KT Nelson, Co-Artistic Director, joined ODC /Dance in 1976. In 1986 Nelson choreographed and directed the Company’s first full length family ballet, The Velveteen Rabbit, which has since been performed annually in the Bay Area as well as touring nationwide. Nelson has been awarded the Isadora Duncan award four times: in 1987 for Outstanding Performance, in 1996 and 2012 for Outstanding Choreography, and in 2001 for Sustained Achievement. Her collaborators have included Bobby McFerrin, Geoff Hoyle, Shinichi Iova-Koga, Max Chen, Zap Mama, and Joan Jeanrenaud. In 2008 her work RingRounRozi in collaboration with French-Canadian composer Linda Bouchard was selected to be performed at the Tanzmessa International Dance Festival. In 2009 Nelson was one of three artists selected for Austin Ballet’s New American Talent Competition. In 2012 she created new work for Western Michigan University as part of their Great Works Dance Project. She has mentored with the Margaret Jenkin’s Chime Project and continues to mentor emerging artists in the bay area and abroad.
Artist Questionnaire for Double Exposure
How long have you been making your own work as a choreographer?
I have been making dances for 39 years.
How long have you been making work on the West Coast?
What does it mean to you to be a ‘West Coast choreographer’, if anything?
I believe every region has its own cultural identity. I honestly don’t think I can identify the defining qualities of the west coast but I am certain they are there.
Who generally performs your work – yourself, your company, a pick-up company, other companies, etc.?
ODC generally performs my work but I definitely do guest choreography with a variety of companies around the country.
How collaboratively do you work with your dancers?
Describe your aesthetic or choreographic style.
I like being physical; I trust the body to speak fully as a moving body; I am interested in kinetic space- meaning not designs but a virtual line of activity- a gestural use of space as opposed to a geometric use of space. I believe my talent is using dance as a means to realize feeling. I am not much of a narrative dance maker.
Who would you describe as your most important influences in the dance field? How would you define your artistic lineage, if any?
Certainly working at ODC has shaped me. My music teacher of 6 years (12-18 years of age) was the most influential person in my life as far as introducing me to making contemporary art. I think she had the greatest influence on me partly because I was so young.
Where do you start with a commission like this – the relationship, an image, a piece of music, a movement phrase, etc.?
I look inside about where I am. I look at the material in front of me, in this case Wendy and Ryan. And between these two introspections I find a place to work.
Have you ever previously created a work this short? How does the duration impact your decisions/process, if at all?
Well I made my earlier duet with Wendy and Ryan and was really not pleased. Not that I wasn’t pleased with them but it felt so predictable. The solos have been a much more interesting process. In a way we built études. The solos are designed to push each artist into minutia perfection and at the same time find their deep artistry. Perhaps the most interesting thing is each solo is performed to the same piece of music but they are totally different solos.
Do you often create duets? How much are they a part of your larger body of work?
I do create duets but mostly in the larger context of a bigger piece.
How does the duet you’ve created for Double Exposure dialogue with your other work?
The two solos I have created are very straight forward. They are movement for movement sake. Two distinct solos – one for Wendy and one for Ryan- choreographed to the same music. I don’t have an emotional goal in this work. I do try to challenge the individual dancers to show both something about them you know and something we don’t know of their abilities.
One other comment-
Vanessa Thiessen who has danced for me at ODC and assisted me in a variety for commissions also participated in this commission. Given that these solos are about exploring the particular dancing talents of each of the artists, Vanessa was able to embody a physicality that I no longer can do. Vanessa brought an exacting physicality to both Wendy and Ryan that enabled us to make études – not just dance phrases.