Contemporary dance usually gets a bad rep and let’s face it, it is an easy target. It can be said that it tends to spout a “holier than thou” vibe. The Miami-based dancer and choreographer, Katie Wiegman, is attempting to break this paradigm with her new piece “On Board.”
What is “On Board”?
It is a series of site-specific audience interactive dance works stationed at four different points of the Miami Beach boardwalk. I don’t want to use the word happening to describe it, because it is a bit cliché. It is contextually not quite right. The word has a direct connotation to the era. But what I am doing is a very well prepared, very rehearsed, structured improvisation. The unknown and the element that will provide change is the audience. People are being brought on board.
Hence the title.
I am a cheesy motherf*cker.
Why allow the audience be the director?
My intention is to create relevancy for people and meaning for people. What’s going on with dance right now is not necessarily… its not up to date with the way that our culture exists right now.
Why do you feel there needs to be relevancy?
It is the responsibility of all art, not necessarily just dance, to bring meaning to people, rather than to be self-fulfilling. It doesn’t mean it has to be commercialized or have entertainment value but it needs to have meaning. For example, I feel like especially dance has gotten further and further away from accessibility, public accessibility. It is very bourgeoisie, especially contemporary dance.
Concert dance now kind of has an attitude of; “We are presenting this… like it.”
Hasn’t art, or fine art in general, always been inaccessible to certain classes or types of people?
I am not saying art should be dumbed down or simplified, or turned into a 2 dimensional thing. But my input is, if you are making something as a work it has to have an intention of bringing something of meaning and emotional intellectual value to viewers. A lot of works become so esoteric that they lose that as an intention. My own goal is to use the audience’s own story, own aesthetic, own creativity. I consider myself an organizer, not an artist.
You see a lot of on stage masturbation, a lot of rolling on the floor without any meaning.
So if masturbation is not your process for creating work, what is?
It starts with a question, a series of questions and intentions. How do I make this have value for the person, how do I make this their story? Before every rehearsal I ask, “How do I create opportunities for people to interact with what I am doing?”
Where is the high point? Where is the point of suspension? What compels action?
Creating tension in a duet that makes people want to act. Creating stories with blanks to fit in, evolving based on the narrative of the audience. Push and pull.
Now the ropes make sense.
They are a very clear visual and they have clear symbolism of tying things together. It is a great nonverbal communicator. From a functional element, to levy things. People understand function. The ropes are easily manipulated. They are very playful.
When I see ropes, especially in the context you and your dancer are utilizing them, I see bondage. Using constraints to bridge freedom.
I want to create several different relationships. I am also looking for examples of metaphors beyond a romantic relationship. Push-pull, constraints at a certain distance, one is tied one is free. A variety of permutations between bound and unbound.
Formally, how are you arriving at these permutations?
It’s very different for each piece. For the ropes, I am creating recognizable stories between two dancers that people are able to connect to. I’m using formal techniques such as theme and variation, and movement conversation. Through dance there’s ways to represent conversations that agree and disagree. Creating an intuitive language, a nonverbal language. A conversation that might say, “I see your movement and I negate it.
Can you be more specific when you say movement?
Movements that are based on gesture and less on formal ballet lines. One person cradles the other persons head, the next person tosses the other persons head. Symbolism through gesture and iconic imagery.
What are you formally trained in?
Classical dance: ballet and modern. My choreographic training is mainly improv based…almost dance theater. When I conceive of a piece, what comes first is an image; how do the images I have in my mind work as visual metaphors? How do these ropes work to describe relationships? How are we tied and connected?
How did you move away from the traditional audience performer dialectic?
From the impulse of wanting to have audience members create the story. Improv theory applied to dance. Narrative premise, narrative beginning, open ending. It’s exciting to leave the outcome of the story to the creative impulse of others. It creates a work that has more value. I see myself and my dancers as vessels of communication and I want to hear people stories. People connect to autobiographical works.
Essentially, you want to create a vehicle for people to connect to contemporary dance and allow them to enter a seemingly intimidating world?