Ursula Eagly talks about her new Chocolate Factory dance

Ursula Eagly talks about her new Chocolate Factory dance, Self Made Man Man Made Land

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Ursula Eagly, Self Made Man Man Made Land

Ursula Eagly, Self Made Man Man Made Land Photograph: Will Cohen


Ursula Eagly premieres a new dance at the Chocolate Factory. Self Made Man Man Made Land is a duet for Ursula Eagly and Abby Block with music by the Japanese composer Kohji Setoh that explores structure and pure movement. In the work, which is at the Chocolate Factory March 27 through 30, Ursula Eagly creates a pale dance in which the choreography and music are the main ingredients.

Lately, Ursula Eagly has been pondering structure. (That should make more sense of the image she’s using to represent her new piece, Self Made Man Man Made Land.) In the dance, a duet for Abby Block and herself, Eagly collaborates with Japanese composer Kohji Setoh to create a work based solely on movement. Performed in the round at the Chocolate Factory beginning March 27, Self Made, as the willowy blond choreographer describes it, is a pale dance. “I’m wearing clothes that were dyed to match the color of my skin,” she says. “It would make sense to be nude, but being nude attracts so much attention. I want the clothes to not be present.” In other words, the movement is what matters. 

Time Out New York: Where are you from?
Ursula Eagly:
I grew up in West Lafayette, Indiana, which is where Purdue University is. The Boilermakers.

Time Out New York: When did you start dancing?
Ursula Eagly:
I started with ballet since that’s all I had access to growing up. My first ballet teacher, Kathleen Kaysen, had been a Balanchine dancer. Sandra Peticolis was my teacher later. I enjoyed ballet, but I never thought that I would be dancing at the age I am now. I got interested in making work when I got to university—I guess it’s when I had my first experiences with contemporary art. I had never really seen contemporary art. My parents were very invested in exposing the kids to art, but it was a lot of Impressionist paintings and things like that. We would go to the Art Institute of Chicago.

Time Out New York: Where did you go to college?
Ursula Eagly:
I studied at Princeton, so I spent a lot of time coming to New York and seeing visual art and dance here. There were a few guest artists who were at the program there, including Aleta Hayes and Jill Sigman. They were really important teachers to me. I had these amazing audience experiences. I wanted to be a part of the making and the thinking about dance.

Time Out New York: What did you study at Princeton?
Ursula Eagly:
I graduated in anthropology. You can’t major in dance. It’s sort of a minor; the program is growing a lot since they got that giant grant, and Susan Marshall is the new head of the program. I think there are going to be a lot more possibilities.

Time Out New York: When did you start getting involved in the dance world? At Princeton?
Ursula Eagly:
Even there, I loved it, but I never really felt like I had any models for how to do it. I moved to New York and my first job was at ARTnews magazine. I was the editorial production assistant, which is a job that I don’t think exists anymore; it’s from when things were typeset, and it was in Quark and I would basically enter the editor’s changes. I learned a lot about copy-editing. I adjusted the spacing between the letters so that the breaks would be in the right places. Then I was a curatorial assistant at the Brooklyn Museum.

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1 comments
Maida Withers
Maida Withers

Lydia Mokdessi introduced me to your work. Lydia is a friend and a former student in dance. I read where you were born in West Lafayette Indiana. I taught dance at Purdue from 1960 to 1963. I rescued dance from three faculty wives who had a stranglehold on it there until I arrived. I did some acting there as well. Hope we can meet some time. http://www.maidadance.com