Nicholas Leichter Talks “20/20”

Nick Leichter premieres Twenty Twenty a duet with Bryan Strimpel for DANCENOW Joe’s Pub this Friday and Saturday, June 8 and 9, at 7:00pm, as part of DANCENOW’s 2012 Featured Artist Series. In Twenty Twenty, Leichter and Strimpel explore the dynamics of age, race, sexuality, and performance personae. Excerpts of the work were performed at 651 Arts and Danspace Project earlier this year.


So, how exactly did you approach the differences in life experience, abilities, etc? How do you two negotiate race and sexuality and age in the studio? How does that reflect your different perspectives on life? Initially, when we first started, I just wanted to see what the body was capable of from “his” perspective. I definitely initiated material but Bryan cemented it. It felt like whole new way of making work-negotiating movement from another person’s body. That brought more issues of age as well as a strange obsession we have in this country with youth and beauty. I wondered if people would look at me the same way they “might” look at Bryan, as an object of potential sexual desire. Would there be a similar interest due to my sexual orientation, race and ethnic background?

Joe’s Pub has a pretty specific way of defining or re-sizing group work. You know it well and negotiated it very well for “The Whiz,” so I don’t think that concern about space prompted a duet. What prompted the work without the other members of your company? How does it feel to work that way? There were most certainly practical issues for not working with a group; lack of funding and the difficulties of that particular cycle were becoming too much. We hadn’t had an active board for several years and everything was contingent on grant support. It was getting too toxic and I needed to find a way to liberate myself from that structure BUT still make work that I found important. I know it seems like a 180 and as if I’m starting fresh, but I’ve put in my time and it was just what needed to happen. So far it’s been incredibly exciting. Do I know where the end of the day will take me? No. But I’m OK with that……

Nicholas Leichter photo by Andrew Smrz

What do you think you do better at 40 than you did at 20? What do you miss? The biggest challenge has been working my way through 2 separate injuries, which at 40 you simply don’t bounce back immediately like you did 20 years ago. That’s been a harsh reality with the piece. There’s also been an issue with muscle memory in the process. That’s a muscle that really hadn’t been stimulated for several years, even though I could often jump into a group piece if needed-if someone had an injury, etc. But having to learn so much material from scratch took awhile to get back in that mind frame. But yea, 24 years of dancing professionally shows. There’s so much more I’m aware of as a performer, and a mover. And my body has changed a lot over the years. I’m definitely stronger on one level.

Bryan Strimpel photo by Andrew Smrz

Of all the college students you were working with, why Bryan?I had been working with Bryan since he was in college. He was in Killa at The Joyce and would join us, when he could, for The WHIZ. But those works were set, although we were constantly playing and tinkering with the latter, and I hadn’t worked on anything new with him. The initial idea came from working with my students at NYU Experimental Theater Wing. Those students weren’t dance students per se but oh so interesting and I wondered what it would be like to pair myself with one of those students on stage and what sort of conversation and ideas would be generated. Cut to last summer when Bryan joined us at Tisch Dance it was crystal clear that this would be about the two of us. The wealth of information that pours out of his body is staggering and it inspired me to “get my sea legs back……”

Who is your dream audience for this work? Well, of course I would like for whomever is interested to see the piece BUT there is a generational thing that we’re looking at here. It’s definitely not for children but I do think some of the ideas we’re exploring in the piece are something that teens-mid and late-could identify with. I think that range can start there and go well into people in their 60s……The piece is probably not good for people who are easily offended by foul language, rap music, sexual culture, both humorous and maybe a little dangerous. But the show is also very warm and has a lot of “light.” I’m also perfectly happy doing the piece in more of a lecture series for colleges and universities. That’s definitely my comfort zone community with this work.

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