Sunday, November 3, 2013

An introduction... or re-introduction!

In the interest of continuing to create context for both my work, this is how I introduced myself and Hyphen at the recent Maine International Conference on the Arts:

My name is Catherine Cabeen.  I am the Artistic Director of Hyphen, an interdisciplinary performance company that celebrates the dancing body as a fluid intersection for ideas.  I founded Hyphen in 2009 in Seattle as Catherine Cabeen and Company and changed the name recently in order to give the company a title that emulates is connective nature.  Hyphen has engaged 28 interdisciplinary artists in the creation of over 30 new performance works since 2009.

I am trained in the Martha Graham technique and I have a deep love for the theatrical grandeur of early modernist work.  However, I spent the bulk of my professional career dancing in the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, where I developed a love of honesty and transparency in performance.  My own work dances on the lines between these two polarizing aesthetics, celebrating both the kinesthetic virtuosity of the well trained dancing body and the politics inherent in using the body as a medium for expression.  My work often plays with gender representation because drag performances so eloquently reveal the grand performativity of everyday life.

I am in the midst of creating a trilogy of evening-length works that celebrate Nouveau réalisme (New realism) a post World War II, European, visual art movement, in which artists focused on new ways of perceiving and depicting reality as time, space, and action, rather than as a cluster of objects.  While in graduate school at the University of Washington, I became fascinated by this shift in the visual art world away from the tangible and towards the experiential.  As an artist who has always worked in the ephemeral form of dance, at first I found myself rolling my eyes at this supposed “eureka” moment.  Dancers and musicians have been celebrating experiential art forms for thousands of years.  But as I read the New Realist Manifesto and other articles by critic Pierre Restany that situate this artistic mission, I realized that this moment of confluence between the visual and performing arts actually provides a rich conglomeration of perspectives and language that supports my own articulation of just what it is we do as modern dancers.

It’s no secret that contemporary dance is the least funded and most commonly misunderstood of the arts.  The ever-increasing disembodiment of contemporary life has begun to fracture the former power of metakinesis; where audiences were once able to feel within their own bodies a resonance with what they saw on stage, they are often now so disconnected from their own bodies as to not recognize the movements they see before them as abstractions of a unifying human experience.  By borrowing from the new realists a renewed enthusiasm for the sensations of space, time, and change. I hope that my work will enliven dance for new audiences.

Into the Void, the first work in this series, premiered in 2011.  The work engaged 14 interdisciplinary collaborators in creating an abstract biographical work about Yves Klein, a French Visual Artist, who led the New Realist Art Movement in the 1960s. Into the Void was commissioned by On the Boards, a theater in Seattle, and the full work can be seen through On the Boards Television, OtB’s on-line performing arts archive, and Into the Void can also be purchased on iTunes via TenduTV.  

Into the Void was followed by Fire!  a second commission from On the Boards, in 2013.  Fire! was inspired by Niki de Saint Phalle, the only female artist in the New Realist movement.  This work engaged 13 interdisciplinary collaborators as it brought to life Saint Phalle's monumental Tarot Garden.  

Hyphen is now working on MetaKinetic, the third segment in this trilogy, which is inspired by the kinetic sculptures of Jean Tinguely.  MetaKinetic is so far being supported by On the Boards in Seattle and the Flynn Theater in Burlington and is scheduled to premier in 2016.

At the same time Hyphen continues to tour its ever-evolving repertory program.  The repertory program is extremely versatile in order to fit within a large range of venues and budgets.  The evening of diverse dance works can range from being a solo show, performed by myself, to an evening of duets and trios, to being a large scale production with five dancers and two live musicians.   All versions of the repertory program feature interdisciplinary collaborations between dance, music, writing, lighting and fashion design, and visual art. This variable programing makes performances possible in all kinds of spaces that have a range of technical capacities.  Always when I tour I am happy to teach associated classes, as are my collaborators. 

Hyphen recently performed a large scale version of its repertory program at Middlebury College.  We will next perform a more intimate iteration of the program at the Flynn Space in Burlington VT in the Fall of 2014, and we are looking for presenting partners to share iterations of that work throughout the region.  If any of you are interested in large scale productions I would also love to have conversations about additional presenting partners for MetaKinetic.

On behalf of all of the artists here I would like to thank the Maine International Conference on the Arts for giving us this opportunity to dialogue about our work, and our faith in art as an essential component of a human life well lived.

Thank you.

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