Today we have Winifred Haun with us for our feature…
1. How did you become involved in dance?
When I was 5 years old, I attended a little private school on Chicago’s north side. As an alternative to gym, they offered ballet classes on Fridays to the girls. I loved it, and sort of knew then that I would be a dancer for the rest of my life. When I was 10 years old, I started taking classes at the Ellis-DuBoulay School of Ballet. I think I received the best possible training in the city. Mr. and Mrs. ‘E’ trained not only our bodies but our minds. A lot of really successful Chicago dancers trained with them (Lou Conte is probably their most famous student). I also credit Harriet Ross for teaching me everything I know about modern technique. She also taught me how to perform and she and Randy Duncan encouraged me to choreograph.
2. What are you currently doing in the field?
I have my own dance company, Winifred Haun & Dancers. I started it in 1991 because I wanted to put together a group of artists who could help me create my work. My latest work, “Bento,” premieres March 17 & 18 at Hamlin Park Theater. I also teach modern dance at Hubbard St. Dance Center, and at Legere Dance Center in River Forest.
3. Can you share a special moment from your career?
One my favorite moments was when, as a member of the Joseph Holmes Dance Theater I first performed “Love Not Me,” choreographed by Randy Duncan, at the New Regal Theater in 1989. I had actually performed it a few times on tour, so it was really rehearsed. Despite all the preparation (I had great coaching from Harriet Ross), I felt terrible right after my performance, but I had a really quick costume change, so I didn’t have time to cry. After the show was over, the response and quick congratulations from Randy, Harriet, and my fellow dancers was so wonderful and so positive, that I still didn’t have time to cry or really be upset!
4. What advice would you offer other dancers?
Don’t worry about what others are doing or who’s getting what parts or into what company. Concentrate on yourself and make yourself into the best possible dancer you can. Take class as often as possible, listen to your teachers. Audition and then perform work for anybody who wants you. You never what will lead to what.
5. What have you had to struggle against in dance?
As a dancer, I always felt that being tall (I’m 5’ 9”) was a challenge. Most of the lead roles go to women who are shorter (they’re easier to partner). As a choreographer, just being a woman in a field where the top jobs are all held by men is a challenge. Women just don’t get the recognition for their work that men do. (I think women in all careers probably struggle with this…) Which is kind of ironic, given that the field is about 80% women.
One of my all time favorite dancers is Claire Bataille. I loved her stage presence and her control of her technique. Watching her in class, in rehearsal, and on stage was inspiring. My favorite choreographers are: Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Ohad Naharin, Eiko & Komo, William Forsythe, Randy Duncan, and Mark Morris. I love the risks that these artists take and how alive and individual they are. In my latest work, Bento, I honor some of these choreographers by purposely imitating their choreography. (Some have even “donated” 32 counts.)
As for young, local choreographers, my favorites are Jackie Stewart and Jessica Miller Tomlinson. I’m sharing a concert with them in March 2012 at the Ruth Page Center. (We just received a MetLife New Stages for Dance grant for this project!) I saw a concert that Jackie and Jessica shared a concert last year and it was amazing.
7. What is the best advice you have ever received regarding dance?
Hold your stomach in and move from your center. And don’t take yourself too seriously. Those are good life skills also!
8. Where do you think dance is going as an art form?
I think choreographically dance is moving away from ballet. In her amazing book “Apollo’s Angels,” Jennifer Homans, says that ballet is a dying art form, and I reluctantly agree with her. No one is moving the form forward and without constant re-invention, it will eventually not be an art. Ballet will always be a great technique with lots to offer any dancer who studies it. But, as an art form, dance is moving away from ballet. (Lots of my friends, teachers and colleagues will heartily disagree with me. To them I say, let’s have coffee and talk about it 🙂 )
I also think we are living in a great time for dance. I think more than ever are aware of dance as an art form. We have the current dance TV shows and the internet to thank for that!9. What is it about dance that you love so much?
I don’t know what it is but, I love watching dance, whether its a class, rehearsal, performance, or even my kids’ recitals. I love taking class, teaching class or coaching. I love all forms of dance: ballet, modern, jazz, tap, hip-hop, ballroom, etc. And I love making dances. Many times I have tried to live without making dances (my life would so much easier if I wasn’t a choreographer…). I’ve formally “quit” the dance field twice only to return for reasons I can’t quite articulate. I guess, for me, dance is kind of a calling. I feel like ideas for dances “seize” me and won’t let go. Its like I can’t not make dances. And I feel the most alive when I’m choreographing.
10. What is next for you?
Saturday, March 12 Winifred Haun & Dancers is performing at the Regional Alternative Dance Festival in Kalamazoo, MI. On Thursday and Friday, March 17 & 18, we’re premiering Bento in program of 6 works at the Hamlin Park Theater.