Chase Granoff

The choreographer follows his intuition and rebecomes a dancer.



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What is it?
It was for the first show I ever had and a section of that show I turned into a video piece. I made it at the point when I was sneaking into—and he knew it—one of Andr Lepecki's performance studies classes at NYU. There was a project where you either had to write X number of pages, or you could write a little less if you did another kind of project expressing your paper, so I made a video. The deal was that I could sit in on the class as long as I could get myself in the building and did the work. So I made this video piece. It was an exciting time as a young artist. It was right when I was coming out of ballet. I had also [just] danced for Karole Armitage.

When Karole moved back from Europe, the very first show she did at the Joyce was Time Is the Echo of an Axe Within a Wood, and I was going to be in that piece. She knew me from David Howard's ballet class, and she held a workshop at Joyce Soho that you were paid to be in. We took voguing class and martial arts and then she gave me a contract to start the piece with the company she was forming. She decided I should be more like an apprentice, which was great. But then at some point she also asked me to become her assistant, kind of—at that point, I said, "I'm not interested in this project anymore." I didn't want to get caught up in having to run errands or get coffee. I don't know if that's what would have happened, but that was my fear at the time. I didn't want to just be taking notes or working music cues. That didn't sound fun to me.

And that's when you did this show at Chashama and were sneaking into Lepecki's class?
Yes. I went to his class two or three times. I thought it was going to be a big seminar class, but there were only about 20 people all sitting in a circle—it was very intimate. So after two classes I said, "I feel like I have to tell you something, but I'm very worried that if I tell you this it means I can't come to your class anymore. I'm not a student at NYU." And he said, "Oh yeah, I knew that already." I had an ID, because I took a class at NYU when I was in high school. He said, "I can't sign you into the building every class, but if you can get yourself into the building and do the readings..." We became kind of friends for a while after that. He curated me.

In Berlin, right?
Yeah. And I helped organize some conversations for him in his class. He wanted to invite some artists; I think DD Dorvillier came. Trajal Harrell, Julie Tolentino. He's been a very encouraging guy. And Jenn Joy, who I worked with in my last show at the Kitchen, I met in that class.

Tell me about the title: intuition is preceding over my understanding.
It's a crazy title. It's an excerpt of a quote from Toshiya Tsunoda, a Japanese sound artist, from an article he wrote about his practice. In making a solo, I was definitely thinking about external and internal landscape, and how the body can carve out landscapes—both place and emotion. So I was doing a little googling on soundscape artists or people who really just do audio recordings of places. This Japanese guy was talking about something that he was doing where he puts microphones on his temples—it's beyond me—and he walks around and that's how he does some of his audio recordings. He said something like, "I don't know why I put them there—I just know that that's where they need to be." It kind of resonated with what I was trying to do in the studio: to just move and let that be as honest as it could be. In the moment, I would be sincere and there would be something worth sharing in that. So I thought that little quote captured, in a few words, what I was trying to do and it still resonates.

So if you are reconnecting to dance or "rebecoming a dancer," what does that entail? Are you taking classes again?
A couple of years ago, I did take some ballet classes, which felt like the beginning of this. I've been trying to take more yoga classes. [Laughs] I think it's more a state of mind actually.

You should take Gaga class.
Yeah, I would like to actually. I took Gaga before it was Gaga from Ohad [Naharin]. I took company class twice. It was very scary. [Laughs] Two things I remember very clearly were beating on another person—not hard, but like massage—and running around the space. And if you caught somebody's eye, having to curse at them. I just remember, Whoa! I'd never been to a class where they were doing stuff like that.

And you took ballet classes, too?
Yeah. I really wanted to get back in shape, and I'm not necessarily in shape right now, but that was part of this process of wanting to rediscover my body. I felt really outside of my body. That's what it's about and that's why I said "rebecoming a dancer." This piece is less about getting in shape, although that was part of it—and more about trying to feel comfortable in my body again. I did ballet and then I got into Andr's class and reading and thinking about that kind of work that he was talking about. In some ways, that took me away from the body. I was dancing with RoseAnne Spradlin, which was very in the body, but my pieces were always coming from a concept first. This time, I wanted to make a piece that starts from me going into the studio and being in my body and moving. With my last show at the Kitchen, I looked back at some historical dance figures like Doris Humphrey and Simone Forti. I see a lot of movement in their work. Dance. Pure. And so I thought I needed to work in those modes in order to find a place where I could then be in my own mode. I was being sincere, but I allowed myself to move in a very modern way—like Doris Humphrey—to make line and to make shape, and it was very empowering. I think through doing that, I started to feel more comfortable to allow myself to go into the studio and just dance. I needed that.

Chase Granoff performs at the Chocolate Factory Nov 16--19.

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