Choreographer’s transatlantic collaboration with Brooklyn Ballet.

Norte Maar, Julia K. Gleich, Libby Hartle, Brooklyn Ballet

A drawing in process by Libby Hartle inspires choreographer Julia K. Gleich’s new collaboration with Brooklyn Ballet.

by Sara Christoph for Norte Maar

Hear the word vector, and an illustration from an old geometry textbook may come to mind. But instead imagine this: what if rather than slicing across paper, a vector emerged from within a body? What if instead of being flat and solitary, that vector manifested itself in different bodies with various histories of movement, how would that line be carried into three-dimensional space?

This is precisely what London based choreographer Julia K. Gleich and Brooklyn Ballet’s Artistic Director Lynn Parkerson intended to explore in Quilt, which will premiere at Brooklyn Ballet’s 2013 season titled In 4D, February 28-March 10 at the Actors Fund Arts Center.  Quilt is a transatlantic collaboration between the two choreographers, the former living in London, the latter here in Brooklyn. Their collaboration began after Parkerson, the artistic director of the Brooklyn Ballet, expressed interest in Gleich’s studies into a vector-based system for creating dance.

Detail of a drawing by Libby Hartle

Detail of a drawing by Libby Hartle.

For Quilt, Gleich found inspiration in the work of Libby Hartle, a Brooklyn-based visual artist whose work was recently featured at Norte Maar. Gleich has been studying Hartle’s drawings since meeting the artist in July 2010 at Camp Pocket Utopia, a summer art residency and performance camp organized by Norte Maar in collaboration with artist Austin Thomas. Gleich studied Hartle’s drawings, translating the artist’s dense, protractor-driven series of spirals and segments into what Gleich calls maps of space. These maps became, for Gleich, a foundation for creating dance, movements which the choreographer then recorded on paper and sent off to Parkerson. In Brooklyn, Parkerson then reinterpreted Gleich’s drawings through the bodies of her dancers, and the results will be performed in front of an audience beginning February 28.

In essence, the project is an homage to the airmail dances of Remy Charlip. In the early 1970s, the choreographer and a founding member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, would mail a set of hand-drawn poses to dance companies around the globe, allowing the dancers to interpret and choreograph the movements however they desired. The distinguishing factor in the Brooklyn version is the inclusion of Libby Hartle’s work, making the project a living dialogue between choreographers, dancers and visual artists alike.

It seems only natural for such a collaboration to take place at the Brooklyn Ballet, a company already known for its inclusion of diverse dance styles. Quilt will follow a similar vein, allowing each of the dancers at Brooklyn Ballet—whether they are trained in ballet or versed in hip hop—to translate Gleich’s drawn movements in their own specific style. As Parkerson explained, the project was an opportunity for her dancers “to explore their own creative impulses, recognize their creative differences and discover new and fresh ways of moving.”


Choreographer’s notes on a print out of Hartle’s drawing.

Although the movements originated within Gleich’s imagination and were put on paper by her hand, she has no idea how the final dance will appear at the Brooklyn Ballet. “It’s an experiment in the true sense of the word, and the kind of influence I have can only be conceptual,” Gleich explained from London. “There’s a great freedom about it, and I’m very excited to see the results.” Although Gleich will only get to see her ideas come to life through video (she will be working with her own dance company in London).

Gleich and Parkerson both think of this collaboration as “just the beginning.”

Brooklyn Ballet 2013 Season: In 4D
February 28-March 10 @ The Actors Fund Arts Center, 160 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn
Info + Tickets

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