Megan Sprenger, artistic director of mvworks, received a BFA in dance with a focus in composition from the State University of New York at Purchase College. She has had the pleasure of working with Annie Kloppenberg and is currently working with Catherine Tharin and Tina Croll & Dancers. Her work has been presented at the 92nd Street Y, Abrons Art Center, Galapagos Arts Space, WAXworks at University Settlement, and Dance Theater Workshops 40th Birthday Celebration, as well as internationally in Burgos, Spain. Her new piece, No Where, was created as part of Performance Space 122’s Room commissioning program which encourages artistic collaboration with experts in non-arts disciplines. No Where will premiere at Performance Space 122 from February 22 – 25.
Sarah Maxfield/Culturebot: What was it like working with a mathematician?
Megan Sprenger: Much easier than I expected, at first I wasn’t even sure where to find a Mathematician, much less one that would be interested in working on an experimental dance project. Thanks to Marissa Beatty [curator of Willamsburg Art NeXus] and her husband, I was able to email the mathematics graduate and PhD students at NYU and was introduced to Sara Grundel, a PhD student at the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences. At first we started simply, describing what each other was interested in and hoping to get from the project, and before we knew it she was giving me feedback on the choreography and I was asking for a modular breakdown of the triangle’s first eleven lines. As the production elements come to the forefront I am excited to get back in it with her, to see what mathematical possibilities lay within the lighting, set and sound.
SM: I know that you are often inspired by visual art. How would you describe that influence on your work?
MV: Its funny, I don’t go to museums or look at art history books to become inspired, it just always seems to happen that way. My previous work, Direction Lost was inspired by the work of Yves Klein. He would instruct women models [covered in bright blue paint] to paint on the canvas by dragging each other across it. In the end, no trace of that idea can be seen in the solo but it prompted a year of examining how I could make myself move around the space by physically lifting and placing my limbs. My new work, No Where, was inspired by the photography of Gregory Crewdson, particularly images which involve women frozen in space. My dancers and I used these images as the base of our character examination, we have since left the photos, but whenever we have a question I always go to them first.
SM: What is most interesting to you about dance right now, and how does that infiltrate your work?
MV: There are a few artists who are pushing the definition of dance from a place of human and animalistic movement experimentation. These works truly affect me. Watching trained dancers leave their technique behind and try to move from a human place is fascinating. This kind of exploration is what turns me on, and how I have been trying to work.
SM: How much do you collaborate with the dancers performing in your piece to create the work?
MV: I have always had mixed feelings about collaboration with the performers. For this particular production we have worked very much as a whole. Testing ideas on each other, talking choices through, and coming to decisions from a point of character. I still set the scene, the impulse and body part, but the dancers adapt them to make it their own. Each of them has her own version of “Angry, Arm, Flick”, and I’ve tried not to correct movement choices but provide a different attack for it (Frustrated, Arm, Flick). Most importantly I trust their instincts; if I wanted to make them look like me I would just do it myself.
SM: Your last piece also explored mathematical themes. Do you see the math/dance exploration continuing after this piece?
MV: I’m not sure. This process has been the most satisfying for me to date. The combination of raw emotion and pure logic has proven to be intriguing. But I don’t know where this piece will take me in the end. Having spent a few years in “math land”, I am curious to find out how I would create movement without it. I have a feeling the work would be much softer with smooth transitions; it could be nice to work like that again.