Choreographer as Sculptor: Instrument in Progress

De Young Artist Fellow Monique Jenkinson is putting the finishing touches on Instrument, the culminating performance of her yearlong fellowship inspired in part by Rudolf Nureyev: A Life in Dance (on display at the de Young through February 17, 2013). To create this work, Jenkinson invited three choreographers to make movement on her body, which she’ll integrate with her own choreography. In October, we posted about the first of these three collaborations, and today, we check in with Jenkinson and choreographer Amy Seiwert in the second installment in this three-part blog series.

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One of Jenkinson’s main criteria in selecting the three choreographers who worked on Instrument was that they had to like each other. The choreographers’ mutual respect was imperative to the project’s success—and Jenkinson chose well. Seiwert, named one of Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch” in 2005, has impressed the Bay Area for years. As choreographer-in-residence for the Smuin ballet, Seiwert garnered the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s 2010 Goldie award for being “quite possibly the Bay Area’s most original dance thinker.”

There is an undeniable partnership that comes with dance. “The dancer is an essential collaborator who informs everything,” says Seiwert “With different originating dancers, any piece I create would be completely different. Even if they aren't aware of it, I am getting information from their bodies, their non-verbal communication, their energies with their peers—and all that comes into the piece.”

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Unlike fellow Instrument choreographer Miguel Gutierrez, whose greatest asset is an emphasis on process, Seiwert focuses on details. Her work is very specific and articulated. Jenkinson’s strengths, however, are different than the dancers Seiwert typically works with, and this difference has led to exciting discoveries and unexpected places.

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Seiwert has never seen Rudolf Nureyev dance, not even on film. But the two share something in common: a desire to exploit dancers’ abilities in new and unique ways. As a choreographer, Seiwert sees herself as a sculptor who works to release the dance that is already within the body of the dancer. “You can see what the dance ‘wants’ to be—so you listen and foster it into being.”

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Stay tuned for the final installment of this blog series, in which we investigate Jenkinson’s third collaboration, with choreographer Chris Black. And don’t miss Instrument, the climactic performance in which Jenkinson integrates the work of all three choreographers!

Instrument premieres at CounterPULSE, an Artist Fellows collaborating partner, November 29–December 9, 2012. Advance tickets are on sale now.