The University of Utah Department of Modern Dance Blog

Friday, February 21, 2014

Struggle, Seniors, and Carl Flink

Each year the seniors at the U have to make a tough decision. They select a guest artist to create an original work for the class to perform at the spring Senior Concert. This is, according to senior Samantha Matsukawa, “an arduous decision making process.” After much deliberation the class of 2014 invited Carl Flink of Black Label Movement (BLM) to the U. Carl was a good choice for the U because of his diverse background as athlete, professional dancer, lawyer, and dance department chair. This diverse background challenged the class and gave each person a way to connect with his work. 

Black Label Movement says that they 'do their own stunts.' This Twin Cities-based dance theater is known for physical movement and a diverse repertory of collaborations. One such collaboration is called “bodystorming,” a creative research process where human movers act as molecules that diffuse, undergo reactions, and generate/absorb forces. Using bodystorming BLM has collaborated with scientists around the world, integrating science and dance to find answers to questions for both fields. You may have seen BLM before, they were featured in the Ted talk entitled “A Modest Proposal,” which suggested the use of dancers instead of powerpoint in presentations. The Ted talk choreography has just a hint of irony, highlighting Flink's interest in subtle social critique. 

Carl’s residency at the U began with a long weekend of six hour rehearsals. Carl expects intense physicality, no compromises. Part of his process involves setting up impossible situations, pushing the dancers to question what it means to dance. Samantha explained that these situations made struggle essential to the creation of the piece.  “No one was doing things perfectly, because you couldn’t, because that was the point – continuing to push and struggle, to get closer.” This ‘getting closer’ meant getting closer to the edge of possible movement as well as building community as a class. Carl deftly facilitated this challenging creative process, struggling with the dancers as they worked towards the culmination of their four years together. “We talked about tribe a lot,” Samantha said, “it’s been a long time since we danced all in the same room, and been a long time since we were all in a piece together, so it was really nice to have everyone there and all be doing this together - as a tribe.”

(Images taken from