The Embodied Archive
Is choreography about the steps, or the expressive essence of the work? If two bodies do choreography differently, how is choreography preserved? Are dances time-sensitive or do they remain relevant over time?
Shaun Keylock, Artistic Director of the Shaun Keylock Company, acknowledges that when you see a dance on stage, you will never see that same dance again exactly as it was performed. But for him, that’s part of what makes the preservation and history of dance interesting.\
“A lot of it is about understanding the cultural history of the community. I’ve been seeing the city change a lot from what I remember as a teenager, so for me, it is significant to learn the history and see the lineage across time.” There’s a group of choreographers who were the pioneers of modern dance in Portland during the 90’s. They produced incredible work that had a substantial impact on the dance scene of the city. “But now new audiences are moving here and they don’t necessarily know this history. One of the goals of our company is to preserve this legacy and to continue to learn from and build upon what came before us.”
Coincidentally, in the midst of pondering what his company would do next, Shaun found himself at the same coffee shops as one of those Portland pioneers, Gregg Bielemeier. They began talking, Gregg came to the Shaun Keylock Company’s first evening-length show last year and was impressed with what he saw, and the conversation evolved into a full-on collaboration. “It’s very much in progress right now, but we are trying to reconstruct seven different dances of Gregg’s,” Shaun says “When I’m watching these dances, I find them just as exciting, engaging, and relevant as they were in 1993.”
One of the first dances they learned is the first piece Gregg created with his own company. Still early on in the process, they haven’t got to the point of changing anything, but Shaun emphasizes that they are trying to preserve it more than upgrade it. “Of course, it is going to look different. It’s a different group of dancers, different genders in some of the roles, the costumes will be different. There are LED lights that didn’t exist in 1993! Part of the excitement is learning what things are going to work and how these dances have changed over time.”
Not only will the dancers be working with Gregg, they will also be working with his former collaborators and dancers to gain a better understanding of what inspired each dance, the context surrounding its creation, and ultimately, the essence of the work. The company will also be hosting public panels with Gregg and his dancers during the creation process to talk about the work and share stories about it. “It creates a nice exchange between generations, which is both fun and important.”
Shaun adds, “What I’m really interested in is creating an ongoing series, every two years, called The Embodied Archive, where we revisit work from more pioneers of Portland’s modern dance history.”
Dance Wire will be tagging along as this creation unfolds. Be sure to follow us via the newsletter, on Facebook, or on Instagram for updates and opportunities to see Shaun Keylock Company in action!