Kate Weare - photo by Christopher Duggan
“I make movement by moving,” says choreographer and dancer Kate Weare. In the two works presented at Bates this weekend, “Bridge of Sighs” and “Lean-to”, Weare’s translation of her own impulses into solos, duets and ensemble works takes on metaphoric and even sociological meaning. In her unbridled dances, intimacy provides a close-up focus. It creates the opportunity for attack and invites the possibility of tenderness.
“Bridge of Sighs” is named for Ponte dei Sospiri, the Venetian walkway that led Italian convicts from trials in the doge’s palace to confinement in the state prison. Marlon Barrios Solano has described the work as “technically sensual with calculated violence and layered complicity.” “Bridge of Sighs” opens in silence with a duet constructed from slapping and kicking: it’s as if we’re neighbors unwillingly overhearing an argument that’s been going on for years. Weare explains that the dance is made of “friction and transformation” and addresses the ways you are “molded by who you get in contact with.”
From her earliest years, Weare has been molded by many different types of friction and connection. She grew up in Oakland to parents who were visual artists: her mother painted, her father did etchings. Nude models, and an appreciation for the shape and heft of the human body, were routine in their home studio.
Weare’s first ballet classes with a local, British-trained teacher were inauspicious. As an eight-year old, she didn’t take to it at all. “I argued a lot with my teacher. We had a lot of spats,” she remembers now. “I was strong-willed and attracted to the structure of ballet [but] I didn’t like having to wear pink tights and a black leotard and pull my hair back. I didn’t like having my choices restricted.”
As a more mature dancer she maintained her eclecticism. She studied with a number of teachers notable for “thinking for themselves” in the Bay area and when she enrolled at CalArts she was influenced by African dance, Balinese dance and, especially, Japanese dance forms. She lived in Belgrade and danced with Compagnie de Danse L'Astragale in Montreal.
In 2000, she made the move to New York City. Five years later she established her own company; two years after that she broke through with “Drop Down,” a duet voted best modern dance by the audience of the Joyce Theater Foundation's A.W.A.R.D. Show. Winning that popular contest brought a $10,000 prize and a significant amount of attention from critics and potential presenters.
“Drop Down,” seen in Shlomo Godder’s shortened, impressionistic video, is remarkable for its genderless partnering and an edgy undertow that verges on violence. In a recent telephone conversation Weare explained it this way:
Solo dancing is its own fascinating reservoir of information but partnering is the most fascinating way to dance. About five or six years ago I started studying Argentinian tango and it blew my mind open. Skillful social dancing is about recognizing that in partnerships you give up autonomy to communicate with a partner; the central axis is more important than your own impulses.
Weare is interested in energy and she’s interested in power. To that end martial arts have been as intriguing to her as stage dancing. She is equally admiring of wushu master and actor, Jet Li and the recently deceased postmodernist, Pina Bausch. As she told Dance Magazine’s Wendy Perron:
I'm fascinated by what happens when women feel more empowered, how the game shifts when women are not assumed to be the weaker players.
“Lean-to,” which had its world premiere this past June, gives up control in further dimensions. More abstract than “Bridge of Sighs,” Weare said that it was the fruit of opening herself to the possibilities of collaboration.
Some of that openness was triggered by necessity. A knee injury made her realize she might have to skip certain types of rigorous movement. More compelling though was her growing awareness that she could “lean into” her team’s contributions. In “Lean-to” these include the “subterranean,” often wordless communication among the dancers of her tight-knit company; set designer Kurt Perschke’s enormous structure leaning out over the dancers' space; and music created by Michel Galante & Argento Chamber Ensemble.
Stepping aside to make room for the friction and connection of other artistic voices, Kate Weare is creating new openings for creative surprise.
© 2009 Debra Cash