We are nearing the end of our AcA performance season and invite you to come and experience PLAY! Through AcA’s program, Residency @ the Center, we offer support to our local community of artists to research, develop and create original work in performance and/or media driven arts.
For the past six months we have been working with local choreographer and artist in residence, Theresa Wasiloski. Her show hits the stage on June 18th and runs through June 20th. It’s a piece that brings a creative group of artists to the center and a great opportunity for our community to learn more about the work that Theresa is creating! Follow us on Facebook and get to know her collaborators, cast and the work PLAY! Our Residency @ the Center coordinator, Paige Krause, found a few moments to chat with Theresa about her process and how the residency has helped shape her work.
Paige: First, tell us a little more about you and about working as a choreographer in Lafayette, LA.
Theresa: I moved from Baton Rouge to Lafayette to finish my BFA in Performing Arts at UL. I’ve been back here about nine years now, and have been performing, teaching and choreographing in the area since then.
For about two years I’ve been leading the group Movement Lab, choreographing for and collaborating with a group of dancers. What that looks like is, we come into the studio with an idea or structure, and play around, experiment with movement for a couple of hours, and set something.
Paige: Choreographers depend on their dancers to carry out their vision, however, your process is a little different because you involve dancers as collaborators during the creative process. Can you walk us through a bit of your approach during the process?
Theresa: It kind of differs from one section to the next, but in some areas of this project, I’d give the dancers a framework such as a prop or set of rules, and they create something within that framework. Then I might rearrange what they do, try it over and over again until the movement says what it needs to say, so to speak.
I absolutely take cues from the dancers… Sometimes what they do with an idea is not what I had in mind initially but works better within the piece, so I’ll say “keep that!” I love working this way, because it gives the dancers more of a creative voice, but also give the dance a chance to evolve in a way that is right for the dance, and that may be far away from where we started. But I believe that in performing arts, it’s really important for the performer to have a vision too, and I think that vision is strengthened when the performers work collaboratively.
Paige: Have you found that the residency has offered new insights, approaches, any change to the way you create? Any limitations to your approach?
Theresa: I think doing this residency project has encouraged me to do everything bigger.
I’ve definitely never set this much material on a group of dancers for one show before – never really done anything this big. From the process to the timeline, as well as the amount of collaborators and the AcA team… The support that is offered through this process has been different – more. And that’s wonderful! Usually when you’re producing your own show, you’re kind of doing everything yourself or it’s just a few people putting the program together, setting lights… It’s been so nice to have the support of the AcA staff and the other collaborators, because it not only takes a load off of me, but I’ve got these amazing professionals helping out who have wonderful visions of their own and encouraging me to really go for it, and that makes the overall work fuller.
Paige: Tell us a little more about your collaborators on this project. When working with other artists, having discussions and seeing their process, does their work influence your choreography?
Theresa: Absolutely. This piece has been collaborative in nature since it’s inception. After finishing Movement Lab’s last show, I was bouncing ideas off of friends and fellow artists, trying to connect elements of what I wanted to explore as an artist with a concept to present to an audience, and that dialogue really helped me make those connections. It’s amazing to me how things fall into place that way sometimes.
The star tetrahedrons that James Wise built for PLAY (from bamboo and used bicycle tires!) have influenced and informed the choreography, how the performance space is used, and they also provide an environment for the dancers, which changes throughout the show. James had built one of these structures before as a sort of adult-sized jungle gym, and having used it, he also shared ideas about how we could move on them, how many dancers each structure can support, that sort of thing. They’re so beautiful! If we used something different for our set, we’d have a completely different dance.
Darolyn Robertson is another collaborator who is designing and building our costumes, and what’s wonderful about working with Darolyn is that she’s just amazingly thorough. She always has tons of questions for me and that’s so great! It keeps her really close to the work and she gets really engaged with it. Especially when I don’t have answers to those questions right away, because then we get to talk about possibilities together, and there’s a sort of magic in that. You know, when a piece of work is just an idea, it’s kind of like a daydream – something that could happen. But when you’re working with someone like Darolyn who is so incredibly visual and works so deeply – when you share ideas together – that’s when the work starts to exist. It’s incredibly exciting.
Brian Schneider is my third collaborator, and his work comes in a little later in the process. He’s designing the lights for PLAY, and I’m very much looking forward to working with him. I’ve danced in pieces for which he’s produced beautiful designs, but haven’t had the opportunity to collaborate yet. I’m certain that I’ll learn a lot!
Paige: Tell us about the music for PLAY. What might we hear and how did the music come together? Does the movement or music come first?
Theresa: As a choreographer and dance teacher, I’m constantly checking out music and I always keep a sort of library of things I think I’d like to work to in the future. Some of the music we’re using in PLAY I’ve been holding on to for five or so years, knowing that eventually I’ll have the right dance for it. It’s always a treat when I get to use a piece that I’ve been holding onto for a long time (Patrick Watson’s “Where the Wild Things Are” being one in PLAY, for sure), but it’s rare that I actually make a dance for a piece of music specifically. Usually the concept comes first and at least an idea for the movement, then it’s about finding the right fit.
The music for PLAY is pretty eclectic, there are a few tracks by The Avalanches, a couple by Chilly Gonzales. And for a couple of sections of movement, there is no music at all.
Paige: So, what excites you about what the audience might experience when attending PLAY?
Theresa: I’m excited about a few things. First and foremost, there are a couple of “surprise” elements that actually involve the audience more than your standard “sit down and watch” experience. I don’t want to say too much more about it than that, but over the last year I’ve been trying in my work to engage audiences differently, to invite them in on process, for example. I don’t know if audiences, when they’re experiencing theater works, realize how important they are. At least they’re probably not thinking about their role while they’re watching a dance. But it’s really interesting to me, and you can ask any performer – the audience’s response, their energy – can really affect how you feel onstage, and how you perform.
I hope the audience, in keeping with the spirit of the piece, feels comfortable enough to PLAY with us.
Paige: And last, but very important, how do you PLAY?
Theresa: Tickle wars – Best way to play – Very important to me.