Andrea Dispenziere, who performed her last show with Ririe-Woodbury at the Utah Arts Festival, will be showing her own choreography at Sugar Space July 29-31. Her show is a series of vignettes that focuses on hunting through the days of Artemis to the contemporary days of grocery shopping.
What should people expect from your dance performance focused on hunting?
It’s an “exploration.” This piece is a work-in-progress, and the details are not fully formed yet. But the structure is there ... which brings me to the second thing to expect: The format of the show is definitely a series of vignettes—some more dance-based, others more performance art. They also range in tones of seriousness, so audience members can expect to see both interesting dance movement, as well as pure comedic silliness! As for the content, each vignette corresponds to the theme of hunting and the quest for blood. I explore hunting in terms of predator vs. prey, in the hunter-gatherer sense at the modern day grocery store, as persecution (like in the way “witch-hunt” is used) and just as overall searching. “Blood” becomes a metaphor for food, sexuality, femininity, primal instinct, and the Freudian concept of the id, which is the pleasure principle.
What is your choreographic process, and specific to this work, why hunting?
When I choreograph, I tend to draw from real life events that have a significant affect on me, be it something that has caused a great change or something that has preoccupied my mind on an everyday basis. For this particular piece, the theme came about when I had stress-fractured a rib this past November, and the doctors suspected that it was because my bones were weak. Osteopenia does run in my family, but that wasn’t entirely the reason my rib-cracked. I was also not absorbing enough calcium due to my dietary habits.
Here, I thought I was being healthy by exercising tons, eating lots of fibrous vegetables, and avoiding meat and animal products (especially dairy). And yet, this is what brought me into dishealth. So much medial attention has been focused on what we eat these days, with Michael Pollan literature and movies like Food Inc. and Fast Food Nation. And then there’s yogi culture, telling people to eat according to their Ayurvedic dosha, and dancer culture, with it’s own tenets about what’s normal, and what’s overweight (unitards will do this).
This piece is my reaction to food culture of late, and how it’s turned eating into a religious quest: Pressures to eat sustainably, to be non-harming, to be thin, to always be productive, etc. “Hunting” describes my search for humanness—imperfect, hungry, blood-lusting, animalistic, humanness—and why this part often gets brutally shoved in a closet in the pursuit of such ideal goals as those mentioned above. And then there’s the second part of hunting. Once human-ness is acknowledged and accepted, it’s about finding the balance between the two. To put it in Freudian terms, it’s like how the ego finds the balance between the id/humanness at its most primal: How we want to behave instinctually and the superego-idealism as to how humans should behave to achieve perfection.
All of that, plus some in-depth readings of Ortega Y Gassett’s “Meditations on Hunting” has informed my work. So what sets my choreography apart? I guess, perhaps, it’s the crazy amount of obsessive background research I put into it! The danger there is that I want the work so badly to live up to the ideal notions I read about...but in light of the theme, I’m accepting that this will never be the case. This piece is going to be just as human as I am.
What is the strangest place where you’ve come up with a creative idea?
Hmmm ... a strange one. I was sitting on a plane to Newark, waiting for an hour to take-off (fuel complications), and in the close quarters of middle seat, seeing the crossword puzzle of the neighbor to my left and the Led Zeppelin magazine of the neighbor to my right, I suddenly came up with the title to this piece. Most times, though, my best ideas come at night during what I call “the witching hour.” It’s about two or three o’clock in the morning, I guess when I’m supposed to be enjoying REM. Yes, it’s always— always—while I’m sleeping.
How would you describe your upcoming work to somebody who has never seen a dance performance?
Hope you like it.
What do you hope people will take away from your performance?
A good time had by most: that’s all I really hope for. It’s summer. It’s hot out. Most people this time of year aren’t in the mood to intellectualize about the work they see. So even in choreographing, I’ve taken a lighter approach. There’s a great deal of comedy to be had, and the dancing, thus far, is aesthetically pleasing, but I wouldn’t call it a groundbreaking, never-before-seen movement! Everything’s been done, so far, anyway. Most of all, this is my work in progress. So I’d like people to just enjoy it for what it is, and if they connect to some of the meaning I used to generate the work, well ... bonus points! (But if you do want to talk some Freudian psychology, or philosophize on the Ortega y Gassett quotes, be my guest! There’s a question-and-answer at the end of each show.)
When did you first know that dance is what you wanted to do with your life?
I was seventeen, starting to look at art schools to attend for college, and I thought, “Man, if I have to do one more color wheel, I swear, I’m just gonna ... whoa, what’s this?” I saw the University’s open-house dance performance and realized, right then and there, that what I was watching was way better than sitting for three hours, painting color wheels. I felt destined to move!
What dancer, dead or alive, would you most want to work with and why?
I don’t have any one dancer in mind, but I would like to work with the dancers (plural) of Chunky Move. This company, based in Melbourne, Australia, seems to meld thought-provoking performance art with physical dance seamlessly. And their ideas and images are so quirky, they haunt me for years with inspiration (I’m still so in love with the rotating stage piece I saw four years ago; such an ingenious use of sets!) I’d love to experiance the group intelligence they must have...and witness the choreographic process as such pieces come to fruition.