Alibi V.26 No.42 • Oct 19-25, 2017 

Art Preview

The Language of Dance

Rendezvous with dancer and choreographer Erika Pujič at SHIFT Dance Festival

Choreographer and dancer Erika Pujič comes to SHIFT Dance Festival
Choreographer and dancer Erika Pujič comes to SHIFT Dance Festival
Kelsey Paschich

This Thursday—that is, Oct. 19—sees the kickoff of SHIFT Dance collective's second annual SHIFT Dance Festival, a three-day celebration of dance in all its plurality. The festival features performances of new works by company members Jacqueline García, lisa nevada and Kelsey Paschich, as well as visiting performers S. Paola López R., AGA Collaborative and Erika Pujič, as well as workshops and lectures led by visiting artists.

Pujič, a faculty dance instructor at Skidmore College in New York, choreographed a piece of SHIFT members called Transverse Syndrome, and will perform in a piece she choreographed in collaboration with musician Carl Landa and filmmakers John Schneider and Steven Tainsh called Rendezvous. Pujič took the time to illumine her work in anticipation of her visit to New Mexico.

Alibi: What is your history with dance?

Pujič: I started dancing at the age of six. My parents enrolled me in ballet classes because I was extremely shy. I did not like to talk at all and found it easier to express myself through movement and not words. Dance is still my most powerful way of speaking, but through the years [it] has made me more confident in expressing myself through words. … Movement is a universal language and is a good way to build community and bring people from many different backgrounds together. I find peace in the studio. … Whether I am taking class, rehearsing, teaching or creating, it is where I feel most alive.

What type of dance interests you?

Movement interests me. I love watching people in everyday life. The simplest of movements can be the most beautiful and most powerful. I've been very fortunate to have been exposed to many different styles of dance and I often like to incorporate many different influences into my choreography. Modern dance has been the idiom that allows me to express myself most clearly.

What are the pieces you are bringing to the festival like?

I have created a new work, Transverse Syndrome, for SHIFT Dance co-founders [García, nevada and Paschich]. These three dancers inspired the work. I was excited to get into the studio with them because they are such different movers, but when put together [they] are such a force. I wanted to play with intersecting lines and the physicality of these diverse dancers moving through space to embody both symmetry and imbalance. … Carl Landa and I will be performing a duet, Rendezvous, that we premiered at the Bates Dance Festival in 2015. [It] is a marriage of dance, live music and film.

You've collaborated with Carl Landa many times—what's your connection?

I first met Carl while dancing for Robert Battle in Battleworks Dance Company. Mr. Battle had commissioned Carl to write a few scores throughout the years. I really was amazed to watch the collaborative process between choreographer and composer. … Fast forward to today, Carl and I are married. We work at Skidmore College together and he composes scores for everything that I choreograph. There is nothing like having him in the studio with me during the creative process to play live to what I am creating and then to shape that into a score for the piece. Carl is such an intuitive musician and he really understands what types of sounds will enhance the movement.

What is your greatest hope that audiences will get out of seeing your work?

I am hoping that people will connect to the power of art. We are living in a precarious world and I would like for us all, performers and audience members, to come together and experience the magic that an evening of dance, music and film can generate.

What do you hope you will take away from the festival?

Every opportunity is a learning process and a way of connecting with a new community and new artists. I am hoping to cultivate new collaborations that I can bring back to my community in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Catch Pujič's work on Saturday, Oct. 21 at VSA North Fourth Art Center (4904 Fourth St NW). Find more information and tickets online at shiftdancepresents.com.
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