Jessica Lang Dance at Modlin Center this Friday

We humbly spoke to internationally-acclaimed choreographer Jessica Lang about her dance company’s upcoming performance.

Ah, Jessica Lang. Choreographer of La Belle Danse and Women and the Sea. Supporter of accessible dance. Master of a pleasant interview.

Big things are happening for Lang, who, as winner of a coveted grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, now has her own non-profit company. Since its inception in 2011, Jessica Lang Dance has been invited to perform at major dance pow-wows like the Fall for Dance Festival in New York. But now Richmonders get to see some of the very first ticketed performances of a world-class troupe, including two premieres, thanks to the tireless enthusiasm of the folks at Modlin.

Why should you cancel any other plans you have and bask in the glory of this exciting event? We’ll let Lang address that question in her own words.

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On receiving the best possible news

Two years ago in September, I got a phone call from the Joyce Theater saying that I had been nominated for a grant that was supported by the Andrew F. Mellon Foundation. The basis of the award was that if there was no show to work up to, what would you produce? What would you make? They want to give you money so that you can have that time to create, which is so incredibly valuable.

So it awarded money, free space, a paid assistant, kind of like a full package. There were four artists who were awarded this grant, and I was the only one who didn’t have a company. But I don’t dance and I didn’t have any bodies to work with, so I found six dancers who I knew and had worked with over the years.

On selecting dancers

Each choreographer is different. Some people only look at the mechanics of a dancer, and who they are as people doesn’t really matter to them. But I like to have a balance between “Can they do it.” and “Who they are.” I don’t like to have an atmosphere that’s tense or uncomfortable, and I needed to have personalities that got along together. For me, it’s 100% artistic and 100% work ethic and 100% personality.

On creating something totally new, just because you want to

I got the dancers for six weeks, where I taught class every day. At the end of that we did have a showing of what we made, but it wasn’t something that sold tickets. It was just a warm group of people who were involved with the process.

On turning something fleeting into something permanent

During that time, I was reaching out to various patrons and board members from various companies who I knew loved my work and doing various fundraising. I was doing some asking and one of the gentlemen asked ME if I wanted a non-profit. There’s some intensity behind that question, and I thought this is something I can try and is so generous and I can see where it goes, and if it goes and I love it and we’re working hard then I can. And so I did!

Now we’re a 501(c) nonprofit organization based in Queens, New York.

On delighting you this Friday night

You’ll see five dances [i.n.k., The Mendelssohn/Incomplete, From Foreign Lands and People, Elegy, and The Calling, which opened New York Fashion Week] and one film [White, a collaboration with Shinichi Maruyama]. And you’ll see the span of what I do–the most minimal and simplistic to a full set of visual ideas.

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For more detailed information on Lang’s inspiration and vision for these old and new works, head to the Modlin Center for the ModlinArts Artist Voices Series this Wednesday. And of course, while you’re there, you can pick up tickets for Friday’s (September 14th) performance.

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Susan Howson

Susan Howson is managing editor for this very website. She writes THE BEST bios.

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