Narrator: This podcast is a project of the Mass Cultural Council. We believe in the power of culture, the arts, humanities, and sciences to enrich communities, advance equity and foster creativity.
Adrienne Hawkins: I love to be able to move to music because that’s where my freedom comes from; to be able to be in the middle of music so that you see something about what this particular sound makes you feel like.
Anita Walker: Hi, I’m Anita Walker at the Mass Cultural Council. Welcome to Creative Minds Out Loud. Our guest today is Adrienne Hawkins. She is a choreographer and master dance teacher. And welcome to our program.
Adrienne Hawkins: Thank you so much for having me.
Anita Walker: You know, when I first moved to Massachusetts, a little more than 10 years ago, one of the first things I became interested in is how dance was being made in Massachusetts. So working with one of my colleagues, we decided to have a salon in my living room and invite choreographers. And we set the date. It was January. It was like the coldest day in January ever recorded in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. But nevertheless, 75 choreographers from as far as way as Williamstown made it all the way to Cohasset and we spent an entire afternoon in my living room, talking about the challenges of dance and choreography in Massachusetts. So now it’s 10 years later, I’m sure all of those challenges have been solved.
Adrienne Hawkins: I’m quite sure.
Anita Walker: But so just to kind of see the conversation, a lot of the things the choreographers were talking about were, number one, having a place to work, getting feedback for their work, being able to workshop new dance ideas. Are these still issues facing choreographers in Massachusetts?
Adrienne Hawkins: Always. Always, because like we say what you need to do to create dance are– is a space and space costs money. And what happens if you are supporting yourself and supporting your creative ideas, you have to make money in order to create those dances. Now, so you kind of sell, you sell yourself out to whoever, to the highest bidder. You know, whether it be someone who is in-residency trying to do– trying to find a space such as a community center, a, you know, a group that would be able to support how it is that you have the ability to create this dance or this project.
Anita Walker: So space it seems to be ever present issue for dancers or people who want to create dance. But in general how would you characterize the vitality of the dance, the dance field in Massachusetts?
Adrienne Hawkins: It has changed dramatically over the years. I’m old, so I have seen it over such a long span of time. There was at some point or another a place and that was called The Joy of Movement Center that was like 40 or 50 years ago. And what happens is that was a place where a lot of dancers came and he who had a private organization gave space to dancers, in order to create these dances. But over the period of time there has been a difference in how choreographers and dancers have been looked at through the funding system, in order to be able to create different dances. Forty years ago, there was not such a thing as diversity. There was pretty much modern jazz and blues. I mean modern jazz and ballet. But over that period of time there has been all of a sudden there has been multi-culturalism and in multi-culturalism it became Indian dance, it became Disabilities dance, it became Chinese dance. It became this dance. That dance. This kind of thing and therefore what happens is that the pot in a sense has been divvied up over much more of a wider variety of creators of dance and creators of movement. Because a lot of the times in which this movement, you have become more creative, I would say, in how it is that you get funding for what your– I– what you are trying to create. Meaning that if you’re trying to create an Indian dance then what happens is that you have to have a community that supports that. If you’re trying to do say like what I’m trying to do is jazz, there is a community that supports that. If you’re doing ballet there’s a community that supports that. If you’re doing children’s dance there’s a community that supports that, studios. There’s also a wide variety of types of dances that need an entire community to support them.
Anita Walker: You know, as a funder from the other side and we do fellowships for choreography here at the Mass Cultural Council. And I have noticed even over the last 10 years the definition of dance is changing. It isn’t always what we’re seeing coming in through our applications for our fellowships. It isn’t even necessarily just a human physical movement; a lot of times there’s technology involved and our panels are saying is this dance or is this something else. Are you seeing that, too?
