Getting to know Danceworks guest artist Amii LeGendre
Like so many fascinating people, Amii LeGendre came to town for the MFA program in dance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
That’s how LeGendre got to know Danceworks artistic director Dani Kuepper, and that’s how LeGendre came to be the guest choreographer on the Danceworks Performance Company show that opens Friday (Oct. 1).
But LeGendre won’t be in Milwaukee for the opening. She had to fly back to New York Tuesday, for her regular job.
She works with a group of professional dancers and puts on her own shows, as every choreographer with ambition does. But LeGendre also runs a Bard College lecture series for five state prisons 100 or so miles north of New York City and teaches a dance class for 10 men in a medium-security prison.
“They’re ravenous for this,” she said. “They’re so respectful, even protective, of me and of the work we do in class together.”
LeGendre, a Massachusetts native, moved to the Hudson River Valley from Seattle in 2005, for personal reasons. She has worked with the incarcerated since then.
“Lying was such a cool assignment,” she said. “It was a good conceptual framework.”
She got her idea for it on the plane to Milwaukee, while reading a New Yorker magazine. The issue featured under-40 up-and-comers; LeGendre is 41. She also read a short story, Here We Aren’t, So Quickly, by Jonathan Safran Foer, one of her favorite authors. (The New Yorker’s abstract: “Short story, told in non-sequiturs, about a love affair, marriage, and parenthood.”)
Both the story and the discomfort of disqualification from the under-40s came into play in her Danceworks piece.
‘I thought about congruence in our lives, how we aren’t what we think we are,” LeGendre said. “I thought about when we know we’re lying to ourselves and when we don’t know we’re lying. What tools do you need to be able tell the truth to yourself?”
Kelly Anderson and others will recite lines from the story. Music will accompany parts of the dance, but some dancing will be to text only.
“Kelly engages as an actor,” LeGendre said. “Which is a cool challenge for her, but you’ll hear the story in all kinds of ways. I’m very happy with this piece. I usually make very dense work, but this is spacious.
The title is a line from the story: I don’t mind being alone, I just hate it.
“I like the truth within the lie of that statement,” she said.
Performance times for Lying are deceptive, so take note: 7:30 p.m. Fridays, Oct. 1 and 8, and Saturdays, Oct. 2 and 9; 2:30 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 3; and 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 7. Tickets are $20 and $25 ($15 for students and seniors). Call Danceworks, 414-277-8480 ext. 6025. More info and links here.
In addition to Kuepper and LeGendre, DPC members Kelly Anderson, Melissa Anderson, Karly Biertzer, Simon Eichinger, Kim Johnson-Rockafellow, Holly Keskey, Brent Radeke, Liz Hildebrandt Tesch, Christal Wagner and guest Javier Marchán Ramos are performing and/or creating works for Lying.