Holly is the artistic director of LEDGES AND BONES, a company of artists collaborating to create and present choreographic events that explore embodied experiences of being and feeling human. LEDGES AND BONES tours nationally and abroad offering performances, workshops and master classes for professional artists, emergent choreographers, performers, educators, academic institutions and arts organizations. Holly was named by Dance Magazine as “25 to Watch” in 2007 and recognized by the San Francisco Chronicle as a choreographer who “pursues answers through primal, vulnerable dance that grabs for your soul.” She has collaborated with choreographers Stephanie Gilliland, Maria Gillespie, Rosanna Gamson, Stephanie Nugent and String Theory Productions. Holly has been an artist in residence at ODC Theater/SF, SCUBA Touring Artist, 2012 Maggie Allesse National Center for Choreography-Choreographic Fellow and Guest Artist for Transformation Danse in Montreal.
Holly lives in California where she teaches contemporary technique, somatics, dance pedagogy, yoga for dancers, improvisation, duets and partnerships and choreography as an embodied experience through practice-based research. She is the creator of Integrated Human Action- a therapeutic bodywork practice that facilitates dynamic coordination of embodied movement patterns. Holly has a B.A. in Dance from Loyola Marymount University and earned her M.F.A. in Choreography from Jacksonville University (April 2015). She has served as part-time faculty for Loyola Marymount University, California State University- Long Beach, University of California- Irvine, Pomona College, California State University- Los Angeles. She also served as Visiting Assistant Professor for Loyola Marymount University (2011-2012). Holly has been a guest artist for several dance departments and programs throughout the United States including UCLA, Stanford, University of Utah, UC Santa Barbara, San Jose State University, Sacramento State University, University of Oregon, Western Michigan University, San Diego State University, Santa Monica College, Modesto Junior College, Moorpark College, Orange Coast College, ODC School, Scottsdale Community College, University of Tampa, Dance New Amsterdam and Temple University. She is currently part-time faculty for Chapman University and California Institute of the Arts. Holly works as a public artist, educator and movement researcher. She lives dance as a practice of freedom.
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?
I have been making work as a West Coast choreographer since 1998, I ‘officially’ started LEDGES AND BONES in 2005.
What does it mean to you to be a ‘West Coast choreographer’, if anything?
I do think there is really special meaning in being a “West Coast choreographer”. Every region of the world has their own living and buried histories. America and American dance is no different, the east coast, mid-west and west coast regions of the United States all have different cultures because our histories, ideals, climates, economies and appetites all differ. Here on the West Coast I think we have been engaged in the examination of our sensorial experience with life. Not to say that other artists from other regions are not doing this, it is simply to say that this is something that I think is an essential property of the work that originates from our region. I think we are an intriguing entanglement of the primal capacities of body combined with our mind for critical thinking about the rights and rites of bodies. I think as artists we are often examining our nomadic wonderings through various systems of movement, methods and practices with the aim that we become ‘new generators’ of our own ‘systems of working’. I also think we’re interested in body, not just for its aesthetic values but just like the name of your company suggests, we’re interested in what makes us raw and alive with sensation.
Who generally performs your work – yourself, your company, a pick-up company, other companies, etc.? How collaboratively do you work with your dancers?
I have worked in many capacities. I do quite a bit of commission work for universities and colleges, as well as commissions for professional dance companies. I have worked with an ongoing group of collaborators throughout the years through my company LEDGES AND BONES. In any of these circumstances I always work in a collaborative mode. For me there is no other way to generate the choreography other than to undergo a process by which the individuals become the work itself. This can only be done through a process of embodiment that arises from within each person. Each individual is essential to the work manifesting itself into being.
Describe your aesthetic or choreographic style.
To press body into intimate and intense encounters with movement that awakens us to the limitless capacity we have to respond to life. I am interested in dance as a practice of freedom. What lies at the edges of our existence? What binds us to each other? What stories vibrate in the flesh and bones of those we know or might come to know? How can dance produce knowledge? When is my dancing a statement against insanity? I am endlessly in love with gravity as I ride the wild curves of falling and rising with space-time surrounding me.
Who would you describe as your most important influences in the dance field? How would you define your artistic lineage, if any?
All bodies influence and inspire me in some way; Body always moves me.
My dancing experiences and training have come from West Coast traditions. I began in my undergraduate training with a focus on Lewitzky technique that was created by Bella Lewitzky who worked closely with Lester Horton. Bella added spirals and curves to the form and force of Horton’s precise lines. I then worked with Stephanie Gilliland, a West Coast artist, for eight years as a founding member of her company Tongue Contemporary Dance. I then began investigating my own movement modes and meanings with my company LEDGES AND BONES in 2005. I am inspired by the work of Mats Ek, Pina Bausch, Lloyd Newson, Wim Vanderkybus, Sankai Juku, Louise LaCavier, Michael Klien, and artists who have artistic roots in California like Contraband-Sara Shelton Mann, ODC-Brenda Way, KT Nelson, Kimi Okada, Bare-Mike Esperanza, Oni Dance-Maria Gillespie, Keith Johnson and Dancers, Sarri Sanchez, Bloom Project-Nguyen Nguyen and many more. I have been influenced greatly over the last 20 years by Judy Scalin who was the Chair of my undergraduate program at Loyola Marymount University and who taught me that “to dance is to be human”. My greatest influence has been my time with Stephanie Gilliland and Tongue. It was here that I learned to embody risk, value the wild beauty of my imagination and to push my body to its absolute limits- I didn’t just dance, I learned to become an artist.
Where do you start with a commission like this – the relationship, an image, a piece of music, a movement phrase, etc.?
In a situation like the one we’re embarking on, it seems like my body is suggesting that we begin with movement. Here we can learn about each other quickly, uncover movement artifacts together and begin experimenting with frames of context, conditions and circumstances. My choreography emerges from the movement and arises from the inner worlds of the individual performers.
Have you ever previously created a work this short? How does the duration impact your decisions/process, if at all?
Because I do a lot of commission work for university and colleges I travel a lot, but I also work as part-time faculty for a few different universities in Southern California so I can usually only miss a few days or a week at a time to create work. So I have much experience in condensed working formats as well as short form choreography. The irony of course is that much of my company work is long form choreography and my creative processes can endure over a year, sometimes two. But this is not always economical and when we work under time and/or funding constraints the collaborating artists and I invent ways to accelerate the evolutionary process of the choreographic work. The hope is to avoid ‘microwaving’ the work so that it does not feel synthetic but rather to feed the work honestly with rigor and passion. The aim is to make work that arises from the presence of body disclosing embodied experiences as truth or fiction.
Do you often create duets? How much are they a part of your larger body of work?
I love duets…I also love group work. I often embed complex duet work within my larger group works.
How does the duet you’ve created for Double Exposure dialogue with your other work?
I get to explore the fluctuating sensations of attachment, separation, dependence and dependability through choreography that examines the sensation of human intimacy and the intensity of physical effort to endure the entanglement of our connectivity with one another.