Dance at Socrates: an interview with Edisa Weeks

Norte Maar, Socrates Sculpture Park, Dance at Socrates, summer dance

By Sara Christoph for Norte Maar

Socrates Sculpture Park, internationally recognized for its large-scale sculpture and multi-media installations, partners with Norte Maar, renowned for their cross-disciplinary collaborative projects, in a new summer series that brings four New York based choreographers to the East River waterfront. Called Dance at Socrates, this program is the first residency in the park dedicated to the creation and presentation of dance.

Each choreographer will take to the stage with their dancers Monday through Friday, with the day’s rehearsal entirely within public view. Park visitors will have the chance to witness the evolution of each choreographer’s artistic practice as they watch the movements progress through the week. The “official” performances will take place on the final day of each choreographer’s residency, on Saturday afternoons throughout August, at 3 p.m.

>>Click here for the complete performance schedule and full company bios<<

Continuing our interviews with the choreographers, this week we shift to Edisa Weeks, who will begin her stage residency Monday, August 12th. She is the founder of Delirious Dances, a company that has been performing around Brooklyn and elsewhere for the past ten years. Her content may often be political or provocative, but Weeks’s focus as a choreographer remains on accessibility—she and her dancers have performed in apartment living rooms, storefronts and swimming pools. Below, a quick Q&A.

 

photo: George Larkins

photo: George Larkins

NM: How long have you been dancing, and when did you start choreographing?

EW: I started dancing when I was floating, kicking and squirming in my mother’s belly, and then pushed screaming into the world. My formal training began at 20, when I decided to seriously study dance by enrolling in the Alvin Ailey two-year certificate program. I thought I would dance for three, maybe five years, till I got dance out of my system, and then go to school to be a graphic designer. Twenty-seven years latter I’m still dancing.

My very first attempt at choreographing was in ninth grade for the high school talent show, when I created a ten-minute-too-long solo about immigrating to America. It’s a memory I look back on and cringe – I apologize to anyone who saw it. I knew nothing about choreographing, had no dance training, was full of self-righteous passion, and determined to make a dance.

NM: How do you define/describe the movement that interests you?

EW: Movement that interests me is:

Quirky, Linear, Vulnerable, Ugly

Rhythmic, Expressive, Seductive, Repetitious

Athletic, Exhausting, Investigative, Personal

NM: For the project at Socrates, you’ll be completing the week-long residency on an outdoor stage in a public park. Surely people will stop to watch your choreography. How do you think this transparency will affect the final dance? Will your approach be interactive?

EW: The process of making a dance is often labor intensive, and I love the idea of exposing and sharing the collaborative, delirious, frustrating and investigative work that goes into crafting a dance. For the past ten years I’ve been exploring how to make contemporary modern dance less precious and more relevant to people’s lives. How can it be complex yet accessible? How can I give people a gift of experiencing the ordinary (or extraordinary) through dance? What are ways to engage people so they are not passively watching, but have to actively make choices? Can dance challenge the performers and the audience to take risks and fully be in the moment? These questions propelled me to dance in storefront windows, sidewalks, senior centers, offices, living rooms and bedrooms. I’m curious what possibilities and exchanges will emerge from working/dancing in Socrates Park.

NM: Is there anything specific you are thinking about in preparation for this performance, any initial thematic direction or ideas of where you’d like the movement to go?

EW: The dancers and I are recreating an old dance and in the first throes of developing a new dance. The old dance is called Manufacturing Consent and inspired by Noam Chomsky, Yvonne Rainer, and the early work of Mantovani who was a master of lushly orchestrated musac. Ideas I’d like to begin exploring in the new work and during the week-long residency are flat-footing, relentless repetition and outbursts of joy.

NM: What is up next for you? Any future projects?

EW: Continuing to develop the new work, and performing To Begin The World Over Again, an evening length work inspired by the writings of Thomas Paine. To Begin The World Over Again is a collaboration with composer Joe Phillips and features thirteen musicians, six dancers and one actor.

Norte Maar, Edis Weeks, Delirious Dances, Socrates Sculpture Park, Dance at Socrates

Delirious Dances’ “To Begin The World Over Again.” Photo Credit: Julie Lemberger

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