Retro/Introspective with choreographer Susan RethorstFeb 22nd, 2013 | By Whittington | Category: Lew's Danceland
by Lewis Whittington for The Dance Journal
At the Arts Parlor Studio on South Broad St. earlier this week, dancers Gabrielle Revlock, Meg Foley and Bronwen MacArthur rehearsed excerpts of Behold Bold Sam Dog, an “old work” as choreographer Susan Rethorst later termed it. The dancers referring to video from its initial staging only once, obviously they wanting to nail down all of the moves, but also talking about the choreographer’s style, recalling comments from Rethorst from previous rehearsals.
Rethorst was supposed to be there for the run-through, but had double booked herself and instead was on the Bryn Mawr College where she was in the midst of orchestrating performances, open rehearsals, master-classes, collaborations and workshops for an ambitious series of events aptly billed Susan Rethorst: Inquiring Mind/Choreographic Mind.
Rethorst joked she has “two assistants, so I’m very relaxed…actually that makes me nervous.” and considering the line up of events she made time to talk about the performance series.
LW: How did Bryn Mawr series start?
SR: I think it started forming actually last year in New York at another retrospective – and I want to call it a retro-introspective and it had a similar series of events- and old piece a new piece, some dance making, open rehearsals, some panels we did. Some things to try and take a look at what goes on in choreographic thinking.”
LW: Do you have changing philosophies with your choreographic approach or is it a continuum or is everything in your book A Choreographic Mind and I should read it. :
SR: Everything’s- in- my- book-and-you-should-read it and tell all your friends to read it. (she joked)
LW: Yes, I’m ordering now…
SR: When I was in my 20s, I’d have to say, I was pretty quiet, not understanding much of why I was doing what I was doing.
LW: Not articulating the process it to yourself?
SR: Yeah, I was just doing it. it turns out, I was doing much the same thing as I do now, but I hadn’t brought the process forth to a conscious understanding. From those days up until writing the book a couple of years ago, making my way to articulating everything, how I came to certain creative decisions and why I valued it.
LW: Why did you want to revive Beyond Bold? The sections I saw yesterday seemed so intimate and intense, but liberated. I was struck by the musicality, even though the dancers were rehearsing in silence and those gorgeous sequences the dancers move around each other and seem to trace their auras.
The dancers referring to video from its initial staging only once, obviously they wanting to nail down all of the moves, but also talking about the choreographer’s style, recalling comments from Rethorst from previous rehearsals.
SR: It’s one of my favorite dances. But it hasn’t been around. It was revived a year after it premiered, so this would be the second revival and then we’re going to do it in San Francisco in May. wanted to work with Jodie and Vicky (Shick) who was one of the original people, but she couldn’t do it this time. The dancers are Gabrielle Revlock, Meg Foley, Bronwen MacArthur, Eun-Jung Choi, and the two dancers from New York are Jodie Melnick (who is on the cover of Dance Magazine this week) and Heather Olsen.
Rethorst said she had not changed anything for this revival, but recalled that when she initially choreographed changing the steps “a million times while I was making it.”
-Next, we touched on Rethorst’s new work, 208 East Broadway Part 5 (premiere)
LW: Is the new work and the title has specific significance correct?
SR: It references a situation I had for several years. I had a studio when I first started working in New York. Space was cheap and I had a studio and my loft and I worked there for 20 years. Then I didn’t have it and when I didn’t I realized how the role of being at home had played so much a part in my work. Sort of giving me a certain license and different kind flexibility that I didn’t have when I had to rent studio space.
SR: I just had to change my art to work at home again, in another apartment. I sat frustrated with that thought and then I decided to make something in my living room. There was no place to put the furniture, so I’m just going to work around it, then whatever I can make within that and pick up the room and put it in the theater.
That was the first installment. Then I got interested in how the architecture of the furniture relates to the architecture of the bodies- I realized the furniture should move and influence how the bodies moved. So it became more integrated. Then I started shooting video out the window and that became part of it.”
LW: And this piece is with how many?
SR: Its with all Philadelphia dancers and all people I’ve never worked with before. Well, I moved to Philadelphia and I’m ambivalent about it because I love, love, love New York, but was able to get a bigger place. So I can have people I’m working with stay here. Come and go. And can have a kind of residency for artists and that is so interesting to me and that is very satisfying. Actually ..it’s somewhere between satisfying and an honor and an embarrassment
LW: How so?
SR: Being given so much time and money and license in this beautiful space.
LW: It must feel very validating though.
SR: I feel like I’m still getting used to this recognition. It something I’m not used to.
Believe me I’m not complaining about it, just confusing in some ways. It’s interesting. I’m trying to write about it. I feel like I’m almost as devoted to writing now as making work.
LW: I think when the choreographers and dancers write from their perspective the rest of us learn so much.
SR: There’s something happening in dance for several years now, dance artists are writing about their work more.
LW: To wind up because we’re almost out of time, can you say a word about the dance scene here.
SR: I’m getting to know it and I’m feeling very welcomed and comfortable. I have to say I’m very impressed. The crew at Bryn Mawr has been…well, fabulous .
For more information about the series call 610.526.5210 | online – www.brynmawr.edu/arts/series.html