Kate Weare Company by Keira Heu-Jwyn
Prepare the soil with compost: long decomposing, simmering, rich in nutrients.
Kate Weare grew up in the Bay Area, the daughter of a painter mother and printmaker father. She was an independent child who resisted the classical ballet uniform of leotards and pinned back hair, and dropped formal dance training in favor of kung fu. But ultimately, dance beckoned. Weare earned her BFA from California Institute of the Arts in 1994, having spent her third year abroad at the London Contemporary Dance School.
At CalArts, she says, her most influential teacher was Kurt Weinheimer, who danced with West Coast modern dance pioneer Bella Lewitzky. Weinheimer, she says, offered her real intellectual challenge in the studio, a sense of
this always-unfolding process of experimentation, trying and failing and trying again, by being himself very open about the technical puzzles of moving, and seeking answers to these puzzles as a group.
One of the things he used to say that was terribly confusing to me as a young student was "Leave your brain at the door if you're looking to be a good dancer." I think I understand now that he was speaking about letting instincts and your feelings guide your work as an artist, instead of your rational brain, which tends to confine rather than reveal.
After graduation, she danced in Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Belgrade and Montreal before settling in New York City where she founded her company in 2005.
Place the seeds and water deeply until the plants are established.
Drop Down was Kate Weare's breakout work. In 2007, it won the audience prize at the Joyce Theater Foundation's A.W.A.R.D. Show and a $10,000 prize. This 14-minute duet for man and woman was Weare's attempt to make sense of tango's sexual politics, posing questions about how women negotiate and reckon with male strength and dominance to exert their own wills within heterosexual relationships. Choreographically, it's a dance that exposes and exploits muscular tension and never lets go. Erotically loaded, the proximity of the two dancers creates excitement and danger; where an authentic Argentinian tango would scissor a dancer's leg behind her partner's knee enticingly, in Drop Down, the man's slicing legs are punishing. Knocked to the ground, the woman holds onto his ankles in a demand for attention and as an act of self-preservation.
Light Has Not the Arms to Carry Us, the wonderfully evocative title of a composition by French composer Gerard Pesson featured in the soundscape of Weare's 2008 work of the same name, was originally a series of three linked female solos. Weare explains that each solo distilled different emotional states: abasement, animal wariness, sensuality. The work has been extended, and now is danced as a female solo, a trio for two men and a woman, and as a male duet.
Let time pass.
By 2010, Weare says, she knew that the company she founded five years earlier, and on which she had experimented and created her early success, had changed. Charter dancers left; new ones had joined her small circle. Her life had changed radically as well; this summer she expects to welcome her first child. Questions about her life and career loomed large. What had changed? What was still the same? Was the dance maker who plied her trade as a lone freelancer the same person as the choreographer who had taken on the responsibilities of running a company? This called for planning a Garden.
Prepare for variable weather.
The stage setting for Garden is anchored by two images designed by Kurt Perschke and lit by designer Brian Jones. At one side, a lush-leaved, upside-down tree grows towards the stage, a vision reminiscent of artist Natalie Jeremijenko's Tree Logic. At the opposite side of the stage rests a freshly chopped stump just the right height to be used as a pedestal, a seat, or a lookout. Weare's quartet has the same spacious clarity as Keeril Makan's dripping individual piano notes; the way the dancers' shifting pairings are duplicated allows the shapes to "ring" with afterimages.
As Garden continues, the dancers grow increasingly enmeshed, interacting, witnessing. As veteran dance critic Deborah Jowitt described at the time of Garden's premiere in 2011:
Whenever the men and women form couples, they handle their partners with a kind of rough intrepidity; you can believe they’re trying to get under each other’s skin, to know what bone on bone feels like.
When longtime dancer and rehearsal director Adrian Clark moved on, he paid tribute to the ensemble, writing,
This company is not a controlled entity. It is an organism, a person, with violent passions and surprising impulses that we can experience, sometimes harness, but never totally understand.
In a garden, as in most aspects of life, Kate Weare's work conveys, there is much that we simply can't control.
That doesn't mean we can't yearn and work towards Harvest.
c 2012 Debra Cash