The University of Utah Department of Modern Dance Blog

Thursday, November 20, 2014

If a Snake Should Bite

This Friday and Saturday graduate students Molly Heller and Sara Parker will be presenting If a Snake Should Bite” at the Ladies Literary Club. In an alternate space, both Molly and Sara will have an opportunity to have their thesis work seen somewhere new. Molly Heller also collaborated with Netta Yerushalmy to create a duet that will also be presented in the performance.

Below is an interview with Sara Parker explaining her research process.

Can you tell me a little about your research?

I’m really interested yoga philosophy as well as the mysticism of Carl Young, storytelling, imagery, and ritual. Specifically what I am really interested in is “tapas”, which is the heat or resistance required for transformation. In yoga philosophy doing the physical practice would be a really heated practice that is used to burn impurities from your body. It isn’t used in a way to create self-harm, but more of going through struggle to realize the depth of possibility.

How have you explored this with your dancers?

At the beginning of our rehearsals we did a lot of work with the chakras. Some of which was inspired by a workshop that I did with a yoga master, Rod Stryker, and he talked a lot about how our insecurities and fears are held in the bottom three chakras; I was weirdly inspired by that.  In Kundalini yoga it is all about reversing energy lines in your body so you actually create a fire pit in your core that then opens up everything. This inspired me to create movement that was initiated from the bottom three chakras to generate heat within the body…from there we would allow everything to move outward. Doing this created movement that seemed formless. The challenge then became creating formless initiated movement that had a sense of form to it.

How did you and Molly decide on using an alternate space for the performance?

Molly had initially pictured her thesis being presented somewhere off of the University of Utah campus. I was also very interested in showing my work in a space that wasn’t a traditional performance space. I wanted something more intimate with a sense of closeness. Molly was also very interested in the history of the space.  For me, I find that incredibly interesting too because my work (and most everyone’s work) has to do with creating some sort of world and I think that is what is so beautiful about using a space that has such a rich history…that so many worlds have existed there.  Molly and I loved the aged look of the Ladies literary club, the history, and the intimacy of the space.

Below is an interview with two of Molly Heller’s dancers Breeanne Saxton and Florian Alberge:

How long have you worked with Molly? Is this your first time or do you have prior experience?

B: I started working with Molly in the fall of 2013 on a salon piece that she was choreographing. Now I have been working with Molly for over a year.

F: Well I haven’t worked with Molly as a choreographer before but I worked with her my first year [in the Modern Dance Department]. We were both dancing in a trio together.

What has Molly’s process been like?

B: Molly’s process is very rewarding because she asks a lot of you, which I find is something I want in a process…to be a collaborator not just a dancer.  There is a lot of investigation that is inspired by imagery and emotional states that is then kind of mashed and sewn together. We start with a bunch of different images and ideas and ways of relating as people and then as we dig deeper into what that sensation is and what those sates can be and they develop into something. All of the states we go through create a journey. Molly doesn’t start with a narrative, but for me, a narrative absolutely emerges through the process.

F:I really enjoyed the collaborative process with Molly. She brings things out of you that you didn’t imagine were there. It’s tedious; it’s a lot of tuning in and out with each other. It’s also never the same, which is the best and also most difficult part of it.

How does it feel to perform “This is Your Paradise”?

F: It is draining. It’s funny actually, when people approach me after a run of the piece I am in a place where I absolutely don’t know what happened. I don’t understand how to formulate what happened or how it felt. It is one of the only pieces that I have been working on that I have such a hard time wrapping my mind around…about what states I traversed. I always feel like there needs to be time to process what happened. It’s very draining, but in a good way.  We know that it didn’t happen when we don’t feel that way.

B: It feels like a task of surrendering into the unknown. If I try to control the situation too much or try to manifest something, then I stop anything from coming out of myself. I feel like Molly taps into all of these deep-seeded experiences or sensations through these movement exercises. It’s like a practice every time to go through the piece or to go through the different postures. They have been so carefully thought about and developed to create this emotional state. But, if you try to create the emotional state without going through the practice, it won’t happen…it is a full body/mind/spirit/rollercoaster journey.

What value do you see in working with graduate students?

B: Molly is one of the most incredible examples of how to be a functioning, working artist/human in the world, so to be able to work this intimately with her has been, I think, the most valuable collaboration I have had here [at the University of Utah]. She is so closely aware of the field I am about to try to navigate. The way she works is relevant to what I am interested in.  

What value do you see in performing outside of the University of Utah at the Ladies literary Club?

F: I feel very lucky to be a part of this concert. I think it is going to be very personal and I’m very glad to have an opportunity to perform outside of the Marriott Center for Dance…not just because it is a beautiful space, but also because it needs more crafting. Molly and Sara brought an entire evening of dance together and it feels a lot more personal. It is very fitting for the piece and it makes everything whole.  The lucky part for us is the opportunity to perform in something that feels much bigger than a “thesis concert”.

What is something you have gained from this experience thus far that you want to take away with you?

B: Molly’s work ethic and the intensity with which we are committed to this work. Not only her work ethic, but also the process that we go through in her work is very inspiring and motivating to me. To create a very refined, specific, well-crafted piece of dance performance requires a lot of effort, but also a lot of personal research outside of the studio. When you go home and the piece is still lingering, that for me, shows that I am a part of something that is meaningful and that is valuable…something that I’m glad to be a part of. Molly has given me that in a lot of ways.

F: Work ethic, some of the things we talked about earlier in regard to the space, being able to put an event like this together…but a more personal take-away would be the struggle, the healthy struggle, that I have had throughout the process. It is not going to leave me soon after. Molly has challenged me in a very healthy way. It is an honesty that she [Molly] knows how to communicate. It is very transparent. That is something I want to try and aim for in my own work and in my relationships with people. Every time a process like this unfolds under the umbrella of honesty something deep can come out of it.

What do you hope the audience will take away from “This is your paradise”?

B: I feel like there is dynamic opposition throughout the piece and it creates an out of body experience for me. It takes me to a place of reflection. I hope that the audience will access some point of reflection. 

F: Any kind of experience. I Want them to feel something.

Interviews conducted by Marissa Mooney