What will I find on this blog in the future?

Posted in Introduction on July 16th, 2010 by harperpiver

The short version:

-Interviews and profiles of independent artists working in non-traditional centers of dance

-An exploration of creative process in terms applicable and relevant to artists working in both dance and other genres

The longer version:

As an art form, dance is perhaps the one least understood by those who don’t participate. Dance as entertainment is all around us. It’s at basketball games, on television shows, and featured in popular movies. Dance as an art form is a different story. Often the brunt of jokes, contemporary dance is simply not on the radar of many art patrons. Budgetary reasons, declining arts coverage in newspapers, and other factors are impacting dance coverage nationwide, ultimately relegating the field even further to the periphery.

It is my desire to address the need for dance advocacy and education on a grassroots level. I am doing this by profiling independent artists working outside the traditional centers of dance. I hope to learn what drew these artists to where they live and what connects them to their communities.

I want to investigate about the place itself and how the landscape, culture, and people influence their work. How has the place been changed by their presence? How has it changed them? How does the community receive their art? How has this relationship changed over time? I want to know about the challenges they have encountered in order to help others working solo to address their own challenges. How do they stay connected to a wider world? What sustains and inspires them?

As a contemporary dancer, I will focus primarily on the above, but I will also look at inspiring ideas, books, and images. I will use dance in a metaphorical way to explore the creative process in terms that are applicable and relevant to other genres.  My secret subversive dream is that through these profiles I will map the tremendous energy and progress being made in expanding the scope of dance.  I will bring overdue recognition to isolated artists, which will help bring more audience members dialoging with the work they see.

The idea for this blog emerged last fall. My Introduction to Dance students at Arizona State University asked me to tell them about my career as a dancer and choreographer. The question followed on the heels of a unit about contemporary dance, and in particular on a lesson debunking the myth of dance as a career of fame and fortune. To these students, many of whom have only experienced dance on popular TV shows, the statistics about the harsh reality of life in the performing arts was revelatory, The students wanted to know how I fit into what they had been learning.

In sharing my story, a theme emerged. I realized that the choices I’ve made about where to make work reflect deeper beliefs I hold regarding the role of place in art making. In our time, some spaces are perceived as more central to ‘good’ ideas than others. It’s true that a core of individuals working in close proximity to one another are able to create more excitement, or a movement if you will, that allows them to weave a wider web as a group then they would alone.

I love visiting big cities, taking dance classes, and staying in touch with what is happening in those places, However, it excites me to drive through New Mexico and stop at the one restaurant for miles to be greeted by a poster for a contemporary dance event happening in the middle of the high desert. I like people making things happen where they are with the resources they have available to them. From nothing, something emerges, drawing out of others (sometimes long shelved) artistic talent making more art and creating a nicely knit artistic community.

Who thinks the world really needs another blog?

Posted in Introduction on July 16th, 2010 by harperpiver

As long as I can remember, dance and my life have been intertwined. Whether dancing underneath myself in line at school or spinning in the yard until I got dizzy and fell down, I was always moving. Rather, I am always moving. My adult self is a choreographer, performer, educator, and dance filmmaker working primarily in the field of contemporary dance. These days I consider myself a multidisciplinary artist as my work takes many forms.

When I am not dancing I play violin, write, read voraciously, and travel. I chose to channel my desire to make things into dance as a profession for several primary reasons:

1.  I realized that I could not sit still enough to play music or stand still enough to paint on an all day basis.

2. After being exposed to contemporary dance, I fell in love with the stage as a blank canvas on which anything could happen. I found a place where all of my artistic interests could collide into something all my own.

3.  Dance is the hardest thing I have ever done. I love the demands it places on the body and the mind simultaneously. I love that it is impossible for me to take dance class and do anything productive with my body when my mind is not clear.  I enjoy flying through the air and hurling myself through space.  Sometimes when I am doing so I think of all the work that I invest to make that “effortless” moment occur.  I appreciate the wisdom inherent in the body that I am aware of as a dancer. I appreciate what my body tells me about my whole self when I take the time to listen.

I love all aspects of making choreography, from allowing the first sliver of an idea to float around, to playing solo in the studio, to working with dancers, to seeing the piece through to completion and missing the process of the process.

When I ask others about their creative process, the answer is always fascinating, regardless of whether the artist in question is a young student or a seasoned professional. I like knowing how people internalize and frame what they see and experience in the world. I spend a lot of time wondering what makes people tick, which might be why I make a lot of pieces about psychological issues.

As I’ve grown older, I have become more and more enthralled with this part of art. I often prefer the rough draft to the final product of the works that I see, whether pencil sketches or choreographic work. There’s something raw contained in these unedited moments that I find captivating.

I can get lost in writing as much as I can in dance. I have many ideas about dance, art making, and the creative process that I wish to explore on these pages. In my capacity as a dance educator at the University level, I have been known to write academic papers about various topics. Lately I have decided that this format would be more appropriate for my current interests. A blog feels less formal and more immediate. Instead of spending months on one paper, I look forward to sharing my thoughts in a more continual format and having a dialogue with my readers. The part of me that likes to make things relishes the sense of completion that comes with hitting the complete button a more frequent basis, something creating long-term movement and media projects does not allow me to do enough sometimes.

I invite your participation on this journey. I hope these posts to be the starting point of a conversation. Please share your comments, ideas of artists to profile, creative food for munching (books, images, etc.) Is there a question I should be asking? Is there something obvious I am neglecting?

If you enjoy what you’re reading, please share my link with others.


Posted in Introduction on July 16th, 2010 by harperpiver

What is Homegrown Dance?

Homegrown Dance is:

a) The belief that good art, particularly dance, happens where good dancers and dance makers are, not only in places commonly recognized as artistic centers.

b) Interviews and highlights of choreographers and collectives working in those off beat places.

c) ‘Dance’ as a metaphor for the act of being inspired, finding a way, taking a leap, making something happen, creating work, and reflecting on the process.