Reflecting on Katie Faulkner’s Divining
Every now and then I get an invitation to write a reflection or review for another blog. It was a pleasure to catch Faulkner’s most recent work and write for Life as a Modern Dancer.
It’s been a while.
After some time away, I’m back to regular programming. I decided to kick off my return by watching Katie Faulkner’s newest piece in collaboration with Cedric Kiefer (of Berlin-based onformative). Honestly, I’m not sure what to call the piece as the documentation provided by Dolby on the internet and onsite referred to the work by three different names: Kinesthetics, Collide, and Motion Studies. I’m still not sure what to make of this terministic stickiness.
The evening began with a discussion between Faulkner and Kiefer moderated by Julie Phelps of CounterPulse. I learned that Kiefer generated the visual display that “performed” on the light ribbon screen by analyzing dance archives, collecting data from them, and then visualizing movements from the data. This same data were used to create the sound score that accompanied the visual. Faulkner then choreographed a “response” to the visualized data. Phelps called this “closing the loop“ (dance – data – sound – dance). Faulkner’s two dancers moved alongside and sometimes beneath the ribbon screen in under 10 minutes. When asked about the process for creating the work, Faulkner stated that she started with improvised dancing that responded to or was inspired by the dynamics of the visual created by Kiefer. What struck me the most was how deeply human and humanizing the movement felt. I’m not sure if this “closed the loop.” But I am sure that Faulkner’s choreography not only brought moving bodies into an otherwise hyper-technologized space but also human experience and perspective. There was no story or message, but there were two bodies reminding me that dance doesn’t always need a message for it to matter.
Sometimes it’s hard to write about a choreographer or a dancer you know. Other times it’s easy, and this evening one of those times. I’ve known Faulkner since 2007; we met shortly after I moved to San Francisco. I was always struck by her generous spirit and playful sense of humor, which were on stunning display Thursday night.
Aptly titled “Deep Field,” a solo performed by Faulkner, was an embodiment of profound reflection about a history of process and a particular field of communication. The sonic and visual landscape by Michael Trigilio and Heather Stockton respectively amplified the autobiographical nature that Faulkner so clearly danced. Even without the choreographer’s note, Faulkner’s movements spoke – each gesture, glance, vibration – from the inside out. It was personal, but relatable – a clarity of telling that I could feel in my bones.
“Coat of Arms” induced small bursts of laughter from the audience – a kind of seismic response. The subtle gazes and slight gestures performed with such stunning precision created a witty duet that reflected the universal quirk of relationships.
The last piece, “Don’t Worry Baby,” was harder to grasp, harder to feel. It was more sculptural than the other pieces and as a result it felt different. While superbly danced the piece for me seemed a little distant or disconnected somehow.
Faulkner closed her choreographers note “with gratitude,” and that is how I felt at the end of the evening. I left the theater with an overwhelming sense of gratitude for Faulkner’s choreographic vision and courage to put so much of herself on stage. It was an honor that I can’t wait to repeat.
Last year I saw the Margaret Jenkins anniversary show at YBCA. It was the first time I had seen her work live, and it was a great show so I was keen to see what she’d been up to. I also wanted to go to see Katie Faulkner’s new piece, Coat of Arms. I was happily surprised to see Lauren Simpson dance again (Still Life for Two No. 2) but this time in a different piece – a lovely mover. Katie is also a lovely mover, and her piece was also lovely. The piece by Jenkins, A Gallery of Rooms, was not that interesting. The dancers were great – as expected – but the choreography didn’t seem to do much, or rather say much. I really wasn’t inspired by the end of the evening. I wasn’t disappointed. I was just….well, just.
PS – Just realized I didn’t write about Jaroslow’s two pieces, Thinking Aloud and Evolutionary Tales.