casebolt and smith. They talk and dance. They sing and dance. And sometimes, they just dance. Liz Casebolt and Joel Smith craft duets that reveal a shared commitment to artistry and experimentation. The two move between chatty and scripted conversation, with each other and the audience, offering honest insights into their choreographic methods and collaborative rapport. Their work plays with the gender and sexuality politics embedded in male/ female partnerships, and comments on the sometimes overly serious traditions of modern dance. Founded in 2006 and based in Los Angeles, casebolt and smith is on a mission to share their work with broad and diverse audiences through performance, teaching residencies and commissions.
Artist Questionnaire for Double Exposure
How long have you been making your own work as a choreographer? How long have you been making work on the West Coast?
casebolt and smith have been making work together since 2006, and are based in Los Angeles.
What does it mean to you to be a ‘West Coast choreographer’, if anything?
We don’t define ourselves in terms of being “West Coast” or “East Coast.” We think about ourselves in relation to making work in Los Angeles (as the “West Coast” experience will differ greatly from Seattle to San Francisco, to LA, and etc). In dealing with the geographic sprawl that is Los Angeles, and that lacks one central hub of creativity, we are both challenged to create a sense of community, and privileged to be able to engage with multiple communities. For us, being LA artists also means being in dialogue with the myriad colleges and universities that are cultivating the local population of dancers.
Who generally performs your work – yourself, your company, a pick-up company, other companies, etc.? How collaboratively do you work with your dancers (if applicable)?
Our work as a company is created on and performed by the two of us. We also occasionally take commissions for other companies or for colleges, where we work with groups of dancers. Most often our work on other dancers is very collaborative in that we tend to have the dancers generate some of the movement material. We aren’t interested in creating versions of ourselves, but in showcasing the strengths of the dancers with whom we are working.
Describe your aesthetic or choreographic style.
casebolt and smith is a duet dance theater company. Most of our work explores the many ways of speaking and dancing, while deconstructing our creative process and playing with the gender/sexuality politics embedded in the conventional male/female duet form.
Who would you describe as your most important influences in the dance field? How would you define your artistic lineage, if any?
Our work fits into the post-modern, dance theater lineage in some way or another. We have two diverse backgrounds that have merged and that share some common influences. Liz came out of New York in the 1990s, enamored of such artists as Doug Elkins and Urban Bush Women, but also spent 10 years dancing big story ballets. Joel has been greatly influenced by the work of Richard Bull, as taught to him by Susan Foster, and that influence has impacted our work in a big way. Together we would list Joe Goode, Doug Varone, and Susan Rose as important choreographic influences.
Where do you start with a commission like this – the relationship, an image, a piece of music, a movement phrase, etc.?
For the RAW commission, we started with getting to know Wendy and Ryan as people, collaborators, and friends – having never met them before our first rehearsal. We talked a lot at that first meeting! We then asked them to develop some movement phrases so we could get to know them as movers, as well as identify some of their habits, and also had them investigate some improvisational structures that we often work with as a way of continuing to get to know them and determining the shape the dance would take.
Have you ever previously created a work this short? How does the duration impact your decisions/process, if at all?
We have one two-minute duet in our repertoire, Two Minute Duet To Open the Show, but most of our works range from 15 – 75 minutes. The challenge was to develop an idea in only two minutes, while wanting to explore Ryan and Wendy’s collaborative rapport in relation to our own.
Do you often create duets? How much are they a part of your larger body of work?
casebolt and smith is a duet company. Though we occasionally have solos within the context of a longer evening, all of our work for our company explores the duet form.
How does the duet you’ve created for Double Exposure dialogue with your other work?
Our work as casebolt and smith explores the male/female duet, and is also the product of a friendship and artistic collaboration. The work that we created for Double Exposure plays with both improvised and set movement material, as we often do in our work. Playing with unison choreography is one strategy we have found to establish an equal playing space for men and women to dance together without creating gendered choreography or power dynamics.