Adrienne Hawkins: Not really. I think what happens– and I say that because of the community that I surround myself with are basically dancers, because I teach dance and I go to dance and the dance that I go to. And as I was saying, there is a community that is supporting different types of dance and so unless you go into the community you don’t even know about it. I mean a lot of times people are always surprised at how many different kinds of communities I know, only because I go to various types of dances such as, you know, like Indian dance or, you know, hip-hop or breakdancing or krumping or studio dance or, you know, modern dance, ballet. They’re all very separate. And unfortunately they are very separate and when they can get kind of that cross-fertilization it becomes more. The audience becomes one wider because they begin to see that there is validity in each one of the types of dances that they like and how that cross-fertilization works. But the cross-fertilization with technology, I would say hm, okay, mainly comes from, you know, the colleges that are– I mean there’s like what, 47 major in universities within a, you know, a hundred-mile or a 50-mile radius. And the technology of they– you begin to realize that technology and animation are crossing because the animators have to figure out what, how movement can be seen as valid or believable. And that in a sense is what choreographers do. What they do is they– that is the creative part of taking movement that you see and make it real, you know, or be able to duplicate or replicate it. One of the things about choreography really has to do with qualities of movement, weigh, how things move in space. As we watch the animators, what they do is they put the little electrodes on you and stuff like that and they mimic all of the actual movements of a specific thing, to be able to replicate or duplicate it. And I’m not saying– and that in a sense is choreography.
Anita Walker: Yeah.
Adrienne Hawkins: Yeah.
Anita Walker: So tell me about you. How did you get into dance?
Adrienne Hawkins: Oh, I love movement. I am like such a mover, you know. It’s like yay. You know, I was the party person, you know, it was like movement and music, I, you know, and that’s still to me is the same thing. I, you know, I love to be able to move to music because that’s where my freedom comes from; is to be able to be in the middle of music so that you see something about what this particular sound makes you feel like, and how particular qualities duplicate feelings within movement. We all do it. We all make decisions about how it is that we feel about certain things. If someone gets too close to your space you make a decision about, you know, how you want to get a– either you want to get away or they want to get away, but we make a decision. When we see someone walking towards us, their movement directs certain things within our mind in which we make certain decisions about. And that type of movement can be duplicated on the stage as a ca– as a common and or maybe a specific visceral response to movement. We have a visceral response to movement all the time.
Anita Walker: And we don’t even know we’re doing it.
Adrienne Hawkins: No, we don’t. We don’t. Well– well, yeah. Yes, we do.
Anita Walker: We sometimes do.
Adrienne Hawkins: Yeah, because usually we react to it, you know. It’s a reaction, movement. We react to movement in certain things. If we see a movement on the– in the corner and all of a sudden we react to something that was not supposed to be there, you know.
Anita Walker: So choreographer, what does the choreographer do? What are you doing as a choreographer?
Adrienne Hawkins: That is– that is all over the map. You know, that is all over the map. Sometimes it is just a cultural story that’s being told through movement. Sometimes it is just a movement phrase that is being manipulated in such a way that just the movement; the how the body moves through space is being projected on to the audience. Sometimes it is what the movement is that is being reproduced to give you a visceral response. Sometimes you have to go to the dancer. Sometimes the dancer comes to you. Sometimes what happens is that you have to expand your mind and be able to see a whole story happen. But myself, as a dancer it really does depend on what I’m trying to say with each piece of choreography. And each one is a different thing. There was one piece of choreography that I did which called “Deviation is Constant,” and for me that was a specific– specific thing that I wanted to explore in movement. The same way there are only 88 keys on the piano and within those 88 keys everything is completed. I mean there is, not unless you’re going to flip the thing up and pluck the, you know, pluck the strings and hit on the thing and popping, you know, stamp your feet and sing a little bit and do all of that stuff.
Anita Walker: And for our listeners, there’s a lot of movement going as she describes this.
Adrienne Hawkins: Yeah.
Adrienne Hawkins: You know, all of those things but the basic thing is those 88 keys and what the variations of those 88 keys. And the time signatures within how it is that you strike or move. And so what happens is that I took 2 or 3 movement phrases and the only thing that I did with those movement phrases is alter the direction, the timing, the spatial awareness of it and how it was that I put it together and used something that was like a minimalist. Which was just, you know, duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-duh-dah and how much I could change what it is that you saw by just altering a few of the qualities that were within that space, in that confined space.
Anita Walker: So I have to ask you something I’ve always wondered about.
