The ‘A Year In’ series is catching up with artists now that the coronavirus pandemic has passed the one-year mark.
For dancer and choreographer Taryn Lavery, the pandemic was not the time to switch to digital. Instead, the forced break from performing arts has only made it stronger for the Utah native and Austin resident, this dance for her is uniquely tied to sharing physical space with others. moving and breathing bodies, whether they are dancers or members of the audience.
Co-director and founder, with Alex Miller, of the dance company based on the Austin’s BLiPSWiTCH project, Lavery merges his classical training with a desire to revitalize modern dance for a wider audience, by extracting a new form of contemporary performance.
Within Austin’s fluid collaboration modern dance scene, Lavery has performed with Jennifer Sherburn, multimedia performance company ARCOS, and has also worked with Performa / Dance, Collide Arts, SEAM Project, LOLA, Ready / Set / Go !, Blue Lapis Light and Sky Candy. She has also been an auxiliary dancer for groups and in music videos, notably with A Giant Dog, The Band of Heathens, Sweet Spirit and Dr. Joe.
Lines of Sight: What were you working on when the lockdown began in mid-March 2020? What is the first of your jobs that you saw canceled or lost?
Taryn Lavery: Whoa, where to start? Even in March, 2020 was set to be a very generative and artistically fruitful year, and BLiPSWiTCH itself was in various stages of development on four different projects.
My creative partner Alex Miller and I had recently completed rehearsals with the dancers for a new stage piece BLiPSWiTCH which will premiere at the Austin Dance Festival and we are revamping a duo to perform in support of the Performa / Dance fundraising gala. . We had also received a commission for the choreography in partnership with a local photographer for a first set of photos, and we were in the early stages of work on our new evening production for May, with 11 dancers and three musicians already registered. Apart from my work with BLiPSWiTCH, I was also hired to perform with Performa / Dance at the Blanton Museum – the first event to be officially canceled – and to manage the stage at the Fusebox Festival.
S: What part of the pandemic were you surprised to find creative edge?
TL: I have discovered growth and glimmers of hope in my personal and emotional life. But to be honest, I struggled to find artistic and creative perks. The loss of feeling the physical contact and movement of other human beings resulted in fits of guilt, shame and depression surrounding my inability to connect to my full artistic self. And rather than feeling connected and anchored to my dance communities near and far through the accessibility of technology, the computer screen only represented and amplified feelings of limitation and artistic isolation.
Some companies I dance with, like ARCOS, were already straddling the physical and virtual world in their work, and I give them so many accessories as well as to the artists who have reoriented their artistic creation towards the digital sphere. I feel rewarded to be a part of these experiences and projects, and I appreciate the unique possibilities and the access it provides to engage in art in ever more extensive ways, but I know it is not the container in which my personal art flourishes. The pandemic reinforced what I already subconsciously knew about my relationship to movement and creation – even though dance is an inherently personal, physical and tactile art form, for me its singular joy is also intrinsically linked to space. physical and physical community generated by and with other moving and breathing bodies (including those who are looking or experiencing purely).
My creative partner, Alex, values these physical attachments as strongly as I do, which is why we have come to define site specific and alternative site work as a central part of the art and community that we are building through BLiPSWiTCH. Bringing new artists and collaborators to each project, embracing, integrating and creating in and for a singular physical space is an integral part of the way we work together.
Throughout the pandemic, whenever we questioned whether we should create something virtual, the answer was always a categorical ‘no’. Finding the resolution to stay when so many others were pivoting was difficult at times, but in that space, I fortified an element of my art and quantified its importance in my life, so I guess you could call that a creative edge… Hey look, I did it after all!
S: What changes do you want to see in dance, how it is performed and how it is presented? What should the so-called new normal in dance look like?
TL: There is such value in practicing and sharing this form, but there is a real need to let go of what does not serve communities and individuals, including patriarchal and racist fashions and hierarchies that have been entangled. in the dance. I think this past year has brought more voices to the fore that have long had to be listened to and I would like those voices to continue to be not only amplified, but supported and considered in destroying harmful systems.
I also enjoyed experimenting and seeing dancers and choreographers stretch, flip, subvert and expand what were once considered the limits of the art form. One of the unique beauties of dance is its capacity for infinite possibility and interpretation: what one can experience or define as dancing will be as different from the person next to them as the person themselves, and even without speaking, whether he is a dancer or a spectator, there is a shared participation – this thread between them is the magic thing. As dance artists, I hope that we will continue to harness this limitless creativity to imagine dance in more places (physical and digital), for more people, with more people. Weave more threads.
Someday I would like to tell someone that I am a dancer and they respond by sharing a distinct experience that they have personally had dancing or witnessing dancing. It’s rare – I wish it was part of a new normal.
S: Artistically, what is the next step that you are looking forward to and that you are passionate about?
TL: I’m about to undertake transmedia work with ARCOS for their upcoming offerings, and BLiPSWiTCH is taking the time to formulate what might be our next effort. We created our first live production in over a year, “Dear V”, in April and the process of creating an entire night’s work with new collaborators and sharing the fruits of that process with a audience that we could see and feel, it was like taking the deepest collective breath. I am so excited to be creating from a place where live art experiences flourish.