Austin dance company Performa/Dance will present its fourth full-length show, Artist and Muse., on June 1 and 2. The program will feature four dances, including two longform works and two shorter pieces.
"We're doing two works about female choreographers who are talking about female artists," says Performa/Dance artistic director Jennifer Hart. "I have choreographed a piece called Camille: A Story of Art and Love, and it's about Camille Claudel. She was a sculptor in the earlier 20th century, artist and muse of Auguste Rodin."
The dance piece is heavily inspired by the works of Claudel and Rodin, which led to the creative challenge of translating sculpture into dance.
"Initially when Jen choreographed the piece, we did a lot of improvisation," says Oren Porterfield, who dances the role of Camille. "And it was difficult at first because sculptures are sedentary. But there's so much depth to Rodin and Camille Claudel's work -- there's so much emotion in their pieces -- that ... it was really inspiring to try to make that into steps."
"Their work was inspired by their own live, especially Camille Claudel. It's their physical life, their everyday life, their own movement... for them, it's sedentary, you make one specific sculpture. But what we're doing is kind of reversing that process, bringing it back to life."
Edward Carr, who dances the role of Rodin and also serves as Performa/Dance's associate director, did some research on Rodin and Claudel. "It was interesting to read up on them a little bit, because Camille's life story is tragic," he says. "[the dance] is sort of an abstract story, but it's basically about Camille’s... descent into madness."
The other longform dance in Artist and Muse is Two Fridas, by choreographer Wynn Fricke. "Two Fridas is based on the painting The Two Fridas by Frida Kahlo. And in the painting itself are two women seated side by side and they are connected by their hearts," Says Hart. "In the choreography... Wynn really took out the kind of duality of Frida Kahlo having this sort of weaker side that was frail and was in a lot of pain and this stronger side of her who overcame a lot... and still was politically active."
Artist and Muse will also include two shorter works by Hart: The Beast and Murmuration.
"The Beast... is an exploration of the interrogation techniques after 9/11 that the CIA was endeavoring to do," says Hart. "What I really was doing was trying to explore what the bodily sensations of being tortured would be like. It's a dark piece."
The Beast is a solo dance; the other short piece in Artist and Muse features a much larger cast.
"Murmuration... is about the flight of birds, the choreography of birds," says Hart. "That piece is for ten dancers. It's much more joyful."