Sam Miller talks about his dynamic (and completely free) River to River Festival

Sam Miller talks about his exciting River to River Festival, which takes place this summer in lower Manhattan

Time Out New York: Did you have to talk to them to find out if they had an interest in site work, or did you have an idea?
Sam Miller:
I see their work, and I just have feelings. [Laughs] Some I talk to all the time; some I’d never talked to until I brought them to this table. But you just have a sense. If you follow someone like Vanessa Anspaugh from Fresh Tracks to this point, it’s like, This is good. On the other hand, I talk to Enrico Wey all the time.

Time Out New York: Is Enrico’s piece considered a finished piece or an open rehearsal?
Sam Miller:
I think with Rico, you’re always going to get a hybrid or a shared process. It’s going to be a few years before you get something. And what you get is so interesting. That’s the nice thing about River to River. Because it’s free work, I don’t really have to be aggressive in that distinction: Well, you’re paying for this, so that’s a finished work, but this is in the studio, and it’s not a finished work.

Time Out New York: What drew you to Enrico? When did you first see his work?
Sam Miller:
He did a shared program at Danspace, and I just thought he had a great quality. He was interested in space and in creating environments—he had this idea of creating a building within a building. That’s the way he was thinking.

Time Out New York: Could you talk about Reggie Wilson?
Sam Miller:
One of the things about this is you’re creating a group. We have monthly and bimonthly meetings of the 12 choreographers and because of schedules, you’re not going to get all 12, but you get six or seven at a time and one of the things I like about Reggie is the way he talks to other artists, looks at their work, hears them talk. But I also like his work very much. He made a piece that was done on the Custom House steps a number of years ago—it was for Sitelines, and I thought it was great. Over the years, I have just enjoyed seeing his work and hearing him talk about it and I thought he’d be a great presence in the program. I really like having him around.

Time Out New York: What about Vanessa Anspaugh?
Sam Miller:
When I saw Fresh Tracks, I said, Oh, this is a voice. This is somebody. And then you’re proved right; the work continues to be very particular, very individual. It’s like, this is a person who comes from her own voice. She’s great, and she does have that state of mind: She poses problems to herself, like, What is authorship? What is my role as a choreographer? What kinds of spaces am I going to confront?

Time Out New York: How about Luciana Achugar? She was in the festival last year too.
Sam Miller:
When I was first thinking about this program, I did talk to Ralph Lemon and I said, “Who are you looking at now?” He spoke to me about Luciana and Maria [Hassabi]. I said, “Oh yeah, I’ve really liked what I’ve been seeing there, too.” I didn’t know Luciana or Maria until Ralph introduced me to both of them, but I’d seen their work; putting Luciana in this situation was almost counterintuitive in a way I was interested in. When you look at work in the theater and think about it from a site-based perspective, I don’t really think, Oh this would look good outdoors. It’s really more, Could this ever be done outdoors, given the way she works with space and with light and darkness. You see that piece at the Kitchen [PURO DESEO], and you’re like, Wow. That would be a really interesting challenge. And the piece she did last year from Abrons [FEEL…FORM], it probably wouldn’t have been your first choice for a site piece, but she’s so interested in making you think differently about where you are and what you’re seeing. I intuitively thought she would be interested in this opportunity.

Time Out New York: I would love to see the Kitchen piece outside in the dark. Wouldn’t that be so scary?
Sam Miller:
Yeah! Really scary. Imagine if you ran into that by mistake?

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