Dancer T.J. Spaur and Artistic Director Kate Weare. Photo by Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang.

Back in the Studio at CalArts

I'm still riding high from a fantastic two-week stint in the studio with company member, T.J. Spaur, at CalArts this May. We were given the opportunity to break in the brand new Evelyn Sharp CalArts Summer Choreographic Residency at my alma mater, and I knew it would be a unique feeling to return to the cultural landscape that fostered many of my early experiments in making dance. This residency proved to be a program truly geared toward the needs of choreographers.

Our time there was an important step forward for my company, now celebrating its 10th Anniversary Season, as well a jumpstart for the development of my newest work, Unstruck.

Stephan Koplowitz, Dean of The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance at California Institute of the Arts, knows from his own experience that artists need unfettered time and space to work. The pressure to produce something is always on, even when awarded ample support, rehearsal time and space. He wanted this creative residency to feel different. Not just free space, but free space from expectations too – a real space for exploration. Not to mention some early experimental time in the theater working with a lighting designer as well, which is so much fun!

This residency offered the kind of freedom where I can make real strides forward as an artist.

With this solitary, supported time for regeneration, growth, and risk taking, T.J. and I tried out lots of different directions, playing with endless ideas around movement, light, gesture, eye contact, energy, rhythm and trust. At the start, I gave myself permission to remember how I felt as a student at CalArts: actively seeking, blissfully unaware of failure, bouncing between brave and shy, blithely tossing out a “why not” instead of knowing why. The culture at CalArts encouraged us to define our own rules through the practice itself, trying out ideas we weren’t sure of - bad ideas, good ones, overly complex ones, opaque, provocative, obvious, foolish, even self-indulgent - and learning a lot as we tried.

This is the process that helps form artists and, over time, it's the same process that sustains them. It’s just that the risk increases as the exposure does...yet for me experimentation and “not-knowingness” is still the only pathway to growth. I had many powerful memories while in residence at CalArts. It's an apt moment to reach back to my student self.

As my company reaches its 10th anniversary season in February 2015 at BAM Fisher, I'm starting for the first time to gaze back at the body of work made with an incredible family of dance artists, designers, composers & administrators over the past decade. I'm grateful for both the earliest and the most recent experimenting in the dance studios, hallways, hillsides and nooks & crannies of CalArts, with its workmanlike spaces and rebellious art ethic. Being there affirmed again my voice and values as an artist.

Thank you to The Evelyn Sharp Foundation, CalArts and Dean Stephan Koplowitz for this opportunity. I look forward to sharing more glances at our continued work in the studio, blasts from this past decade of dance, and Kate Weare Company’s good news and upcoming events throughout the year.

Dancers Kate Weare and T.J. Spaur. Photo and video by Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang.

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Dancer T.J. Spaur and Artistic Director Kate Weare. Photo by Keira Heu-Jwyn Chang.