Velocity Dance Center has announced that Dayna Hanson — choreographer, dance theater director, filmmaker and 2006 Guggenheim Fellow — has been chosen as its 2013 Artist-in-Residence. Hanson and her crew just got back from South by Southwest, where she premiered her film Improvement Club. At Velocity, she’ll continue developing her new work, The Clay Duke. CHS caught up with her to hear the latest.
Rachel Eggers: How was SXSW?
Dayna Hanson: Fabulous! I had already decided SXSW would be the dream premiere for this film, so the experience was a high point even before we arrived—especially because Improvement Club was one of eight films (out of 1,200 submissions!) to be selected for SXSW’s Narrative Feature Competition. A semi-fictionalized adaptation of the making of my last dance theater piece, Gloria’s Cause, Improvement Club is a unique, hybrid film that weaves dance, odd theatrics, and original rock music into a very performance-driven narrative.
It was exciting for our group of cast/crew (including Producer Mel Eslyn, DP Ben Kasulke, 2nd Unit DP Jacob Rosen, Editor Sean Donavan and actors Dave Proscia, Peggy Piacenza and Wade Madsen) to be there amid such energy and inspiration. Loving Austin as I do and having close friends there made the time even more special.
RE: Tell me a bit more about your ideas about (and development of) The Clay Duke. And when/where will it be premiering?
DH: Though I didn’t intend this work to be as topical as it’s turning out to be, The Clay Duke examines the complex and volatile relationship between mental illness and gun violence by focusing on a school board shooting that took place in Florida a couple of years ago. I’m working with a fantastic, multi-talented and fearless cast—Wade Madsen, Peggy Piacenza, Dave Proscia, Sarah Rudinoff and Thomas Graves of Austin-based Rude Mechs—and am really enjoying the development process so far. I always enjoy diving into disparate sources and creating links between them: In The Clay Duke, we are connecting the school board event with the vigilantism of the 1974 Charles Bronson film, Death Wish, and the ways in which suicide is treated in Chekhov’s writing. Creative residencies have been a cornerstone of our working process so far (including at West of Lenin and ACT Theatre); we head to MANCC in Tallahassee, Florida for a two-week residency in May. After working at Velocity, On the Boards and Noorderzon Festival in Groningen, Holland, we’ll premiere the work at On the Boards in December 2013.
RE: How excited are you about your selection as artist in residence at Velocity?
DH: Because my relationship with Velocity goes back to its inception, the A.I.R. experience is especially resonant for me. So many dance artists worked side by side under the Odd Fellows roof during the ’90s and aughts. My former company with Gaelen Hanson, 33 Fainting Spells, was Velocity’s primary tenant in the old Studio 3 for a few years and we did several Strictly Seattles during our tenure. Our dance film festival, New Dance Cinema, helped lay the foundation for Velocity’s Next Dance Cinema series. A few years later, I had the opportunity to help in a minor way with the move to 12th Avenue. Not only have I been intersecting with Velocity for a long, long time, but I’m also super jazzed about the organization’s current direction under Tonya Lockyer’s leadership. Velocity has quickly become one of the most forward-thinking arts organizations in our community. And I love working there—the light, the feel, the energy at Velocity are so lovely.
RE: Your work combines dance, performance, and increasingly, film. How did working fluidly with these different expressions come about—was it intentional, or did it happen more organically?
DH: I’ve always found “dance theater” a handy category for my work. I’m a self-trained choreographer with a background in creative writing; theater and music have also been in my life for a long time. From the beginning of my career 25 years ago, there has been a hybrid, collaborative nature to so much of my work. Having started creating short dance films during the 33 Fainting Spells era, my interest in directing a feature film has incubated for years, intertwining with my performance dreams and desires. I’ve incorporated film and video into performance and vice versa and, about five years ago, became very interested in creating an integrated suite of work (which resulted in Gloria’s Cause and Improvement Club). Though I am on fire to direct another feature film, I am fully present in the creation of The Clay Duke at the moment—and, while it’s a decidedly hybrid, devised work, I have no desire to integrate film into that piece.
Here’s a preview of Velocity’s upcoming events from its other creative residences:
- April 26-28: Maureen Whiting and Shannon Stewart are on a triple bill for SCUBA: National Touring Network for Dance with Philly’s Green Chair Dance Group.
- May 23-24: zoe|juniper will have a 2-day non-stop open process/installation.
- November 2013: Ellie Sandstrom is self-producing a new installment of the Series Four through our Access Velocity program
- February 2014: Kate Wallich teams up with rising PNB star Andrew Bartee for a Velocity-commissioned “Made In Seattle” evening-length new work.