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Collaboration remains key to Salt Horse creations

In Salt Horse’s latest work, Color Field, long-time collaborators Corrie Befort, Beth Graczyk, and Angelina Baldoz played with words and music to create a dance about light and color.

As with past Salt Horse works, their newest collaboration with the Northwest Film Forum let them shift movement and performance into a public space not traditionally associated with dance. Contributing to Color Field are filmmaker Adam Sekuler, lighting designer Marnie Cummings, musician Jason Anderson and performers Ariana Bird, Belle Wolf, Kathleen Hunt, and Steven Gomez.

Although Befort also does the scenery and Baldoz primarily works with the music, Graczyk emphasized in a recent interview that Salt Horse’s teamwork approach keeps them all very equal when it comes to the actual creation of a dance.

What has kept your collaborative process going since 2005?
All three of us enjoy is that Salt Horse is an entity on its own. It is the contribution of three voices coming together. We make a good team because we continually appreciate each other's perspective, intelligence, and ways of creating that are both similar and distinct. Since it doesn't directly reflect any one of us entirely, there is a distance that we can have with the work that is more difficult to have on your own.

You’ve talked about how nobody is a leader when it comes to the creation of a work like Color Field.
Although we really love this aspect, I know that it can make audience, presenters, press, and supporters slightly uncomfortable because it seems like the natural desire is to always have a defined leader and a hierarchical structure. Other performance groups who really tackle this always inspire me since it defies normative structure, and I believe that one can always be more powerful in true collaboration with others.

How does the work come together?
Corrie and I work very intensively on concept and choreography - sometimes we lose track of who originated an idea because it has volleyed between us so many times. We are always changing our way of working as a way to evolve together. We have begun at times by making seed movement or structures on our own and then coming together, but for Color Field, we have been working entirely together from the very start. Each process or idea proposes a slightly different way of working. Angelina has a bit more autonomy with the music although she works very intensively with us. She attends every rehearsal (a very unique situation for a musician), and builds from seeing and hearing. She often listens and engages with the whole structure with larger metaphorical ideas and/or very specific instrumentation that she is interested in using.

What is Jason Anderson’s role in this piece?
For Color Field, the original fourth member of Salt Horse, Jason Anderson (musician/composer) is returning to work with us. We began Salt Horse as a quartet, and this is the first time we have all worked together since 2007.

So how do “words on paper” as you describe in the film above become part of your choreography for Color Field?
Using written images comes from the desire to explore a concept but with a poetic distance. This past year with Adam Sekuler, instead of proposing to our dancers that we want to explore group-based ideas, we gave them slips of paper that read "Periodically cheer someone on" or "Do someone's movement without them noticing" or "All take hands." We were interested in what can come next after that instruction. There is an inherent sense of play because no one interpretation is more correct than another. In this way we can perpetually return to the same scores and have different experiences. The written images (for Color Field) like "you have birds in your head" work the same way. They all derive from our imaginations riffing on any given concept. Often the question we are asking is not how to represent something, but how to create a sensation that draws you towards the experience of that something. These written images and instructions have been an effective tool to work for working on that.

When does a piece feel complete for you?
When a piece feels like an independent body able to fully move, breath, and adapt without the need of perpetual outside direction. When it is strongly steady and volatile simultaneously.