This is the first in a series of interviews with choreographers from the upcoming “COLEctive Notions” showcase, which will run in Chicago from November 1st – November 3rd.
COLEctive Notions is choreographed by dancers from The Dance COLEctive and performed by members of the company. This concert program was covered by 4dancers last year as a way to learn more about the choreographic process. We’re pleased to present it again for you this year…
We’ll hear from Artistic Director and Founder Margi Cole and three choreographers over the next week. First up is Katie Petrunich…
Can you describe what your piece is about?
Running Parallel is a duet that portrays the progression of a lifelong marital relationship. The intimate and quirky movement was generated utilizing literature, photographs, and real life experiences. The dated costumes, blues and jazz music fragments, and stagnant static of an old record player create a cozy and recognizable atmosphere. Watching the piece reminds me of looking at photographs of my grandparents when they were in their early 20s and first married, in which I find comfort.
The initial movement was inspired by “Love Poem” by Linda Pastan. I wanted the descriptive words and flow of the poem to translate into the structure of the piece. The well-known 1945 photograph of a sailor kissing a woman in a white dress, V-J Day in Times Square by Alfred Eisentaedt, was the sole image used to set the tone of the piece and created a warm connection between the dancers. I also developed a survey in which I had grandparents, co-workers, and random elderly strangers from a breakfast shop fill out together or on behalf of their experiences within marriages lasting 40-50+ years. The dancers and I used their experiences to create movement phrases. In the surveys, I discovered that some individuals lost their other half, which changed my initial concept. The piece unfolded in the opposite direction, but I am completely happy with the outcome.
The richness of the movement also stems from the dancers’ personal experiences, which resulted in soft gestures against strong, sharp movement.
Although I am not committed to a lifelong relationship, I believe that the secret to maintaining a successful and happy marriage is that each individual must be on the same path, consisting of similar wavelengths in relation to morals, beliefs, values, understanding, and having the ability for adjusting and accepting one’s daily habits and quirks. How does one adapt initially and how does it shift in later years? There are ups and downs, and in order to obtain functionality, the through line should flow naturally, running parallel to one another. I have Maggie Koller to thank for our hour-long conversations on this topic, and this is definitely the concept I have embraced and translated into Running Parallel.
What did you enjoy most about this process?
I simply have enjoyed the feeling of being inspired to delve into choreography. I feel like we can get caught up in our habitual, redundant daily routines. It is exciting to work towards personal goals, and this has been a great one of mine to accomplish. Getting into the studio and watching the dancers’ movement materialize and evolve has been a magical experience. I have also enjoyed seeing the movement and intentions solidify into the dancers’ bodies—they are very passionate and lovely.
How was Margi able to help you clarify and shape your vision for this piece?
Working directly with Margi has been a pleasure, offering me guidance with her innovative and experienced eye. I am lucky I had access and the ability to reap the benefits of obtaining the opinions from such a skillful dancemaker. During our feedback sessions, Margi questioned many aspects of my piece, not because there was a right answer or because she did not trust me, but to make sure I had the answers to these questions in order to understand the piece as a whole for myself. She brought awareness to the minute details that make the special moments more meaningful. Margi gives her dancers a wide range of creative freedom. We can either take or leave her suggestions, but in the end we are able to make the final decision, which is a huge responsibility and accomplishment in seeing the final product. I am grateful for her resilience and her trust in allowing us to make smart choreographic decisions.
What was it like to work with the dancers?
Shannon and Julie’s dynamic movement styles and creativity is exactly what Running Parallel needs. I appreciate their willingness to be vulnerable, which helped to fuel the movement and create a strong personal connection. They have embraced the concept genuinely. I enjoyed visualizing their progression of the piece, bringing it to life during each rehearsal. They worked really hard and I am thankful for their dedication.
How is choreography different for you from dancing?
Choreography goes far beyond just dancing. When choreographing, I am thinking of the big picture, whereas dancing, I am mainly thinking about the movement itself and what feels right in my body. It is gratifying to be able to see the dance from the outside. When initiating a TDC piece, Margi lets us create our own movement phrases and she puts it all together and adds what we call, “the Margi spice.” Starting as a dancer and being able to witness Margi’s tactics for the past five seasons, I finally felt well prepared and comfortable enough to choreograph. I used a similar framework in constructing the piece. I was able to form a sequence of the dancers in unison, but the majority of the movement was generated by the dancers.
Are you interested in doing something like this again?
I definitely would be interested in choreographing again, as long as I have the opportunity, an idea, and support. I already work with a great group of dancers, which makes this whole process fun, easy, inspiring, and completely satisfying. If I could be successful in this profession once, if not more, I would be overly pleased and proud. I cannot imagine how it feels to accomplish the same 18 years in a row, such as Margi has done for TDC.
Katie Petrunich received a BA in dance from Columbia College Chicago in 2008. Katie has performed with Antibody Dance, the Minneapolis based company, HIJACK, and has danced around for various projects at the MCA for DanceUSA and CDF. She’s also had the pleasure to perform works by Margi Cole, Jeff Hancock, Stephanie Williams, and current and former members of TDC. Katie also works as a legal assistant for a law firm downtown and spends her free time volunteering at Lurie Children’s Hospital. Katie is honored to be apart of TDC for her fifth season, thanking Margi for letting her delve into an inventive, fulfilling process year round. Katie also thanks her family and friends for all of their love and support; she’d be lost without them.