Nicole Harris' Newest Duet

by karen Krolak

As most of you know, Nicole Harris and I have been hammering out work together for the last decade. When she relocated to New York City in 2007, I was quite curious to see how that would influence her creativity. She will debuting a duet, Fidelius, at ArtBeat in Somerville, MA. While it is currently set on Caitlin Meehan and Nikki Sao Pedro, it has been shaped by outside dancers and steeped in the Big Apple. This seemed like an ideal moment to turn our interviewing process inward and explore the evolution of this fabulous piece.

karen Krolak: It is difficult for me to pinpoint when exactly you launched into developing Fidelius?
Nicole Harris: I started playing with the ideas about two years ago. I knew the basic concepts I wanted to work with. Thanks to many Sunday morning rehearsals with Shane Rutkowski (who I paid mostly in baked goods), I got to put together decent sized chunks of movement and a basic framework for the characters and their relationship.

kK: I know that it has been through many permutations but what was the original idea?
NH: I set a goal for myself to create a duet for a man and a woman which is something I had never done before. Beyond that, all I knew was that I wanted to deal with the idea of trust. What is trust? Who do you trust? What does it take to trust someone? How do you go about regaining trust once it is lost? What is the difference between the trust you have in another person and the trust you have in yourself?

kK: When did you add the music in?
NH: From the very beginning I had been using a series of songs off David Wechsler's then relatively new album "Vacations" during rehearsals. The piece has gone through many pairings of dancers and the music changed as the dancers changed. At some point the piece was about a romantic relationship and I commissioned David to record Cole Porter's "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love" to use in conjunction with his "Salt of the Earth". When I began setting the piece on Nikki and Caitlin for the version being shown at Art Beat on July 17th, I changed my mind again. Luckily, David is more than generous and gave me permission to use both "Salt of the Earth" and "Roman Road" for the final version. (Don't worry, I'll be using his "Fall in Love" for a new piece in the future! Also, check out his new album The Decline of America Part I: The Bush Years for FREE! Tell your friends!)

kK: So, what caused you to switch the duet to being about two women?
NH: Originally I began teaching Ashley Chandler the part I had been dancing because I felt that she and Shane had very complimentary movement styles. Due to scheduling conflicts Shane was no longer able to rehearse, so I stepped back in and began dancing in Shane's part.

kK: How did it change when you started working with Ashley Chandler?
NH: Well, first off, my goal of creating a duet for a man and a woman was no longer being met. I have started others since then. Also, despite the almost identical movement phrases, things are read differently when they take place between two women than they do between a man and a woman, no matter what the relationship is.

kK: Can you give an example?
NH: The first image in the piece is of the two characters counter-balancing and almost immediately one lets go and leaves which causes the other to fall to the floor. While it was never my intention, having a man drop a woman can very easily be seen as excessively violent or abusive. Somehow when done by two women it isn't seen with the same aggression. People have different associations with each gender and their relationship to each other.

kK: When you and I were performing in the Cool New York Festival in 2009, you asked me to atttend and informal showing with Lynn Schwab. How did people's feedback assist you with the piece?
NH: Ashley and I had been focusing primarily on getting comfortable with the movement vocabulary by the time we showed the piece to you, Lynn Schwab and Kay Wilson. While I had a good idea of how the characters developed, the comments helped clarify what we could be doing as performers to further the story and pointed out places that the movement counteracted what we were trying to say.

kK: I am so excited that it is finally being realized in front of an audience.

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