Kate Speer: dancer, choreographer, writer

"the notion that experimentation would undermine 'tradition' is a misconception. The experiment we pass on today will become the 'tradition' of tomorrow."
Danny Yung

I like to shake my hips and twist my spine. I enjoy the exhilaration that keeps the body tense with anticipation. I savor the final release of completion when the arms fully extend and the feet breathe into the earth. I like huge landscapes that crescendo into mountains and dissolve into streams. I enjoy the delicate gestures of lovers, quiet hands that gently touch. And I relish a good beat that sends the sweaty, exhausted body into motion.

I believe we can all be active citizens of our worlds, continuously cultivating an engaged presence (active) with a sense of responsibility to reciprocity within our community (citizen). As a choreographer, I live at the intersection of social activism and creation by merging theatrical storytelling with athletic, momentum-based movement in order to engage the audience’s visceral and emotional capacities.

The emphasis on active citizenship creates a rich, explorative process that is at its core about building community, both within rehearsal and performance contexts. I believe in art’s power to generate communities that empower individuals, create belongingness, and affect social change. Thus, I use the uniqueness of dance to ignite social change through the phenomenology of the lived body and the power of kinesthetic empathy.

My current focus is on narrative, both linear and abstract, that gives the audience contexts for meaning-making, so that the dance is tangible, approachable, and relevant. I am interested in creating entire worlds that have a specific logic and cartography defined by the dance. The creative rigor is finding the right keys to give the audience, so that they become experts in unlocking the meaning of the dance.

As a performer, I am addicted to that lived moment onstage when I can track the improvisatory sensations within the set vocabulary. There’s an electricity in the skin when there is a witness. It is a level of aliveness, connectedness, and being-ness with the audience that communicates generosity. I dance precisely for that moment of aliveness in which the body is in full use of its kinesphere and feels the sweat and exhaustion of being in motion.

I draw inspiration from a number of modern dance practices ranging from athletic momentum based work of David Dorfman and Kathleen Hermesdorf to release techniques of Lisa Kraus (from the Trisha Brown linage) and the late French choreographer Odile Duboc. Additional movement vocabularies that have hybridized in my body are the weight principles of Contact Improvisation, the somatic visualizations from Gaga and Alexander Technique, and various Africanist aesthetics, such as Umfundalai, Malagasy, and West African traditions as well as my own version of po-mo pop locking (po-mo = postmodern).

Using these dance techniques within the microcosm of the studio, the dancers and I create a community founded on trust and respect, and then we extend an open invitation to the audience to join. The roots will always be community, the conversation between performer and viewer communicated by kinetic phrases of movement resonating in the shared space.