Interview with choreographer Kaia Goodenough
Following her latest performance, choreographer and artistic director of Limb Dance Co., Kaia Goodenough, talks feminism, artistic inspiration, and the issues with cross collaboration.
After premiering her work, Abstract Romanticism, at Resolution earlier this year, Kaia decided to transfer the piece to an informal multimedia evening at the YoPro Collective’s, The Performance Salon as part of the Wandsworth Arts Fringe. The intimate performance space in the Battersea Arts Centre was immersed in work from all mediums of art that revolved around the central focus of ‘Feminism and the Absurd’ – a theme which perfectly encompassed the company’s vision. Their work continuously acknowledges the illogical by taking inspiration from abstract art and the atmospheres they generate in a gallery space. Kaia utilises abstraction throughout her work by never projecting a narrative onto her pieces, but by using intention, choreographed focus, and the representation of human relationships, she challenges her audience to create their own storylines. The relatable humanoid relationships have been exemplified by the theatrical setting, generating work that exudes a rather relatable absurdity.
Limb Dance Co.’s connection to the art world can also be found in the continuous composition of three female dancers. Kaia does this “because it instantly creates some kind of tension” and “aids your composition as well”. The trio not only challenges the relationship for the viewer but also for the choreographer. “It’s a really awkward number” explains Kaia, “there’s always going to be someone left out” but this pushes and tests her choreographic skill. Her dexterous ability to organise the space, “finding highlights and specific areas that contrast and compliment”, anchors her choreography to abstract art.
The trio of female dancers fundamentally celebrates femininity. Kaia states that she is “pro using female dancers” as the industry is “saturated with them, yet they are not used as much as males”. She strives to represent her dancers as a group of real women and is tired of them having to constantly validate their dance abilities with androgynous demonstrations of power. She believes that her movement style, of a strong technical vocabulary combined with enhanced feminine qualities, shows its own unique sense of strength.
The work that Limb Dance Co. recently performed, Abstract Romanticism, was originally based on the Abstract Expressionist artist Mark Rothko. Kaia confesses that “the Rothko Room at the Tate Modern is my favourite place in London.” She was inspired by the atmosphere of the space and then compared it to the Abstract Expressionist exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts. This comparison was the starting point for the whole piece. Rothko’s work was the driving force behind most of the choreographic decisions – contrasts between stillness and exhaustion, how layering can alter perspective, and even the use of rectangular pathways. But in spite of all of her abstract reasoning’s Kaia aimed to resolve her choreography with harmony and beauty. She upholds the mentality that “there’s nothing wrong with going to watch dance and enjoying it and it being beautiful.”
The company relished the experience of performing in the unique multimedia platform of The Performance Salon, but a backwards, almost contradicting issue threatened to overshadow it. Kaia does not agree with how segregated the arts are. Even art galleries which facilitate dance work are not allowing full integration with the art. The performances are separated to a specific performance space within the gallery’s site which, in her opinion, defeats the point of cross collaboration. “Having these multidisciplinary evenings is a really positive thing to do and I would like to do more of it”. Limb Dance Co’s work seems to lend itself to this type of theatrical event as they are continuously influenced by non-dance related mediums. Kaia “loved the work being shown amongst other art forms” because each work shared a common thread whilst maintaining enough diversity to appeal to the varied audience that had different artistic backgrounds.
The Performance Salon was a stepping stone for the development of Abstract Romanticism. After premiering the work in the large performance space of The Place at Resolution, Kaia was keen to see how the work would sit in an intimate setting. The grit and deliberately choreographed exhaustion come across better than expected in the smaller space. The sound of the dancers’ laboured breathing, slapping of body parts, and exhausted profanities translated very clearly. The atmosphere around the work benefited from the intimate setting and caused a greater focus on the dancers’ human journeys. The only element that was hindered in the small stripped back space was the “pathways and structure that was directly influenced by how Rothko constructed his work”. After this performance, a tour around similar intimate venues is the desired outcome; but first Kaia wants to perfect the balance of maintaining a strong connection with the human journeys without losing the original composition. The imminent expansion of this project relied heavily on the outcome of The Performance Salon and with such a positive response it won’t be long before Abstract Romanticism will be redeveloped and ready to return to the stage.
We thank Maria Hardcastle for her contribution to the ArtsKaleid blog.
Learn more about Kaia and Limb Dance Co. on her website
Read this post and more on Maria’s blog ‘DanceScene‘
This post was written by Maria Hardcastle and published with her kind permission.