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Robert Abrams
The Alex Theatre
Celebrate Dance
United States
Greater Los Angeles
Glendale, CA

An Interview with Laura Karlin of Invertigo Dance Theatre about her upcoming performance at Celebrate Dance 2013

by Robert Abrams
February 12, 2013
The Alex Theatre
216 North Brand Boulevard

Glendale, CA 91203

Featured Dance Company:

Celebrate Dance
Celebrate Dance (office)

Los Angeles, CA

More information about Celebrate Dance 2013.
A major dance event should upend your world, leading to a state of giddiness. To help prepare potential audience members for this possible outcome, I asked Laura Karlin of Invertigo Dance Theatre, the choreographer and director of "After It Happened", which will be presented at Celebrate Dance 2013, a few questions.

Robert Abrams: Please describe the performance you will present at Celebrate Dance 2013.

Laura Karlin: Our piece is called "After It Happened". It's part of an evening-length piece set in the aftermath of a natural disaster – a community rebuilds their lives, homes and community. We get to explore a range of human experience with humour and with grace, and to express both the ferocity and the vulnerability of our will to survive and to find a sense of normalcy.

RA: Have you collaborated with anyone to create your Celebrate Dance presentation? Who have you collaborated with to create your Celebrate Dance presentation? What has this collaboration allowed you to achieve that would not have been possible without it?

LK: I create all my work collaboratively with the dancers. I teach a lot of the movement, but I also come into rehearsal with a set of ideas or images and we work together to create movement. The dancers bring their own styles and backgrounds to the work as well - they are crucial, generous parts of shaping what Invertigo is. Most of them have been with the company for over a year (and Sofia for almost 5 years now!), so we can get into really subtle or risky work and there's a trust there which allows us to do that.

The music is created by Toby Karlin and Jon Lall. Toby is our music director – and my brother! He and I have worked on almost every Invertigo project together and he is a wonderful artistic partner. He and Jon have created the score for "After It Happened". They worked with me to find soundscapes that capture both the sweepingly cinematic and the intimately small moments.

Kate Bishop is our resident costume designer. She has created the costumes for us since last year at our first Celebrate Dance appearance. Her creations are amazing and she and I work really well together. I can come to her and say, "So, I'm thinking trash-bag couture for one section" and she'll show up to a meeting with 17 gorgeous sketches and a sample Hefty bag cut up into different embellishments. And yes, we are creating this gorgeous dress out of rubbish bags – I want to celebrate women's ability to create glamour and resilience out of whatever is available. There's a photo of a woman in Haiti after the earthquake and she'd made this dress out of the blue trash bags that were lying around and there's an intense, unintentional allure to her presence. That inspired one particular section in "After It Happened".

RA: In your art that you are presenting at Celebrate Dance, what is unexpected?

LK: The mood of the piece shifts suddenly a number times. It's a reflection of life – one moment you are laughing, the next you are in awe of the beauty in the world, the next you shocked by humanity's capacity for senseless violence. We go from dramatic, cinematic movement to comical scenarios to ferocious fighting.

RA: What is "new" or "fresh" about the art you are presenting at Celebrate Dance?

LK: This is a new piece for us. It is the beginnings of a full-evening work, so we're at a really exciting point in the process. We have all of these ideas to explore about the subject matter – a community rebuilding after a natural disaster. There is such a range of possibility – the humour, the vulnerability, the devestation and the celebration of humanity.

And did I mention there's a dress made out of trash bags? A fabulous one.

RA: How does your art build on what came before?

LK: I tend draw on the tradition of European dance theatre because that's my background. English choreographers Charlotte Vincent and Jasmin Vardimon have influenced my work because they're both strong women who create a context/narrative as a starting point and use it to explore the edges of human nature.

RA: How will your presentation inspire the audience?

LK: "After It Happened" is a story of human resilience, an exploration of what it means to rebuild after overwhelming devastation. It asks the questions, what is normal life? What do we value? And if we lose it, what do we do?

We explore a wide range of human experience and I'm not looking to deny or skim over the turmoil, the violence, the complexities of these situations, but I do believe that we can transcend them. This piece is a testament to our capacity to create light and song and hope in any circumstance.

RA: Who or what inspires you?

LK: Jake Price is a friend of mine. He is a photo-journalist who goes all over the world to tell people's stories. He spent a lot of time in Haiti after the earthquake – way beyond the time when the world had looked elsewhere. He is in Japan right now working on a project following the recovery from the Fukushima earthquake/tsunami. His photography is not overly sentimental – he lets landscapes, street scenes, faces speak simply for themselves and it can be very powerful.

I'm also endlessly inspired by the Invertigo dancers. They are so inventive and responsive to suggestions/prompts. It's a delight to have artists around who really care about the work we're creating together.

RA: How will your presentation enlighten the audience?

LK: We're taking on a universally understood context – the aftermath of a natural disaster. People have a lot of experiences and images which connect to that context, and my hope is that we can take some of those associations and twist them up into a piece which is both recognisable and surprising.

