Take a warehouse space near Salt Lake City’s baseball stadium, throw in a team of dancers, choreographers, artists and architects and tell them to create a work together. If it sounds a bit like our co-lab series, that’s precisely why we’re excited about it. But whereas we give our artists a month to work together, these teams have a day.
Space as Collaborator is NOW-ID’s summer intensive workshop hosted and taught by artistic director/choreographer Charlotte Boye-Christensen and executive director/architect Nathan Webster. The nontraditional format matches teams of choreographers, architects/designers, and dancers to tackle daily design/movement problems and work quickly to create and stage collaborative work. As the name implies, space itself is an important component of the workshop and plays a big role in how the performances are shaped. The workshop’s first series was held in 2015 in the old Deseret Soap Factory in Salt Lake City, and this year’s workshop works in and around a warehouse space across from Publik Coffee Roasters.
Tuesday night, the first teams presented their works to an invited audience. Using the same piece of music, but engaging different, arbitrarily-assigned themes (i.e. drawn out of a hat), the collaborative teams created surprisingly developed works given the breakneck format of the workshop, with brief but satisfying productions threading throughout the structure.
In a space inside the warehouse, Elpitha Tsoutsounakis created an elegantly spare stage with roughly a dozen luminous floor-to-ceiling columns of translucent shipping plastic. Choreographer Jocelyn Waite set dancers Ashley Justice, Mary Schilling and Kaia Shukin to a piece based on the theme “missed connections,” each dancer entering the space from a concealed alcove and using the columns as both veil and shroud. The space was intimate, but the piece and setting felt familiar enough that one could imagine it easily transferred to a more formal stage.
The clean lines of the first space were in marked contrast to the pell-mell nature of the second, where a resident forklift, construction platforms and tool bench shared space with a set design by Adam Bateman, who scavenged duck blinds and bamboo poles to create an abstract set with the feel of a minimalist mangrove swamp (theme: swamp of thorns). Directed by choreographer Chloe Holzman, dancers Miriam Gileadi and Conner Erickson moved between concrete floor and ceiling rafters, folding and twining their bodies up and down scaffolding as they switched places in the course of about two minutes.
For the third piece, “The Endless Plain,” designer Nathan Webster activated the weedy lot behind the warehouse by tensioning rays of string between the chain-link fence, rusted pickup truck, shipping door, and shade tree. In place of a rope swing, Webster strung a 6-foot donut of a glass tabletop that twirled in slow rotations in the wind like a giant lens. Photographer-turned-choreographer Portia Snow further activated the space by setting dancer Nora Price loose upon it—Price came into the scene crashing into and climbing the chain-link fence, then inverting her form in the shipping door of the neighboring building, flinging herself into the weeds, gazing toward the audience from the other side of the glass donut, and ultimately following a ray of string out of the set.
Wednesday, the workshop added artists Gary Vlasic and Mark Hofeling, as well as choreographer Kate Crews. Tonight, Thursday May 26, the participants will stage an entirely new round of performances, which either will start fresh or build upon the first round of set designs. Friday, the teams will transpose a mash-up of the work into the Leonardo.
If you would like to be added to the guest list to see either showing, email Charlotte Boye-Christensen at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nathan Webster at email@example.com. Both Thursday and Friday performances start at 6pm. Performances are free.
NOW-ID’s summer performance, EXODUS, takes place the weekend of July 28-30, and will be a collaboration with the Danish musicians Figura Ensemble. For more info visit www.now-id.com
The founder of Artists of Utah and editor of its online magazine, 15 Bytes, Shawn Rossiter has undergraduate degrees in English, French and Italian Literature and studied Comparative Literature in graduate school before pursuing a career in art.