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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A few questions with Sidra Bell

New York choreographer Sidra Bell will be among the artists to present work at the second installment of Tanz Farm, Atlanta's newest platform for cutting-edge contemporary dance. Her company will perform the new piece Nudity this weekend, December 14-16, in the Goodson Yard building at the Goat Farm Arts Center alongside new work by Seattle's zoe|juniper, Atlanta's Staibdance and Atlanta composer Klimchak. We caught up with Bell to ask a few questions in advance of her company's first-ever Atlanta appearance.

Tell us a little bit about the work we'll be seeing at the Goat Farm.
It's brand new. It's pretty physical, but it's also incredibly emotional. It deals with intimacy, it deals with loss and restoration from loss. It's typical of my kinetic movement, but I think it's a lot more human than some of my other work. A lot of my other works are kind of fantasy-based, but this one is a lot more intimate in a certain way ... The entire work, which is about an hour, is called Nudity. The movement is pretty recognizable as my movement aesthetic which is very kinetic and gestural and robust, but at the same time it's very purified in this piece. You really see the form displayed.

Dancers Alexandra Johnson, Rebecca Margolick, and Rachel Patrice Fallon will perform Sidra Bells Nudity at the Goat Farm Arts Center.
  • Stephanie Crousillat
  • Dancers Alexandra Johnson, Rebecca Margolick, and Rachel Patrice Fallon will perform in Sidra Bell's "Nudity" at the Goat Farm Arts Center, December 14-16.
This will be your first visit to Atlanta. What interests you about presenting work in the city?
It's really exciting. I've known Lauri [Lauri Stallings, Tanz Farm curator and gloATL founder] a few years. She set a piece at my alma mater, Purchase College. I wasn't a part of the process, but I remember watching rehearsals. I was just interested in her and her work. And then we crossed paths again when she was doing a full-length work at the Duo Theater in New York, and I was also doing a full-length piece there. We kind of reconnected. I was just really thrilled when she invited me to be a part of Tanz Farm. I love following what she's been doing in Atlanta; she's really pushing that artistic community forward there. I think it's just a really great initiative to take chances on artists like me. It's a stepping stone for me in terms of bringing my company on tour and sharing the things I develop. When you're in New York, it can be sort of an insular environment so it's great to share it with the broader community.

I was interested to read on your web page that you majored in history at Yale. Do you feel that your background in history informs your work as a choreographer?
I think it does more and more. I danced intensely when I was growing up. I went to the Ailey School and had a lot of regimen. Being in college for me was about becoming an adult. My interest in history was a part of that. It was about how to open my mind up. Empathy was something I honed through studying cultures and the past. I studied American history, and I ended up doing my thesis on the Harlem Renaissance and the role of patronage on artistic freedom in that era. I think about it now in a different way. In the work that I make, I know that I'm sort of out there on a limb. I feel connected to that era because I feel that those artists were out on a limb, too. My belief is strong in what I do, so I guess I make it happen regardless of the support that's available.

Your dad Dennis Bell is a jazz pianist. Obviously growing up with a musician as a parent must have been a big influence, too.
Definitely. I've collaborated with my dad a lot, and some of the early shows I did in New York had live jazz he orchestrated and directed. Particularly with jazz there's an element of improvisation, call-and-response, camaraderie, and play that definitely becomes critical in my work. The environment I grew up in, with artists in and out of our house, people sleeping over, me going to studio sessions and late-night gigs. It's this environment where anything is possible. My mom also plays piano: You can't learn that anywhere else, when you have artists for parents. My parents understand what it means to be an artist. it's not about the end product, but it's about the questions you're asking. The pursuit is all you have. Yeah, you'll have an end product, and you may even have success, but at the end of the day, it's about the pursuit.

Sidra Bell Dance NY presents "Nudity" (2012) on Friday and Saturday, December 14-15, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, December 16, at 3 p.m. at the Goat Farm Arts Center, 1200 Foster Street. The program includes new work by zoe|juniper, Staibdance, and Klimchak. The performance on Sunday will be preceded by a discussion panel of the Tanz Farm artists moderated by Creative Loafing's new Culture Editor Wyatt Williams and Contributing Writer Andrew Alexander beginning at 1:30 p.m. For more information or to purchase tickets to the performances, visit Tanz Farm.

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