In the second-floor studios of Columbia College, two dancers—one male, one female—eat bananas, using the peels as faux penises. They pretend to pee in urinals before dropping the peels on the floor.
“I just want that image, that fleeting image of someone peeing or something bodily,” says Carrie Hanson, artistic director of the Seldoms. “You’re discarding something. It’s careless in a way.” From Hanson, such whimsy is typical. The 43-year-old innovator was named one of Dance Magazine’s 2012 “25 to Watch,” in part for her much-lauded choreography and ingenuity.
During today’s rehearsal, the dancers have to adjust to her style. That’s because they’re not Hanson’s artists; they’re WenChung Lin’s. The Taiwanese-based contemporary troupe WCdance, which Lin founded, has taken up residence in Chicago as part of a monthlong collaboration with the Seldoms, culminating in a joint performance at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts Thursday 28 through Sunday 1. Hanson and Lin have agreed to choreograph with each other’s company members—a chance to learn from one another culturally and artistically. “It certainly shows [the Seldoms] more who we are and areas we can grow in,” Hanson says. She notes the technical efficiency of Lin’s dancers, whereas hers, she says, are “kinetic” and “athletic”—characteristics that often distinguish them from other companies. “It’s sort of a clarifying and crystallizing moment for us.”
There’s a brief pause between sets before Lin, the 38-year-old former Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company member, preps the stage. It’s his turn with the Seldoms. Company members drape beach towels in front of their faces and then drop to the floor and cover themselves—just a brief excerpt. “It’s very rough right now,” Lin says.
As it happens, “rough” is what got him here. After a recommendation from a colleague, Hanson watched YouTube videos of WCdance. She saw something she liked, “a certain kind of roughness,” she says, “a real kind of emotional and physical drive that I recognized was similar to both groups.” What she viewed were clips of Lin’s “Small” series, an ambitious collection of minimalist work that investigates spatial constraints, including a piece that features Lin’s dancers performing within a three-by-three-square-meter plexiglass box.
Like Hanson, Lin has an edgy mind, testing boundaries and embracing unorthodox methods. “I don’t know if he’s eventually going to bring in inflatable toys, but I know he was looking for some,” Hanson says of Lin, only somewhat jokingly.
While the two choreographers share interests, Lin is quick to note their differences. “[Hanson’s] an issue-based choreographer. I think it’s something in her mind and in her way to present a piece,” Lin says. “I think I need that more. The passion of society, the meaning of different issues.
“It’s good for me to get out of my studio to see something different and see new bodies,” he continues. “Working with American dancers is totally different than working with my own dancers. The way they think, the way they input.”
Of collaborative, cross-cultural endeavors, Lin says, “I want [the dancers] to have the opportunity to do many different things, from choreographers with different ambitions, different cultures. We can escape from our home. Our safe home.”
The Seldoms share the stage with WCdance Thursday 28 through Sunday 1 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.