New Mexico Dance Project: note g
July 19, 2019
form & concept, Santa Fe
New Mexico Dance Project is a newcomer powerhouse on the Santa Fe dance scene. Husband and wife team Erik Sampson and Scarlett Wynne founded the company in New Mexico six months ago. Since then, they have been teaching workshops for students, creating new works nonstop, and performing with the intention to become an integrated part of the community.
Most recently, the duo presented note G, a multimedia installation at form & concept, on July 19. The piece was set within—and in response to—an exhibition called Beyond Punch Cards, based on mathematician Ada Lovelace’s research into looms as an inspiration for the first computational algorithm in 1840. The exhibition, an official satellite show of the Currents New Media Festival 2019, featured works curated by Francesca Rodriguez Sawaya and Renata de Carvalho Gaui that explored the intersection of art, design, and technology.
On the day of the performance, woven crafts of various shapes, lengths, and orientations created planar framing for the space. The dancers began on the floor, stretched out on their sides beyond each other’s reach. The music activated articulations of a single joint at a time. These built momentum until the dancers connected, initiating complex, fluid partnering that created puzzle-like patterns. The live performance element ended with the couple repeating a sequence in four directions before Sampson seemed to release Wynne—or to urge her on. She slowly and deliberately entered into the audience’s space before reveling in deep breaths, a quiet and hopeful smile lighting up her face. It felt like an emergence.
A video component followed, consisting of a solo danced by Wynne to a bittersweet Son Lux song, edited by Sampson to a ghostly effect.
“Beyond Punch Cards immediately intrigued us,” Wynne said. “The concept of weaving spoke to me. Mostly what NMDP does is partnering work, and I felt there would be interesting ways of weaving two people, two bodies. It was also a challenge for me, because I wasn’t very familiar with the subject. It was something I could explore.”
Wynne is the primary choreographer of the duo. Her style, developed over years of professional performing and teaching experience, is strikingly human and relatable. Her movement choices are intuitive, grounded in a strong understanding of body language and response. The couple’s creative process is one of trusting, experimental communication. “I usually initiate a movement, and he makes it doable,” says Wynne. “I’ll bring an idea, expecting it to create something beautiful, and it might end in disaster. Erik comes into play, figuring out grips, finding ways to make it happen.”
The company’s mission of accessibility is supported by a three-pronged approach: choreography based in tangible body language; utilizing non-conventional access points, like site-specific performances and video to reach new audiences; and interacting with their community through dialogue.
“There’s something about partnering that’s inherent to dance for me,” Sampson explained. “It spoke to me as a young man: this idea of being able to support a partner in strength and subtleness.” The principle carries into the artists’ relationship as co-founders. He continued, “I feel there’s a special obligation and opportunity to facilitate something that’s beyond me.”
“It’s a perfect balance,” Wynne added. “He’s all about safety, whereas I naturally throw myself at everything.” Note G, like all NMDP performances, ends with a Q&A session. The company’s mission of accessibility is supported by a three-pronged approach: choreography based in tangible body language; utilizing non-conventional access points, like site-specific performances and video to reach new audiences; and interacting with their community through dialogue.
“We want to encourage further explorations into ideas, articulations of things you feel during our performances,” Sampson said. “As a choreographer specifically, it’s really special to hear from the audience,” Wynne continued. “It’s great when people ask me questions, but I love hearing impressions from people about the work. I gather these responses, emotions, or even just single words and carry them into the studio with me for the next project. It all builds on the process.”
Look for New Mexico Dance Project sharing site-specific works throughout the fall and beyond.