La MaMa Blogs: 6 QUESTIONS: Rebecca Lazier - La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

6 QUESTIONS: Rebecca Lazier - La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival

photo by Julie Lemberger
Choreographer, dancer and teaching artist Rebecca Lazier debuts THERE MIGHT BE OTHERS May 15-18, in The La MaMa Moves! Dance Festival on a shared bill with Yoshiko Chuma. She took the time to answer our six questions.
1. Given that your choreography draws from a wide range of dance traditions, what qualities do you look for in a performer?
There are no criteria I could describe for which I wouldn’t find an exception.  There is a ‘je ne sais quoi’ quality to what draws me to a performer and potential collaborator.  I will say, I find performers compelling when they have equal parts control and abandon, the ability to be precise and free, and bring a fearless, feral quality to their dancing, but I do not believe there is a formula to being a dancer.

2. As a teacher and a practicing choreographer, how do you balance sharing your views and experience with helping your students find their own aesthetic?
Part of my choreographic process is to continually challenge my aesthetic to help discover perceptions and ideas I might not otherwise consider.  I feel I can share this practice and expose students to range of ways of creating without dictating what style, genre, or aesthetic should be imbued in a student’s work. A larger obstacle than keeping my aesthetic in check is to question the control a student’s training exerts over their imagination, as they often think choreography is the arrangement of steps already known. Students who have minimal dance experience choreograph some of the most surprising pieces; they seem more able to go boldly into new aesthetic territory without feeling they are destabilizing their identity. 

3. How did you arrive at the title There Might Be Others, and how does the title help frame the piece?
The story of how I titled this dance is a very practical one!  This piece began last year when researching how other fields address repetition in form and content, I encountered a compelling choreographic challenge in composer Terry Riley’s score and performer instructions for his seminal In C: create 53 modules; have the performers repeat them as many times as they wish while staying within 2-3 modules of each other; proceed in order; and listen to the group when making decisions.
In initial rehearsals, I choreographed movement modules that ranged from virtuosic gestures, games, task-based prompts, to audience interactions. The dancers then implemented the Riley rules in timed improvisations. In rehearsals we go back and forth between refining modules and analyzing structural decisions. 

Over time we have adapted the score for our purposes, altering the rules around how to repeat each modules, fine-tuning our definition of choreographic listening, and departing from Riley’s instructions, the dancers now choose the order of the piece in performance.  The first module is chosen by chance, by drawing from a hat, and each subsequent module is selected in the moment by any cast member using a set of criteria to help guide his/her choice.  For the La MaMa performances, they have 14 modules and the lights will go out after 20 minutes.  Generally they do not get to perform every module, time runs out first. Hence, there might be other modules the audience does not get to see.   

4. What about making aleatoric work, where some elements of the composition are left to chance, appeals to you?
This is the first piece I have fully committed to using an open score.  I have long used improvisation as a method of building work and specific sections of my dances may include a set of instructions that remain somewhat open, but here I am layering rules and conditions to give the performers ultimate control of the composition. 
I have always wondered how to capture the wild moments in improvisation where a room comes alive with presence. How can I give the performers agency, yet also provide limitations so they can discover new possibilities?  The score we are developing works to balance these forces.  I generated the modules and established the rules around what types of repetitions are possible and what types of play are permitted within each module.  Since the performers choose how many times to perform each module, determine how to transform the modules within given conditions, and control the overall order, they take responsibility for the composition. 
I’m interested in how the dancers balance their subjective feeling state with the question, what does the piece need right now?   In performance their dancing becomes a mode of choreographing, and choreographing becomes a mode of being.  The work is truly co-authored, while the choreographic vision set forth in the articulation of the individual modules remains present, the dancers determine the unity, or contrast, of the overall piece.  The aleatoric elements of the score create a balance between strictly defined vocabulary and an aesthetic of spontaneous creation. This score also supports my goal of building a dance that is visceral and visual, individual and communal, chaotic and simple.

5. Which artists in the festivals (both DANSE and La MaMa Moves!) are you most excited to see, or which have you seen?
These are both incredible festivals!  It is very exciting to see such diverse programing.  I would see several shows a night if my rehearsal schedule permitted!
I am looking forward to being on a program with Yoshiko.  In 1985 I took a workshop from her as part of a Post-Modern workshop directed by Sally Banes at Jacob’s Pillow.  I was 16 and immersed in the ballet world; needless to say, the classes changed my life.  What a full circle to be on a program together almost 30 years later.

6. What does working at La MaMa mean to you?
This is my first time at La MaMa and it is a great privilege to be included in this Festival.  Say “La MaMa” anywhere in the world and you invoke one of the most distinguished histories of experimental work in New York City.  I have long admired how La MaMa balances emerging and emerged artists from diverse aesthetics roots. 

There is a distinct alchemy to the buildings of La MaMa and it has been a joy to be able to play and create new work.  I am extremely grateful to Nicky for programing my piece and thankful to the entire staff, as well as the communications and production teams, for their help bringing this dance, and the whole festival, to life.

La MaMa presents 
There Might Be Others (Rebecca Lazier)
How To Deliver An Afghan Hat / Π = 3.14…Endless Peripheral Border Cont… (Yoshiko Chuma)
May 15 – 18, 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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