About this time last year, choreographer Kate Weare and her five-member troupe were planning to make their Boston debut. But in the middle of preparations, one of her dancers got a concussion, and for a small company, one dancer’s injury can be crippling.
For Weare, it was a wake-up call. “It had an enormous impact,” she says. “I really have had a very grassroots company, very familial. It was just four of us for eight years, doing it by sheer force of will. Last year was really a turning point, when we hit a professionalizing moment, and I realized choreography is a business in my life.”
So Weare set about restructuring her company, incorporating three new dancers and preparing understudies. The Kate Weare Company is once again planning its Boston debut with shows Friday and Saturday at the Institute of Contemporary Art, presented by WorldMusic/CRASHarts, and hopefully the second time will be the charm. The troupe is bringing Weare’s acclaimed “Garden” and excerpts from the new “Dark Lark,” which was given its premiere at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival in November.
Since founding her company in 2005, Weare has become known for creating work that is athletic and technically challenging, yet sensuous and emotionally charged, often focusing on the nature of relationships and the negotiation of power and trust. “Her work isn’t exactly X-rated, but it seems to draw out something very personal, very seductive,” says World Music/CRASHarts director Maure Aronson. “She demands a great deal of trust and intimacy between her dancers, and there is an electric energy that is generated from her dancers. You can feel it when you are sitting in the audience. You feel an energy burning off the stage.”
In fact, Weare’s choreography plays off the individuality of her dancers, which has made the recent shift in personnel both challenging and reinvigorating. “[It’s] making me consider the nature of my voice no matter who is dancing. It’s a moment full of questions, which is a fantastic place to be. I don’t want to be the kind of choreographer who has answers but one who brings questions. The studio is a place of not knowing.”
Choreographed in 2011, “Garden” explores collective identity and community dynamics. Weare says she tried to keep the language simple, lyrical, and formal, making the dance “very human” within those confines. She calls it one of her more abstract works, though she has never been one to consider dancers merely bodies moving in space. “I always feel like I’m in a debate with myself about the nature of form and design and how it gets filled with meaning or how it is meaning in itself. I knew the original company members so intimately, and that affected the work and a lot of the dynamics of our relationships. Now I’m looking at people I don’t know very well, and there’s this process where you can objectify dancers, and they can become pure form, and I’m trying to figure out where my comfort zone is with that.”
“Dark Lark” has a more narrative flow, reflecting Weare’s ongoing fascination with how sexuality informs self-definition. Aronson says, “I think she is exploring relationships and erotic fantasy from a point of physicality as a way people might see themselves.”
Weare elaborates, “It’s not about sex, but more about how we fear ourselves, and fantasy is our most private world, a way to listen to ourselves first and not mitigate the way we do in relationships. At the core, it’s about the exploration of the self, and there’s an isolating quality to that, a kind of narcissism and self-servingness of people putting themselves first to have what they want.”
It’s a construct that sets up situations that are not always pretty and pleasant, but Weare tends to be drawn to the rawness in human connections. “Sexuality is not easy,” she says. “In order to really let yourself be aroused, you have to experience the dynamic of friction. It tends to be a little harsh. There are all kinds of dynamics in sexuality, and that’s part of how you come to know yourself.” Electric cellist Christopher Lancaster composed and plays live onstage an original score that Weare calls powerful and cinematic.
As Weare gets more comfortable with her company’s new configuration, she finds dance-making a continual process of discovery. “I’m experiencing the power of youth in the studio,” she says. “They don’t know where they begin and end yet, and they don’t hold back. I’m kind of fascinated, always in a state of reacting in the studio. Part of the process is not to have already decided.”