On January 8, Brooklyn-based dancer and choreographer Wally Cardona held the first of three New York City “Interventions” at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, intimate, experimental performances created over a whirlwind five-day collaboration with a specially selected expert from outside of the traditional dance community. Working with sound artist and activist Robert Sember, Cardona developed a complex piece involving verbal and nonverbal communication and movement over the course of a series of repeated scenes, each with unique and challenging variations. On February 12, Cardona will stage INTERVENTION #5 with Martin Kapell, a design partner and architect at WASA/Studio A who specializes in designing spaces for the performing and visual arts, including the Baryshnikov Arts Center itself. “My commitment to architecture springs from the principle that everyone is entitled to the benefits of intelligent design,” Kapell notes in his online bio, “and that architecture, when approached from this belief, can directly enhance and improve the way we live, work, learn, and play.” Cardona and Kapell are just beginning their collaboration, which will be presented Saturday night at BAC; Cardona discussed that and more in a twi-ny talk held shortly after the fourth Intervention.
twi-ny: In the past you’ve collaborated with such sound, visual, and movement artists as Phil Kline, Rahel Vonmoos, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Maya Ciarrocchi, ETHEL, Douglas Fanning, and now Robert Sember. What is the anticipation like waiting to hear which collaborator has been selected for you? Do you have any inklings yet on who your collaborators will be for #5 and #6?
Wally Cardona: I now know Intervention #5 will be with Martin Kapell, and that his profession is in architecture and design. Anticipation: I suppose that begins to show up — and take on various emotional states, depending on my frame of mind — on the day of our first meeting. For me, a powerful thing in each Intervention is not just the fact that I’m meeting a person from a very different discipline or field of inquiry but that I’m meeting a complete stranger. And with the agreement that we’ll spend a week together. The first thing that happens is I perform my “empty solo” for them, and I have to confess that with each Intervention, I begin the second day wondering if the person will show up again.
twi-ny: In New York City, you’ve performed at BAM, the Joyce and Joyce SoHo, Danspace Project, the Duke, and DTW. You’re currently working at BAC. How is the space there informing the new work?
Wally Cardona: I’m glad you brought up BAC! They’ve been incredibly generous in supporting and presenting three Interventions. Each time, you never know what you’re gonna get. With a working period radically condensed to five days and an agreement to make the resources usually available to me as a choreographer also available to each “expert,” all questions re: lights, sound, audience set-up, running time, etc., are usually unknown until the last day. So, all our methods and coping mechanisms are challenged — presenter, tech crew, artist, expert, and perhaps audience.
twi-ny: What was it like to have Misha witness INTERVENTION #4?
Wally Cardona: Misha’s got soooo much information in his body. Something wonderful happens when being watched by a person with that amount of knowledge. I’m not sure I can explain it. It’s like I see more of myself. And one thing I find incredibly inspiring about Misha is how he is able to use a minimal amount of force to maximal effect. I feel like a bull in a china shop in comparison.
twi-ny: You have given yourself a mere five days to work with each collaborator at each venue. Why do that to yourself?
Wally Cardona: The entire construct of the collaboration is not like any I’ve experienced before. The point really is to initiate — rather than find mutual agreement or choreograph a “new work by Wally Cardona.” If an expert’s desire or request puts me in an uncomfortable position that feels at odds with my own preference, patterns, likes, or dislikes . . . I’m happy. So it’s kind of like a self-imposed intervention and they are aggressive, in their own bizarre way. Each puts me on shaky ground, demands my constant attention and works best when my generosity overrides my fear.
twi-ny: The word “intervention” works on several levels but immediately conjures up an action taken against one person or event. Why did you choose it as the title of this series of collaborations, since the word “collaboration” can be interpreted to be in direct conflict with “intervention”?
Wally Cardona: People often wonder how an Intervention actually works. This is part of a paragraph given to each “expert” before we meet: “We begin as strangers and get acquainted through a weeklong working process. On Day One, I perform my ‘empty solo’ for each collaborator as a starting point and form of introduction. I present each expert with the same solo, which is designed to bend to his/her interpretation, desire, or aesthetics. What I am most interested in is what each expert might want to see even though he/she might not yet know how to make it manifest; how to do this is to be discovered, together, in the studio. Each expert is asked to think of me as a tool to be utilized and exercised, and I, in turn, call upon my own expertise to realize his/her vision. There is no system to the week and how it unfolds; it is unique to each expert. What we know is that a public performance is the final result, which the expert cannot make without me, and for which I am reliant on the expert's opinion.”
INTERVENTION #5 takes place February 12 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center. INTERVENTION #6 is scheduled for March 26.