featuring co-author Emmaly Wiederholt
Saturday, June 17, 5-8 pm
54 1/2 E. San Francisco Street #7
To many professional dancers, early retirement seems like an inevitability. Santa Fe dancer Emmaly Wiederholt spent most of her 20’s in San Francisco, performing in contemporary dance companies. When she was 28, she moved back to her home state of New Mexico, but didn’t leave dance behind. Instead, she embarked on a quest to interview dancers who are decades past their ostensible expiration dates.
On a series of crowdfunded expeditions through San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle, Wiederholt and photographer Gregory Bartning gathered the stories of 54 dancers ranging in age from 50 to 95. The words and images they captured became the independently published book Beauty Is Experience: Dancing 50 and Beyond, which makes its official debut at No Land on Saturday, June 17 from 5-8 pm. Wiederholt will speak and sign books at this special reception, and limited edition prints of Bartning’s photographs from the project will be available for purchase.
“Our culture celebrates youth and athleticism, but what if we also celebrate the inherent wisdom that comes with a body that has life experience?” says Wiederholt. This idea first came to her in 2012, when she attended a retrospective performance by septuagenarian butoh dancers Eiko Otake and Takashi Koma Otake. The couple, known professionally as Eiko & Koma, have been dancing together for over 50 years. “I was really moved by their capacity as dancers to convey things so simply, clearly and powerfully,” Wiederholt says. “With life experience comes the capacity to emote and to creatively express something that maybe a younger person hasn’t fleshed out or even felt.”
Wiederholt teamed up with Bartning and began interviewing older dancers for her blog, Stance on Dance. They called the project Dancing Over 50, and sought out practicing dancers in a variety of genres, from ballet and Argentine tango to African and contact improvisation. After each conversation, Bartning photographed the subjects in motion. “We were looking for people who’d been dedicated to understanding themselves through dance for a long period of time,” Wiederholt says. Early in the project, they connected with then 93-year-old Anna Halprin, a pioneer of postmodern dance. “Interviewing her was a pretty big turning point, because we had a big name,” she says. “That helped the project take shape, and other dancers started to come out of the woodwork.”
By 2015, Wiederholt and Bartning had completed 32 interviews in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Portland and Seattle. Late that year, they mounted a monumental road trip to all four cities and conducted 25 additional conversations. They also hosted a number of fundraising events to promote an Indiegogo campaign that would help them compile the Stance on Dance blog posts into a book. They completed Beauty Is Experience this year, and the book launch at No Land marks its official debut. The 210-page, 9 x 12 in., hardcover, full color photography book features 54 interviews and over one hundred photographs. The event kicks off Wiederholt’s book tour to each of the cities where interviews were conducted.
“Emmaly has contributed powerful performances to a number of Strangers Collective exhibitions,” says No Land co-director Kyle Farrell. “When she showed us this project, we were blown away by the dynamic imagery and inspiring insight of these remarkable artists.” Strangers Collective's new art space, No Land, features solo and small group exhibitions by artists, writers and performers. Dedicated to those ready to take the next step in their careers, No Land invites emerging artists to develop and show complete bodies of work.
For more information and high resolution images, please contact No Land co-directors Jordan Eddy, Alex Gill and Kyle Farrell at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*All photographs courtesy of Gregory Bartning, Belle Images.