American Dance Festival, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Duke University, Durham, North Carolina

Commissioned by ADF with support from the McKnight Artist Fellowship Program and the SHS Foundation

Performed by

Sebastian Barajas
Creszenz Bergmeier
Whitney Collins
Celeste Cowan
Natalie Donahue
Majesty Grayson
Adam Greco
Andy Hasenpflug
Niusha Karkehabadi
Hannah Kiel
Gwendölyn Knapp
Kyung-Eun Lee
Chante Roberts
Micaela Rosen
Luke Smith
Sean Tran
Vanessa Voskuil
Jessica Waitz
Jiali Wang

Costume Design and Coordination
John Brinkman, Vanessa Voskuil and Cast

Andy Hasenpflug

About the work

My contribution to the Out-of-the-Box Footprints program was to completely inaugurate a new way of working/making. Transforming into a new way of making is considered the purpose of dance. The process was a matter of mentoring other humans who were mentoring other humans. Most of the time was spent noting others' behavior and their surroundings and relating it back to the point, namely the expression with the soul purpose to perform. Most of the time was spent in this way, noting consciousness. 

Informal Interview by Susan Broili, The Herald Sun, Durham, NC

1. Why did you want to do a large-cast, outdoor work this time for ADF's Footprints program? 

I have for some time wanted to do a large group piece in a garden in solo format, which is what this will look like. Similar to how I've managed other work in the past, it offers the performers some visibility inside this work as artists themselves, as a creator inside a group format that runs off of a vision statement made together at the start of the rehearsal process after getting to know each other and me.

This work is about human development, and the metaphor of a garden is ideal for this topic. It is about nature and what it is for someone to be one with the world. Inside of this work, there are several ideas that are contributing, and they are all contributing and not, as they are always shifting inside from one moment to the next moment.

What I find is that this work is fluid and shifts like the weather. This changes our patterning and how we contribute to its patterning. I will always contribute to nature no matter what. And, what is it that I am contributing is important to me, and how it contributes to us as humans is additionally important. For evolution and for our growth, I choose the garden in this way to consider these aspects of philosophy and thought processing. The garden grows and dies, as each moment of dance and performance.

Moving forward, this is a concept that I am interested in considering for all human interaction, that is: how do we interact and how is it that it is difficult to understand what I am doing as a human? This is the more ponder-some question that the artists have been given during the rehearsal process: “How does one act? When do we act? Do we consider the consequences of violence to our psyche and environment?” In the degradation of understanding, we lose our self, our path. What is the way forward? How does one find a way forward? When does it happen? What does it look like? How do we choose it? And so on...

There are a total of 16 dancers and a music artist, who is the American Dance Festival’s Music Director Andy Hasenpflug. The bulk of the work will centralize around a fountain in the Rose Garden and also partially the Perennial Walk Garden. They are both close to the Doris Duke Center and the main garden entrance. Audiences will congregate outside the main gates of the garden before the performance time and, when the performance starts, follow artists into a space and then be allowed to travel and roam freely.

2. What are some of the challenges of working with a large cast in an outdoor site? 

The heat and rain is a factor that we have to consider for a performance of 45-minutes that is sustainable. If it is raining 30 minutes prior to the work being shown, it will be cancelled.

3. What about your arts and healing work? What is this and does it influence your choreography?

A growing portion of my artistic interest explores how the arts and public health and wellness intersects with environmental psychology. This interdisciplinary field of study focuses on the interplay between humans and their surroundings. It also prioritizes research aiming at solving/understanding complex environmental issues in the pursuit of individual well-being within a larger community context. Environment is defined as social settings, learning environments, and performance contexts. 

4. Saw on your website that you received a number of awards last year including recognition as "Most Accessible Contemporary Dancer." What aspects of your work do you believe makes it accessible?

I’m not sure what they meant by this award to tell you the truth. Accessible can be translated in so many ways. What others perceive of my work could be anything. For me, accessible can be translated into people of all abilities are welcomed to participate as a reporter, reviewer, audience member/community supporter, and/or as a centralized artistic collaborator.

5. Growing up in North Dakota, did you see yourself as a professional dancer, choreographer, film-maker...?

My mother was highly encouraging as well as my family in exploring art. My father was an artist and professor of philosophy, which springs to me a more esoteric approach to my working style. Garden language is a part of this piece because it suggests to me a certain complexity of conversation that we connect with through a sensory experience, something that we cannot always know mentally and is a more physical and internal experience.

And, I imagine, one might have a similar view in how we consider our internal and external experience among a community in pursuit of growth. Overgrowth and under gardened are also considered. How does one consider a spectacular vision of growth that is equal distant to our nature? Here I consider all aspects of the human condition and how and why we develop. Our growth is of our own doing. In the structuring of this work, I consider all aspects of individual growth within a community of supporters. In our observatory space as a group, this was a condition of our rehearsal process. How do we see? What is going on from a point of view? What do we consider is traditional viewing from this perceiving?  Internally, how they relate to our “truest” self that is uniquely developed over time? Each piece of this garden is equally unique to all the other “gardens” (human soul) that we develop in someway, together, inside each moment in time.