Talk Dance is a podcast series devoted to in-depth conversations with dance artists produced and hosted by local dancer, educator, and commentator Justin Jones. In this installment, Jones speaks with Minneapolis-based choreographer Chris Schlichting, whose Walker-commissioned piece Stripe Tease will premiere at the Walker February 19–21. You can find the podcast on the Walker Channel.
Watching the first iteration of Chris Schlichting’s Stripe Tease at MTM@10: Momentum in the Garden was magical. As I drove up to the Walker on Hennepin Avenue, I caught a glimpse of something hanging from the trees—like someone had very artfully “teepeed” the sculpture garden. When I got closer I saw how carefully Chris and visual artist Jennifer Davis had placed each hand-painted butcher-paper streamer. I loved how the set invited me to dream up and away from the dance and reminded me to look down at the stage and pay attention! The weather was summery and amazing (think opposite of February) and the piece, Den Rags, was lush, soft, and at times hypnotic. After it was over, I loved watching Chris and the cast carefully lower each streamer down from the trees with string.
That first impression of the set, which at first glance it reminded me of a banal high-school prank and then revealed itself as something beautiful, is indicative of my experience of Chris’ work. As I watch his dances I feel something similar to a concept Chris brought up in our interview earlier this month. He said, “Kristin Van Loon (of HIJACK) talks about this attraction/repulsion dynamic that really connects with my interests in the form…there are things you find yourself attracted to and then there are things that you’re attracted to but feel kind of gross, and so you’re negotiating those frictions. To me it stirs up questions and keeps me interested.” Those frictions keep me interested too.
We covered a lot of ground when we spoke: the difficulties of transitioning his work from outdoor stage to proscenium theater; collaborations with Visual Artist Jen Davis and Guitarist/Composer Jeremy Ylvisaker (Alpha Consumer); connections between Chris’ interest in Food and Dance; and Chris’ longtime employment at the University of Minnesota’s Architecture Department. However, the thing I was most curious to talk about was the sexual content of his work. It comes to you first in the in the titles of his works (to name a few: Dirty (2006), Love Things (2009), Public Hair (2011), I’m Not Sure What This Wetness Is (2011), and Matching Drapes (2013)). But it also comes in the slyly suggestive movement vocabulary and the evocative relationships and situations between performers onstage. I wanted to know where this comes from and how he’s thinking about it in the larger context of his work. Chris spoke eloquently about his interest in “the power and the beauty of these things that we sometimes associate with being somehow dirty […] some people might consider this gross and grotesque but it’s contextualizing it. These things are also beautiful and these are parts of the human experience.”
Listen to Jones’ entire conversation with Schlichting here.
Stripe Tease will have its world premiere in the Walker’s McGuire Theater Thursday–Saturday, February 19–21, 2015 at 8 pm.