Go Deeper

Troubles With Awesome: Meg Foley and “8”

Posted September 5th, 2010

Meg Foley uses many techniques when conceiving dances: storyboarding, visualization, real-time improvising, even blocking movement on graph paper.

Match vs. Match married these things,” Meg says about the dance she’s performing on Tuesday and Wednesday as a part of the 2010 Live Arts Festival show 8: eight choreographers/eight new works. She says she’s almost never in her own work, but she is this time—so I ask her how she imagines herself into her own dance realms.

“It’s disassociation, a little bit,” Meg says. “When I’m visualizing the dance, I’m trying through a formal lens: time, space, energetic quality.

“I think I was visualizing myself just as a body. But [the dancers and I] talk about our experience inside the dance. We each took a turn talking through the entire dance with the other performers. It made me really happy! It was interesting in moments of relationship [between the dancers] that the thing you were experiencing was vastly different than the others.”

To some extent, this is a result of the structured improvisation techniques that Meg employed to compose Match vs. Match. But why include herself this time around?

“One reason I put myself in was to resolve the difficulty I was having talking about this with my dancers. I’m not interested in my dancers feeling lost or wandering. I’m not trying to toss them into the abyss.”

Yet her plotting and conception, Meg says, creates a tension for her, and in Match vs. Match.

“That’s where the richness of the work is happening,” Meg says. “I come up against my analytical nature. I’m interested in heat, humanity, and messiness. If order wins out, it’s too cool and delicate.”

Meg also has been working on a larger project, portions of which you might have seen. It includes Natural, which she performed at the Rockys last year (don’t forget Monday night’s Rocky Awards at the Festival Bar!), a more recent work called Orienteering, and she wants to work them into an evening-length solo work.

“It’s a lot about mapping my own experience inside dance,” Meg says. “Visually, in terms of marking space, I’ve been imagining using tiny figurines to mark where action happened. Body painting is about illuminating sensation on my body. All of that is inside a conceit about performance identity and adornment.”

For a dancer-choreographer attracting increased renown, Meg has some ambivalence about performance.

“I really love it and also really hate it. I feel it feeds the awesome parts of me and the not awesome parts of me. Showboating,” which Meg says she often enjoys in the moment, “is a double-edged sword. You’re placing yourself in this incredibly precarious position dependent on the audience reception of you.”

In Natural, Meg says, “I start the section so pleased and enjoying the task. By the end I realize I’m finding the degree of awesomeness is dependent on what the audience is getting. By the end, I’m indignant.”

But according to Meg, it’s not because of you, Philly. You’re down with good work!

“People are here to be excited and interested in new things.” As an artist, Meg says, “It’s easy to be here. Philly is great to come back to. It doesn’t forget you.”

It’s hard to, when our 8 crew has so much talent. 8: eight choreographers/eight new works kicks off with the Meg Foley and Megan Mazarick pairing on September 7 and 8 at the Live Arts Studio, 919 North 5th Street, Northern Liberties. 8:00 pm both nights, $25.

–Nicholas Gilewicz