Luce Foundation Center's Local Artist Talks: The Art of Movement
October 31, 2013
Next up in our Luce Local Artist Talk series, presented with CulturalDC, is choreographer and dancer Sarah Ewing. Ewing, who hails from Australia, is currently a Resident Artist at D.C.'s CityDance and performs regularly across Washington. She stopped by the Luce Foundation Center over the summer to answer a few questions from this dance enthusiast (who sadly has two left feet).
Eye Level: How do you go about creating your work—are you inspired by a specific concept or do you start with a feeling?
Sarah Ewing: For each work it's different. Something will spark an idea, it could be another production's stage design, a phrase someone utters, or research I am doing for school. I will then let the idea stew for awhile. I'll keep writing about it and researching, but it will be a few months before I am actually in the studio starting to apply movement to it. The different layers come in after that: the music, costumes, and the complete phrases of movement. All these layers are reflections of that first idea, and help to communicate it to the audience.
EL: People are sometimes intimidated by modern and contemporary art, do you think it's the same with dance?
SE: I think people think they will be intimidated, but once someone watches dance, they generally surprise themselves as to how much they pick up. A dance work is generally structured in much the same way as poetry, writing or music. There will be a core intent usually reflected by a movement motif (similar to the role of a chorus in song writing), and then variations of that motif expand to explore other ideas with in the work (like the verses of a song). Once an audience understands that every interpretation is valid, as is enjoying dance purely for its athleticism and beauty, the intimidation slowly fades away.
EL: When we first met, you told me your piece was inspired by Pop Art. What was it about that particular genre that made you want to choreograph a work?
SE: I loved that the personalities of [Andy] Warhol and [Jeff] Koons are almost as famous as the art they created. Pop Art was a real melding of culture, art, and the lifestyles of these men. I wanted to look at the people behind the work, and how in every art circle there is this constant exchange between the artists, the art, the business side, and culture itself.
SE: Creating my work, Australia Home Land, for the Kennedy Center was a true honor. They were able to provide so much for my production, and I am so thankful for that.
D.C.'s dance community is obviously smaller than cities like New York, but there are still lots of opportunities to make work. We have organizations like the Kennedy Center commissioning local artists, WPAS who present our work in beautiful theaters like Harman Hall through VelocityDC Festival, and then there is Source Festival and the Fringe Festival in the summer, and now CityDance's OnStage program. There really are many very strong organization's supporting the work of local choreographers. My goal is to make good art. I don't mind what city I am in. Here I have found access and support from so many high level presenters and organizations. I don't know if in a bigger city, with a more saturated dance scene, I would get those opportunities and support.
EL: What upcoming dance performances are you excited about and why?
SE: Up next I am making a new duet to take to New York for the 2013 Legros Cultural Arts Women in Dance Alum performance at the Ailey Citigroup Theater. They are a great organization who support female emerging artists, so I am excited to go back up to the City to present with them. In the new year I begin a new full length work, Trapped Happiness, which I will present on April 16 and 17 at the CityDance Studio Theater at Strathmore as part of their OnStage program. This work will be made and presented during my residency at CityDance, which is in partnership with CulturalDC's Mead Theater Lab program.
Ewing will perform a short solo as well as an excerpt from her Pop Art piece, entitled Jeff, Andy and the Business of Art, this Saturday, November 2 at 1:30 p.m. Hope to see you there!
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