questions have been edited for clarity
Where were you born?
Oxnard, California (southern California north of Loa Angeles)
At what age did you leave your city to start your nomadic path?
From 10 years old you start studying theatre doing summer courses that
soon gave you many occasions to do performances. Did you do that in your
Yes, but only in high school productions. The summer programs I did were in San Fernando Valley state College (youth programs for theater) and in Los Angeles
Which kind of school of theatre it was? (Naturalist, Stanislavskij method, Physical Theatre.)
These programs were called â€œsummer stockâ€. It means that we were placed in productions that were then done for the public. We were given classes and housed in the college for free because we worked in the theater productions. Usually you were in three to four productions at once. One would be a program directed toward children public and others would be directed toward adult and young adult publics. The methods were not specific. We had a mime class or a ballet class in the morning then rehearsals then performances. I discovered ballet in this summer stock programs.
Why did you go to California during the sixties? There you began to organize performances with others…
I was born in California so I did not decide to be there or to even be in the USA. I was born there. I did not start working with people (per say) in California. I did amateur and professional productions. I tried getting parts in movies, commercials, I auditions for plays etc. I did some modeling even. I was trying to make a living because I left home by 17. I was in California in the 60â€™s because I was born there and a teenager in the 60â€s.
How did you discover books, cinema, politics? What about Jimmy Hendrix?
I learned to read by reading plays. I did a course at junior college (Freemont college) after I left home and studied theater. There I had a good teacher / director who gave me good books to read. As well I took classes from a wonderful woman at Freemont who taught Modern Dance. She had graduated from the University of Utah. I fell in love with the world of Modern dance and all the modernist principles involved via the modern dance. I was hanging with hippie type Los Angeles artists (play writes, actors, dancers, visual artists) and this was influential as well.
I saw Jimmie Hendrix quite by mistake and luck. His trio was fronting the â€œmonkeysâ€ (a TV type pop group) It blew my mind because he was improvising on the guitar and because it was loud and perhaps because I could feel that music was going to be altered by electronics toward a appreciation of sound.
In the seventies you were at the University of Utah. Was this the first time you really studied technique? Were you interested in Le Coque mime?
I never liked mime and I still donâ€™t. I always chose the ballet class over the mime class as a child. But there was a mime troupe forming who were getting work. I had run out of money so couldnâ€™t finish my University studies. I joined the Salt Lake Mime troupe so I could tour, survive and work.
After the University, was Salt Lake Mime Company (a group made up of modern dancers from the University of Utah, Jazz musicians, clowns and mimes) a way to do practically what you had learned at the University? You ranged between many different places, to performers and public, and shared many different languages working together. These are the things happening at the Theatre during the sixties!
I do not understand the question here. But I was involved with allot of work in the 70â€™s that was influenced by the theater activities in the 60â€™s. Mostly I can say that performers worked in many different contexts like the street, theaters, schools etc.
Amsterdam, 1976: the manager that supports your work. Had he seen you
dancing with Salt Lake Mime Company?
How was meeting Europe? Maybe you were already a Europeanized American?
No. It took five years of not returning to the USA for me to actually have a nomadic point of view or lifestyle. I identified myself as an ex-patriot for a while until I realized it made no since to say this simply because I had never been patriotic to begin with.
Your concept of dance was close to the mentality of the Old World. But your way to work was, and it is still, American. No fear of experimentation!
I think that I was a cyber baby from way back. The only world I have ever felt comfortable and at home in the Internet.
I love the study of history in all cases. My father was a history teacher and I have a brother who is a history teacher. It was in my blood to enjoy history. I am also a cultural explorer so one can never learn too much yet one will never belong.
Maybe close to the idea of Judson Church or Grand Union?
No. They had a very different point of view then I took. I had the option in New York when I was there in the early 70â€™s to join the dance scene (Judson Church) trip. I saw performances by Simon Forti at that time and walked out. I had gotten over the hippie trip for one thing and I found the work complacent and silly.
So no, I ma influenced more by the futurist and expression list from Europe. I stayed I think because I was not attracted to the New York vanguards (except John Cage and others in his camp) and I was impressed with the vanguards in Europe.
How was the experience of working solo?
My first solos were challenging but they were also radical theater dance pieces in a time when radical was possible and viewed as the norm. I enjoyed my first solos very much.
Now my solos are extensions on all the work I do. I love doing solo because in a way you wash all the crap out of the art vision. It is easier for me to do solo than ensemble work. Ensemble is challenging and demands allot of concentration and commitment.
