In the first part of this interview, we discussed the different layers of tension in your work—the tension between pure form and emotional content. Can you talk about that tension in relation to your new work, the story progresses as if in a dream of glittering surfaces?
Yes, I want to have it both ways. I’m interested in what you might call abstract movement. But, I want there to be a way for the audience to enter, so there’s not just this wall.
The dancers play a really important role for me. They bring themselves into the work; they bring in their personal story. Through the steps and the movement we see Melissa [Toogood], we see Dylan [Crossman], we see Lindsay [Jones], we see Sarah [Haarman]. So, that also adds to how the work feels, I think.
How do you get the dancers to come forward, emotionally?
It’s a process. I go at everything through the steps. I do talk about going past your technique, but in the room, I’m really making a dance.
That was my sense.
For me, it’s all about process. My favorite part is being in rehearsal. Because, at the show I want to hide in the corner. I’m getting better. I need to see the show, because that’s when I can see what I need to work on. For me, it’s not about making something beautiful for the stage. That could be a byproduct, but it’s not the goal.
What do you think you are after with the new work?
Specifically with this new piece, I’m highlighting the idea of what is missing—the idea of replacing and going forward and backward. The title [references] progress, but I feel like it doesn’t ever progress really. Or it does in little ways, but then it retracts. There’s a lot of backtracking—and there’s no such thing as transition.
And it’s all transition.
Right. So, how you get from section A to section B sometimes becomes its own dance. Sometimes that’s even better than what you made, and then you have to throw something you made out. It’s not, do this to get to this.
The this becomes the thing.
The this is the whole thing.
Do you think the backtracking is about ruminating on a particular moment, for you? Or, is it about about referencing the repetition of postmodern dance?
It’s all of those things, and the tension between those things. It’s me trying to figure things out.
It is important to me to not make dances in a vacuum, and to be able to look at history all at once. That past and present, where they touch—that space is what I want to occupy.
Your work has been compared to the work of Merce Cunningham. Do you think of your own work in relationship to that tradition? Did you feel a kinship with it?
Well, I was trained by [former Merce Cunningham dancer] Viola Farber, so I had it in my DNA. I love dancing, and I love steps, so why wouldn’t I love him? Every time I see a Merce Cunningham piece, I walk away and think I should just quit.
Yeah, I love it so much that I don’t know what I can add to the history of dance. He created a movement. What can I add?
Well, I guess artists focus on their own instincts.
The thing is – like I said, I love dance, and I love dancing. I’m not interested in what is fashionable or what’s on trend, and that hasn’t been easy to do, but now that I’m older it’s easier.
Now you are making trends.
I’m not sure if I am, but that’s also not important to me. What’s important to me is being able to push myself every time, and to make an interesting dance and to have it work on many levels. I don’t want to alienate audiences. There are artists who do that and I totally dig it, but at the same time, that’s not who I am.
What would you be doing if you weren’t making dances?
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a detective, or a fashion designer. But, I will say, I’m less unhappy in the dance studio. I think I would always be making dances.
Read Part 1 of this interview here.
Pam Tanowitz Dance will be at The Joyce Theater February 18-21, 2016.