We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
The last time Wally Cardona was in town, he and dancer Rahel Vonmoos gave a sophisticated performance in a transformed Dance Place that was accompanied by a discourse on Soren Kierkegaard’s philosophy. But although the setting and sound were slightly unorthodox, the elegant, graceful movements by both performers were pure dance.
The Brooklyn-based dancer-choreographer is back this weekend with something entirely different. These days, he’s working on a series of interactions—or “interventions,” as he calls them—with folks who are experts in fields other than dance. Tomorrow night, Cardona will be showing Intervention #7, the result of a week-long discussion with ANC commissioner Silas Grant, who covers the area around Dance Place. The performance started out as a completely blank slate, and it’s entirely possible that the final product (which is top secret) might not even feel much like modern dance.
Arts Desk talked briefly with Cardona about his creative process and this weekend’s show.
What are the basic principles of these interventions?
The presenting partner [like Dance Place] is responsible for three key things: they need to be game to find a local person who’s an expert in anything other than dance and would be willing to meet with me. That person then needs to commit to being in the studio with me for one week, four hours per day. And it needs to take place in theatrical setting. The presenter also needs to relinquish any preconceived notions of what the outcome will be.
What have you done so far?
I’ve worked with an astrophysicist, an architect, a social actist, a sommelier, and a group of acousticians. With the sommelier, I was like, “Wine? What?” But what was amazing was how she deals with people, and how she deals with her own performance: coming up to a table, trying to read them and deal with their expectations or confusion or fear. As she described this, I thought, “Oh my god, these are all the things I deal with.” I played with that the whole week; I was doing one-on-one performances with her, and it was hugely informative.
Tell me how it works.
On the first day, a stranger walks into the room and I say “Welcome.” Then they sit and I perform ‘the empty solo’ for them. This is something every expert sees on their first encounter, and only they see it; no audience member will see that. I say afterwards, “That’s a form of introduction; we can talk about it, or we can talk about other stuff.” Anything is game at that point; it all unfolds depending on the person. I’ve had that followed up by three hours straight of conversation about life, art, etc. One person was very silent; I tried to get her to speak and finally asked about her expectations—“Was something missing for you?” And she said “Yes, beauty and dance.” That was my second one, and I thought, “This is awesome. This is fantastic.”
How does that related to the show?
At the end is the performance. The decision about that is put into the hands of the expert, though of course I play a huge part. With every performance that I’ve done, I look at the end result and think, “This is not my work, this is made by the other person; I would’ve never made this work.” And I think they look at it as something they would never make on their own, either.
So what was it like to work with Silas Grant?
Silas is amazing. One of the things that’s really struck me about him is his ability to speak so openly and freely about his personal experience. I find that a lot of people I come in contact with, even some brilliant speakers, it’s very difficult for them to articulate their experience in words. But Silas and I have had the most fantastic, really personal dialogues about what it is that he’s looking at, and the place that he thinks it has in the world. I feel like I’m really meeting him.
Any hints about what the performance will look like?
I will say that the work is a very active dialogue between me, the people in the theater, and the theater itself.
Wally Cardona will perform Intervention #7: Silas Grant at Dance Place Saturday night at 8pm. $22.
Photo by Christy Pessagno