‘Shifting Time’ Contemplates Time

Megan Nicely and Dawn Karlovsky collaborate for a Shawl-Anderson Dance Center premiere.


Megan Nicely in Shifting Time.

Photo by Michael Woolsey

Friendships established in college can peter out, but they can also thrive through time and distance. Such is the case for Megan Nicely and Dawn Karlovsky who met in a dance workshop in the Catskills.

One was on the way to graduate school at Mills College, the other to the University of Utah. But dance has a pretty tight network of connections, and so it not surprising that the two women found each other again.

While they may have much in common, in an email, Nicely also described differences. Her approach to dance-making is sometimes “more conceptually [driven while] Dawn’s comes very much from a physical movement interest.”

Karlovsky has settled in St. Louis, Mo., while Nicely’s peripatetic life includes major time in San Francisco. Long-distance collaboration, apparently, was not much of an issue for these two women.

Shifting Time, a commission from Karlovsky & Company Dance, received its world premiere in a proscenium theater in St. Louis. For the local premiere at the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, the two choreographers restructure the work as a site-specific installation in the center’s four studios.

Thematically, Nicely describes the multisectional Shifting — solos, duets, and an ensemble with Karlovsky’s sextet of dancers — in terms of contemporary notions of time. “Time,” she wrote, “is just a construct.” It is a way for us to make sense of constant change — “from day-to-day tasks to aging to longer environmental spans,” she wrote, adding somewhat wistfully that “Dawn and I are also, well, not 20 anymore, so aging as a dancer and continuing to be active dancers and dance makers was also present.”

St. Louis composer/performer Tody Starbuck, who will perform live in Berkeley, created a score from both instrumental and environmental sources. If by any chance you think you see some elements of Butoh dance in Shifting, it is there. Nicely has been interested and studied this glacially timed Japanese art form for many years.

Shifting Time, Megan Nicely/Dance and Karlovsky & Company Dance, Fri., June 28, and Sat., June 29, 8 p.m., $20 cash at the door, Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, 2704 Alcatraz Ave., Berkeley.

This article originally appeared in our sister publication, The East Bay Monthly.

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