By Tara Sheena of Dance Informa.
BODYART is a New York City-based dance company run by Leslie Scott, though she will be the first to note that it is a true collaboration. “There is a reason it’s not the Leslie Scott Dance Company,” she reveals in her interview.
Scott formed her exciting company in 2006 and it has had a steady schedule of performances, workshops and intriguing photo and video work ever since. Her multifaceted works have employed teams of skilled performers in addition to fashion designers, photographers, poets, theater artists and beyond—her 2011 piece Anatomy of Lost required a 60-foot by 50-foot pool of water two inches deep that the performers utilized throughout the evening-length work. This is a company, though young, who is not limited by its medium.
In her interview with Dance Informa, Scott talks about early influences, rehearsal buzzwords and some international moves the company will soon embark on…
What originally drew you to choreography? Do you have any early influences you can recall?
“I grew up in a very small town in Kansas, before the internet was in every home. My access to the dance community was limited to my monthly subscription to Dance Magazine and whatever special might happen to come on PBS. I would tear out images from the magazine and tape them to my ‘idea’ board. The art form for me was born out of visual design because that was really all I knew. I don’t think I ever wanted to be one of those dancers in high gloss; it was always when I grow up ‘I want to make things that look like that.’
At the time, undergraduate degrees in dance were pretty much solely performance based so I went to get a BFA and was thrust on stage. I was always shocked at this attitude that you had to dance first and then, when your career is over, choreograph or teach. Thankfully the university I attended helped me see that it didn’t have to be that way. While I love the art form, I’ll always love it more on someone else, and love it most when I see an idea I have come to life.
Also, in college, I started taking photography and design classes that really helped open up a world of composition outside of what I was learning in the studio.”
How would you describe your aesthetic and style to someone who has never seen your work?
“In two words: collaborative and honest. That’s what we are striving for, so you can be the judge of that. There is a reason it’s not the ‘Leslie Scott Dance Company.’ It’s ‘BODYART’ because we put amazingly creative people in a room and everyone has an equal voice. I end up being the conductor most of the time. If someone was to quit and a new company member joined, we try to make movement for him or her as much as possible. Another big rehearsal buzzword [we use] is “economy of motion” [which means] only using the effort or force you need to complete each task. It often leads to less theatrical approaches but usually more intimate interactions.”
What, in your mind, is the biggest challenge for emerging choreographers right now? What are the strategies you’ve employed to navigate that challenge?
“Logistics! We often work with projectors, set pieces, live music and/or a combination of all of those things. Being able to find and afford a space where you can really set things up and play in the space is a luxury.
One of our past works, Anatomy of Lost, was set in a pool of water. We built a few kiddie pools to rehearse in but it wasn’t really until we moved into the theater the week before that the whole company was able to work in the pool. While I think the performance was successful, I think we ended up missing a lot of opportunities that creating in the actual environment would have led to.”
What are the next steps for you and your company?
“We just finished presenting our new evening-length work THREAD at the Irondale Arts Center on July 31-August 2. Also, the company hosted our annual Summer Intensive on August 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. for those artists interested in a day of master classes.
Visually, our collaborations with underwater photographer Chris Crumley are continuing and plans are underway for our first underwater dance calendar at the end of this year.
We also recently dove into dance films and are releasing the second of the five part Decay Project series, focusing on finding beauty in unconventional or decayed urban spaces.”
“I was just accepted to California Institute of the Arts to pursue my MFA in Choreography, which I am beyond excited about. The company will be continuing as strong as ever with several teaching residencies across the country and a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2015. Also, the company is thrilled to join the Body Festival in Christchurch, New Zealand, where we will be collaborating with local artists on our third dance film.”
For more information on BODYART, visit www.bodyartdance.com.
Photo (top): Dancers of BODYART in THREAD. Photo by Chris Crumley.