Interview with choreographer and NACHMOx participant, Claire Baum of Linden Movement Lab

In 2017 Claire Baum founded a new company, Linden Movement Lab, and began choreographing a series of duets, each built to process a different aspect of the current political climate. Together these duets are an evening length work called 1.1.17 - ‘non-linear physically embodied timeline of the last year in politics’, which premiered after a six-month residency at The Tank.  

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What inspired you to join in on NACHMOx?

I have done NACHMOx twice now. The first time I joined I simply wanted to be a dancer, to help someone else process and realize their vision. I am typically a creator–choreographing all the works I am affiliated with, whether I am dancing in them or not–and I wanted a chance to step back and use my skills for someone else. This time I danced for Ainesh Madan, who actually also went to Bard.

The second time I participated in NACHMOx, I was a choreographer. I had this piece churning in my head that I was sure I was going to set on myself, even though it didn’t feel right. And of course because it didn’t feel right, I kept putting it off. I joined NACHMOx this time around in the hopes of beginning to physicalize my imaginings–it was really my choreographic kick in the pants. Initially, I had been paired with three women, so I thought I was going to have to put off the piece again, but I got lucky during that first meeting because we were all swapping dancers and groups. I got paired with Molly Gorin, and she helped me build that piece that was churning, The Face Of Boredom, into what it is today.

How did you feel about the relatively short work time?

As a dancer, the short work time is a challenge. But it also makes you rely on your skills, your knowledge, and everything you have stored in your back pocket from years and years of learning and work. It is kind of exhilarating.

As a choreographer, I think setting any other piece would have been daunting. I think a group piece especially, or walking in without a clear vision or an ‘anything goes’ attitude, could be incredibly overwhelming. And of course booking rehearsal space is its own beast. But as I say–I was lucky, I was paired with Molly Gorin, who was willing to come to my apartment to rehearse and was willing to try this piece that had been flying around my head for months. We made the piece in four 2hr rehearsals.

Did you receive any feedback from NACHMOx?

The biggest, piece of feedback we got from the whole process was from Meghan and Rosalind (who run The Tank) and who happened to be in the audience for the show that I choreographed for. After the show they asked if I had a full show and if I would like to present it as part of a residency at The Tank. I said, “Give me a year!”

And now we are finishing up our residency with two shows at The Tank: April 29th and May 5th. Ticket link: http://thetanknyc.org/dance/992-1117

Your piece has a political leaning. How did the current climate influence your process?

Haha, my piece is probably falling over with politics at this point. The current climate, our response to it, and just generally what it's like to be Strong Inquisitive Sensitive Women today is the work.  Here is the spiel I have on my website about the show:

1.1.17 is the physical manifestation of a shared imperative, an urgent physical and mental need to respond to what is happening around us. Based on research, articles, memes, comedians’ commentary and our own in-depth analysis and opinions, 1.1.17 has challenged its collaborators to stay engaged. 1.1.17 is a non-linear embodied timeline of the last political year in the U.S. Anchored by that date (January 1st, 2017) and the feeling of dread that many of us had before anything happened, 1.1.17 physically articulates our side of the conversation. We hope that this show can also serve as a catalyst for conversations with you, our community.

You also have a very collaborative process. How did you arrive at this decision? How was it working with others?

The Fierce Women who make up Linden Movement Lab are a joy to work with. And the show by nature is collaborative. I am very process-based; I like research and learning from others. I am not sure when I decided this, or why, but the premise of 1.1.17 is that I asked each of my collaborators to suggest to me a topic about the current political climate that they each felt passionate about; those topics became the subjects of our research and conversations and my creation. Each dancer in their section has the power to suggest and veto and has at some point been asked to be an audience–or as I call it ‘a pair of outside eyes’–for other sections so we can get external feedback and feel a cohesiveness throughout the show.

Who are the dance creators you enjoy watching?

Nora Chipaumire without a doubt is one of my long time inspirations and loves. Her work is theatrical and moving and pulls so many elements together to create an entire world for you to live in.

Tiffany Mills’ After the Feast was full of striking imagery and tangible tension. I love a good ‘pregnant pause.’

Bill T Jones and Arnie Zane Dance Company’s Chaple/ Chapter was incredible to me. I got to see the full video in college (I wish I had been able to see it in person) and I found it riveting the way he wove together current events, storytelling, dance and all these elements of design.

And Alexandra Beller made this piece called US back in 2007 or 2008 that I learned about as I got to college. It is political and strong and direct to the audience.

I have so many other works that inspire me but these are a few… and they are all social/ political. Because I truly believe that who ever said “art is a mirror with which we see the world” is right.

Any advice for budding choreographers?

Really look at the work you a creating. Step outside it and look at it like you know nothing about it and notice what you see. And then see if that is in line with what you wanted to make. And SHOW IT TO OTHER PEOPLE! Ask for their honest feedback, collect all of that, and then decide what you want to keep and what doesn’t matter to you. More information is always better than less.

BIO: 

Claire Baum, originally from Portland, Oregon, is a graduate of Bard College. There she had the pleasure of learning from: Aileen Passloff, Maria Simpson, Peggy Florin, Leah Cox, and members of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. She’s performed and choreographed nationally and internationally: in Ghana, Jamaica, and New York. From 2012-2016 she choreographed and danced for KitchenSink Collective. As a freelance dancer, she performed with The Get Down/Pick Up Collective at Dixon Place, Safi Harriott for Dance Caribbean Collective, Laura Neese at Gibney Dance and the Lumen Festival, The Independent Artist’s Coop, and for Alexandra Beller’s Immediate Dances. Since moving to New York in 2011, Claire has worked administratively at The Joyce Theater’s DANY Studios and Joyce SOHO, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, The Field, and most recently with the Laban/ Bartenieff Institute for Global Water Dances.

MORE INFO: https://www.lindenmovementlab.org