Megan Sprenger talks about her new dance Flutter

Megan Sprenger talks about her new dance Flutter, a delicate quartet at the Chocolate Factory

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Time Out New York: How are you setting the space up?  
Megan Sprenger:
The seating will be when you walk in facing the windows. The set—we’re going all white, all the time, in the plainest words. [Laughs] And using subtle grays and soft colors to help add dimension and individuality to the performers. Part of me loves how raw the space is, but I didn’t want the piece to be in direct contrast with the room, so we’re trying to soften it up a little bit. Brad Kisicki is using a gauze-mesh to come up and over the stage. We’re going to make a floating wall in the back; it’s always bothered me how the windows are treated differently. One’s blacked out and one isn’t and one has an air conditioner. I wanted to clear the visual field a little bit. When you face the other way, you have so much information. Part of me wanted to face that way…

Time Out New York: Where you can see the elevator shaft?
Megan Sprenger:
Yeah. It’s so beautiful, and it adds so much possibility, but for me it ended up being a deterrent; it became distracting: How am I going to deal with that thing?  It’s not relevant. The costumes are white as well. Naomi Luppescu is designing them; I wanted costume-costumes and not pedestrian-costumes, which is what my work has been in the past, so she’s done a lot of work in costume-costume land.

Time Out New York: Why did you want costumes for this piece?   
Megan Sprenger:
Partially because it feels extremely specific, and while it’s based in the individual, I didn’t want the individual to only be seen through their clothing. When you put people in pedestrian clothes, it quickly can become that. But I also wasn’t interested in a simple dance costume, like jazz pants and a shirt. I wanted something more tailored, and it felt like the right time to make that leap. There’s no reason not to do something more formal. They’re still going to feel somewhat pedestrian; they’re not feathers. It’s not like I’ve made them animals or anything like that, but it’s a little more formal. All the same fabric, but different design.

Time Out New York: What drove you to want to focus more on creating movement? 
Megan Sprenger:
I’ll tell you what inspired the piece. It’s not entirely relevant, but I feel like it’s helpful to understand where I was coming from. It was years ago, so now it feels really distant. I question telling you, but I think it’s worth noting. [Laughs] I’ve had a couple of orthopedic surgeries, and during my last one, just through complete miscommunication with the anesthesiologist, I woke up on the table. Nothing went wrong. I just woke up. Everything ended, and I went home. But it left me scarred in a way that I didn’t know how to deal with, and it wasn’t that I didn’t have a support system, I just literally didn’t know how to cope with this vast difference from when I walked in and was like, I’ve got this, I’ve done this before, piece of cake, to walking out and feeling shattered.

Time Out New York: What happened?
Megan Sprenger:
It was a foot surgery. They removed a nerve from the bottom of my foot and cleaned out my ankle. I broke my foot performing in Spain in 2001; I didn’t know I broke my foot until spring of 2002, so by the time they figured it out, I had to have a pin and a screw, some nerve fixing and some other stuff, and that happened while I was in college. Since then, they took out the pin and the screw, took out more nerves, and then a couple of years ago during a freak Manhattan summer rainstorm, I ended up having to run in the streets barefoot, because I had on flimsy flip-flops…that just did it. I ended up going back to surgery. Thank God for my foot surgeon—love him. It’s something I’d experienced before: same hospital, everything was the same. But because I was older, they wanted to change my anesthesia; instead of a general, they gave me a spinal. I was being rushed, because some other surgery had been canceled, and I didn’t ask for as many details as I probably should have, which also ended up being an issue for me after, because I was like, You were totally in control of that whole thing. Basically, they gave me an epidural; you’re numb, and they knock you out so that you’re not conscious. The sleep part wore off, but the other was still there; I couldn’t move. You think you feel pain; I remember saying, “I feel pain.” But it was the tourniquet, and all I saw was a room of blue, and I remember saying, “Hello?” I have it written down, because I was going to use this as text in the piece. It was, “Hello? Hello?” “Are you awake?” And then I’d fall back asleep and wake up and have that same experience of waking up in this blue room and thinking, Oh my God, I’m awake. It was dark. It was weird. It was fine. They were fine. Nobody freaked out, it’s just that I had a difficult time coping with the fact that it was scary, and there was nothing I could do to make it better other than just trying to fall back asleep. I was having a hard time communicating; it’s not like you’re crystal clear—you’re still under. It caused a rift for me, and I had a really hard time dealing with it. I ended up in therapy and that kind of crap, mainly because I didn’t know how to deal with it. I wasn’t able to separate the independent woman who can deal with this shit from the person who was really struggling with it.

Time Out New York: So it was about control; that’s funny because your previous two works were all about control.
Megan Sprenger:
Yes. So working from that, I wanted Flutter to come from this really personal experience and not from this exterior artwork. I wanted the movement to be driven by the individual performers and for the actual vocabulary to come from them, but for the phrasing to be mine. We filmed hours of improvisation, where they would get up and dance. Sometimes they’d have some direction, sometimes they wouldn’t. My intention was to create mini-biographies about each of them, and they were trying to share themselves as much as possible through movement and to try to step away from things that felt like habit or something that they’d been doing a lot in class—where they end up adopting their teacher’s movement style. The dancers worked on scripts; because it had come from such a specific point in my life, I wanted them to share something personal or a secret and then to describe an instance where they felt that they either were able to build on a relationship with somebody else or that they were not. I said, “You don’t have to memorize it, but I want you to have that information in your body and to welcome us in as much as possible.” Those improvs were the most successful, because they were working with personal material without having to tell me anything directly. I want people to pull from personal experience to create intention without feeling like they are stuck or being asked to relive something.


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