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Sharon Mansur and Dan Burkholder have been dancing together so closely for the past seven years that they finish each other’s sentences. As the co-directors of Quiescence, an improvisational modern dance company, their near-psychic, call-and-response rapport is essential to the way they make dances.
“We’re both very process-
oriented,” Burkholder begins, “but…” He looks to Mansur.
“…Different processes,” they say together, laughing.
“At first I started Quiescence” says Burkholder.
“He wanted a name for his group,” Mansur cuts in. “At first I resisted. That damn name. People are always asking me what it means.”
“Quiescent” means inactive or still. It’s the last word anyone would use to describe the duo’s movement style, known as contact improvisation. The dancers bear each other’s weight, using the body’s momentum to lead them from one movement to the next. It requires intimacy and trust between dancers, who practice possibilities rather than a set of defined movements.
“I read [‘quiescent’] in a book and had to look it up,” Burkholder confesses. “I like the way it sounds. It’s a play on what we do.”
“I also think of it as little moments…little connections between dancers,” adds Mansur. “That’s what we’re about. What happens between the dancers, not necessarily the end product.”
Burkholder is moving west soon, so the group will have its last show this weekend at Dance Place. Mansur will perform a new solo, “Lightfast,” with a flutist improvising onstage. Burkholder has choreographed a new group piece, “Place Travel and Place,” done in seven sections. The dancers determine the ever-changing order of the piece by calling out vocal cues.
Apart from their group work, Mansur and Burkholder have also developed a strong reputation for their duets, the most recent of which, “A Gentle Landing,” consists of five sections spread throughout the evening.
The company’s disbandment doesn’t mark the end of their partnership. “Sharon and I…” Burkholder starts.
“…We will work together again,” says Mansur.
“[We’re] like those old Run-DMC records,” Burkholder quips, gesturing back and forth as he grunts out an old-school rap rhythm. “You can be Run,” he says to Mansur. “I’ll be DMC.”