Densely dimensional, unpredictable, strangely graceful and wild, Alice Klock’s dances are like elegant ribbons caught in hopelessly tangled knots,” wrote Dance Magazine, in this year’s ‘25 to watch‘ feature.

One of the three choreographers chosen by Whim W’Him‘s dancers for the Choreographic Shindig IV that will open next Friday at Seattle’s Erickson Theatre on Capitol Hill, Alice Klock ‘spoke’ with me recently via email in a couple of written Q&A sessions (I’m out of town until next Tuesday). Here is our conversation:

How/when did you first start to dance? decide it would be your profession?

I’ve been dancing for as long as I can remember but began my formal dance training when I was 11. I was home schooled and my mother suggested I take dance to meet more people my age. I feel like dance happened to me almost by accident. When I was 13 I attended the San Francisco Ballet School’s summer intensive and had the chance to watch the company rehearse. Watching them in the studio is what made me decide I wanted to do this as a career.

 

Hubbard Street Dance ‘Quintett’ by William Forsythe. © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

[Alice trained at Interlochen Arts Academy from 2003–07, and at the Alonzo King LINES Ballet and Dominican University of California’s joint BFA program from 2007–09. She also studied dance at Boston Ballet School, Canada’s National Ballet School, Miami City Ballet School, San Francisco Ballet School, the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance and Springboard Danse Montréal. In September 2009, she joined Hubbard Street Dance Chicago‘s second company, then was promoted to the main company in September 2011 and named Hubbard Street’s Choreographic Fellow in the fall of 2017.]

Hubbard Street Dance ‘Quintett’ by William Forsythe. © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2015

Have there been specially big turning points in your career so far, and in particular what drew you to choreography?
Coming to Hubbard Street was a huge turning point. It opened me up to many different styles and ways of performing and truly led me to where I am today choreographically as the company is built in such a way that in-house choreographers can grow. I have always been drawn to choreography. I love the challenge of operating on all the levels it requires and the freedom of expression that it allows.

 

It’s interesting and unusual that your website homepage reads: Alice Klock Paint and Dance. Artistic Adventurer. Choreography. Visual Art. Shop. In other words, both kinds of art are given equal billing (though dancing yourself isn’t mentioned there—how come?). I would like to learn more about your painting, which I like very much—its relation to your movement work, its place in your life, as well as when and how you began painting and what training you had in this form of art.

 

Photo by Isaac Aoki

Both my visual art and dance hold equal weight and importance in my life. I feel that though there is crossover they also exercise very different aspects of my creative self. Visual art is meditative, intuitive, therapeutic. Dance is more about manifesting, and choreography is like world building. I often notice that as I am constructing a dance I’ll apply my painter’s eye to help problem solve, but otherwise the creation processes differ vastly. I love this. Feels gloriously balanced.

I grew up around visual artists and it is truly my father and grandfather that gave me my art education. The rest has been self teaching and blatant disregard for technique. There is something highly spiritual about my process with visual art. The creation of it feels very meditative and I am often surprised by what unfolds.

It almost feels like channeling some otherworldly aspect of myself. I have shown work at numerous Chicago galleries and enjoy a steady stream of commissions, including lately a lot of tattoo designs which is an exciting and somewhat unexpected evolution of what I do.

Interesting that you noticed the lack of my own dancing in how I present myself on my website. I suppose this is because I am at a point in my career where I am not trying to sell that part of myself anymore. I feel very content in that department, after nine beautiful years as a dancer at Hubbard Street Dance Chicago I have recently retired. I shall continue to perform as part of “Flock” a co-creative, co-choreography project I have started with my partner in crime Florian Lochner. Yes, after many years of holding up “dancer” as my identity I am shifting to fully explore more facets of myself. I suppose my website reflects this:)

 

Dancing with Flock

What is it about choreography that calls to you? What parts of the process appeal to you most?

As I mentioned, choreography is like world building. I feel that with the creation of a piece one can time travel, shape shift, solve the unsolvable, save that which can’t be saved, live dreams, be anything…basically I think dance making is magical. My work isn’t about execution or perfection. It’s about an experience of something beyond what we can perceive in our everyday. The process of creating this kind of work is thrilling to me, as it requires a particular kind of strategizing and problem solving.

 

Dancing with Flock

What are the ideas/themes/questions about movement that you think about in the course of making a piece, overall and/or for particular works?

All of my pieces begin with a story or an intellectual concept, often sparked by something I’ve heard in a podcast or read in a book. I find thought endlessly inspiring artistically. There is a big research element to my work, especially in the time before I get into the studio. Once I am in the room with the dancers my concept may morph and adapt, but even with this evolution I feel it is important to lay that conceptual groundwork before generating movement.

Where does the choice of music come into the process? Does that differ from piece to piece?
Music for me usually comes after I’ve begun to create with the dancers. It is important to me that my work embraces and utilizes the individuality of the artists in the room so there are certain elements I simply can’t know until I meet them and begin construction. Once a framework is in place I can really hone into the vibe that best supports what we are making and pick music from there. I also edit and rearrange my music extensively, creating a sound design that is as choreographed as the movement. I find that this really helps in creating a sense of world building in my work.

 

Can you tell me about your experience working with Whim W’Him up to this point? What would you like to share with blog readers about the piece so far?
I have loved working with Whim W’Him! The dancers are incredible. Intelligent, dynamic, unique. An absolute joy to create with. I am very excited to share what we have made with the Seattle audiences. The piece is a creation story of sorts. It begins with the ending of one world, and examines the design of the next. Each of the dancers is a different aspect of existence and together they make up the elements of a new paradigm.

 

 

Could you say a bit more about the specific “story or intellectual concept” that sparked your idea(s) for Before After? Was it an idea that you thought of ahead of meeting the dancers in the studio or an approach you planned to take with the dancers or …?

My thought process with “Before After” began with the word “chaos” and how in Greek mythology it represents the idea of the void before creation. What does this void feel like? Is this a space between the death of one world and the birth of another? This led me to “chaoskampf”, the struggle against chaos, perhaps the battle at the end of one world that initiates the next. From this I began to look at the human impulse to explain creation and our innate need to understand that which we cannot explain which leads us to our own human act of creation, the construction of myths. This was the conceptual groundwork for my piece before entering the studios. On my first day with Whim W’Him I asked each dancer what feels mythological to them, what in their lives feels like it contains that mystery and magic. From their answers we created the movement material, and each dancer plays that element they named within the piece. Beautifully, one of the dancers said that the aspect of life that felt most mythological to him is Death. Therefore, the piece starts with death, ushering us into the void and then into the creation of a new world.

 

What is the relation between Klock and Klockonian?

 

Klockonian is a superhero alter-ego I created for myself when I was young. She is a keeper of great knowledge (like the Smithsonian). Somehow the name accidentally became my brand, which I enjoy as it allows me to be somewhat anonymous. I find this particularly interesting in the visual art world. People respond differently to my paintings or designs when they know I am a young woman. Sometimes I like to keep myself out of the picture and let my work speak for itself.

Photo Credits: 1st, 2nd, 5th and last 5 images by Stefano Francesco Altamura