ARTISTS REACH OUT: REFLECTIONS IN A TIME OF ISOLATION
Senior Curatorial Director Eva Yaa Asantewaa dreamed this series of interviews, Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation, out of grief for her work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance.
“In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.
But there’s no distancing around what we still can share with one another—our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.
So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I’m glad they’re part of our beautiful community, and I’m eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.” – Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Senior Curatorial Director
This interview features Vicky Shick, dance artist and 2018-19 Gibney Dance in Process (DiP) Resident artist.
Vicky Shick has been involved in the New York City dance community for four decades. During her years (’80 – ‘86) with the Trisha Brown Company, she received a Bessie Award for performance. She has been making dances since the mid ’80’s and was honored with a second Bessie Award for her collaborations with artist Barbara Kilpatrick and sound designer Elise Kermani. Shick has taught, shown work and created student dances, most recently at Yale (2020) and restaged Brown’s pieces in festivals and at universities, including in her hometown, Budapest. She has collaborated and worked with many cherished others, including Seline Baumgartner, Jodi Bender, Yoshiko Chuma, Donna Costello, Meg Harper, Irene Hultman, Eva Karczag, Jon Kinzel, Ralph Lemon, Juliette Mapp, Marilyn Maywald Yahel, Jodi Melnick, Omagbitse Omegbemi, Jimena Paz, Stephen Petronio, Susan Rethorst, Sara Rudner and Cathy Weis. In 2015, she was a second-time Movement Research Artist-in-Residence, a 2008-2009 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, and a 2006 grant recipient from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts.
Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?
This pandemic has, of course, affected my upcoming scheduled work. This past winter, I had the privilege of creating a piece with ten Yale students for a performance to be done in late April. Amazingly, we were able to complete all our scheduled rehearsals. Social distancing had not yet been recommended, and so, I can now spend time relishing the many image memories of their intimacies in the work we created together. In mid-May, Jon Kinzel and I were to share a now-cancelled show at Roulette. I had been rehearsing with Jennifer Lafferty, Athena Malloy and Marilyn Maywald Yahel. It feels sad to temporarily end our process, to end studio time. Jon Kinzel just completed a residency at MacDowell where he was also developing work for this no-longer performance. We hope it will be re-scheduled. I also have some teaching starting in May through the summer. It seems that none of it will happen.
Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.
I started dancing a couple of years after my family came to the States. I didn’t speak English and was unusually shy, but somehow I managed to find comfort inside dance classes. Becoming a dancer was my dream. I was not nearly as sophisticated nor savvy as young dancers now are. At 27, I began working with Sara Rudner and, at 29, I joined the Trisha Brown Company. Early on, we were laid off for ten months. Now what??? I decided to try to make my first dance–a solo. I had no idea that dance-making would have such a life-long grip on me.
My practice is time in the studio. In my late twenties, it was warming up alone in my apartment. I loved the process of readying myself and then, religiously going over movement material. That’s what I did. Thirty-eight years later, it’s not so different. Finances were easier then, I had a part-time job proofreading.
In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?
In some way, I am practicing what I have always been practicing—dancing. How I get to that dancing and the type of dancing I do, hopefully, has changed. My readying process has certainly shifted toward a more somatic-informed preparation. Perhaps, at its heart is serendipitously landing on a certain quality or a particular articulation and staying with it—even trying to make it more concrete. However, that pinning-down effort can stalemate the exploration.
Though, I rely on the ritual and rigor of finding a nuanced physicality, I am simultaneously quite interested in the inherent drama in movement alone, in the underlying genuine behavior of the body, in intimacy with the self and with others and, in the immediacy of straightforward action. I’m drawn to the human-ness of the performer, the architecture of the body inside the architecture of the space—so simple! I try to navigate through all of that.
How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?
My great desire in choreographic practice is to locate an authenticity of action and behavior. I want to believe the performer, to trust the real-ness of the physicality, to see the thought process and decision-making in choreographed or structured movement. I’m interested in trying to pare down to an essence while also channeling some subtle, idiosyncratic flamboyance and passion. I struggle with all of this. And so, the hours and days and hours and days inside the studio investigating, doing, watching and trying are my world. What eventually matters is the intersection of that studio time with what bubbles forth and erupts.
These days, I spend a tremendous amount of time with others in the studio. For a decade, it has been mostly with Marilyn Maywald Yahel. The gift of working with her and with several others has exploded the possibilities.
How does your practice function within the world we have now?
Well, now, in this harrowing pandemic world everything is upside down and different. There is no studio time. For me, there is no pleasure of treasured in-person work with others. As a senior, who did not grow up with computers, I am a foreigner to technology. Most people my age and older are wonderfully digitally-proficient. I am not. I feel this lack more than ever now. Though, I have participated in some Zoom meetings, I have found it less than satisfying. There is always some glitch, some gap, some disturbance, some problem. However, I do recognize the extreme, indispensable importance of technology now. It is the answer to our isolation. I am back to the beginning, trying to move alone in my apartment.
To read all of Eva Yaa Asantewaa’s Artists Reach Out interviews, visit infinitebody.blogspot.com.
Top photo courtesy of the artist.