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By Wendy Perron
With her terse, sharply focused works, choreographer Kate Weare is gaining momentum in the dance world. She tends to make short duets where the woman and the man dare each other to do things like pinching, poking, and slapping that can be either erotic or annoying. In December and April, Weare, 36, worked on Bridge of Sighs at Jacob’s Pillow during a Creative Development Residency. She premieres the piece at the Pillow, Aug. 14–17, on a program shared with Maureen Fleming. Next month, she performs at NY City Center’s Fall for Dance festival. Wendy Perron spoke with her in April.
How did you start choreographing? I was raised in a family of artists in the Bay Area and I started making dances about turtles and things like that—childhood things.
Were you taking dance lessons? When I reached 8, I asked for lessons. My father is English so I went to a Royal Ballet class. You had to tie your hair back into a really tight bun. I thought, Then how can you feel any movement? I finally ended up studying kung fu.
What was it like to come from the Bay Area dance community to NYC? I did a lot in between. I spent time in Europe. I lived in Belgrade and danced in Montreal for a while. When I came back to the Bay Area I saw the performance artists Danny Hoch and Monica Bill Barnes. I was blown away by the intensity and articulated voice of both of them. They were New York artists so I thought maybe that’s the place to go.
You have a distinctive movement style that’s very taut and physical. How have you developed that style? At the moment, I’m very interested in ideas that have a tinge of violence in them. I’m drawn to percussive movement, like precise rhythmic movements of ethnic forms like Balinese and kung fu. I like tango because of the dynamism under the surface.
That tinge of violence often emerges in kind of an erotic situation. Tell me about that. I’m fascinated by what happens when women feel more empowered, how the game shifts when women are not assumed to be the weaker players.
What do you look for in your dancers? I’m looking for people who are hungry for movement. They need to be adventurers in the studio. We spend a lot of time exploring things that potentially don’t work yet or are foolish. I need courageous people in the studio. They have catalytic energy and that helps shape the work.
Does anyone ever say, “Oh I have to slap him? I don’t wanna do that.” Of course there are limits and people are people. But it’s those kinds of inhibitions that I try to avoid in choosing dancers. I have a really game group at the moment, I don’t feel inhibited to explore.
What choreographers are you inspired by? I’m a Pina Bausch fan. And also a Mats Ek fan. I was lucky to run into his work when I was in England. I just saw Akram Khan and was really moved by him. One of the most gorgeous movers out there is Jet Li, a kung fu guy. I saw the Joffrey do Kurt Jooss’ The Green Table and the complexity really influenced me. Death was both kind and cruel. The Prosecutor is seductive and terribly merciless.
You’re going to be at the Pillow this month performing Bridge of Sighs. Do you have an overall idea for this? My ideas come out of something very personal, something I don’t understand in my life that I’m interested in exploring more. The title refers to Venice’s Bridge of Sighs, which the prisoners in the 19th century walked over before they were locked away forever, and they could wave to their families from the bridge one last time. It was this enormous symbol of loss.
So how are you using this idea in your Bridge of Sighs? I’ve been through many different kinds of love affairs in my life and maintained a lot of autonomy. I finally met the man for whom I’m willing to give up the hold of the center of my life. Even though it’s thrilling, it has been decentering and humbling. Lots of things that I thought I knew, I don’t think I know anymore. It’s been sort of a violent process of giving up autonomy. I feel like I’m being re-made.
Kate Weare (right) and dancers during the Jacob's Pillow Creative Residency