“Sister to a Fiend”: incantation, energy, and terrific force

  1. When you first began this dance, was it you alone making material in the studio, or did you immediately bring Amanda Kmett’Pendry and Joanna Kotze into the process?

It all started with some developmental residencies, some of which were out-of-town, some based in NYC. When I was away I only had my own body to work with, so I worked alone. I’d say “Sister to a Fiend” really started when I was working with other dancers, but I maintained a concurrent solo practice that fed the group process in a way that I am unable to articulate. It was somehow pinging against the group process and informing it.


  1. I remember in your class when our task was to perform a ritual to manifest our desires: did this or a similar practice inform your rehearsal process at all?

Yes. It’s called the incantation improv. I began using this score in 2007 for my piece “Cult,” and went back to it in 2012 because I felt that it really gives performers license to reveal everything. Ego falls away. It generates movement content, but more importantly it strengthens energetic lines: between performer to viewer, performer to performer, and performer to director.


  1. Can you describe a specific moment or situation in the dance?

Amanda does a solo near the end that relates to an earlier event in the piece in which Joanna and I try to take something from her body. Joanna and I become still, and she approaches each of us at our stations to really look at us—a reckoning, of sorts. Next she performs an energetic whip-up, in which she violently stirs the air around her, and then absorbs that energy into her body. This description is of course insufficient, because it’s just some of the physical action that takes place. It in no way gets at what actually happens. I will say that Amanda unleashes terrific force, and how that gets directed through and against her own body is something quite overwhelming and sad.


  1. In what ways does “Sister to a Fiend” consider, embody, or create rituals?

“Sister to a Fiend” embodies and creates rituals all over the place. I have to cite Jeanine Durning here who really nailed something when she said (much more elegantly!) that the dance oscillates between using forms and allowing forms to overtake the self when executing ritual. This struck me as an ‘aha!’ moment. We do the forms, or the forms do us. There is something oppositional there, and moving between these points creates a certain kind of music.


  1. What was an interesting problem you encountered in making this dance?

Well, one major question was how to end the dance. I created it in chunks, since the timeline was determined by residencies. It had been in a close-to-finished state for some time, but when I booked the premiere that meant I had to finish it. I had lived with a certain version for so long—I had grown accustomed to it for what it was. Deciding on the end to any performance is akin to calling ‘time of death’ for me. That sounds melodramatic, and I don’t mean it to. It’s just that dance hangs on its relationship to time, so ending a dance is innately charged. In a way, premieres are really endings, aren’t they?

Photo by Ryutaro Mishima

Photo by Ryutaro Mishima

Sam Kim, Sister to a Fiend
Wednesday, March 4 – Saturday, March 7 at 7:30 pm
Studio C at Gibney Dance: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center

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