March is swiftly approaching, and with it, the third and final season of ...that's what she said. I keep using this phrase - "third and final" - to make it clear to the public that this project is coming to an end this year, and, I think, to help ease myself into the inevitable goodbye to this crazy, beautiful, tiny-but-huge thing I created. A few years ago, I discovered a word that I felt was invented for me:
finifugal: adj. hating endings; of someone who tries to avoid or prolong the final moment of a story, relationship, or some other journey
Isn't language just incredible? I will never cease to be amazed by its ability to capture this thing that feels so wholly unique to you, and in doing so, demonstrate to you that you really aren't that unique... which means you really aren't that alone. In a way, ...that's what she said was borne from this love of language.
So many dancers and choreographers I know claim that they dance and create dance in order to express what they cannot in words. Though I understand this, I can't say I relate. I may struggle in real time with spoken word, but the written word has always been a friend to me. Allow me time and space to sit down with my thoughts, and I'll compose a near perfect expression of what is stirring in my brain. I truly believe most people - especially women - could do the same, if they were given the time and space, the encouragement, and the comfort of knowing even if it isn't perfect, it still deserves to be shared.
And so came the idea for ...that's what she said: a project that provided time, space, encouragement, and comfort for women of all walks of life to say what it is that stirs in their minds, their hearts, their souls - yes, primarily through movement, but often with words as well (at our peer mentored feedback sessions, at facilitated post-performance talkbacks, in written interviews, and more).
Over the past three years, this project has grown into much more than I could have possibly foreseen in 2017 when inspiration first struck. I am immensely proud of what it has become, for myself and for the artists I have worked with. Objectively speaking, it has provided consistent opportunities and much-needed and desired tools and services to a community of underserved dancers and dance makers. After participating in ...that's what she said, several choreographers have gone on to receive prestigious grants and residencies in the community, and - for me, more importantly - have maintained and grown their relationships with one another in supportive and mutually-beneficial ways both professionally and personally.
Still, though, there were components that I imagined for this project that I didn't quite hit in seasons one and two. When I decided this would be the last season, I posed to myself the challenge to do all the things I had wanted to do previously, but had been too nervous (or too busy) to pursue. Instead of go big or go home, I decided to go big, then go home.
One of those components is to conduct and share a personal interview with each choreographer in the cohort. Don't be fooled by this seemingly small task: interviews get personal very quickly. After all, that is the entire point: get to know the PERSON. I wanted to get to know these women better, and I wanted the public to get to know these women before seeing their work. This project is holistic in that it is not just about the work created - it is about the people who created the work.
In providing this level of highly personal context to the choreography presented, I hope to bridge the gap between audience and artist in an authentic manner. Many of my non-artist friends and family see my life as this insanely foreign thing, and the life of an artist is a highly romanticized and idealized picture. With this interview series, I want to show that artists... well, they are just like you! And perhaps in that way, I can also show you that perhaps an artist lives inside you. I believe everyone can be a creative and inspired person. Maybe you just need some time... and space... some encouragement and some comfort... in order to unleash it.
It would be unfair to share the personal thoughts and feelings of my fellow cohort members without offering myself up for consumption along with them - so, in a show of solidarity, I'll go first. I hope you enjoy getting to know me!
that awkward moment when someone catches you talking to yourself... an interview with myself
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN CREATING WORK AND IN WHAT CONTEXT?
I started to take a serious interest in choreography during my sophomore year at Boston University. While at BU and for a few semesters after graduation, I created a number of student works for Dance Theatre Group, which operates under the direction of Micki Taylor-Pinney, with guest mentorship by a number of Boston-based artists and educators (in my time: Ann Brown Allen, Olivier Besson, Yo-el Cassell, Brian Feigenbaum, and Peter DiMuro). After graduation, I knew I wanted to focus on dancing and performing with seasoned choreographers, but I didn't want to lose my skill set in choreography, so I continued to create small works and solos through The Dance Complex's aMaSSiT program, which eventually I began to coordinate and administer on behalf of the organization. In the past few years, I've been dabbling with diving deeper into this portion of my artistry. I am still trying to figure out if it is something I want to prioritize in my professional career. I also make dance works for students - all sorts of students - ranging from recital pieces, to competition pieces, and even - yes - dance theater (for kids! yes it is possible!). Historically I have not counted this work as real choreography, but I have been trying to challenge that in myself recently. Creating is creation - regardless of the context.
