A Willful Host is partially described as "an exploration of self-exploitation." What inspired you to create work on this theme?
I have been curious about this idea for quite some time. The phenomenology of self-exploitation is something that, for me, is ripe with opportunities for investigation... from power, to sincerity, love, and achievement... even the business of dance itself; all have some connectivity to exploitation. That said, I am interested in engaging with points of departure that allow for a conversation. The work doesn't make any claims or come to any conclusions, but hopefully functions as a conduit. This precipice of "self-exploitation" has manifest over the creative process into a more candid study on the relationship between parasite and host where there is some type of reciprocity in the air. It's not exactly symbiosis we are looking at; it's something else, something that I am still processing... A want to be a host, a need to provide for someone even at the detriment to one's own ability to thrive. I was talking to a colleague about the work and said, "I am making a dance about parasitic connections." His reply was, "Oh, so you are making a love story." I wasn't sure how I felt about it at first, but now I am liking that idea.

2. How has collaborating with your performers and composer Sven Britt shaped the development of A Willful Host?
Collaborating with these folks has been an amazing experience. The final product is reflective of the collaborators who were in the room while we building this piece. It is their input, their histories, their opinions, their choices that have informed the work and given it legs. My role has been more directorial in nature (shaping patterns, zooming in, or out, of scenes). Specifically in reference to Britt's score, I feel like the partnership has been fruitful and his input has helped steer the work, both in the discussion of what sound to marry to what music, but also in regards to the tones and sensorial responses we aim to achieve (both in the witness and the performer). I am incredibly fortunate to be working with so many talented and daring people. They make the job much more fun, and incredibly rewarding. 

3. How do you begin work on a new piece?
We start with lots of talking and lots of recording responses to improvisational prompts. For this work, we spent the first month or so playing with different movement ideas, playing games, setting up challenges and watching them fail or succeed. As a group, we wrote a lot, making lists of things, recollecting on moments where we have felt exploited, or have exploited others. On the back end, I was digesting texts and films related to the subject matter to provide additional fodder for the work.

4. What is your relationship to character and narrative in dance?
Character and narrative help me navigate the flow of my work. One gives life to the other, and the relationship between the two helps me figure out who these people on stage are, or perhaps, who they are becoming. Through deconstructing narratives and constructing personas, we get a chance to globalize some of what we are looking at, broadening our reach and finding opportunities to evoke empathy or locate a point of intersection with our audience. For this work, the entire cast engaged in multiple assignments that gave us prompts, thoughts, and rules. These elements helped define and carve out our movement ideas. The character development was birthed out of the things they were bringing up in these assignments. Once movement was generated, we looked at parallels and incongruities. Marrying ideas, we started to see characters develop. Relationships were created from the space between two points that would never meet, that wanted to meet, and that are inseparable. The characters in this specific work are really layered... Sometimes enjoying servitude, sometimes needing it like air, and sometimes wallowing in the reality of their situation.

5. Which artist(s) in the festival are you most excited to see?
I am seriously excited to check out Chase Brock's work. I feel like the evening we share is going to be extremely engaging, with our work coming from two very separate spaces. I also am very interested in Cedric Andrieux & Christophe Ives US premiere, as well as Yoshiko Chuma & Rebecca Lazier's shared evening. For many of the artists in the festival it will be my first time seeing their work live, so I am just stoked. I am really excited about all of the opportunities that La MaMa Moves creates for the NYC dance audience!

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
Working at La MaMa means a lot to me. I have been making dances for over ten years now, but as an organization, CMD is still an emerging company. Having an opportunity to present work in a historic venue like La MaMa is a wonderful accomplishment, and I am really proud to be part of such a dynamic and talented pool of performers.

La MaMa presents 

A Willful Host (Chris Masters)
The Song That I Sing; Or, Meow So Pretty (Chase Brock)

May 22 – 25, 2014 
Thursday - Sunday @ 7:30pm 

The First Floor Theatre @ La MaMa
74A East 4th Street
(between Bowery and Second Avenue)
New York, NY 10003

Tickets: $15 Adults; ten tickets priced at $10 are available, in advance, for every performance via web, phone or box office as part of La MaMa's 10@$10 ticketing initiative. 10@$10 tickets not available day of show. 

For Tickets and Info: CLICK HERE

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