Choreography Installation Fills the Brower Center
Nancy Karp + Dancers commune with the building to blunt its sharpness.
Nancy Karp + Dancers mix media for the dance installation at the Brower Center this month.
Photo by John Hefti
Known for Dan Solomon’s ecologically impressive architecture, the David Brower Center in downtown Berkeley is a home for more than two-dozen environmental organizations. For one weekend this month it also hosts the Nancy Karp + Dancers performance installation On Beauty. The building’s stark luminosity and the current exhibit, which honors environmentalist Doug Tompkins, inspired the work.
Having the creative process take place in the building and open to the public gave Karp the opportunity to see how her six dancers might relate to an ambient audience. In an early December rehearsal, they felt quite at home pushing themselves against rough concrete walls, squeezing through tight spaces, slithering along the floor, and appearing to be flying against window walls. And all of this happened in the context of the luscious beauty of nature photographs taken from a plane
Karp has created close to two dozen installations in her 30-year career. The invitation from the Brower Center intrigued her because of the rigorous architecture and her admiration for Tompkins. “I like the brutalist-inspired architecture,” she commented about the building. “I think the rounded shapes of my dancers can soften it.” Before starting the process, Karp had walked the gallery and took notes of her reaction to what she saw and felt.
Karp, like many of her colleagues, relies on a give and take with her dancers. Here she let two of them work out an intricate lift and had another one create a relationship with a banister. What looks like a casual relaxed process will turn into subtle, crystalline, and resonant choreography—if Karp’s previous work is any indication. Her musical taste veers toward contemporary classical scores. For On Beauty, she considered foregoing music. But then she decided to approach composer Charles Amirkhanian with whom she has worked before. He was a logical choice: His Other Minds contemporary music organization has its headquarters upstairs. He, apparently, decided on using sounds from nature. “I see him every once a while going in and out of the building,” Karp said. He just might also get ideas from the dancers.
Nancy Karp + Dancers, On Beauty, Feb. 9, 8 p.m., Feb. 10 and 11, 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., $35, Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, NancyKarp.org
This story appears in the February issue of our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.