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The BodyCartography Project: Exploring Kinesthetic Empathy

The newest installment of TALK DANCE with Justin Jones highlights the upcoming world premiere and Walker commission of Super Nature by the BodyCartography Project with music by Zeena Parkins. Not only is this Jones’s third interview with co-directors Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad, but he’s also performing in the work this weekend. In the conversation, […]

The newest installment of TALK DANCE with Justin Jones highlights the upcoming world premiere and Walker commission of Super Nature by the BodyCartography Project with music by Zeena Parkins. Not only is this Jones’s third interview with co-directors Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad, but he’s also performing in the work this weekend. In the conversation, Bieringa and Ramstad provide a glimpse into their new work, their research involving somatic practices, and their process. Additionally, they ask questions of Jones, giving him the opportunity to share insights regarding what it’s like to be a performer in Super Nature.

The BodyCartography Project is a Twin Cities–based company whose work explores empathy and the intersections of wild and urban landscapes through dance, performance, video, and installation. The inspiration for Super Nature came from a previous performance, where Bieringa observed the kinesthetic response of audience members to her eye contact and movement. That response is something that Ramstad and Bieringa encounter regularly through their somatic studies and their practice of Body-Mind Centering.

Bieringa: [Referring back to neuroscience and empathy research] As dancers, we go to all these – I’ve been to – lectures with philosophers talking about this and scientists talking about this research- or just about the body even and how the brain works.  As dancers, I feel like we’re so advanced in knowing that information already.  And that dance is really this tool that we can… it’s like a very direct way for us to take any discipline or any area of research and be able to process it and digest it and have a response to it in a really immediate way. And I think as dance makers, it’s a very cool thing about the form that we have.  It’s this way of really figuring something out quite quickly because we trust the subject of experience.  We let the subject of experience be true- it is what we know. And so there’s a way in which we’re really close to that, as a kind of truth for ourselves.  It is our knowledge base.  That, for me, is what’s so awesome about dancing and why I make dances.  Because, it’s really this way of processing and having a relationship to the world we live in through our bodies.

Ramstad:  It’s beyond awesome and cool; it’s also very powerful.  I feel like the embodying experience is very, very powerful.  And, I’ve thought about that at different times.  When I feel in that state we were talking about – really engaged – it feels very powerful, and I feel very –

Bieringa: We can change our worldview, just through different movement practices.

Ramstad:  I don’t even think about worldview or other things.  Just that experience is powerful and I like to remember that and think about that when I think about the position we have in society.  As artists, in particular dancers, this really impoverished art form that one can’t take that as an analogue as being a powerless person.  Because we have zero dollars and we’re not in pop culture, we have this very almost subliminal feeling in culture, if you look at it as a whole.  What we get from that and what we can share is so powerful, just that experience of being and embodiment. (35:25 – 38:00)

You can listen to the full interview here.

Super Nature will be in performance at the Walker Art Center Thursday thru Saturday, October 25– 27; all shows are at 8 pm. Post-show activities include meeting the artists in the Balcony Bar on Thursday, a Q&A session with the artists on Friday, and a SpeakEasy discussion in the Balcony Bar with local choreographer Rosy Simas and Walker tour guide Mary Dew on Saturday.