What are you ...? with Alicia Chesser, dancer-choreographer-writer
BY JAMES D. WATTS JR. World Scene Writer
Thursday, January 24, 2013
1/24/13 at 4:34 AM
Dance has been a part of Alicia Chesser's life since she took her first class at the June Runyon School of Dance when she was just 5 years old. For most of her adult life, however, she was more the observer than the observed.
She's written about dance for The Village Voice and the website Dance Insider, and she now shares her thoughts and ideas about the local dance scene with her "Tulsa Dances" blog.
"I had a severe stutter as a child," Chesser said. "Dance was a language in which I could be fluent and expressive. As I grew older, I came to love the whole mystery of how the spirit moves in and through the physical form."
As for her writing, Chesser said, "A love for language and a love for movement came along together for me and have always held equal importance in my life."
In the past couple of years, however, Chesser has returned to performing - most notably with Tulsa Modern Movement (TuMM), a contemporary dance company that will debut an original dance piece Thursday at Crystal Bridges, the American art museum in Bentonville, Ark., founded by Wal-Mart heiress Alice Walton.
"I had gotten the itch to get back in the studio after my third child was born, after about a decade of not dancing at all, so I started taking the adult ballet class at Tulsa Ballet," Chesser said. "One evening in 2010 my dear friend Megan McKown, with whom I'd grown up dancing, stopped by and peeked in at me during class, and soon after she invited me to be part of a new project she was working on.
"Then Nina Madsen saw me dance in that show and invited me to be part of TuMM," she said. "Being on stage is a heightened experience of living in the present moment. For me it's good practice for life."
... doing at Crystal Bridges?
The museum invited TuMM to create a site-specific piece for the closing of its "See the Light" exhibit. We've made a three-part installation for five dancers, taking our inspiration from the exhibit as well as from the museum's amazing architecture - about the properties of light, about how light and physical space affect each other.
... always sure to have in your refrigerator?
Greek yogurt, blueberries, red cabbage. (The chocolate and coffee are in the cupboard.)
I usually have two or three books going at once. Currently "That is That" by Nirmala and "Carry On, Jeeves" by P.G. Wodehouse. Balance is everything.
... telling friends is the best place for dinner out with the entire family?
We enjoy going to Te Kei's. It's in the neighborhood, and we have a sushi-crazy 8-year-old.
... remembering as your favorite moment on stage?
Dancing in Megan McKown's "Song of the Swimming Sun" at the PAC in 2010. It was my first time performing again after many years away, and the piece was very powerful, full of beautiful archetypal gestures and images.
... listening to that you would never think of dancing to?
I'm playing Julianna Barwick (who is from Bixby!) quite a bit lately, and I prefer just to get lost in her sound-world. But I have never, in all the years I have loved them, danced to the Beastie Boys. Maybe I need to revisit that.
... wanting most to see perform in Tulsa?
Crystal Pite's company Kidd Pivot. Gallim Dance. Azsure Barton and Artists. And Rashaun Mitchell and Silas Reiner, formerly of the Merce Cunningham company.
... doing to balance domestic time with creative time?
It's not easy! I do a lot of jobs, but I try to do only one thing at a time and give it maximal attention. And sometimes that's an utter failure and I just have to improvise. Which is fun, too. I just try to be present in whatever I'm doing. I feel a great deal of gratitude that I get to do any of it at all.
James D. Watts Jr. 918-581-8478
Alicia Chesser, dancer-choreographer-writer and co-artistic director of Tulsa Modern Movement, demonstrates her dance moves. JAMES GIBBARD / Tulsa World