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story by Mari Meade for DanceUs.org

7 Questions with Christine Bonansea about her upcoming piece at Danspace Project, OnlyHuman

7 Questions with Christine Bonansea about her upcoming piece at Danspace Project, OnlyHuman
Photo by Robert Flynt

Interview with Christine Bonansea, a French-born, NYC-based choreographer known for her striking, virtuosic performances about her upcoming piece at Danspace Project, OnlyHuman.

What brought you to New York?

I came to New York City interested in discovering and working within the largest performing arts scene in the US. I was already living in California for seven years, and touring regularly to NYC, and when the opportunity to move here came in 2014, I went for it.

How did you choose your collaborators?

My collaborators are unafraid of taking risks and curious to discover new concepts or techniques. They understand my motivations and have also developed their own aesthetic. I often meet them when seeing their work, during creative residencies or collaborative performances.

How do you define post-human?

How could we be more human than the human itself? I question the concept of post-humanity as I feel we are often at odds with our own humanness. While technology, scientific and medical research deserve attention and recognition, I remain skeptical regarding the ambition to supercede nature and be more that what we innately are.

I inquire our capacity to become post-human being, in light of the possibility that the contemporary human race might not be able to procreate. Conceiving of a post-human being, in this context, becomes obsolete to me. An “enhanced” body might not have much capacity to adapt, which jeopardizes our ability to survive in the future.

My piece, OnlyHuman, is reflecting this dichotomy. It is a farce: looking at a human body, the last one perhaps, struggling to survive.

What technology do you see contributing to the “destructive tendencies” of our race?

Behavior, rather than technology, is the issue. We are a strong and resilient species that’s massively impacted the world’s environment with what we consider to be power and intelligence. In another perspective, we have been destroying ourselves, and our ecosystem since the Industrial Age -- with increasing speed in proportion to the rise of new technologies. But also, technology does not exactly correlate with progress. Our destructive tendency is maybe to avoid the consequences of our acts, acting in denial, pretending like a child that the fiction will go on forever because it’s more comfortable.

What was the choreographic process like? In what ways did the dancers shape the movements?

The creative process occurs in several phases. I generally have a concept influenced by the sound. The music generates specific energy and informs the space; its frequencies shape it. Then come the visuals, the context, the density nourished by the sound. This environment informs the body. The body is the space -- a moving space.

I make choreographic choices by asking the dancers to discover a lot of different qualities to modulate the physical space. They can work with improvisation scores, set phrases or situation. The intention and the space is the primary focus and the choreography animates and informs the overall imagery.

How did you engage the community in past performances? Is their a community element in this performance?

After three years in NYC, I became an active participant within diverse art communities, exchanging my own ideas and contributing through performance mediums and dialogues. In addition, my work has reached a broader audience through both performance and teaching internationally, expanding my community well beyond NYC. Thus far, I have presented work internationally in Senegal, France, Germany, Canada, Japan, Bulgaria and Korea; and nationally in New York City, Portland and San Francisco. Being a part of these worldwide networks expands and diversifies the audiences I can reach; it also greatly informs my work.

Following a series of OnlyHuman presentations in front of audiences that were diverse in age and cultural background, I discovered the universal nature of the work. It has the ability to engage an audience about humanity, human rights, personal and communal responsibility, racism, gender equality, and civil liberties. These performances include audiences of local children and community members at the Bronx Gallery and Brooklyn Theater, but also professionals from the field at the the Judson Church (NYC), the Draftwork series or the International Tanzmesse in Dusseldorf, the BIDAM in Busan Korea and DOCK 11 (Berlin, Germany). Through the creative and performative process with diverse audiences, I define my artistic mission.

I believe that conversations, communities, confluences, and platforms facilitate the exchange of ideas. With my OnlyHuman series, I pursue this effort toward diversity and essential dialogue in between various dance communities in New York: Salsa NYC, Swing Dance NYC, Tango NYC, etc. and abroad, as I believe it is a strong platform to bridge communities and cultures, addressing essential questions for the future of humanity.

How does the video and multimedia work contribute to the world you are creating in the space?

The relationship between different media is specific to each piece. The multimedia approach supports a concept and shapes the identity of the work. Inspired by a subject, I start by creating a kinetic space with the sound. I generally look for a defined quality or texture for the music composition. Based on the sound, I envision an environment; the visual is then composed with my collaborators to create another, physical dimension. This part is frequently abstract, creating dynamic contrasts in the space. The choreographic language is the final layer -- I add the dancers’ bodies as a moving element, enhancing the physical dramaturgy.

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