Related Features


Your support helps us cover dance in New York City and beyond! Donate now.

Dance Up Close To "WOW"

Dance Up Close To "WOW"
Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram

By Christine Jowers/Follow @cmmjowers on Instagram
View Profile | More From This Author

Published on December 8, 2014
Keely Garfield/Paul Hamilton Video Still by Christine Jowers

Keely Garfield On The Many Faces of WOW

Keely Garfield Dance
December 11-13, 2014 • Thu-Sat • 8pm
Danspace Project

For Tickets Click  Danspace Project

“Let’s just put the cards on the table,” remarks British-American choreographer Keely Garfield after a day's rehearsal for the premiere of WOW at Danspace Project. “This is about something…”

WOW, a dance choreographed by Garfield, inspired by the poetry in Kate Bush’s lyrics, features Brandin Steffensen, Paul Hamilton, Jordan Morley, Leslie Kraus and musician Matthew Brookshire. WOW marks the fourth Danspace Project presentation for the British-born Garfield.

The Many Faces of WOW

The creation of WOW was prompted by a meditation on the nature of sincerity. “What is our sincere heartfelt desire for change in the world? …Walking in the studio, standing, sitting, moving, what does it mean to dance sincerely? What does it mean to perform from the bottom of your heart? What does it mean to make something that is utterly without cleverness or a hint of irony…? Turns out,” the choreographer discovered, for a piece of choreography to work dramatically, “you need irony, and wit, and a pun here or there to make it bearable.”

However, in “reality”, Garfield questions whether humor doesn’t flippantly mask horrors that we truly need to face. “At any moment there is an event, a catalyst that pushes or pulls you, and for me this really started with the kidnapping of the Nigerian girls back in April.” Garfield remembers watching Jon Stewart’s comedy news show afterwards, noticing that the humor seemed a way to hide feelings, to cut oneself off from the difficulties of the world.

“There is a culture of laugh out loud, LOL, pointing at something, making a pun or joke, and I think it actually leaves us feeling more powerless. It is an expression of powerlessness that we have to make a joke, or throw up our hands and say, ‘wow,’ because we don’t know what to do. We don’t know how to do it; we don’t know where to go.”

What Should a Dance Look Like in 2015?

Garfield hopes that WOW will remind us to connect to the world. “We become distanced from our feelings because they are overwhelming. We have to feel our way through, like blind people —we don’t have to act on everything … but to notice and have the courage to sit with what you feel is key…”  

The choreographer knew she didn’t want and couldn’t bring herself to stand up on stage and have a rant in order to get her sincerity across. This is where the English singer/songwriter Kate Bush comes in. Bush, in addition to being a music phenomenon when Garfield was growing up, is also a contemporary. “We had the same dance teacher, the same mime teacher, we drank the same water.”

Yoga Instructor, Hospice Worker, Dancer, Choreographer of Contemporary Dance, MTV, Musicals and Ballet. Do They Relate?

Garfield, whose father is also a singer/songwriter, grew up listening to music, particularly pop songs, as poetry. “You hear a song like ‘Breathing’ with Kate Bush talking about the environment (could have been written yesterday because nothing has changed) and there’s an invitation to come in because you are not being hit over the head.” She and frequent collaborator, musician Matthew Brookshire, turned to the poems of Bush, discovering in them seeds of inspiration. Garfield’s choreography also involves searching for connections and essential meaning. “While I am very attuned and particular about THE steps, THE shapes, THE material,  what difference does it make? There has to be something that opens up the choreography, that releases its perfumes, its flavors, its color…”

“I have been concerned and fascinated with creating back-to -back images of powerfulness and powerlessness… people supporting each other or not, supporting themselves or not. That kind of juxtaposition has felt like a way to depict struggle. The struggle of these dancers, is the struggle of everybody.”


Related Features

More from this Author