Adrienne Hawkins: Go, I don’t know if I can answer it but you can ask <laughs>.
Anita Walker: So how do you write down dance? So I know what music notation looks like.
Adrienne Hawkins: Yes.
Anita Walker: But what is dance? How do you– or is it like an oral tradition?
Adrienne Hawkins: There is something that’s called Labanotation. It’s actually not used as much because there’s video now. Everything is videoed, you know, it’s like okay, put it because that’s what it is that you see. But Labanotation actually was not writ– was not created for dance. It was created for movement at some– it was created by Ralph Laban in like 1901 or something like that. And there is a whole– there is a whole study of Labanotation but it’s written down almost like– almost like you would write down a score where it comes in the middle and you have, whether we have a different levels. We have arm movements. We have hand movements. We have head movements. It’s not used because it is really cumbersome. You know, it’s like, you know, 185 million pages to, you know, to really write down. But the one thing that it does do is that besides writing down the movement, it has created certain classification of qualities. So that what happens it’s that it’s not only the movement but the quality of the movement that is inherent in the steps that create what it is that can be duplicated.
Anita Walker: Wow.
Adrienne Hawkins: Yes. And so what happens it’s called Effort/Shape which is the effort that is created to do particular shapes and how that effort is, such as a hit, a strike, a float, you know, a push. A– and the qualities that are with it– are inherent with this movement also has to be recreated in the dance, otherwise it is not what it was meant to be.
Anita Walker: Oh, okay. So last question–
Adrienne Hawkins: Go.
Anita Walker: — you teach.
Adrienne Hawkins: Yes.
Anita Walker: What are you seeing in your students, the new young aspiring dancer/choreographers that come into your studio?
Adrienne Hawkins: <sighs> Oh, my goodness. They have gone above and beyond a lot of the things that we as older dancers, you know, have gone. And I think in any– in any form such as any kind of physical form such as running, snowboarding, skiing, you know, where any kind of physical thing each time you become more aware of something that you can do or qualify and teach to make the next group better. It increases their ability, their range, there adaptations. And so the same way is, you know, somebody broke the four-minute mile. Somebody, you know, skied faster than somebody else. Somebody did something better than the next person, in dance it’s the same way. They are increasing their range of movement, their ability to do certain things that you look at and you almost say that really is impossible for that body to do that. I can’t believe that. Who even thought of that? Do they know they can die? They don’t. They didn’t know that. I can tell because they made up their mind that they were going to do that and I’m like going that’s impossible, you know. And they, you know, they try it, they did it.
Anita Walker: Kind of like the quadruple Lutz at this– Olympics.
Adrienne Hawkins: Yes.
Adrienne Hawkins: There we go. I mean, you know, it’s like who like thought that you could do that? You know, so they are taking the ability of the body to do more and more and more, in order to do. And I say this, you know, in all respect; the things that they have come up with are also in relationship to how the country has moved forward. Meaning that they are more confrontational, they are more dis– disjointed, meaning that each part of the body now has become a specific way in order to push or pull. They are using more of the floor. They’re– they have incorporated breakdancing. They have incorporated all kinds of Indian dance, Native American dance, African dance, and they have created all of this in such a way that it’s really interesting. I spend a lot of time traveling to different countries and the one thing that they always look to the United States for is to make up something new that can be exported to another country. Because then the exportations to the other countries develop within their own culture. And therefore it’s kind of like, oh, I say something like the Lindy the Lindy Hop in the in the in the ’40s, which is one of the first social dances that traveled throughout the world because it was brought by the soldiers to each one of the countries and or jazz. So that what happens is that there’s a more worldly or universal adaptation of something that was created in the United States, which is very, very interesting when you– when you see it.
Anita Walker: Dance alive and well in Massachusetts.
Adrienne Hawkins: Yes.
Anita Walker: Still innovating and still pushing new boundaries.
Adrienne Hawkins: Yes.
Anita Walker: Adrienne Hawkins, choreographer, master teacher, dancer and another one of our Creative Minds Out Loud.
Adrienne Hawkins: Oh, thank you so much for having me.
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