[Ed. Note: guest blogger Kat Howard brings this interview with dancer and writers Megan Kurashige. Megan dances with Liss Fain Dance and burns : work in San Francisco. Her short fiction has appeared in Sybil’s Garage and is forthcoming in Electric Velocipede. She met Kat Howard at Clarion. Unlike Kat, Megan only speaks English. Visit Megan’s website or find her on Twitter. Kat’s short fiction has appeared in Stories, edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio, Apex, Fantasy Magazine, and elsewhere. She met Megan Kurashige when they were both studying writing at Clarion in 2008. Kat has never danced in a library. Visit Kat’s website or find her on Twitter.]
I think the most interstitial part of my work, as both a dancer and a writer, is the way I think about them. There are certain things that excite me artistically, certain qualities and ideas that thrill and fascinate whether I’m in the studio or at my desk. All the things that I write, or read, or think about while I’m dancing bleed together and feed into that. For all their differences (and, of course, there are many!), dance and writing are similar beasts. They take something completely familiar and second nature–movement, words–and either tame it or encourage it to go ridiculously, extravagantly wild, the better to communicate something so it’s understood at a level where it really matters.
You have shown the influence of your dance in your writing, such as in your haunting short story, “The Telescope,” (Sybil’s Garage #7), about a dancer whose leg turns to glass. Does your writing influence your dance as well?
It definitely does. Writing and thinking about writing, especially in that critical way when I’m looking at a story and trying to figure out how to make it work, helps me see dance in ways that I might not appreciate otherwise. It helps me sift down to the narrative of a dance, the emotional line or landscape that pulls me through even the most abstract choreography. You need to have images, or some sort of human quality to get traction on movement, to build it from the inside instead of just mimicking, and I think that telling stories exercises the parts of my brain that understand those things.
You performed in a piece “The False and True are One,” which was set to short stories by Lydia Davis and staged in a library as well as a theater. This strikes me as a very different, and very interstitial, way of thinking about dance as a medium for communicating, for telling stories. Can you describe what it was like to perform that piece in that location?
It was bizarre. There’s a comforting distance in the theater, even when the audience is really close, and I was surprised by how much of a shock it was when that wasn’t there. Not that it was bad. I really enjoyed the intimacy of the experience. We were in the same world as the people who were watching us. We were right there in the middle of books and lamps and people. I brushed sleeves and got into accidental staring contests, and I felt like the sheer closeness helped to break down the separation between us, the dancers, and the audience.
Were there any additional challenges, or benefits, to performing in a venue that is both not usually associated with dance, and is also associated with a different art form?
The piece was designed to be performed in different locations, so most of the practical challenges were taken care of. Liss Fain, our choreographer and director, created movement that stays within four relatively small, defined spaces, so even though we move between them, when we we’re actually dancing we aren’t in any danger of, say, kicking audience members. In the theater, we had really gorgeous sets and lighting designed by Matthew Antaky, but in the library it was a much more spare experience. I definitely felt more exposed and acutely aware of the absence of theatrical distance between the audience and performers.
But it felt good to be in an ordinary space where people don’t usually expect dance. The audience had the freedom to move around and choose how they wanted to take the piece in, so I think they felt more connected to the experience and less like spectators. They were in a space where they felt comfortable, surrounded by books (which I think are one of the most familiar and accessible forms of art), so they could relax and take in the dance for what it was, instead of a formal experience of “theater.”
Is there any advice you would give to other dancers who are looking for ways to challenge the ideas of what their art can be?
Take in everything. Don’t put limits on what can and cannot be a part of your art. Everything that you like, everything that thrills or interests you, can feed into your work as a dancer. Remember that dance is something that everyone understands, deep down, so don’t be afraid to take it out of the usual places–the theater, the studio, the proscenium stage–and put it someplace where people can really get at it.
How about for writers, who are interested in working in nontraditional, more interstitial collaborations? (I never would have thought to write a story to accompany a ballet before, and now, I would love to try it.)
Don’t be shy! If you enjoy something, or if you’re curious, seek it out! A lot of artists are really excited to work with people whose areas of expertise and passion are different from their own. I think it’s a matter of sharing sensibilities rather than disciplines.
Are you working on any other projects that you would like to call attention to?
Well, I just started a new short story, so I’m excited about that. I’m also working on a new dance piece with Christian Burns for a premiere in August called “Mid-Century” that combines very formal, classical ideas of composition with a kind of wild improvisation. And my sister (who is also a dancer) and I have two projects that we’re hoping to build momentum on during the summer. The first is a dance piece about superheroes, and the second is a dance film adaptation of one of my favorite poems. There’s just so much to do! And I’m really excited about it all.
|The fragments in between: an interview with artist Mores McWreath||Boston: “Playing for the Planet” concert Friday 4/22|