Jumpstart Profiles: Meet Katherine Kiefer Stark
This spring (May 31–June 2), at the Live Arts Studio, we are launching our new performing arts program, Jumpstart, which showcases the work of six emerging artists from the region. Choreographer and dancer Katherine Kiefer Stark is bringing her company The Naked Stark to perform Looking For Judy, a series of five duet vignettes that explores the various layers of a person—how she remembers and how she is remembered. The work includes five wooden structures that allow for an interchange of walls and floor. We caught up with the Philly-based Katherine and asked her some questions about her life and work.
Live Arts: Why is your show title Looking for Judy? What inspired the initial creation of this work?
Katherine Stark: The idea for Looking for Judy emerged slowly. I began about a year ago to actively remember good memories of a family member with mental illness and deal with the strangeness of losing someone to her own mind.
LA: Where did you grow up?
KS: I grew up in Jenkintown, a suburb of Philly. I spent a lot of time at Ihop, Fiesta Pizza, and the Willow Grove Mall.
LA: The Naked Stark is the name of your company. What are some of the themes or narratives that you are or would like to explore?
KS: My work is deeply personal. I am interested in investigating social norms and politics by reflecting on my own personal choices and everyday experiences.
LA: How was your college and university experience in regards to dance?
KS: Studying dance at Connecticut College was my first introduction to modern and contemporary dance and where I fell in love with being off balance, making movement, and making dances. My time there, particularly with my teachers Jeremy Nelson and Dan Wagoner, fueled my passion for dance and helped me learn how to define, for myself, what it means to be a dancer and an artist.
My graduate work at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, helped me situate myself and my work within the larger field of dance. It also helped bring together my interest in the ways we construct our society and my love of choreography.
LA: When did you start choreographing, and what spark your interest in doing so?
KS: I made my first dance when I was a sophomore in college. I had something to say and it just made sense to make a dance.
LA: How did you go about creating this piece?
KS: I started with a movement phrase that I taught to Megan Stern and Barbara Tait. I worked with them to create a partnering version of the phrase and I asked them to each make a version that inserted a movement of their own in-between my movements. This became the base of our movement vocabulary. I organized and integrated material to create chunks of dance. Some of these chunks were divided into different sections and one was transposed to a different plane. We started working with a wall for our transposing process and this evolved into having walls as part of the work.
LA: You’re an artist-in-residence as Mascher Space Co-op. What does that entail and how do you use your time?
KS: As an artist-in-residence at Mascher Space Co-op I have a regular weekly rehearsal time to create work. There are different levels of involvement in our cooperative structure. I am the space coordinator, which means I keep the space clean and am working on the improvements to the space outlined by the group in our strategic plan. Being part of Mascher has made it possible to be making work regularly in Philly.
LA: How do you like to spend your last 15 minutes before show time?
KS: Breathing, bouncing, moving. Staying warm and mellow.