Lydia Hance Interview – Part 2

Lydia Hance Interview – Part 2


Interviewer: Kerri Lyons Neimeyer

Interviewee: Lydia Hance

K: How did you become interested in dance film? What was your entry into that? Because I think most dancers, especially early on, think about being on stage and that is what they think of producing for. Although, you’re right that screens are ubiquitous now, so it does make a lot of sense that you would use that in the service of dance if you can.

L: I think I was drawn to dance film because I am so interested in and drawn to dance in other environments. I mean, I can’t always take an audience to where I want to make a dance. It allows me to offer things about dance that you can’t really get on the stage. For example, getting really close to a dancer. I mean, you can get close in small venues, but I’m talking really close. What if you want to see a wrinkle on somebody’s face? Also, the beauty of editing allows for the brain and the eye to see dance in a different way. You can tell a different story because you can make things happen really quickly; you can change location; you can change how you are seeing a dancer. A lot can be told through the choreography of editing. Oh, and another thing, you can ask a dancer to do things infinity times when you’re going back on a video. The human body gets tired. When I’m with the dancers and we’re working on something, I have to ask them to “do it again. Do it again. Do it again.” I don’t have any trouble asking a dancer on the screen to do it again while I watch it, and go through it, and get really focused and detail oriented. When you’re dealing with something that is recorded, there’s just more capacity to focus on detail.

And textures. I am so drawn to textures. And colors. And use of light. There is an importance to the theater, I mean, live performance is magical in a way that screened dance can never be. But screen dance does offer a lot in terms of storytelling, and tricks of the camera, and location. I would say number one, it fulfills my desire to make dance in a space that I couldn’t bring people to.

K: I am going to ask you to talk about the Frame Dance vision and what it essentially is; the ideas and beliefs that hold all of these things together, from the Little Framers to the film fest, from the times of hard work to the times of applause. What is it that runs through all of it that makes Frame what it is?

L: I’m trying to hold on to those things right now because I always get really nervous before the beginning of a season. I hear lies in my head, you know? Like, “Why are you doing this?” And I keep coming back to this idea that everybody is and can be an adventurous mover, and that when we dance, we become better humans. What keeps me going is seeing people’s lives change, or shift. Seeing their hearts open. I grew up in a very technical, career-bound dance environment, which equipped me to do what I’m doing. But there were a lot of times when my heart was pulled out of my body, it felt like. I was constantly asking myself, “Am I good enough? Do I have what it takes? Are they going to like me?” I want to help people get their heart back in their bodies and move. And then to use that movement to find out more about themselves, about who they were made to be. All with the belief that they don’t need to change who they are to be a dancer. I mean, technically we want to grow, but, dance is this gift, and I want everyone to experience it. I think that in a lot of ways dance has become for a select few, and that makes me really sad. We find out so much about who we are and the world that we live in through moving and through dancing. This is how we are on earth; we are in a body. The capacity for the body to move and do these incredible things, small or big, changes how we think, changes how we see each other, and it changes how we feel about ourselves. When I walk out of MultiGen on Saturdays, I see people who have found out who they are again. Dance has the power to do that. I have to remember that that’s the work. When I get discouraged, or things don’t seem to be going in a way that I think that they should be going, or things seem a lot harder than they should be, I have to remember to trust the work itself. One really great example of this happened after I had Micah. When I was pregnant, I just didn’t feel good. I moved, but I didn’t like moving. I didn’t like being pregnant. And then I broke my tailbone during delivery. So, after delivery, I just felt awful. All you’re doing is sitting down and nursing with a newborn, and I couldn’t even sit down without being in unbelievable pain. Then I went to this workshop with Anna Halprin when Micah was about 40 days old. So, I flew out to California to go to this workshop, and I remember we were doing all of these very simple human movement things, and I was there but also sleep deprived. I danced and I moved as much as I could. And then there was a part of the workshop when we started activating our voices in order to inform our movement, and we started humming. It was the smallest movement, but we started doing it at the very base of our pelvis, and with just that tiny movement from humming down where my tailbone is, I felt it starting to heal. It was like, “Oh, yeah. I can trust dance. I can trust the work.” And it’s not just me. It’s me, and this community gathering around this really powerful thing called dance. When I remember that, when I remember that it’s healing – for myself, too – I remember that there’s a reason why.

K: It makes me think, too, about how it is in everybody. It’s so natural. With Micah you probably learned all over again just how born with it we are; how we are born with movement, and rhythm, and expression through non-purposeful movement, which is dance. Like, not reaching for the ball, but moving to move.

