The downsides have been pretty well publicized, but aging has its benefits, too. Just ask Nancy Havlik, a Washington-based choreographer well into her seventh decade. “I feel much more freedom with age,” she says. “I don’t feel like I have to prove anything, and I’m caring less and less what category I’m in, whether it’s dance or theater.”
That sounds like a good thing for Havlik. For more than a decade, she’s been creating work that tends to be characterized as dance, but it almost invariably also includes performers speaking, and often centers around tangible themes—happiness, Nancy Drew—that render it closer to theater.
Not that it matters that much anymore (except when filling out grant applications)—tastes, it seems, have finally caught up with Havlik. These days, the line between dance and theater has become exceedingly blurry, and some of the most intriguing productions in either genre lie pretty close to the middle of the spectrum.
Havlik, whose Dance Performance Group will perform “SENSation” at Flashpoint’s Mead Theater tonight at 8 p.m. and tomorrow at 3 p.m., uses a number of techniques to elicit expressive movement and words from her five-member group. One piece in the performance, “Story,” was developed through writing: She asked the dancers to jot down something they remembered from childhood. “The stories they wrote I really liked, and it worked for me as a director,” she explains. The group then worked on polishing the storytelling, and movement was built in later.
She developed another piece, “Fossil,” using a similar process. Thinking about the losses that we encounter throughout life—and wondering what’s left at the end—Havlik asked her crew to bring in objects that they cared about, and write about others they had lost.
“My process is very collaborative,” she says, explaining how these disparate elements wind up making sense together. “We talk a lot; my performers are really smart, and I want their feedback.” Some of the movement is choreographed, some is informed by partnering exercises, and some is improvised on the spot. And Havlik has long worked with live musicians who regularly attend rehearsals and contribute their own perspectives; this show includes Steve Hilmy generating electronic sounds and Daniel Barbiero on double bass.
Ultimately, the process, like the pieces the company will perform this weekend, is about coming together as a group to uncover a greater meaning. It’s likely that that concept—rooted in the value of community and connection—is something else Havlik has discovered in her advanced age.