As you walk along the streets of the city this Friday, March 27, you may witness individuals or groups laying into the groove of recorded music or dancing along the urban cacophony of their neighborhood. It may also be that you have marked your calendar -or programmed your phone- with a reminder to leave your desk for 5 minutes and engage in a petit pas de deux with a colleague. Yes, it is dance anywhere® day! Scheduled at noon in San Francisco, 3pm in New York, 8pm in Paris and Rome, everyone is encouraged to take part in this “simultaneous worldwide dance public art performance,” as Bay Area artist and founder Beth Fein describes the event. Founded in 2005, dance anywhere® celebrates its 10th year anniversary. I talked to Fein over the phone last week.
Marie Tollon: What was the impetus for starting dance anywhere®?
Beth Fein: I was coming home from a dance concert in San Francisco with friends who were all dancers. We started to talk about how hard it is to be an emerging choreographer: the expense of renting the theater, paying for tech and lighting, all those things which go with a formal performance. And I said: “What if we just all got up, danced together and did it for the sheer joy of dancing?” That’s how it began.
MT: Your background is both in visual arts and in dance.
BF: I started to dance when I was a teenager. I had some injuries in my 20s and went to art school at CCAC, which is now CCA. I majored in ceramics and photography. After graduating, I worked as a ceramics artist.
MT: How do both practices inform each other?
BF: When I’m doing a performance, I have such a visual sense of space, it’s like a canvas to me and the dancers who move through it are creating lines and shapes. Those things come from my visual arts background. When I work on my visual arts, I like to have things that have a sense of movement, a sense of moving through and leaving something behind. I often use dance anywhere® images, and make some prints (etchings) from them. I also like to make artwork that is not fixed in place, which has a Zen quality of possibilities: where chance and change are possible. Work that can be configured in different ways: picked up and moved into a new configuration as though it were a dance that was evolving.
MT: That reminds me of your 2013 exhibition Voices which had a participatory component to it. Was that partly informed by your dance background?
BF: Yes, they are similar in that I like site-specific performances and audience interaction. When we perform in public locations where the audience will often be in the space where you imagine your dancers to be, and then the audience becomes part of the performance. I like this exchange that happens. It enriches and deepens the work.
MT: You are celebrating the 10th anniversary of dance anywhere®. Do you have special memories?
BF: That is so hard [to answer]! There are so many things that have happened! I was actually going to show photos from all around the world in the lobby of ODC [Theater for the photo exhibit] but because the space isn’t that big, I chose instead to focus on Bay Area dance. I treasure my personal experience of going out in public spaces to dance, but I also am very inspired when people send images and video to me. Maria de La Vega from Buenos Aires did an animation. There’s an artist in Italy, Osvaldo Cibils, who took a huge piece of paper and was folding it and opening it. I’ve seen beautiful dancing of people in subway stations, the street and museums. In 2013, a group called Soradi Dance from Tomar, Portugal, got 1000 people in the town to participate in dance anywhere®. They were on this beautiful bridge over a river. I was amazed…
MT: I’m thinking of the people in Antarctica doing Happy Feet!
BF: Yes, dance anywhere® was on 6 continents and I thought: “Can we go to Antarctica?” I put the word out on social media and this woman responded: “Yes, I’m going on a cruise there.” I though she would just take a picture. She wasn’t a dancer, but she actually choreographed something and got all these people to dance with her including the crew – with the penguins as audience!
MT: How did you get the word out on other continents before social media?
BF: When we started, we got the word out through print media, email, dance organizations and word-of-mouth. We didn’t have any social media. It’s been such an amazing transformation in our world. Now we can reach people from all over the world. That’s another thing that is wonderful about dance anywhere®: it’s accessible to anyone. You don’t need anything – (there isn’t an entry fee or ticket to buy) anyone, anywhere can join in. We can all come together in one moment and set aside whatever differences we have and find common ground. It’s also a way to reclaim our culture. It’s not about buying or selling anybody anything. It’s about something that comes from within people and there’s a joyfulness that they can share. dance anywhere® is also a great way to connect with people that are far away from you: dance with friends or family who live miles away.
MT: What is for you the most important outcome of dance anywhere® over the past 10 years?
BF: Sparking creativity in other people and inspiring them… and creating a (momentary) global community.
MT: Where will you be on March 27?
BF: I will be at Jesse Square with a new work “Reflections.” This is a collaborative performance installation with Megan Lowe, Courtney Russell, Josie Alvite, Katie Motter, Loran Tolbert and Gina Breedlove singing. This is the beginning of a new interdisciplinary project I am working on.