By Tara Sheena of Dance Informa.
Kate Ladenheim is an eager redhead with some big views on dance. She started her company, The People Movers, in 2012 to support her own choreographic development but, since that time, it has quickly grown to support the work of many performers and collaborators, including the Juventas New Music ensemble for her latest piece HackPolitik. This past July saw the NYC premiere of this ambitious work for her company based on the hacktivist collective, Anonymous, and drawing from her wide-ranging influences, including contemporary ballet, political activism, and the Internet. Ladenheim shared some early influences, what it takes to gain a following and other exciting projects in the works with Dance Informa this month:
What originally drew you to choreography? Do you have any early influences you can recall?
“I didn’t start making work until I was in college [at Boston Conservatory]. I come from fairly traditional classical training, and growing up I didn’t have much opportunity to make and show my own work. My college improvisation and choreography classes were my first chance to do this- and I fell in love right away. It was very freeing for me. Much of my dance training consisted of me trying to force my body into standards that I coveted, but was also very inappropriate for. Improvisation and choreography allowed me the opportunity to explore what I could do well as opposed to try to accomplish what I should have been good at. Becoming more involved in those worlds, I now know there is still so much for me to learn- but those goals and challenges seem more fun for me to take on because I can come to them on my own terms.”
How would you describe your aesthetic and style to someone who has never seen your work?
“My work is hyper-athletic and precise (a friend describes it as crystalline, which is an adjective I quite enjoy), with a penchant for structural formality, theatricality, and abstract narrative. I also have a goofy streak, which appears in either subtle or absurd ways depending on how the work develops.
I like to create a whole new world for audiences to dive into. I strongly believe that a dance is not just a dance, so I am very conscious about integrating character-driven gesture, costumes, hair, make-up, musical, and scenic elements.”
What, in your mind, is the biggest challenge for emerging choreographers right now? What are the strategies you’ve employed to navigate that challenge?
“Without a doubt it’s audience engagement and cultivation. Everybody blames a lack of money and time for this; I would argue that the problem is the other way around. I think that if the dance community as a whole were able to cultivate a group of engaged and enthusiastic audience members—audience members that were enthusiastic about the field of contemporary dance— our money troubles would be much less dramatic, and art-making as a whole would be a lot more fun, social, and unpretentious.
Dance can be so alienating and it’s a turn off for people to come because they have no context about what they are going to see. I wonder how we as a community can alleviate that fear. Personally, I combat this by being an instigator. Aside from a fairly aggressive marketing strategy, I work really hard to gather many different opinions about my work and to take that feedback into consideration as I move forward. I like to have public discussions via social media platforms both before and after we show work.”
What are the next steps for you and your company?
“We were just awarded a residency with White Wave Dance’s Rising Choreographer Residency Program, and through this residency will be premiering a new work at the Wave Rising Series on Thursday, October 29th at 7:30 PM, Saturday, November 1st at 7:30 PM, and Sunday, November 2nd at 4 PM. Shortly following we will be premiering an excerpt of another new work at Triskelion Arts on Friday, November 21st and Saturday, November 22nd at 7:30 PM.
The People Movers has also started a new presenting series called CRAWL. Two dance companies and a third non-dance artistic act come together for an afternoon-long, neighborhood-based arts event. People get to see two dance pieces and enjoy the third artist in a party setting and will have a chance to talk about the work they have just seen. We also form partnerships with local businesses in the neighborhood, as both an extra perk for the audiences and a way to expand our audience base into NYC communities. Our first CRAWL event will take place December 6th at Whitebox NY and will feature emerging choreographers Enza Depalma and Lydia Zimmer, closely followed by a second event at Gowanus Loft in March featuring Brendan Drake and Kendra Portier.”
For more information on Kate Ladenheim and The People Movers visit www.peoplemoversdance.com. For information on CRAWL visit www.jointhecrawl.com.
Photo (top): The People Movers. Photo by Stephanie Crousillat.