L: Yeah, so the next summer I started doing this thing called Daily Dances because I was trying to figure out how to dance in my everyday life. I talk about how dance should be in everybody’s life, so I was like, “OK, Lydia, do that. Do that yourself! Don’t just encourage other people to.” I started out for a month, every day doing something in my life where I was just dancing, or I was dancing to accomplish another task, moving my body, I guess like you’re saying, in a non-purposeful way, or in the least direct way. Now it’s pretty awesome because Micah is like, “Mommy, dance! Mommy, my dance! Mommy, let’s dance.” He asks for it, and I don’t know why I’m surprised. I love that it’s part of him, that it’s part of his experience growing up. When he’s really excited he starts dancing around, or I’ll turn around and he’s doing something creative with his body. But I also wonder when he’s thirty and starts telling stories about how he would walk outside and his mother is rolling around in the grass, and what kind of implications that’s going to have. Hopefully good.

K: Any last things?

L: I want everyone to know that they are welcome. We want them to be a part of our community, whether it’s in a movement class or dance class, little child, pregnant mom, youth, mom with a sixteen year-old. BOYS. Men. Everybody’s welcome. There’s no pre-req for what we do. We believe that dance is for everybody and that there are a lot of ways to do that. Dance is life-giving and brings joy. Moving the body does incredible things for the heart and the mind. I just want everybody to dance.

Lydia Hance Interview – Part 1

Lydia Hance Interview – Part 1


Interviewer: Kerri Lyons Neimeyer

Interviewee: Lydia Hance

Kerri: Lydia, tell us what’s going on with Frame. What are you working on? What are you excited about?

Lydia: Well, I just had a conversation with Laura Gutierrez, who is going to come on board with the youth ensemble, and [will be] teaching the Junior Framers with me. That makes a trio of Jennifer Mabus, Laura Gutierrez, and myself. I feel excited about that program and what we’re offering kids, because I think it is something that is not  happening anywhere else. We have the best of the best professionals working with them, and that’s not a common thing, to get these experienced professionals working with kids in a program that’s just a little bit out of the ordinary. We’ve been talking about making makers. I think that’s such a beautiful way of putting it. They’re also getting photography from Lynn Lane, and costume design from Ashley Horn, and repertory from Jennifer Mabus’ professional dance experiences. I’m really pumped about the future of that program. I am so thrilled for the students, and also to be working with them to build this program, because I don’t think a post-modern maker’s dance program is out there, especially not in Houston. I’m collaborating to discover what is possible with these really smart, creative kids. Because, we don’t want to put them in a box, and we want to bring them the highest level of teaching and education, but do it in a way that opens doors for them, and opens their creativity and their exploration, and their technique, and doesn’t necessarily send them all down one path.

And then the film festival. I’ve had a lot of fun curating that with Rosie Trump, and creating these three distinct film programs. So, the first night is going to be called “Cozy,” and it is dance films that center around the idea of intimacy and moving towards or away, emotionally. It’s also in our coziest setting at the Ronin Art House, which is a more intimate performance space. The second program is the slightly more “Experimental” – I had a really hard time unpacking this word – films. I would say there is a lot of play with techniques of editing, techniques of the camera, techniques of movement, trying to open up new ways of seeing dance on film. Then the third evening, I’m calling “Silken,” and the films are slightly more mysterious, and there’s a lustre to these films. There are a few documentaries on there, so it’s a peek inside someone else’s world. In each film you dive into a different, sometimes a really different, environment. I’m really excited about that, and about bringing in filmmakers to Houston. We have a filmmaker, Paris Wages, who is coming from Australia. And we have Rosie Trump, who is coming from Reno, Nevada. We have Jennifer Terazzi-Scully coming from North Carolina, and Jordan Fuchs who’s coming from Denton, and Alexandra Mannings from Alabama, who all have films on this program. We’re going to be able to offer panels, and ask them questions, and have more interaction with audiences. Dance film is kind of a niche thing, and I want to make it accessible because, I think, in the end it is an accessible medium. It’s a familiar context and format for the average person because we’re so used to screens. I want to give more artistic insight from the filmmakers because they’re all so different, to help people dive in a bit more to feel really comfortable, and enjoy the festival.

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MFA Monday!

MFA Mondays

               Hi Framers, Happy Monday!

MFA Monday typically centers on musings from local holders of Master of Fine Arts, but for this series we’ve got something a little different! For the next three weeks we will get to hear from a contributor all the way from California…drrrrum rrrolll please: 

Part 1 of 3

As I sit here trying to figure out how to start writing about my experience in graduate school, I am becoming keenly aware of my many mixed feelings about my time there and my time since. So here is to hoping that whatever comes out here makes some sort of sense, for me if no one else.

First let me say that if I could go back and do it all again, I would have waited a few years after undergrad before going to graduate school. I started my doctorate at age 22, immediately after completing my BFA.  A lot happened in the subsequent five years of my life while I was in school and working on my dissertation. Your early twenties are incredibly formative years, but I wouldn’t know because I spent them ALL in school.  So all I know is how formative graduate school can be.

