Artistic Director Hannah de Keijzer chats with us about Green Chair Dance Group’s upcoming performance. Don’t miss the opening night of [insert absurdly long title here] in Annenberg!
Tandem Biking and Other Dangerous Pastimes for Two
Green Chair Dance Group: Sarah Gladwin Camp, Hannah de Keijzer and Gregory Holt
2/3 and 2/4 at 7:30 p.m.
The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts
Harold Prince Theater
3680 Walnut St.
Tickets: $20–$30, $10 student rush
To purchase, call the Annenberg box office at 215–898–3900 or visit www.annenbergcenter.com.
Street: What is Green Chair Dance Group?
Hannah de Keijzer: Green Chair Dance Group is a collaborative dance–theater company. We make dances that are athletic, tender, accessible, frequently humorous and always full of the joy of moving together. Our dancing draws from diverse backgrounds in improvisation, linguistics, math and a wide swath of movement techniques. The tension of working collectively from distinct, strong personalities is an engine that drives our movement and resonates strongly in our performance presence.
Street: How did it all begin?
HDK: Green Chair grew out of a group of college friends with a shared interest in experimenting with unconventional movement that wanted to create and perform beyond the college arena. We thought we’d be a pickup company just for one Fringe Festival (in 2004), get a little professional experience and move on with our lives. Turns out we loved dancing together and audiences loved what we made. And here we are, eight years later, continuing to cultivate shared interests, throwing in our own particular passions and creating work with a lot more experience and training to back it up. The creation of Tandem Biking and Other Dangerous Pastimes for Two has been a long research period for us: a year and a half of experimenting with new dance–making structures, deepening our collaboration and pushing ourselves in new performance modes.
Street: Who or what is your inspiration? Do you have any role models?
HDK: When we started in 2004, a couple of us were pretty new to dance, so we were willing to try anything in our choreography and performance without preconceived notions of what we should be doing. Some of our early training and influence came from Silesian Dance Theater in Bytom, Poland. All of us have spent summers and/or semesters there, and we’ve performed in their annual international festival a couple times. Their raw physicality and theatrical approach to dance–making certainly shaped our interests early on. Other things that have generated sparks for us over the years are: James Thiérrée, Beirut’s music videos, Dinosaur Comics, The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene and the RadioLab podcast.
Street: What differentiates athletic dance theater?
HDK: We call our style “athletic” because we do a lot of lifting, leaping, throwing each other around and floor work. We’re not afraid to sweat, and seem to have an affinity for putting the hardest, most cardiovascularly demanding sections at the end of our dances so we’re completely exhausted by time the lights go out. Our movement training of course contributes to the style of our work — our backgrounds are in everything from capoeira to ballet, contact improvisation, yoga and contemporary dance.
Street: Tell us about performance nights. What’s it like backstage?
HDK: We’re usually a little bit hyper with excitement and nervous energy before a show, so we like to run around and sing at the top of our lungs as part of warm–up. We also have a company tradition of coming into a group hug and breathing slowly together right before we go on stage. It gives us a chance to focus that excited energy and get in sync with one another.
Street: What is Tandem Biking and Other Dangerous Pastimes for Two about?
HDK: It’s about reliability, being stuck in a small space together for too long, geometry and Grandma’s cinnamon peaches. It’s about monuments and solitude and “guess what I’m feeling.” And it’s about that thing that you can only figure out after you’ve known someone a really, really long time. Tandem Biking isn’t narrative in a traditional sense — we jump back and forth in time a lot. It’s about both the dance itself and our characters’ relationships sustained over time. We talk about our characters’ imagined past — the road trips we’ve taken, the music we listen to, the board games we play in a cabin in the woods. It’s all in service to building the history and present of our characters’ lives together.
Street: You said you experiment with a lot of language and text in the show, tell us more about that.
HDK: Yeah, we’re playing with letting language and movement substitute for each other as we tell stories and reveal our characters’ personalities. We’re also experimenting with how much we can leave out in an explanation, allowing space for the audience’s imaginations to fill in the gaps and create their own reading of the story.
We are Practical People (2011), Mascher Space Co–op
I Think I Just Need a Little Bit of Sugar. (2010), Movement Arts Center and Live Arts Brewery
Untitled site-specific work (2010), Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education
Julius Caesar, Act II (2010), The Wolf Building
Uncertainty Principles (2010), Mascher Space Co–op
This is Still Sort of a Touchy Subject for Us (2009), Mascher Space Co–op
First Friday Dance Lab (2009, 2010), Painted Bride Art Center
Dances for the Naked Eye (2008), Adrienne Theater
For Emergency Use Only (2007), Spirit Wind Center
…the Hardest Part is Overcoming the Coefficient of Static Friction (2005), Community Education Center
An Evening of Short Works (2005), Swarthmore, Weston, CT and Bytom, Poland
Escape! (2004), Adrienne Theater and Community Education Center
For more information about Green Chair Dance Group check out www.greenchairdancegroup.com.