Diane Coburn Bruning, Founder and Artistic Director of Chamber Dance Project, is an award-winning choreographer who has worked with dance, theatre and opera companies throughout the U.S. and abroad. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, a two-year fellowship from The National Endowment for the Arts, two fellowships New York Foundation for the Arts, the McKnight National Fellowship, Sundance Film Institute and support from Meet the Composer, Harkness Foundation, New York State Council for the Arts, The Carlisle Project, and most recently received the 2013 Strauss Award from the Arts Countil of Fairfax County. She has worked with several DC theatre companies, and received a Helen Hayes Award nomination for Outstanding Choreography for Solas Nua’s Improbable Frequency.
David Siegel: Why did you decide to return to the DC area with Chamber Dance Project?
Bruning: About 4 years ago I relocated from New York to DC. The first year I was working on ballets in New York and Germany and Milwaukee but I began working locally with theatres as Woolly Mammoth, Solas Nua, and Studio Theatre and then Washington National Opera and Shakespeare Theatre Company. I got to know the arts community. It seemed Chamber Dance Project might fill a unique niche here with our total commitment to live music, work of contemporary choreographers, sharing the creative process and intimate performance settings all heightening the audience’s experience. People had been asking me about Chamber Dance Project and wanting to see my choreography for dance.
Siegel: In a “sound bite,” what is the artistic purpose of choreography?
Bruning: Choreography is to say better in movement that which may not be otherwise expressed. It is the conscious organization of movement; a conscious act of creation. Choreography is the sequencing of movement like a composer organizing sounds.
Siegel: Whose work inspires you?
Bruning: Some playwrights, composers, painters and writers exert a profound influence on my work. For the many years I have traveled the country and world to choreograph, I always spend my spare time in museums and seeing plays.
The greatest choreographic works I have experienced are those of Jiri Kylian. His work has powerful sculptural images and impact – he is unparalleled in layering rich and awkward beauty that wrench the heart and soul with great resonance.
Siegel: How do you choreograph a theater production? Do you and the director meet and work together to develop the choreography’s feel and sensibilities?
Bruning: Most always, the director dictates to a greater or lesser degree, the parameters of my work; the script is the framework. Some directors are very specific and others offer images, open to seeing and trying many ideas. I greatly enjoyed working with Matt Torney on Improbable Frequencies because he was extremely specific with his images and ideas and had been trained as a dancer and yet he trusted me to work out my ideas as a true collaborator. The work was the better for it.
And I loved working with Howard Shalwitz [on Civilization (all you can eat)] as he has so many rich intellectual and emotional ideas and images and is absolutely fearlessly committed to exploring them. Working with the Shakespeare Theatre Company and director Michael Kahn [Wallenstein] was wonderful. I hope to work again with them all again.
Siegel: How does your training in classic ballet inform your work as a theater or opera choreographer?
Bruning: . An example is from Studio’s Bloody, Bloody, Andrew Jackson. I choreographed a dance scene where dancers taunt and tease Andrew Jackson. The idea came from Swan Lake and the little swans. We even used music from Swan Lake during the scene. It was delightful to see the audience reaction.
Siegel: Tell us a little about Chamber Dance Project.
Bruning: Chamber Dance Project was founded in New York in 2001. Our work is rooted in contemporary ballet and we use live music. It is a collaboration in the moment between dancers and musicians, with the musicians onstage. Our musicians are onstage and a total part of the company visually, aurally and artistically. The movement expresses the narrative rather than spoken dialogue. It is also to be an intimate experience with the audience in close proximity to the work.
Siegel: How is Chamber Dance Project choreography different/similar to choreography for theater or opera?
Bruning: In theatre or opera, generally the dance is a part of the whole. In dance works, dance embraces the music and the movement as a world unto itself – it is not a part of something bigger, it is the bigger!
Siegel: Tell us a bit about the October 19 event at BalletNova in Northern Virginia? What will you showcase?
Saturday, October 19, 2013
BalletNova Center for Dance
3443 Carlin Springs Road
Falls Church, VA 22041
For details and tickets:
email: [email protected]
We want people to witness the dance process and engage in a dialogue with the artists’ in a way to provide transparency; to see how the relationship between dance partners is developed, no matter what their genders. To show that we are not bound to the past. There are always new things to say.
Siegel: What did receiving the 2013 Strauss Fellowship from the Arts Council of Fairfax County allow you to do?
Bruning: Grant programs such as the Strauss Artist Awards not only provide the artist with some financial freedom to create their work, but gives encouragement, too. One of the works assisted with the Strauss Award will be a male duet which will be shown as a work-in-progress at our October 19 event and then premiered as part of a larger work in our DC season next June. It comes from something about which I feel most strongly and I am riveted by the dancers, the process and what it is becoming.
Siegel: Anything more you’d like to add?
Bruning: There was a moment I remember when I was at the Helen Hayes awards for my nomination for “Improbable Frequencies.” I was new in town and did not understand fully what an honor it was to be a part of it. As the evening unfolded, I was in awe of the theatre community and the depth of talent and significance of the work happening in DC. I remember thinking to myself, I want to be a part of this community. I want to have an artistic home in DC.