Artist Statement

The Idea

 

Our deepest artistic experiences are often tied to our memories - the ideas, the stories, the music, the people, the dreams, and the fears that have shaped us. Dance, as a mode of communication and expression, is like a memory, offering the specificity of a snapshot but leaving a space for the imagination to find our place within it. Movement can unlock the subconscious memories, the things we have forgotten to see but inherently recognize. I want to give viewers a place to find themselves in my work by creating dance that taps into the moments that make up our own ongoing stories. 

 

The Process

 

I see the world in connections… the places where thoughts or worlds or moments intersect. Last century’s athletic wear with last season’s runway show. The movement of a tightly packed train with the movement of a tightly packed nightclub. The way I felt yesterday with the way I imagine Don McLean felt when he wrote American Pie. Like a memory, something in the intersections is powerful yet intangible - a perfect place to start a dance. 

 

Then, comes the research - music, history, pop culture, fashion - examining the past for relevance and the present for accuracy. I’ve never been one to draw ideas out of thin air. My joy in art-making lies in taking the things that we already know and bending them, warping them, layering them, and updating them, so that we can find a way to see them in a new light.

 

Then, come the parameters - time, cast, space, budget. I always consider the boundaries - pushing them for surprise, embracing them for wit and humor. Working across concert dance, opera, and musical theatre has taught me that decision-making in choreography is as much about appropriateness and context as it is about creativity. Thus, the boundaries are addressed and my own “rules” for the piece are drafted. As rehearsals begin and the “rules” become more defined, the structure and movement begin to emerge.

 

Finally, when I enter the room to create, the work becomes about the dancers - the possibility of who they could be and the simplicity of who they are. From their memories to their training to their body language, each dancer contains a wealth of movement waiting to be unlocked. The quest to find the right prompts, references, images, and liberties to uncover the piece I envision from within them is always a thrill. 

 

The Performance

 

I heard someone say once that in order to engage contemporary audiences and compete with on-demand television and social media, live performances need to either be legitimately entertaining or give the audience an experience they just can’t get anywhere else. With dance and theatre, I find the magic happens when a clear energy is created in the room. Whether witnessing an intense physical feat or watching two people hold hands for the first time or seeing someone cry uncontrollably, being in the room and feeling the energy of life happening in real time is irreplaceable. My approach to creating this energy is manifested in the ardent pursuit of relevance and relatability. I’m always questioning - does the work say something about this moment in time? Am I telling the truth? Honesty in art lays the pathway to make a genuine connection to the audience, and what could possibly matter more than that connection?

ALL RIGHTS FOR THE PHOTOS RESERVED TO ANDREW HARPER. PHOTOS BY BRIAN JOHNSTON, NANCY CANTINE, SAMIVEL EVANS, ANDREW HARPER, TAYLOR KELLEY, AND ANDREA ARELLANO. COPYRIGHT ANDREWHARPERCHOREOGRAPHY 2017