UW Today

May 22, 2014

Moves from a master: UW student dancers work with choreographer Robert Moses for new piece

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Choreographer Robert Moses works with dancers in a recent rehearsal at the University of Washington.

Choreographer Robert Moses works with dancers in a recent rehearsal of the collaborative piece “Draft” at the University of Washington.UWTV

The dance piece “Draft,” created by famed choreographer Robert Moses in collaboration with University of Washington student and alumni dancers, is aptly named. It’s a work in progress — a draft indeed.

The movements audiences will see in the piece came from the dancers themselves, though encouraged and drawn out by Moses.

“They are carrying it with them,” said Moses. one of America’s leading choreographers, in a break between classes during his April campus visit. “I come to them and we start working, and the whole thing is on them, on their bodies. They already know. I just go and put it together — it’s a puzzle.”

Robert Moses’ Kin
May 29-31, Meany Studio Theatre
Tickets and more information online.

This balance of ideas between dancer and choreographer seems to fuel Moses. He said, “I get 20 to 30 new ideas every day that I meet with these people.”

“Draft” is one of five dance pieces to be performed when Robert Moses’ Kin, his dance troupe, performs in the Meany Studio Theatre May 29-31, presented by the UW World Series. Three of the pieces are his; the other two are by Bliss Kohlmeyer (a 2011 UW Dance Program alumna) and Gregory P. Dawson, respectively. Eleven of the 16 local dancers in “Draft” are UW students, three are alumni and two are from the community and not affiliated with the UW. They will be joined by members of the Robert Moses Kin company.

Moses is presented as part of the UW World Series’ new Studio Series, which is dedicated to showcasing emerging and influential artists and providing interactive educational opportunities for students. The series is sponsored by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation.

“‘Draft’ is just that — it is a work where each collaborating dancer has one hour to develop material in collaboration with Robert,” said Michelle Witt, UW World Series director. “Its style and purpose are fluid and somewhat improvisatory. Some dancers work in groups, some individually, and the material is very much based on the movement possibilities and range of the individuals in the room.”

Choreographer Robert Moses begins his visit to the UW campus in April by chatting with student dancers in Professor Jennifer Salk's class, listening patiently as they discussed their lives and interest in dance.

Choreographer Robert Moses begins his visit to the UW campus in April by chatting with student dancers in Professor Jennifer Salk’s class, listening patiently as they discussed their lives and interest in dance.Peter Kelley

Founded in 1995 in San Francisco, Robert Moses’ Kin, his company, has won praise for its eclectic styles and subject matter. The troupe has used dance to explore urban and African-American culture, parentage and identity and even a biography in movement of author James Baldwin. A choreographer-in-residence at Stanford University since 2005, Moses has taught on college campuses across the nation.

He was assisted in this work by Todd Eckert, the Kin troupe’s artistic associate and rehearsal director.

Student Hilary Bowen, an undergraduate double majoring in dance and English who will perform in “Draft,” called the process “very collaborative, but it’s also extremely guided.

“The choreographers knew very much where they wanted to go with the movement, so they would take our individual movement styles and vocabulary and mold it to fit what they were looking for.”

Bowen said she loved the process of “constant change in movement” that Moses and Eckert offered: “During rehearsal we would go through maybe three or four genres of music, all with the same movement material. It was a challenge, but very interesting to learn to keep the integrity of the movement with different audio.”

Jennifer Salk, associate professor and chair of the UW Dance Program, said such workshops with visiting artists have “a huge impact” on students for a relatively short time commitment. And that’s helpful, since most student dancers double-major and are very busy,

“It also allowed for some of our students who are just getting to know the department to be involved in a creative process with a choreographer even though they are just joining us,” Salk said. She said the dance program is grateful for such opportunities provided by the UW World Series. “It is essential students get exposure from a broad swath of artists from all over the world.”

The dancers performed “Draft” three times in late April. Bowen said there may be subtle differences between the performances, “but it is still Robert Moses’ piece and as he was fond of saying to us, ‘you can do anything you want with the movement except break it.’”

What can audiences expect from “Draft”?

“If you are coming to see someone you know, you’re going to see a side of them that you didn’t know,” the choreographer said. “And ideally, the performers will do that as well.”

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Here is a video about “Draft” produced by UWVideo for the UW World Series.

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