Megan Sprenger talks about her new dance Flutter

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

Megan V. Sprenger at Performance Space 122; mvworks

Megan V. Sprenger at Performance Space 122; mvworks Photograph: Yi-Chun Wu

After three years of professional and physical drama, Megan V. Sprenger returns to the stage with Flutter. In the interim, the choreographer worked at Dance Theater Workshop during its transition to New York Live Arts and endured a traumatic foot surgery. Flutter—starring dancers Donna Cicchesi, Michael Ingle, Tara O'Con and Anna Adams Stark—is the one aspect of her life that remained consistent. After inviting Brian Rogers to view the work, Sprenger is set to open the fall season of the Chocolate Factory. In anticipation, she talks about balancing professional and artistic life, studying composition with Neil Greenberg and learning to forfeit control.

Megan V. Sprenger’s subtle new Flutter draws on her dancers’ personalities. In the work, which kicks off the Chocolate Factory’s fall season, beginning September 18, Sprenger relates vulnerability and individuality with a need to connect, via an intricate layering of movement culled from hours of improvisations. The dance, featuring Donna Cicchesi, Michael Ingle, Tara O’Con and Anna Adams Stark, takes place under a five-section canopy structure—designed by Brad Kisicki—which frames Sprenger’s intricate choreographic world. Sprenger spoke about its inspiration—she woke up on the operating table during foot surgery—and how that traumatic experience led her to soften things up.

Time Out New York: You’ve been working on this piece for a long time. Why did you keep coming back to it?
Megan Sprenger:
I’ve been making Flutter since the last piece—almost—which was in 2009. So we started making Flutter in 2010. We remounted …within us. that January. We didn’t work nonstop; there was a thing that happened over there on 19th Street [Sprenger previously worked at Dance Theater Workshop during its transition to New York Live Arts] that took up a lot of my time. [Laughs] So my artistic process has always had to be in and out of my professional life. That’s part of it. I have and still have a really strong relationship with Vallejo [Gantner, artistic director of Performance Space 122, where Sprenger showed her last two works], but hadn’t really developed other curatorial relationships, so in making this work, I was also trying to woo some curators and to bring them into the process. I was making the work while they were coming in and out. Once Brian Rogers at the Chocolate Factory picked it up, I said, “Excellent.” We put it down for a couple of months and picked it back up.

Time Out New York: Who else did you invite?
Megan Sprenger:
Judy Hussie-Taylor. Judy and Brian mainly. Carla [Peterson of NYLA] and I always had a different relationship; at the time, I didn’t feel like it was appropriate to be adding anything else onto it.

Time Out New York: Were you still working at NYLA then?
Megan Sprenger:
Yes. I left in June of 2012. I was with Live Arts for a year. It also explains the length of the process a little bit.

Time Out New York: I’ve always been intrigued by how you could do both, meaning work at an arts organization in publicity and marketing and be an artist yourself.
Megan Sprenger:
Part of it is the on-and-off nature of it. I don’t prefer to work this way—not in only just maintaining a core, collaborative group, because not everyone enjoys working over this length of time, but also because of my stamina. It’s been interesting: Generally, my process has been one-and-a-half to two years. I need that amount of time to manage both. And the dance company’s administrative attention for me is very minimal, because my life is arts administration, so the last thing I want to do is go home and write a grant. If I show work every two years, my funding cycle just helps me not go broke, go crazy and maintain what I have had to maintain: a full-time professional life and my artistic endeavors.

Time Out New York: How is Flutter a departure for you?
Megan Sprenger:
The inspiration for the last two works was always external. No Where was made through P.S. 122’s Room program; they were asking artists to investigate working with nonartist collaborators, like scientists, historians, and I worked with a mathematician. So there was a lot of external information informing the work, and what interested me at the time was kinetic transfer and that ability for something to be really simple, but to impact somebody. It was really sterile, and people had a hard time with it, but it satisfied my need to explore that. The thing about No Where—audience has always played an important part in my work, but in that piece, there was no actual direct anything—you were totally outside. The goal was still to connect, but it was through a kinetic sensibility and not through anything else, whereas …within us. almost flipped it. The audience members and performers were directly interconnected. You weren’t asked to participate where you were onstage and speaking, but you were integrated fully into the experience, and there was touch and weight and all sorts of proximity. This piece is much quieter and much more abstract. From just an experiential standpoint, it feels very different.

Time Out New York: So it’s less austere?
Megan Sprenger:
There is tons of movement. Tons of layering. There’s some stillness in the work, but it’s always layered with something else. There’s a lot happening at once, and you’re looking through something that is more abstract in nature possibly due to something that feels more narrative.

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