Choreographer Laurie Van Wieren may be 60 years old, but that's not stopping the independent dance maker from having more energy and creativity than most twenty year olds. "I now feel like I'm getting more work again," she says. "I know that's an odd thing to do at 60."
Next week, Van Wieren is presenting performances and a gallery installation at Studio 206 in the Ivy Building for the Arts. She'll be sharing a work-in-progress piece that takes a look at her past choreography, and is a further exploration of a show she did last December.
When she performed at Studio 206
last winter, she set up six different video monitors showing takes of her work since the 1980s, from solos, to duets to group dances. "Since I've started choreographing, I've never really looked back at my work," she says. "But I had all these video tapes so I thought, 'What am I doing? What was this for? Who did this?'"
Along with the videos, she displayed framed costumes and posters to give some context. Performances included a solo piece that was a collection of works from the past, and a piece called 5 Dancers and a DJ.
Last year's reflective piece was so packed that she didn't get a chance to look at the video. This time, she's going to have gallery hours so people can look at the work at times outside of performances.
She's also teaching the solo piece to Sally Rouse, Kristin Van Loon, and Joanna Furnans--three dancers she's never danced with or choreographed. "It's a great process for me," she says, as she looks at her style of movement and codifies it.
Van Wieren says looking back has helped her to understand how she makes things. "I'm really figuring out my process. When I look at the dance that's going on now, it doesn't seem that different from what I was doing; it's this idiosyncratic downtown mood."
Van Wieren's dance has always been visual, influenced by her fine arts training. She was trained as a ballet dancer, but ended up focusing on visual art when she went to the Art Institute of Chicago. Then, when she moved to Minneapolis in the late 1970s, she worked at the Walker Art Center as a guard and at the front desk (while writing grants on the sly). "There was a whole group of us there that were artists," Van Wieren recalls. She started to choreograph on her friends who worked at there, and eventually showed her efforts at the Walker's Choreographer's Evening in 1981.
In 1985, Van Wieren left the Walker when she received a Bush Fellowship for Choreography. But that was only part of the reason. "The Walker said that I would not have a job if I took the five-week fellowship trip that I was about to take," she says. "I had helped in the effort to organize a union, so they really did not want me back."