Throughout history, we have used the term “Mother Earth” to draw connections between the life-giving power of woman and the world, recognizing both as a source of life, love, and nourishment, both literally and figuratively.
And yet, throughout history we have also abused, neglected, and exploited both woman and the earth. We have inflicted countless physical, political, social, and symbolic injustices upon them, stripping them of their strength, power, and personal value again and again.
That is the premise behind Seattle-based dancer and choreographer Karin Stevens’ newest work, titled (re)MOVE: Back Toward Again the (re)TURN Facing. It is a 70-minute dance featuring music by three Seattle composers: Wayne Horvitz, Michael Owcharuk, and Nate Omdal. The work premieres this weekend with three performances at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill.
All photos: Karen Mason Blair
Full of turbulent exchanges, (re)MOVE: (re)TURN pulls from thousands of years of scientific, philosophical, and spiritual writings on connections between women and the earth. Five female dancers from the Karin Stevens Dance company (KSD) weave patterns of separation and alliance, drawing connections between our bodies and the lands we inhabit.
We sat down with Stevens to talk about music, dance, women, and the rest of the world.
Second Inversion: How did (re)MOVE come about, and what was your inspiration for making contemporary composition such a prominent part of this project?
Karin Stevens: The choice to support live playing of the music with the dancing is more than a very cool experience for the viewer; it is a practice of listening, being open and in the now as a dancer, like no other time. And, there is nothing like the relationships that are built with the musicians and composers in these live music and dance projects.
I can’t say that I was strategic in planning this evening-length dance weaved together with the three composers works, but that each part came at me and grabbed me to come into existence. I create my work through massive amounts of improvisation that I video tape. The movement guides me into form and meaning. The music by each composer came to me in different ways and spoke to me through kinetic images/ideas that emerged as I listened, about what this work was meant to be. It delight me that this work that came forward with such feminist and feminine voice reclamation is danced with the sounds by these three lovely male composers!
SI: Can you tell me a bit more about the musical compositions in (re)MOVE?
KS: Composers Michael Owcharuk (thank you to 4 Culture for the grant for this new composition!) and Nate Omdal have written two gorgeous and unique works for KSD, that I have weaved together with a work by Wayne Horvitz to create re(MOVE). I am especially honored to work with Wayne Horvitz’s music. He is a hero to all of us. The music, These Hills of Glory (NEA American Masterpiece), is EVERYTHING I love about contemporary classical music: unique and imaginative compositional voice; disparate pairing of composed and improvised scoring (in this work); spaciousness and density of sound; daring rhythmic complexity; a diverse and unpredictable aural journey that connects with all of my senses.
SI: What inspires you most about classical music, and contemporary classical music specifically?
KS: I am a daughter of KING FM. For as far back as I can remember my Dad had it playing in the car, out in the garden, on our boat and in various rooms throughout our house. In fact, my parents live in Montana now and my dad still plays KING FM 24/7 from his home office computer! The soundtrack of my life was classical music.
I also had marvelous music experiences in graduate school at Mills College where I was introduced to even more music, especially contemporary classical music. I am extremely grateful to Second Inversion—a service of KING FM—and their effort to bring my work in dance with contemporary classical music to the public! I have long felt dance should be appreciated like great music. The abstraction, complexity, beauty, and texture should be as meaningful through movement as we have allowed it to be through sound.
SI: In your writings, you discuss some of the specific injustices women face throughout the world, including sexual violence, female infanticide, female genital mutilation, removal from any possibilities of social and financial advancement, sexual exploitation and slavery, and much more. Can you tell me a bit about the broader feminist threads present in (re)MOVE?
KS: This work is personal and it is feminist. It is a work for this eleventh hour time for the earth and for humanity. It is an art and practice of movement in contemplation of transcendent injustices, specifically in this work as it concerns women and the earth.
Releasing myself from the tyranny of false beliefs, from the forces that denigrate the voice of the feminine, from the hegemony of my current cultural place, I (re)MOVE again in each (re)TURN to truly (re)BIND bones and tissues like a spiritual ligament to the essence of what really matters. As Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “Driven by the forces of love, the fragments of the world seek each other so that the world may come into being.” These fragments of imagination here seek out what is being (re)FORMed and (re)TURNed. This movement flows toward hope through this turbulent exchange with our time and awakening. It is a movement of love.
SI: (re)MOVE is also extremely spiritual. What were some of the spiritual and philosophical inspirations in creating this work?
KS: My readings in quantum entanglement, physics, general systems theory, and evolutionary biology have taken me into areas where the spiritual, philosophic, and the scientific interchange strengthen, rather than oppose each other. At the heart of this interchange is our movement that reconnects us with the natural world, with our self, with each other and with our evolution in this cultural time.
My personal religious experience has led me to deep questions about the absence of the feminine in the Abrahamic religions, and the egregious effect this has had on the evolution of our collective body and the earth, particularly in the West. Studies in Taoism, the Tao Te Ching, Five Elements/Movements and yin/yang theory of Chinese philosophy have given me a lovely place to explore ideas that heal the cracks in my Judeo-Christian experience.
In these spiritual philosophies I sought new movements I could repurpose toward my own becoming. I found connection: between human, heaven and earth; to the root of all the universe for which we belong; and to the “primal mother” that enthralls my curiosity and imagination.
SI: What are you most looking forward to with this premiere?
KS: It is a great honor to be able to raise enough money to work with live, local, and NEW music as a choreographic/movement artist. There are so many talented composers in Seattle plugging away, as I am, to make the music they are compelled to make. I feel a propulsion to get their work heard as much as I want to get my dances seen.
For more information about the project, please visit Karin Stevens’ blog series using the following links: Part I, Part II, and Part III.
Performances of “(re)MOVE: (re)TURN” are this Friday, April 22 at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. All performances are at Velocity Dance Center on Capitol Hill in Seattle. For tickets and information, please visit this link.