Guest post courtesy of IU Newsroom colleague Jaclyn Lansbery:
When IU professor Selene Carter sat down to begin writing her application for Devices – a rigorous choreographic intensive based in New York City – she contemplated whether she wanted to impress Doug Varone, who would be leading the program, or be herself.
Carter stuck with being herself.
Starting May 25, Carter is one of 16 choreographers chosen to work with Varone and selected dancers on ideas about craft, design and composition for a total of six days in NYC’s Hunter College.
This month, Carter will return to Bloomington to try out her new ideas with Suzanne Lappas and Stephanie Nugent, IU adjunct professors of Contemporary Dance. Throughout the process, Varone will continue to mentor Carter via Skype and email. The final 16 pieces will be showcased at a mini festival at 92Y: Cultural Institution and Community Center in New York.
“For me, it’s really thrilling to have that peer review and to be invited to do this, and then have this incubator period where we just throw ourselves into this process and have a group of really skilled dancers to try things out on,” said Carter, an assistant professor at IU’s Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance within the College of Arts and Sciences.
Carter applied to the program after meeting award-winning dancer Adriane Fang, a member of Doug Varone and Dancers, during Fang’s visit to IU Bloomington in February.
To apply, Carter wrote a total of five-and-a-half pages to succinctly describe the dance, film, visual art and literature that inspired her, to define her creative work in three words, and detail why she was applying to Devices.
As a dancer and choreographer who’s been in the business since she was a teenager – and growing up with a mother who founded Dance Kaleidoscope company in Indianapolis and trained with Martha Graham – Carter wanted to challenge herself by returning to her classically-trained roots, and to formally work with dance and music again.
“I feel like right now in the scene of contemporary dancers, there’s this attitude that ‘Oh, just improvise,’ and that will be enough, and I sort of feel like it’s a crutch for everybody,” she said. “Really good improvisation is stunning and riveting, but it takes a lot of skill, and what I see now is the form kind of being diluted, as a default setting, and I really want to go back to a rigorous, formal dance.”
For the show “Radio Chiral,” which premiered in January as part of IU’s Contemporary Dance program winter concert “Moving into Focus,” Carter challenged her students to imagine that they were each wearing a pair of headphones, listening to an iPod shuffle.
As the students continued shuffling the songs, their bodies began to reflect the same dance moves – indicating that they all were listening to the same song.
As for the role of the choreographer, the title “Devices” makes perfect sense. “’Devices’ is a tool kit of sorts,” Carter said.
“And we all have them as choreographers – it’s how we generate material, how we can get an idea, an inspiration, just a little gesture and translate it into movement and translate that movement into a movement phrase. And then we have to figure out how to manipulate that phrase, figuring out if it’s more narrative, more gestural or more abstract. These are all considerations.”