“Talk Back” is interview series with dancers and choreographers. Arianne Hoffmann, an independent choreographer in the Los Angeles area. She is presenting her new work “Bricklayer With a Sense of Humor” at Highways Performance Space March 5 & 6 At 8:30pm.
Talk Back with Arianne Hoffmann
interview by Rosie Trump
Tell us a bit about yourself, location, and company.
I have been in the Los Angeles area for about 8 years now. I still spend time in Berlin every year, where I used to live in a collective. Mostly I have worked collectively or on solo pieces – until last when year I decided to work with an assembly of people whom I call A Group of Movers. I am increasingly getting attached to that name: it implies a task-ness, suggest that any movement can be considered part of their dance, and has political connotations.
Describe your approach to movement and your creative process.
I am very focused on the structure of a piece and on the process that gets it to be a piece. The movement generally arises from somatic information. When I choreograph for myself, I like working with underlying principles that produce movements that are somewhat reproducible but still arise out of the moment of performance. At the moment I enjoy creating tasks for others and myself. For the Bricklayers project, I am developing scores that consist of sets of rules. I make the rules for an improvisation and the group tries them out. There are a lot of discussions about how they experience the score: how did they restrict the basic freedom of the movers? As a result, the various cores control, permit, rein in, enable, contain, or make space for individual decision-making.
What informs your dance making?
The way I experience my body. The way I experience life. My awareness of movement outside of myself, whether that is movement in other people or suggested by objects. Collectivity. A group of people entering in a creative process. Humor.
What made you decide you wanted to be a dancer?
I was sent to attend dance classes at the age of 8, because it was easier than getting physical therapy for my supposedly unhealthy posture. Dancing wasn’t much fun until I was 15 or 16: the small, provincial dance studio was the only place where I felt welcomed. At the time, the color of my hair was ever changing and my attitude towards life rather dark. Despite it, the owner Pia Schering gave me a special appearance in a recital (I believe I was a sea creature), and I was on fire. Around the same time, I worked crew on a performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater when it came through nearby Frankfurt. I must have ironed about 40 costumes before I watched the performance from backstage, sewing kit in hand in case of emergency. That was the first time I encountered people making a living of being a dancer. It was very persuasive.
Discuss an influential teacher or mentor.
As part of my MFA program, I am privileged to be working a lot with Victoria Marks. Apart from her being a brilliant choreographer, she has been a great mentor. I have been learning so much from watching her teach as well as when she prods me with questions about my work. Simone Forti has been another big influence on me. Our relationship has less to do with my “formal training” and more with improvising together, talking, or working for her. Her trajectory as an artist is immensely inspiring. But first and foremost, she inspires me as a human being.
Name a few of your favorites: dance movies, youtube clips, books or dance songs.
The socialist youth musical “Hot Summer” (Jo Hasler, 1968) is a knockout. Excerpts of it are used in the documentary “East Side Stories” (Dana Ranga, 1997), a good overview of Soviet and eastern block communist musicals. Currently I am reading Carrie Noland’s “Agency and Embodiment: Performing Gestures / Producing Culture” (2009) while listening to Douglas Wadle’s scores.
What advice can you offer to inspiring dancers and choreographers?
Make it your own. Enjoy your body. Take pleasure in how you move. Everything else will follow.
Tell us about your newest projects.
I have been working on “Bricklayer With a Sense of Humor” for a bit more than a year now. The choreography of “Bricklayers…” functions as a metaphor for political processes, in which some lead and others follow. The premise is simple: We all maneuver the immediate challenges of our day-to-day lives while we negotiate our next moves. These moves, strategic or spontaneous, appear to be self-determined, but are mostly reactions to the pushes and pulls that we experience. Yet, we are rarely aware of the underlying politics of our day-to-day lives. “Bricklayers…” provides a focused experience of collective negotiations – both on and off stage – and heightens our awareness of the powers at play.
For more information please visit www.ariannehoffmann.com
For ticket information please visit www.highwaysperfromance.org
Watch an excerpt of Bricklayers (at Movement Research at the Judson Church, 11/09)