The Dancer Perspective: Twelve Chairs: Part 1

April 25th, 2012

Written by: Brandon Cournay

Twelve eager KEIGWIN + COMPANY dancers walked into an empty studio with twelve black folding chairs staring back at them. With excitement and fervor, we all took a seat and quickly began falling, folding, jumping, and sliding with our chair. We quickly realized the possibilities were endless…

For the past two weeks, K+C has been having a BLAST working in the studio. We have begun the creative process for our newest, largest, and most ambitious endeavor yet, Twelve Chairs. I recently sat down with dancers, Matthew Baker, Emily Schoen, and Jaclyn Walsh to discuss the inner workings of our creation and to give you, our audience, a sneak peek of what’s brewing inside the studio!

The beginnings of any creative process with Larry Keigwin always starts with playtime accompanied by lots of experiments and laughter.

This was very eminent when we played a game of Round Robin. With Nicole Wolcott acting as resident DJ, picking a song at random for every dancer, and Larry giving us adjectives such as crumble, smooth, or rocking; one at a time, all twelve of us improvised with an empty chair, surrounded by our circle of peers. Individuality was shining and Jaclyn was definitely inspired by the choreographic outcomes from this game, “I think there are definitely more options having more voices and bodies within the room.”

One of the most exciting elements of this piece isn’t just the chairs, but the dancers themselves. Unlike our other larger works, Runaway and Megalopolis, which were commissioned at The Juilliard School, this is largest creation made specifically on K + C. “There is a lot more collaborative teamwork involved versus creating a small work. We rely on each other a lot more as a group,” Emily said. Together, using everyone’s individual strengths, we are creating a brand new vocabulary of movement.

Jaclyn says her favorite part of the process thus far is when Larry gives a section a official name. “…It’s like learning a piece within a piece. Ten years down the road, we will still be referring to certain sections of Twelve Chairs because of the spontaneous name it was given. The creation process is so fun! This week we have, ‘Michael Jackson,’ ‘salt and pepper,’ ‘wave,’ and ‘position one.’”

Matt hits a great point, “Everybody has their chair, one dancer with their own chair. We are definitely not setting a familiar scene.” Rather than creating a setting, where the chairs are merely props, we are using the chairs to enhance our movement, as if they are an extension of our dancing bodies. We move in kaleidoscopic patters creating shape and texture with developing vocabulary. Using the chairs has been an exciting challenge for us, adding a certain level of risk and vigor to the piece. “It’s like working with another body. So, essentially it’s like there are 24 people in the room.” Jackie says.

To conclude, I asked the dancers to describe the creative process over the past two weeks in one word:

“Adaptability.” –Matt  “Eclectic.” –Jaclyn  “Openness.” –Emily

Over the next few weeks, check back for more blogs and discussions to get the inside scoop of our journey during the creation of Twelve Chairs. We couldn’t be more excited to share this new work!

For a sneak peek at K+C dancers using our chairs in action, CLICK HERE

Shot by the brilliant, Nel Shelby and be our own Larry Keigwin and Kit McDaniel.

The premiere of Twelve Chairs will take place during KEIGWIN + COMPANY’s run at the Joyce Theater. June 12th -17th 2012.

Follow our adventures and ask us questions on Twitter! #KcoJoyce

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