WHAT TENDS TO BE YOUR INSPIRATION OR CATALYST FOR CREATION?
When I create dance theater works for students, I am almost exclusively driven by music and form. I love patterns - I have a very mathematical brain - and so I play with patterns in movement, in spacial relationships, and in rhythm/musicality. For whatever reason, I have never applied this to my professional work. I am very content-driven when creating in the professional realm, and often the content boils down to identity.
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN IN THE BOSTON DANCE COMMUNITY?
I dipped my toes into Boston dance very lightly upon graduation in 2012 when I joined KAIROS Dance Theater. With KAIROS I began performing in many of the big community-based events (Jose Mateo's Dance for World Community, shared concerts at The Dance Complex and Green Street Studios, Third Life Choreographers Series, etc). At the time, I was dancing with KAIROS and working a full time job in hotel accounting. In 2013, I quit my hospitality career in favor of dance, and stepped a little deeper into the water, working at The Dance Complex, first as a work-study and eventually in a number of creative programming and operations management roles. I would say I did not fully launch myself into the community until I began producing ...that's what she said.
DURING YOUR TIME IN THE BOSTON DANCE COMMUNITY, WHAT HAVE YOU NOTICED ARE ITS STRENGTHS? ITS WEAKNESSES? DO YOU FEEL APART OF THE COMMUNITY?
There are so many curious, energetic, and talented individuals here. When I see just how much STUFF is happening, I feel so proud of Boston dance - probably because I know that so much of that is happening despite a significant lack of funding and other necessary resources. So many people here stay in the game despite SO many reasons to quit or move. I respect that, and I respect the creativity and resourcefulness that staying and fighting these obstacles promotes. That being said, I think my number one frustration with the Boston dance community right now is our distinct inability to work together effectively. Resources - financial and otherwise - are scarce, and this creates a competitive atmosphere that prioritizes self above community. Though natural to an extent, I think this can be very detrimental. I have often said I feel like we are all fighting for who is losing the least, which seems like a waste of energy to me. I would like to see more strategic and supportive cross-promotion, partnerships, cost-sharing initiatives, and other such collective-based efforts in our community. I think this would eliminate some really ineffective political clashes and perhaps ease some really problematic tunnel-vision that occurs in Boston dance.
WHO/WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE YOUR COMMUNITY?
I feel really lucky to consider myself a part of many communities.
I certainly feel a great deal of community within the companies that I regularly dance for (KAIROS Dance Theater and Peter DiMuro/Public Displays of Motion). Though I do not still work at The Dance Complex, I still feel really tied to the organization. It feels like home, and I enjoy being in a space where I know the staff and they know me, I pass many of the same people going in and out of class and rehearsal on a regular basis, and I know what to expect when I go to a show.
I also feel that, as Lady BOS Productions, I have begun to build for myself a new community. I am not sure what defines this community yet... but I have begun to see a distinct following of people who are a part of our SHOW + TELL series, folks who attend our events whether physically or in spirit, and people who aren't directly a part of the audience or artist base, but who clearly support and align with the heart of the project. I especially feel this sense of community among all the women who have participated and are participating in ...that's what she said.
THIS YEAR, YOU CHOSE TO USE TWSS TO BEGIN RESEARCHING AND WORKSHOPPING A PIECE ABOUT MASCULINITY. WHAT INSPIRED THIS PIECE, AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO EXPLORE THIS MATERIAL IN THE CONTEXT OF A SHOW THAT ILLUMINATES THE EXPERIENCES OF WOMEN?
