Sarah Kaufman of The Washington Post says of the world created in The Matter of Origins that it’s “an intimate universe inhabited by the glorious dancers of [Liz Lerman’s] Dance Exchange. Watching them…you sense the awe that brought Lerman to her subject. It’s the wonder of humanity itself.”
One of these glorious dancers who brought us to the edge of our seats during his soulful and intricate solo in Origins is Keith Thompson. I caught up with this adjunct artist, rehearsal director for The Matter of Origins, and choreographer during a Dance Exchange rehearsal for his piece Blueprints of Relentless Nature. (The Dance Exchange performed it at Augusta, Georgia’s Westobou Festival on September 25th and at Wesleyan University last weekend.)
Incredibly complex, the Blueprints movement is a mental and physical adventure for any dancer who attempts it. (Believe me, I know–I got to try it out in rehearsal!) The 20-minute piece cuts through every dimension of space conceivable. Limbs that don’t usually work together do; the body twists and flies and lifts other bodies in directions not typically seen. It’s disorienting, athletic, daring. “Less force, less energy, more breath, more clarity,” says the four-person cast together before every rehearsal and performance. The mantra is their way of navigating the piece’s super-human demands.
If one could unzip the brain and body that created “Blueprints,” they’d find that Thompson has cultivated enough neuro-pathways to circle the globe at least once–not unlike his 27-year professional career, which has taken him worldwide touring in the US, Europe and Asia. He earned his MFA Research Fellowship in Dance from Bennington College in 2003, but Thompson credits every artist he’s ever worked with for being his mentors.
Among them, Bebe Miller pushed his risk-taking and physicality. Renowned postmodern choreographer Trisha Brown gave Thompson ample opportunity to develop attention to detail and his love for the element of surprise. Ten years of dancing with Brown’s company–three of which he acted as rehearsal director–refined Thompson’s understanding of articulation, initiation and momentum, he says. Jazz dance master Danny Buraczeski instilled a strong sense of musicality in Thompson, and of course, Liz Lerman has inspired him to add more context to the abstract movements of his work. Blueprints, for instance, explores how the environment shifts, changes and decays.
Along with his work at the Dance Exchange, Thompson is artistic director of his own company danceTactics Performance Group. What’s his advice to dancers? “Find what you enjoy,” he says, and “Go for it. I’ve always done that.”