Quick Q&A with Autumn Mist Belk

by Karen Krolak

Having taught at Impulse Dance Center in Natick, MA for the last 13 years, I am always delighted to discover how my former students find ways to weave dance into their lives after high school. Some of them, like Monkeyhouse's Nicole Harris, Amanda Page, and Kelly Long have pursued professional dance paths. However, many others build careers in other fields and still seek out regular technique classes. For example, Catherine Buell, who made her professional debut in Monkeyhouse's Ahem. Aha! Hmmm. in 2004, is somehow able to suss out performing opportunities while working towards her PhD in Mathematics at NC State. Frankly, I am in awe of her in general and this feat in particular.

When Catherine was home this summer, she raved about Autumn Mist Belk's classes and choreography. After her descriptions I dearly wish that I could see Autumn's newest creation, Indulge, especially since Catherine will be appearing in it as a guest artist. Alas, I won't be able to scoot down to Durham this week but I would love to hear from anyone who does see it. In the meantime, though, I was able to interview Autumn through Facebook to find out more about her creative process.

karen Krolak: I am so glad to see that Catherine has found some time while working on her PhD in Mathematics to perform again. Have you enjoyed working with her?

Autumn Mist Belk: Catherine has been wonderful to have around, both in the summer program at NC State and now in just Code f.a.d. rehearsals. She is such a conscientious person and approaches dance very intellectually, which I really appreciate. While some dancers rely solely on muscle memory, I feel Catherine is a dancer that ties into her brain to make sense and process the movement also as she works.

kK: So I noticed that you have worked with Joe Goode, who is one of my favorite living choreographers. Can you tell me how he has influenced your work?

AMB: Joe Goode has been a huge influence in my work, really because I am so amazed by his work and how he incorporates so many elements so seamlessly into the performances. It is my goal to one day get brave enough to pull singing in, but my company needs lessons first (myself included)! More than his creative work, Joe is a wonderful person to work with, and I always felt I was important to him and to his work, even if performing what seemed to be such a minor role. (I was the back surface of a human bench at one point, but it never really felt like an insignificant part.) Particularly in Indulge, since we have 6 "core dancers" and then additional chorus members, I hope I am able to make those dancers in the chorus roles understand how important they are to the success of the piece as well as Joe always did.

kK: Wow, that is not an easy undertaking but it is a fabulous attitude to inherit from another choreographer. So can you briefly describe Indulge for us?

AMB: We have 6 "core" dancers, who each personify a particular indulgence (or group of indulgences), for example all food and drink are rolled into one indulgence, all technological elements are rolled into another. Then we have 4 "chorus" dancers who serve as the audience link into the work. The chorus members observe the work from within it and respond often in "real people" mannerisms. The chorus members also join in with core dancers to be a part of the dancing community in sections of the work. We hope to tour the work starting next season to universities, arts high schools, and other places where we can have residencies and bring dancers from those communities into these chorus roles, and the work is set up to accommodate between 4 and 12 chorus members in each show.

kK: What prompted you to create this piece?

AMB: Shopping! I am slightly addicted to fashion (clothes, shoes, purses). While researching the authenticity of a Louis Vuitton handbag I was hoping to purchase on ebay, I stumbled upon other purse-addicts on "The Purse Forum" and started thinking about when indulgences turn into addictions. I was also very inspired by a piece of music by G. Todd Buker (aka Proxy) called "The Art of Leisure," and I felt this music indicated a fashion runway show, so from there the piece developed. Todd composed the rest of the music in the piece also, and our filmmaker, Colby Hoke, was a strong influence in the other, darker indulgences, such as greed and power.

kK: Goodness, sounds as though you have an number of elements to juggle during your tech week. Thanks for taking time out to talk. Just one last question: how did you know when the piece was finished?

AMB: I'm not sure the piece is finished. Maybe that is true of every piece I've ever made, though. I always like to go back to them and rethink things. How Indulge would end; however, came very early in the process, so it really was about finding an arc to that end. The work is really about living with these characters, rather than a story or narrative, so actually the piece could keep going indefinitely. The characters keep living, we could just see them in new context. So maybe Indulge should be a dance mini-series - I suppose we'll see where the future takes things.

Code f.a.d. Company
presents Indulge
October 14 & 15, 2009 @8PM
Reynolds Industries Theater
Duke University (in the Bryan Center)
Durham, NC
created and choreographed by Autumn Mist Belk
Including original video by Colby Hoke and Stephen Aubuchon, set to music by G. Todd Buker, Indulge pulls the audience into a world filled with high fashion, powerful business, gourmet food, cutting-edge technology and eternal love.
Join the company for a Q&A following the performance!

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