Q&A: Budding Choreographer Tara Lynch

On August 30 and 31, the Peridance Capezio Center is hosting Faculty and Student Showcases. While the Faculty Showcase affords an opportunity to catch a diverse stylistic blend of work by established artists, the Student Showcase provides an exciting glimpse into the future of NYC’s dance scene. For 21 year-old dancer and choreographer Tara Lynch, it represents a vital step in the transition from student to professional. Lynch recently spoke with The World Dances about her work, the role of improv in her creative process, and the challenge of finding choreographic identity and inspiration.

First of all, please tell us about the piece you’re doing for the showcase?

I’m showing a duet called Dust and Melon. It’s an excerpt of a full-length piece I’m going to be showing in the spring. It’s a little whimsical and a little sarcastic. There’s a struggle between the two dancers, Holly Sass and Jonathan Matthews. They’re trying to figure out how they relate to each other—working out balance as they go through different lifts and ways they can use and dance in each other’s space.

What was your process as you developed the piece?

Holly Sass; Jonathan Matthews

I started this process by having the dancers improv with a little bit of direction and some parameters. With some confinements, the dancers have to be intelligent and find ways to move through scenarios. Things come up that you’ve never seen before. To begin, I drew a pattern for the dancers to follow covering the stage. From there I added the idea of elements to elicit different combinations of movement quality and feelings. For example, I asked the dancers to imagine they were in mud or water or air. Holly and Jonathan got into certain positions that I would have had no idea how to create out of nowhere. We found new, strange things we really liked. I tried to break them down and figure out transitions and how they all relate to each other and the larger piece.

How did you become interested in choreography?

I actually hated it at first. I studied at South Dayton School of Dance in Ohio. The company has a scholarship audition for choreographers every year. I tried it when I was 13 or 14, and I never wanted anything more to do with it. Then in college I went to NYU Tisch and decided to try it again. NYU was a wonderful environment for exploring and taking risks and it was great to be working with supportive peers. I started making a piece every year after that. I’m still kind of new to it but I really love it.

What was your inspiration for Dust and Melon?

Lately I’ve been inspired by visual artists more than other choreographers. I feel like there’s a danger of unconsciously falling into something like plagiarism when you’re too influenced by choreographers. When I first started choreographing, my movements were very similar to those of my teacher and mentor. It didn’t feel like fair or honest work. I had to figure out what inspired me and what kind of movement I wanted to create. This particular piece is inspired by a claymation film by Allison Schulnik.  It features kind of creepy clay figures performing simple movements inspired by Martha Graham’s technique. Graham’s style is very recognizable, especially to dancers, and the claymation puts a weird twist on it and adds a new creative dimension. The analysis I’m working with now with Dust and Melon is similar—we recognize certain routines we go through, but we also recognize something off about it. It’s familiar but there’s something underlying it that’s strange or alien.

Could you share more about finding your own choreographic style?

Going from classical ballet and modern training in Dayton to doing more contemporary and improv technique at NYU was a big change for me. It took about a year and a half to get used to it. Improv was really new to me and really terrifying. I’d always been told how to move. Learning improv put me in a place where I had to question for myself how I want to move and explore what I do instinctually. I learned that I‘m an athletic mover. I like to move fast and do a lot of jumps and floor work. Now that I’ve understood that about myself and opened up my options, I try to incorporate those movements into dance vocabulary that I already knew. Now I’m trying being true to my background while coming up with something that was more natural.

What does it mean to you, personally and professionally, to be participating in this Showcase?

It’s all been really positive. I’m really excited for this opportunity and look forward to hopefully sharing my work more in the future. I think it’s great that Peridance is helping budding choreographers to get started and get our feet in the door. It’s so promising to be able to do this so early out of school. It’s a great beginning for what I want to do in the future. I’m also excited to get feedback, both from the faculty at Peridance and the audience. This will be my first time showing work to an audience where I won’t know anyone. I’m looking forward to seeing if the piece is going in the right direction and reaching the audience. I want it to be something that everyone can really relate to.