FROM THE DANCERS - REFLECTIONS ON OUR EXCHANGE WITH WCDANCE
Working with the dancers of WC and WenChung Lin was an unexpected opportunity to challenge myself as a dancer and performer. The time spent in the studio with them pushed us, a group that has been dancing together for five plus years, to a place that we would not have gone without Wen-Chung’s patience and scope. He studies bodies in the studio and pushed us to become more dancerly while retaining our humanity. Seeing the differences and similarities between our two companies is something I am forever changed by. Javier and I were standing backstage watching the WC dancers perform a phrase we had also learned and performed. He asked “why does that movement look so different when they do it?” I responded, “we drive it and they ride it.” We concluded that if they are an ocean, The Seldoms are a dune buggy. More than anything I feel that we have an ally on the other side of the world. We’ve met dancers who believe in making work that matters and that is meaningful in any language. ~Cara Sabin
The cultural exchange with WCdance was a tremendous growth experience for me—personally, as a performer and artist, and collectively, as a dancer within a group. Observing the sensibility and quality they immediately bring to their movement prompted me to evaluate my own approach and performance. It was particularly helpful during the concert where we danced WenChung’s piece prior to Carrie’s. “Otaku’s Beach” (by WenChung) demanded a calm and settled presence. I found myself in the dressing room before the show listening to calming music, mainly Sigur Ros, trying to quiet any nervous energy. Interestingly, I found this also benefited my performance of “Exit Disclaimer” (by Carrie), which followed the intermission, by allowing me to approach the athletic and intricate choreography with a more settled and focused state of being. I hope to continue to bring this approach and discipline to both performance and rehearsal throughout my dance career. ~Bruce Ortiz
The experience with WCdance was an absolute pleasure. I had the good fortune to teach class for both companies five days a week; watching each group pushed by the other in the class material was great! I hope we can take the experience forward into our regular rehearsal process and continue to drive and challenge each other in the same way. ~Christina Gonzalez-Gillett
My experience dancing and performing with WCdance was actually somewhat frustrating, but in an inspirational way. Coming from an athletic dance background, and being asked to switch gears to a more internal movement style made me think about my training as a performer. I believe the lessons of this great exchange will challenge me to explore anew in my career, and make me strive to reach out and retrain my body for such adaptations. Dancing with the Seldom for five plus years, I’ve gotten comfortable, as we all have, with the movement and style and have not taken that next step and asking ourselves what if? Sometimes going deeper then our comfort level can bring out something aspirational but if we don’t push that uncomforting feeling how could we know what is possible. I look forward to our next chapter with WCdance, as well as other similar opportunities, to be challenged toward new qualities for dance movement. ~Damon Green
I know the importance of stepping outside of myself in order to grow and develop; I did not realize the extent to which I would experience that with the cultural exchange between The Seldoms and WC Dance. The perspective WenChung Lin viewed our bodies and dancing capabilities is one that we would not have ever thought to use before. New artistic avenues are now available to our company that we can use to develop an evolved performance aesthetic. An opportunity to explore new territory like this is rare to come by. I am grateful to be a changed mover and thinker, and to embody these new ideas in performance with The Seldoms. ~Philip Elson
The artists I met through the WCdance exchange were a fully focused and committed group of people. Learning about another culture and work ethic was the most important component in this process. I saw the possibilities and limitations of our month-long artistic endeavor and have learned that in order to streamline a jam-packed process plenty of prior planning and organization will ensure success. During the few weeks in Chicago, WCdance trained, promoted, toured, documented, interviewed, and most importantly learned about American culture through experience. Talking with the group, I found out that they saw more of Chicago in one month than I have seen in the year I have lived here. WCdance’s quality of dancing is, without a doubt, cohesive and working with WenChung Lin was a significant challenge. His expectation of detail, heightened awareness, and efficiency was paramount and I look forward to continuing this work ethic with The Seldoms and throughout my career. Many thanks to the MacArthur Foundation for opening the door for this choreographic exchange. ~Javier Marchan Ramos
Working with WCdance has been such a fun experience. Outside of rehearsals and classes, it’s been wonderful getting to know the dancers and learn words and phrases they’ve taught us in Mandarin. We all warmed up to one another pretty quickly and they fit right in with our quirky sense of humor. From our adjacent dressing rooms, we could hear one another; before a show one night, two dancers were singing a song in Mandarin and we began to sing a song in English. Then both companies started to drum a rhythmic, tribal beat on the dressing tables and make up new songs. I thought of it as our “unity song” before the show. We’ve taken many photos together, inspired each other with dance, and have made lasting friendships. ~Amanda McAlister
WCdance from Taipei, Taiwan, will be with The Seldoms in Chicago for the entire month of June to share ideas, movement, and inspiration and to develop new dances.
Under the artistic direction of Wenchung Lin, a former dancer with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, WCdance has ignited the Taipei scene in its short five years. In that time, Wenchung has developed his acclaimed “Small” series of work, configuring innovative perspectives for audience in what he calls “Miniature Theater”. The series began in 2008 with a work called simply “Small”, which was danced inside a glass 3 square meter box. “Small Songs” followed in 2009, staged to both Eastern and Western love songs and, again, played out within a confined space. In 2010, the performance space opened up with “Small Puzzles”, but was filled with large geometric forms - puzzle pieces - ordered and reordered by the dancers. The fourth work of the “Small” series is currently in development - “Small Nanguan” - about the traditional Taiwanese music form, nanguan.
The heart of this creative exchange with WCdance involves each artistic director making a new work with the other company - a tremendous opportunity for both choreographers and all the dancers! We’re interested in Wenchung’s blend of Eastern and Western influences and material in his work and approach; in his re-imagining and ordering of the performance space; in his extended inquiry inside his “Small” project; and in his extraordinary physical articulation and power.
Stay tuned for much more about Wenchung and WCdance in the coming months! And SAVE THE DATE for our shared concert at Ruth Page Center for the Arts - June 28, 29, 30 and July 1.
Our exchange with WCdance is funded by the MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Fund.