The choreographer on his early work with Merce Cunningham and his collaborations with visual artists.
If you ever have the chance to attend one of Jonah Bokaer's performances, try arriving early in order to take a good look at the stage. Chances are that it will be filled with objects which could be called artworks in and of themselves, whether this takes the shape of 35mm cameras cast in chalk, large cubes suspended in nets overhead, or lines drawn in the grid of an athletic field. When dancers enter the stage they interact closely with these meticulously produced sets, in some cases losing themselves completely in the physical environment—their bodies wrapped up in large sheets of paper, or obscured under a deluge of ping-pong balls.
Bokaer sources his choreography in an architectural or sculptural framework. Whatever’s onstage is never extraneous to the dance; it is part of the dance, the movements and visuals merging together as one. The action responds to a contextual imperative with a sense of urgency and necessity, and the result is strikingly pure in tone, free of anything suggestive of the ornamental or scenic. In order to achieve this kind of immersive experience, Bokaer collaborates with an impressive roster of artists, including the likes of Daniel Arsham, Robert Wilson, Lee Ufan, and Anne Carson.
Roslyn Sulcas of The New York Times famously called Bokaer "contemporary dance's Renaissance man." Besides the frequent collaborative exchanges, his process involves the use of digitally programmed bodies, which are sometimes projected alongside the "live" dance onstage. This kind of work arguably places him at the forefront of the performance/technology nexus. Instead of founding a company, he's opened two non-profits in Brooklyn that serve as incubators for up-and-coming choreographers, initiatives that earned him a New York Dance and Performance Bessie Award in 2007. Look no further if you're interested in the emerging dance forms of the twenty-first century.[ Read More ]