For now, the most succinct way I can answer this question is to quote Gloria Steinem:
"I'm glad we've begun to raise our daughters more like our sons, but it will never work until we raise our sons more like our daughters."
WHAT HAS BEEN MOST GRATIFYING ABOUT PRODUCING TWSS OVER THE PAST FEW YEARS?
I often feel like what I am doing is not enough, or that it is not done well enough, or that I jumped in too deep and cannot live up to what I have set out to do, or [insert more sentiments of self-doubt here]. However, when I have to sit down and look at the numbers, look at the results, and look at the funding, I realize how very much I have done with so very little. To date, this project has received no major source of funding from any granting organization in the Greater Boston area, and not for lack of trying. I am not yet 30 and I make less than $25,000 per year. And yet, I have repeatedly organized a project that brings together dozens of artists and engages hundreds of audience members. Though I have not paid these artists anywhere close to what their worth is, I have paid them equivalent to or more than the wages that a number of organizations in the Boston area (with considerably more resources) are offering. I have done this while still offering meaningful arts experiences to audiences at accessible admissions prices (or in some cases for free!). And I haven't gone [completely] broke [yet]. When I take the time to sit down and think about that... well, that is pretty damn gratifying. That and the relationships I have built. Those are priceless.
WHAT OTHER OPPORTUNITIES HAVE YOU BEEN GRANTED OR HAVE YOU BEEN EXPLORING LATELY IN BOSTON DANCE?
Most of the opportunities I have been exploring as an independent artist have been through programs, projects, and productions I have created as Lady BOS Productions. As a performing artist, I have had the pleasure of working with a number of talented people recently that have given me the opportunity of sharing my artistry in some really cool spaces at some really cool events. To name a few: performing at Jazz at Lincoln Center for four years in a row with KAIROS Dance Theater and performing at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and at the Rose Kennedy Greenway Rings Fountain with Public Displays of Motion, among others. AND! Big thank you to Andrea Blesso for coordinating a collaboration between myself, Tony Guglietti, and the most gifted Audrey Harrer - Tony and I were given the opportunity to perform movement scores within Audrey's multi-sensory harp/vocal musical performance Lavender at the BCA's Mills Gallery; the project later toured to the Maine International Film Festival.
WHERE CAN WE LEARN MORE ABOUT YOU AND YOUR WORK? WHAT IS ON THE DOCKET AFTER TWSS?
Please keep following Lady BOS Productions! There will be life after ...that's what she said and I want everyone to be a part of it! You can also follow my own stuff on my website, and the work that I do with KAIROS and PDM through their websites and social media platforms.
WHAT SUPPORT DO YOU NEED MOST IN ORDER TO CONTINUE TO GROW AS AN ARTIST AND A MAKER?
Sorry to be blunt, but I need money. I also really need someone to provide opportunities for me similar to those I am providing for the community. I am a big advocate of blooming where you are planted - which is why I've happily created opportunities for myself and others like me to bloom here in Boston with projects like ...that's what she said. But self production will only get me so far - I am dying for the opportunity to grow in the context of a residency, production, or other such program that I didn't also create on my own from scratch... :)
ARTISTS LIKE KRISTIN AND PROJECTS LIKE "...THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID" ARE IMPOSSIBLE TO SUPPORT WITHOUT THE FINANCIAL GENEROSITY OF INDIVIDUALS LIKE YOU. PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION OF $5-$500 BY FEBRUARY 21 TO KEEP CREATIVITY THRIVING IN THE CITY OF BOSTON.
WRITTEN BY: KRISTIN WAGNER
Published: January 31, 2020
Photos by Olivia Moon Photography/@halfasianlens
This blog contains contributions from several women with who we are grateful to work. Head over to our TEAM page to learn more about who we are; scan our archives to learn more about what we think.
Top Cover Photo: "shell" by I.J. Chan, Image by Haley Abram Photography