RA: How will your presentation entertain the audience?

LK: I think our movement is really fun – it's athletic (my dancers are all joking that they need to take up running to train for a couple of the sections!) and hyper-kinetic and there's some great partner work. I also have a whimsical side, so there's a fantastical hyper-realism to the piece.

RA: What makes your dance company a top-notch dance company?

LK: I believe that dance theatre offers an infinite palate of possibility. It can blend comedy, tragedy, and everything in between.

Invertigo explores all these things, and we do it with beautiful, talented, dedicated dancers and amazing collaborators who all work together to craft an experience for the audience - a world in which they can imagine themselves, whether it's whimsical and fun or gut-wrenching and uncomfortably true. It's about finding those moments of connection, about finding our way along that huge messy gorgeous weird spectrum of humanity.

RA: What is special or unique about dance in the Greater Los Angeles area?

LK: I moved to Los Angeles from London to work with the LA Contemporary Dance Company. I intended to stay for 3 months. . . that was 2006. I felt that LA was such a wide-open space in which to create a dance company - not much infrastructure but a lot of opportunity! It's like a colouring book that says, "We don't need to tell you what to draw. Go nuts! Make your mark!" There are some wonderful artists here making work with that sense of drive and freedom, and I've always responded well to a Choose Your Own Adventure situation. It's hard work, but it's on our own terms.

RA: If audience members were seeing your Celebrate Dance performance for the second time, what should they pay special attention to in order to enhance their appreciation of your art?

LK: Whatever you see and feel when you're watching it – that's right. That's your experience. There is no one right way to watch our dance pieces – it's all about the experiences and the thoughts that come up for you.

RA: Does your art have an activist message? What message are you trying to communicate?

LK: We are all human, we are all connected. When we remember that, we have the capacity for greatness. When we forget, we can be endlessly destructive.

That said, I'm not particularly political in my work. I'd rather live in the grey areas, the edges, the questions. I take on what could be called political subject matter, but I'm more interested in watching characters respond to it rather than making a point that the audience needs to "get" or agree with.

RA: Do you work with schools or children? Please describe your educational work.

LK: Invertigo does have an education program called InvertED, and we've worked with a number of wonderful organisations, most deeply with Inner-City Arts.

At the moment, our educational work has a different focus though. We have run a program for over 2 years, called Dancing Through Parkinson's, which teaches 2 weekly classes to people living with Parkinson's disease and their family, friends and care-partners. Classes are designed to bring balance, flexibility, community and joy into movement. We look to empower participants to explore movement and music. And the classes are SO MUCH FUN! We have a great time and the people who come to dance with us are endlessly inspiring.

We had a performance at our Winter Party last December, in which Invertigo performed and some of our Dancing Through Parkinson's dancers did a class demonstration. They were amazing and they totally stole the show! So I'm trying really hard to raise the funds to create a performance track for our Dancing Through Parkinson's program – some people just want to come to class, which will always be an option, but some people want the opportunity to learn and make work so I want to make that happen. I think it would be Capital-A-Amazing.

RA: What else would you like people who are thinking about purchasing a ticket to Celebrate Dance to know about your art?

LK: This show is the chance to witness leading and emerging LA dance companies at their best. Jamie Nichols goes out of her way to produce a show that will make you fall in love with dance and all its possibilities. There's something for everyone here and whatever your taste or your background, you'll leave that show inspired to think about, talk about and generally revel in dance.

RA: As a follow up to the interview, I asked Ms. Karlin to describe how she came up with the name of her company.

LK: I named the company Invertigo on a whim. It is 2 words combined: invert and vertigo. Each one evokes a sense of dizzying possibility, that you can take ideas apart and examine them from every angle, that nothing is ever static. We are in an ever-changing, ever-expanding present. I'm interested in the in-between moments and Invertigo represents that to me. I also have a whimsical side and I try to create work with a capacity for wonder and wit, which the name hints at, I hope.

invertigo: we live in the dizzy spaces, the tipping points,
the moments where indecision decides,
the places where balance turns upside-down.
Laura Karlin

Laura Karlin

Photo © & courtesy of Joe Lambie

Invertigo Dance Theatre company members performing work that is evocative of 'After It Happened'

Invertigo Dance Theatre company members performing work that is evocative of "After It Happened"

Photo © & courtesy of Joe Lambie

Invertigo Dance Theatre company members performing work that is evocative of 'After It Happened'

Invertigo Dance Theatre company members performing work that is evocative of "After It Happened"

Photo © & courtesy of Joe Lambie

Invertigo Dance Theatre company members performing work that is evocative of 'After It Happened'

Invertigo Dance Theatre company members performing work that is evocative of "After It Happened"

Photo © & courtesy of Joe Lambie

Invertigo Dance Theatre company members performing work that is evocative of 'After It Happened'

Invertigo Dance Theatre company members performing work that is evocative of "After It Happened"

Photo © & courtesy of Joe Lambie

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