The insight story
Dancer Kristina Fluty takes us inside Molly Shanahan's Eye Cycle
The play of light and the dancing body fascinate Molly Shanahan. She's been investigating these interrelated phenomena via her ongoing choreographic project Eye Cycle since late 2002, and dancer Kristina Fluty has been by her side the whole time.
"It's Molly's project, but I do feel that I've contributed immensely," Fluty says. Essentially an improvised duet for Shanahan and Fluty, the project's name describes the interactive loops of seeing and being seen that are enacted in any dance performance. This weekend at Links Hall, the two will perform Arithmetic of Shadows, the latest installment of Eye Cycle. Plus, audience members will get a special treat: a free copy of GLANCE, the new book that documents the Eye Cycle process from multiple perspectives of Shanahan and her collaborators.
Fluty came to Chicago especially to work with Shanahan, having first heard about her work from a fellow student at Point Park College in Pittsburgh. "My friend came back from a visit in Chicago and said, 'You have to see this choreography! It's perfect for you!' But I was dead set on going to New York." After a few years in the Big Apple, she made the move to Chicago to check out Shanahan. "I didn't like how crowded and dirty New York was," Fluty says. "And I looked at all the artists I admired, like Will Swanson, David Dorfman and Lisa Race. All the people who danced for them were still waiting tables, and I wanted a better quality of life." Plus, Fluty was drawn to Shanahan's movement style. "It was way more connected to what I wanted—organic, easy but intricate, exploratory. Allowing the body to find its own way of moving rather than controlling it to do something it doesn't want to do."
GLANCE includes excerpts from Fluty's and Shanahan's journals created during the process of working on Eye Cycle. Tracking their observations of light through writing was part of their regular practice, and the two shared a journal by e-mailing a document back and forth. "I think it is 80 pages long now," Fluty says. "It was an incredible process. The complement of writing and dancing was really profound." She admits that the practice sensitized her to seeing the world in new ways and left her feeling a little bit silly: "Recently I went into my bathroom, and because of the time of day it was this blue and violet pool of shimmering iridescence. I went and called Molly, saying 'We have to bring our video camera to my bathroom!'"
How does this contemplation of the visual lead to choreography? You might think that Shanahan is attempting to "act out" what she sees. But what Fluty describes is that the receptive qualities of the eye begin to permeate the dancer's way of using her body. "Our dancing becomes very soft and unedited in terms of what is coming out," she says. "These concepts and ideas of light and sight provide a kind of mantra, a cushion for us [as we dance]."
Exploration of the senses has been going on for years in dance subcultures such as the Contact Improvisation scene, but these ideas are just beginning to make it into more mainstream modern-dance creations.
Back in February, Fluty and Shanahan were surprised to find themselves called "the cutting edge of Chicago dance" by Dena Davida, artistic director of the Montreal dance-space Tangente, where they performed Eye Cycle and taught workshops for the Festival Montréal en Lumiére. "Everyone in the States has ideas that if they get to perform in Europe or Canada, the more culturally knowledgeable audiences will be more receptive," Fluty says. "But what totally blew us away was that they thought we were so cutting edge. People were expressing to us that they'd never seen anything like it before."
Arithmetic of Shadows, in conjunction with the GLANCE book launch, will be performed at Links Hall www.linkshall.org June 2 through 12.