Thursday, March 18, 2010

Kathy Wasik Presents "Zero" and "Learning To Fall"


Kathy Wasik is fascinated with the small. Her new work, entitled "Zero," is an exploration of the mathematical concept of zero as an intellectual, personal and emotional journey. A graduate of Vassar with a degree in mathematics, Kathy's movement vocabulary is intricate, fluid and expansive. The worlds that she creates, including the world of "Zero," are self-referencing and at times, neurotic.

The set design created for "Zero" is Kathy's representation of emotional zero space: a four-walled structure, each wall comprised of two antique wooden ladders. She characterizes chaotic space by incorporating jarring sonic, visual and physical aberrations such as wind-up toys and a singing alarm clock. Kathy's piece "Learning to Fall," performed by Cara Liguori, expresses the the dancer's internal search for stamina and weight through the layering of delicate actions accompanied by an improvisational score.

Performances will take place at Triskelion Arts in the Aldous Theater, Thursday, April 1st through Saturday, April 3rd at 8pm. Tickets are $15 and are available online at Brown Paper Tickets and at the door. Students and seniors are eligible for a 20% discount ($12 tickets). Triskelion Arts is located at 118 N. 11th St. (3rd Floor) in Brooklyn, NY.

Photo credit: Mary Ivy Martin

Five Questions With Kathy Wasik

This is your debut performance as dancer, choreographer and producer. Does this inaugural performance have any meaning in regards to the theme of the work presented? Zero being, maybe, the beginning of something? An exploration of your origins?

That's an interesting question. I can certainly draw a parallel between some aspects of Zero and my experience of wearing, for the first time simultaneously, the four hats of dancer, choreographer, producer, and publicist (I should say that I'm getting lots of help from friends and family in this endeavor!). Zero is very much a search for my own origin. I have struggled with perfectionism all my life and some of that neurosis is evident in the piece. Similarly, perfectionism has played a large role in the steps leading up to producing this show. I've been working on this piece for several years now, afraid to present something that might not be beyond reproach. I've finally worked up the courage to put on a show and I'm loving the experience so far. Who knows what the future will bring? Vassar College has already asked me to perform the piece again at the end of September. Beyond that, I have a feeling you'll be seeing more of Kathy Wasik as a choreographer. This stuff is pretty addictive.

How has your experience touring internationally shaped your work?

I began development of Learning to Fall, the piece to be performed on the same program as Zero, last fall during a tour with Aviva Geismar/Drastic Action. Aviva's dancers, along with the other company with which we were touring, were invited to create dances for the Galerie Hans Mayer in Düsseldorf, Germany. Traveling had made me think about home -- specifically the home I grew up in. I was a very shy child and I'm still fairly timid. I wanted to create a piece about the ebb and flow of my quest to achieve greater openness. For a corner of a room in the gallery, I developed what is now called Learning to Fall, a highly structured improvisation that involves opening and closing the body through subtle movements. The dancer becomes increasingly vulnerable, but after each new step towards greater openness, she reverses the minute steps she took to reach that more open place, only to return to her original position. Learning to Fall will be performed by the lovely Cara Liguori, who I've performed alongside many times, both in Aviva Geismar's work and in Cara's work for Propel-her Dance Collective.

How do you relate the abstract concepts of mathematics to such a corporeal art form such as dance?

Well, both forms are abstract. They also both possess a certain creativity and intuition. I have a BA in Mathematics and I continue to have an interest in the subject. I find math and dance to be incredible systems for describing the world in which we live. Zero, along with probably all mathematical concepts, can be represented physically. In Zero, there is a parent phrase of movement that gets increasingly smaller as the piece goes on. Beyond that, the world of Zero includes zero space – a four-walled structure, with each wall comprised of two antique wooden ladders – as well as chaotic space, characterized by entertaining aberrations that include wind-up toys and a singing alarm clock.

When dancing or writing, do you consider a system of movements to be a logical system within itself? Do you consider a hypothesis or a formal truth and seek movement to prove to disprove or disprove it?

I would say that Zero's overall structure – both the path the movement takes and the dichotomy between nothingness and chaos – is logical. And certainly some of the movement motifs, particularly those that illustrate the perfectionism I mentioned earlier, are somewhat logical. That said, I think it's really the existence of those motifs, as opposed to the motifs themselves, that's logical. For example, throughout the piece, you'll see my pulling imaginary strings out of my costume. There's something neurotically perfectionist about that movement, but I can't really say where it came from. Interestingly, there is a parallel between the brand of intuition that generated those movements and the intuition involved in mathematics. Artistically, I can just feel when something is right, just as I can feel when I've discovered the solution to a math problem. I have certain things I'm trying to convey (or even prove) throughout the piece, but as with all art, the messages I impart to an audience will be up to interpretation.

Would you consider your work to be more theoretical or organic? (Not that there has to be a divide between the two.)

Zero and Learning to Fall are both conceptual and intuitive. I began both pieces with a particular concept in mind, from which I developed certain structures logically and others viscerally. In both pieces, this line is illustrated by the simultaneous precision and casualness of the movement.

What questions, concepts or other works have inspired you and how do you see yourself exploring them in Zero and in the future?

I first started thinking about zero after reading Charles Seife's Zero, a brief history of the number. I became fascinated with Western civilization's fear of void and the emotional and spiritual implications of that fear. My piece became about a stripping of personal facades. People seem lost in a world of false representations of themselves, thanks in large part to the overabundance of virtual worlds. How can one return to a zero point – one devoid of such technological confusion? Aesthetically, I hope to strike a balance between formal and experimental. In that quest, I've found great inspiration in the work of choreographers Meg Stuart and John Jasperse. As for the future, I'm not thinking much beyond the present. I guess an effort to remain in the present moment is another focus of Zero.


Kathy Wasik attended the Joffrey Ballet School, then went on to receive her BA in mathematics from Vassar College in 2004. She has worked with Drastic Action/Aviva Geismar, Tommy Noonan, and Regina Nejman Company. She currently resides in Brooklyn.