Kate Watson-Wallace Mashes Up Dance at FringeArts

Choreographer Kate Watson-Wallace returns to FringeArts June 4-6, 2015, with MASH UP BODY,a contemporary dance piece that examines the evolution and destruction of identity.

Now based in Brooklyn, NY, Watson-Wallace was a performer for Philadelphia’s Headlong Dance Company from 2003 to 2011. As part of interdisciplinary movement group Anonymous Bodies she creates experimental performance for the stage, site-based locations, and music videos. Works include HOUSE, a performance for 15 audience members inside an abandoned row home (2004 Fringe Festival); CAR, a performance for 4 audience members who sit inside a moving vehicle (2008 Fringe Festival); and STORE, a performance installation inside an abandoned mega-store (2009 Fringe Festival).

For MASH UP BODY, Watson-Wallace came into rehearsals with her own creation and encouraged her dancers to destroy and reinterpret the work. “When I got into the room with the dancers, there was a moment when they had very clear ideas about what they wanted to explore that I hadn’t gotten to,” says Watson-Wallace.  “So we went there.  It was messy and uncomfortable and amazing.  So it became the structure of the piece.”

Electronic music tastemaker Hprizm, High Priest formerly of the legendary hip hop trio Antipop Consortium, will be mixing a live improvisational score onstage, providing a sonic landscape inspired by hip-hop, experimental jazz, and ambient electronica. The accompanying movement has two parts: First, a dance that embodies the value systems of the choreographer is imposed on the ensemble.  Dancers adorned in black hoods and masks mimic and elaborate on movement, remaining inside the strict boundaries that have been set out for them.

photo-Mash-UpSecond, the cast remixes and destroys the systems of the original dance.  The channel changes from black and white to a Technicolor acid trip, and all rules go out the window, demonstrating a dancer’s ability to declare the autonomy of their own body.  By doing so, Watson-Wallace and her dancers hope to use performance to reflect larger cultural and political power structures.

“I always think it is deeply political for a woman to be in charge,” says Watson-Wallace.  “This is a female and trans cast [Jasmine Hearn, Cori Olinghouse, devynn emory, Haylee Nichell, and Melanie Cotton] because there was something I was trying to get at about these experiences in particular.  I also keep trying to understand for myself what a feminist rehearsal room looks and feels like.  I think straight white men could learn a lot from this process.” [FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Boulevard] June 4-6, 2015; fringearts.com.

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Christopher Munden

Your faithful correspondent and publisher Christopher Munden has written and edited for many publications, websites, and cultural institutions. He was an editor/publisher of the Philly Fiction book series, collections of short stories written by local writers and set in Philadelphia. He's also a soccer coach and a pretty good skier.