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: Right. I’m a little confused by what she’s doing at River to River. It’s called Feeling Is Believing, and it’s a performative walk, right?
Sam Miller:
What she’s doing here is not her work for extended life, but it qualifies. These walks [co-presented by Elastic City] are coming from another place where an artist creates an idiosyncratic experience of some passage through space. She was already talking about doing it, so we said, “This year, you can do that as your activity.” All of the artists will come back next year.

Time Out New York: What about Silas Riener and Rashaun Mitchell?
Sam Miller:
When I saw Veal at the Invisible Dog, I thought they had not created the conditions in which that movement took place and that movement deserved better. So that was just, Let’s go there. When I talked to them, they felt the same way—it was like, “We’d love to do that.” They’re going to do two things. And people can do more than one thing over the two years. They can keep working on that material, and they can start a new project that will come to fruition next year.

Time Out New York: They will perform at the Elevated Acre. In Sitelines, choreographers would look around and find a site. It’s not so much like that now, is it?
Sam Miller:
It’s not. If we pointed some of them toward Water Street, it’s like a problem to solve. Tara O’Con’s piece [last year] was interesting to me; Tere O’Connor did his piece off Water Street too. Now as we head into ’14, we might be able to get onto the World Trade Center site. Until I’ve walked it, I’m not going to commit to it, but I’m thinking more that way.

Time Out New York: How did you choose Wally Cardona and Jennifer Lacey?
Sam Miller:
I’ve known Wally since he danced with Ralph Lemon, and I’m just really excited by the way he’s grown. This project that he’s doing with Jennifer totally intrigues me, and I just want to support it. I just want it to keep going. It is beginning to take a turn toward Southeast Asia; that’s not what’s manifesting this year, but it will in later years, and I just want to support it. It’s another great example of someone who loves getting into a situation and saying, “What am I trying to do here?”

Time Out New York: Could you explain what intrigues you about their project? Basically artists work separately and then come together to present a work, right?
Sam Miller:
Yeah. It’s about the transfer of knowledge in my mind and what that leads to. [Laughs] Did you see that Performa exhibit? One of the pieces was that somebody tells a story about what happened to them. It’s sort of like a talk-show format where they’re being interviewed, but the next thing that happens is that someone else comes on and interviews them, and they have to tell the story again. And it keeps happening. It was just a really fascinating piece, and I think that’s an aspect of what Wally is up to. One of the things I love in poetry is translation: the victory out of defeat—like it’s impossible to translate this, but I will anyway.

Time Out New York: Next is Souleymane Badolo. Did he come to you through Ralph?
Sam Miller:
That’s from Ralph, but I also have to say I saw the piece he did with Nora [Chipaumire] at the ICA in Boston, and I just was very impressed by that. Because of his work with Ralph, he was someone I was able to talk to. Going from Wally to Solo [Souleymane], the effort to take material from another culture and then channel it through your body to give it to new audiences is very challenging, but can be really rewarding. I admire his spirit in doing that. It’s very openhearted. And the thing is, when you put together a group like this, you want them to have different spirits. You don’t want them all to be a clique—let’s get all the cynical choreographers. You want really different spirits, and these are very different spirits. When I went to his NYLA show, he did two pieces, and I thought either of them would be interesting. He’s doing Barack. It’s a great choice. When you think about Maria’s and Luciana’s pieces last year, you encounter them, but they don’t encounter you; Solo will come at you, and that’s going to be a different feel for people.

Time Out New York: Like Luciana, Maria returns to the festival.
Sam Miller:
When you see Maria’s work—whether it’s at Danspace Project or at the Kitchen—my feeling about it is that it demands your full attention. Your first instinct is that’s why we create theaters. But one of my feelings here was she’s so good at that that she can do it anywhere. When she did the piece with Hristoula [Harakas] on Broad Street she proved it. Her new piece is going to involve more dancers, and I want to support that. I think she’s a really smart and interesting artist. The folks that we haven’t talked about are not doing anything this year. Faye Driscoll is another artist whose work I saw over time and really liked. Like Vanessa, she has a really distinct voice, and I wanted to bring her to the table. It was more curiosity than anything. And Andy Horwitz has worked with me over these three years, and Faye was an artist he was particularly interested in. DD Dorvillier is not showing this year, but I’m just a total fan of her work and seeing that revival of the piece she did at Danspace—

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