Solo is also typical in the dance of xx century, being a symbol of the ethic-aesthetic revolution of the modern and contemporary dance. Through this modality the performer can communicate emotions and a vision of the world using the “speaking movement”.
You could be speaking of Performance art?
What inner meaning and dialectic hold the solo on stage?
Solo is simply a mode to either show your self as an artist or annihilate your self as artists. I do the later.
Is it really a poetic choice or is it necessary to survive?
It’s a monologue or a dialogue with the public?
Itâ€™s a dialogue with the light designer, the music choices or musical events with the text. I share the space with the public. The use of time is how I hope to persuade a public to be in the space I create in dialogue with the above elements.
Private diary or mirror of the times?
In the worst of cases it becomes a mirror. Or a perspective where I could imagine what the public is thinking. In the even worse of cases I would toss the dirty laundry of my private diaries. Not a good night if that all happens. I do not imagine the thought process of a public. That would turn the perspective of space toward a mirror like state and force the eye of the room toward the center of a playing space. I do not like the concept of playing space. It is one space, the center of which can alter by the choices of time and use of the elements. The elements eventually set the linguistics or the limits of where one can go. Nothing is private in the theater. It is an architectural set-up for a humiliating experience. That is not to be avoided but rather nurtured. That set-up or state is the playing spaceâ€¦. not the stage or some place in a theater we focus on.
In your first works based on a “search for a theme beyond yourselfâ€, THE DUCK PLAY, MATILDA’S SUICIDE, MAD WOMAN, the woman seems to be the central element.
In our meeting in Bologna you said you had worked with different kinds of woman. Are they represented in each work? Is THE DUCK PLAY the dance in which you designed a black coat with many pockets for the different ducks you were buying?
Were you working with text?
Yes, but not vocally, rather a narrative line in movement.
The use of text changes your expressive way to work?
Text is a communication devise, which allows for a specific way to understand things. Dance is a different communication devise. They are different. But both are communication devises. The difference between the two modes of communication is evident in how the connection between the mind, the senseâ€™s and the body in general are utilized in the attempt to understand or orientate what is taking place in the space. The shift from one communication device to another is read by the timing of that shift and alters the way the public and the performer perceive space. I experience it as a shared event with the public.
I dance we go there to communicate in the space, if I talk or use voice (sound or text) I do it so I can alter the communication in the space. I do not know if it changes the expressive qualities of the work as much as it opens up options for altering how we perceive the space in any given moment in time in a theater arena.
Steve Paxton is a person with whom you still collaborate; a person you knew between 1976-9. How was this meeting, and what was its meaning for your research?
Iâ€™ve known Steve from 1983 or 4 until now. I did not meet Steve in the 70s when I was still in the USA nor had I heard of him. I had seen the one performance event by Simon Forti in New York (and walked out) but I did not make the connection to that particular New York scene with Steve until after I had met him. The work I have done with Steve has been in groupings (dancers and musicians) so I have never had the opportunity to work with him one to one. I had a rehearsal period with him one to one for work we did in Brussels last February 2001. The performances were with other dancers who joined. But the rehearsals were only with him. Very nice work.
I am most influenced by his very generous nature as a man and his complexes approach to his work. I feel Steve as a farmer who makes a living doing art so he is a kind of philosopher. But finally he is a scientist in how he approaches the body in dance. His work with the blind opened water sheds of curiosity for me as it was so basic to what a performer needs to exemplify in their technique if improvisation is the composition direction.
Finally to the music. Tristan Honsinger introduced you to the improvisation music composers in Europe. How has this contact influenced your way to improvise?
In meeting Tristan we were able to fulfill both of our hidden desires as performing artists. Tristan had a desire to be a physical performer and a surrealistic clown. I desired to be a singer and an ironic comedian. He was a musician by trade, a cellist and I was a dancer. We both were interested in how we could compose our ideas and our desires in scripts, scores and choreographies and then release them in performances that were improvised on the street, in the theaters or wherever we had opportunity to play. Tristan writes beautiful music. He is romantic and punk in the very same moment. My dance is expressive and rough; in this we found a union of many works and many live events. I met him when we were both in our mid twenties. We have both influenced dancers and musicians by how we exchange the roles of the performer and the musician and how we use text as a means to break the space and invite fantasy to the imagined music and dance communication devise.
You and man musician, without clowns and mimes.
Tristan and I are mimes and clowns. Just of another sort then one is used to.