The moment I learned that a field called “Dance Studies” existed, something in me shifted. Growing up with parents who were teachers and in an academically rigorous community, I have always enjoyed traditional learning. But dance was always my passion. Until college, I thought the two things existed separately.

Although I have danced since I was a child, I’ve never thought of myself as much of an artist. When I was given the choice to write a thesis or choreograph a concert for my Senior Project in undergrad, I only considered the concert option for about 15 seconds. I wanted to write. I was interested in the research process and wanted to be a part of something that blew people’s minds the way Dance Studies did for me when I was 19. After dancing and thinking separately for two decades, I was excited to discover a place where both worked together. I’m not suggesting that choreographing and performing doesn’t require both activities simultaneously, because it certainly does. For me, growing up dancing meant just replicating with no thinking. And while I logically understand that both can, and do, happen in the same body at the same time, I am not sure I have ever fully understood how to make that happen for myself. Even to this day, I don’t fancy myself much of an artist and am incredibly insecure about my own artistic process and choreographic product. But give me a page and I will write! Give me an inspired theoretical text and I will happily analyze movement! In fact, at my going away party before I moved for grad school, I remember a conversation with a dear girlfriend and brilliant choreographer. She couldn’t quite understand why I was choosing to subject myself to even more schooling immediately after graduation. I remember telling her, “I want to be able to write about what you do. I want help people know it exists and remember that it exists for the rest of time.” So when I was 22, that was my plan: To write. About dance. Beyond that, I had no idea what graduate school and a doctorate in dance meant. This should have been my first clue…

I was excited for the letters after my name. I was excited because it sounded cool. But, frankly, the whole thing was hardly planned. I applied because it came recommended from a trusted mentor and I didn’t have any other plans. I honestly didn’t think I’d get in. In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t. I wish I could have taken an extra year to work, even if it meant working as a caterer, to think about life, about myself, and what I wanted in my future. I could have read more, increased my vocabulary, and written more. I would have interacted with more people, learn what life was like outside of that of a full-time student, and simply enjoyed a moment in my 20s before real life became too permanent and demanding.

I think that year in between would have helped me avoid the panic attack I had the third week of classes. Towards the end of a seminar, in a small and crowded room, after trying to stay calm for several weeks, the realization that I simply had no idea what I was doing came flooding over me. It turns out everyone in graduate programs are REALLY smart (usually). It’s like having a class full of only the smart kids that raise their hands.  Let me clarify, it’s not “like” that, it is that. This is really intimidating for the quiet 22 year old who is keenly aware of her own inexperience. So in that moment, I couldn’t figure out why I’d moved away from everything I knew. I couldn’t figure out how I came to sit in a room with so many people who were so much smarter than me. I was convinced that I’d never succeed, that I’d possibly even truly fail for the first time ever. Suddenly, the classroom door got farther and farther away, the tears welled up and I realized that I would not get through graduate school without crying in public…

Now, I’m not suggesting that a year serving food and working for minimum wage would have kept me from crying in graduate school, but I do think it would have made me more confident and more self-assured. I think I could have come in with a better perspective of the world and not one developed solely from books and research. Or maybe even a master’s program would have helped. I thought I was on the fast-track because I was special, smarter than the average bear. And I might have been. But no matter how good I felt when I got that acceptance letter, no matter how smart I may have been in undergrad, I found myself in a room with a collection of people that still, to this day, are the smartest people I know, with more experience, more knowledge, and more skill than I had in that moment. If there is one thing I am confident in in life, it’s my intelligence. But graduate school is NOT real life. These people were/are really brilliant. I was too inexperienced to have confidence in my own intelligence in that moment (and many more to follow).

The one thing I wish someone had told me before I went to school was: “Wait, not yet, maybe next year.” Graduate school is only what you make of it, so be sure you have all the tools and resources you might need to get the most out of it. It’s like trying to paint the walls before you’ve done the primer. It’ll get done, but the color could be sharper and last longer if you prime it first.


Stay tuned for more from Dr. Alexis Weisbord!




Dr. Alexis A. Weisbord received her BFA in Dance from University of Minnesota and her PhD in Critical Dance Studies from UC Riverside. Alexis was a competitive dancer in high school and later spent over ten years directing dance competitions throughout the US. Her dissertation was entitled “Redefining Dance: Competition Dance in the United States” and she has a chapter, “Defining Dance, Creating Commodity: The Rhetoric of So You Think You Can Dance,” in the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Dance and the Popular Screen. Alexis has held positions as Lecturer in Global Studies at UC Riverside and Associate Faculty in Dance at Norco College. Currently she is an Associate Faculty member at Mt. San Jacinto College, Managing Director for The PGK Dance Project in San Diego, and founder/co-director of an emerging dance company, Alias Movement.