Undeniable Power: In Process with Kelly Bartnik - Gibney
Week of June 18, 2019
Making space for

Undeniable Power:
In Process with Kelly Bartnik

On April 11, 2019, choreographer Kelly Bartnik will premiere her new work Fuck / Love: The Poetics of Adoration as a part of Gibney’s Spotlight Artist programming. Curatorial Associate, Dani Cole sat in on one of Kelly’s rehearsals in early March and shares her dialogue with Bartnik and observations about the process below.

Pictured: Alexandra Beller, Sara Galassini, Penelope McCourty & Donna Costello in rehearsal for Fuck / Love: The Poetics of Adoration. All photos courtesy of Kelly Bartnik.


Sliding, rolling and spilling across the floor, performers Alexandra Beller, Sara Galassini and Penelope McCourty worked through a phrase together, specifying details and pausing to listen to a fellow dancer’s question with utmost attention. The floor work appeared simple, incorporating repetition and exertion and release through weight. Bartnik thoughtfully observed the trio, following the phrase work with care and providing feedback.

Bartnik and her performer cohort exude trust and enact communication that one would expect from a group that has worked together for thirty years. Bartnik shares, “I trust them all implicitly. They are able and willing to be vulnerable, but they also each fully embody an undeniable power, as well as sensuality and care.” Work on the floor seamlessly flows into a discussion circle—no directions needed. The dancers share their experiences honestly and powerfully—and with laughter. Bartnik finds herself “learning so much about articulating and sharing things that are really private and being met with the same level of openness” by the cast. The words frustration, irresistible, orgasmic, impulse and discomfort ring through the space as the dancers navigate their memories. As if listening to a close friend, an outsider can understand and relate to their dialogue. There is no confusion.

Kelly Bartnik Dancers in Rehearsal

“Mine through yourself for visual imagery,” Bartnik suggested before the performers took their places for a run. In less than a minute, the space became electrified. Imagine so much endless intensity that exhaustion is inevitable. Fuck. FUCK! Interpretation of the earlier dialogue is rethought. Sweat flies; bodies wail, whisper and howl. They only go deeper.

Kelly Bartnik Rehearsal

In the ensuing floor work, bodies slap, slither and indulge. Breath speeds up, is caught and then releases. “There’s movement derived from an emotional state, an emotional state derived from movement, and then movement imbued with an emotional state,” says Bartnik. “I’m curious about and utilize all three because I feel the connection can be approached from any of those directions.” Although the floor phrase was created “without any real emotional content,” it is supportive of visual imagery Barnik is wanting to enact. Reimagining the floor phrase, these pictures are translated into jolting physicality propelled by emotive engagement.

As the performers expose this deeply emotional and personal work, trust flourishes. “To me, performing anything for anybody—whether in ‘real’ life or on a stage—is the exact same thing,” says Bartnik. With a month to go before its premiere, Bartnik and the performers are already welcoming vulnerability—with one another and with an audience. “To present ourselves, our whole selves, to another being and hope to be held is a deep act of trust.”


Fuck / Love: The Poetics of Adoration
Apr 11 – 13, 8:00 pm
The Theater at Gibney 280 Broadway
$15 – $20