Bautanzt Here has become known in Atlanta for its outdoor performances of site-specific dance, but at least once a year the company stages a multimedia, multidisciplinary work created for a theater.
This season’s project is “The Othering,” a full-length, interactive narrative dance featuring original music by Xavier Lewis, also known as Xay Soleil, and Dan Carey Bailey, and art and software design by self-described “technology artist and tinkerer of things defunct” Eddie Farr.
ArtsATL observed Bautanzt Here during rehearsal for “The Othering.” Together, Zeitlin and the three dancers, Brian Chappel Crosby, Cailan Orn and Sarah Stokes, were collaboratively creating a mini repertory of movement they will eventually break apart and arrange into a “choose-your-own-adventure” narrative structure in which the audience will participate in determining plot twists and turns through a phone app and stage set piece created by Farr.
Zeitlin has drawn on the folk tale “Hansel and Gretel” as a frame for “The Othering.” The choreography is abstract contemporary movement, but individual gestures nevertheless reflected the source material during the rehearsal. The dancers’ spongy knees and fluid torsos often contrasted with sharp arm motions featuring angular or stiffened elbows.
Recurring gestures mimicked the slashing of branches or tall grass as one moves through a dense thicket or field, the arrow-straight constancy of a compass needle or the hitchhiker thumbing a ride. At times, the dancers’ evolving contact work was playful and supportive. In other moments, it projected the tension of body striving against body.
Bautanzt Here will give a free work-in-progress excerpt of “The Othering” as part of the “Salon: The Art of Conversation” at Core Dance in Decatur at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30. Registration is requested.
The work will premiere Oct. 28 and 29 at the Windmill Arts Center in East Point.
Zeitlin sat down with ArtsATL to talk about her inspiration for “The Othering” and her evolution as an artist.
Q: Creating this work for the theater is your chance to do something more immersive without the distractions that sometimes compete with the dance in an outdoor performance. What is the inspiration for “The Othering” and what themes or stories does it engage?
A: As my second daughter started to grow older, I had a huge feeling of nostalgia for myself of 10 years ago. I was like, where is this person who could stay up until midnight and still be fine in the morning, that young woman with all the energy and ideas?
I realized she was still there, somewhere inside or maybe outside in the universe, but in the process of moving to the United States, having my first child and then my second child, each of these steps required me to shun that person I was and change into or create another person.
For example, when I moved to the U.S., I became self-conscious, for the first time, of my accent when speaking English. Also, outside of my conversations about the art world, people were talking about things they experienced in their childhood — the movies, cartoons and books they all seemed to know. I had different experiences, knew different things. So instead of talking, I thought, I’ll just listen. I became quiet, reserved.
Before I had children, I used to go to every dance show, every art gallery opening, every theatrical performance. After my daughters were born, I had to conserve energy, stay home.
I wanted to create a work around that sense of longing for the person I was. The Hansel and Gretel story gives the audience something familiar, recognizable, even if their experience isn’t my experience.
The woman or women I was — I would say, my inner child, my inner children — are Hansel and Gretel. They’ve been abandoned, but they’re trying to get back home.
Q: Who has influenced you as an artist?
A: Definitely my first teachers back in Kazakhstan, the twin Gabbasov sisters. They were pioneers of modern dance in Kazakhstan, using dance theater to explore their heritage and cultural roots, that feeling of the Earth in your body. In terms of their movement and aesthetic, it drew on Pina Bausch (and neo-expressionist Tanztheater). Their work was full of desperation, but it was also (cathartic). Watching it healed you.
Some of my other primary and current influences include Israeli contemporary dance, the performance art of Niv Sheinfeld and Oren Laor and the Belgian artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Q: You have received funding from the Atlanta Beltline and the City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs multiple times. In 2022, you were an Emory Dance Program guest artist, and Bautanzt Here was commissioned to create a piece for the Hambidge Art Auction. How have you built these relationships? What has that side of the work looked like?
A: I spent a lot of time applying as an independent artist. When I think back to some of those early applications, I feel so embarrassed, but I kept trying. I’ve applied to Idea Capital Atlanta almost every year for 10 years and never got it, but I plan to apply again this year.
I also attended every possible class and workshop. C4 Atlanta (now defunct) had a really good program, the Hatch Training Intensive. They were teaching us how to work with stakeholders, how to write a good proposal, how to speak the language of stakeholders.
For some applications, that’s really the most important thing. I don’t want to devalue the art. It has to be there, but you have to explain it and show that you can be trusted with the money. Many of the decision makers reading your application, they know good accounting from bad accounting better than they know good dance from bad dance.
Q: What do you hope the interactive component of “The Othering” will add for the audience?
A: I had the idea after watching the “Bandersnatch” episode of “Black Mirror,” where the viewers could make choices for the character. By pressing these little buttons, they could choose which cereal he had for breakfast or which music he listened to. The choices then become more profound — should he take a job offer?
I immediately thought, we need to do this with live dance because it would be such a fun experience, to be watching dancers onstage in the theater and making choices that affect the direction of the work taking place in front of you.
6:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30. Free excerpt of work-in-progress. Core Dance, 133 Sycamore St., Decatur. Bautanzt.art.
7:30 p.m. Oct. 28 and 5 p.m. Oct. 29. $10-30. Windmill Arts Center, 2823 Church St., East Point. Bautanzt.art.
Robin Wharton studied dance at the School of American Ballet and the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. As an undergraduate at Tulane University in New Orleans, she was a member of the Newcomb Dance Company. In addition to a bachelor of arts in English from Tulane, Robin holds a law degree and a Ph.D. in English, both from the University of Georgia.
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