INTERVIEW: Jody Sperling to offer sky-centric performance at BAC

Choreographer-dancer Jody Sperling dances in Book of Clouds, a collaborative performance installation with visual artist Amy-Claire Huestis and composer/designer Omar Zubair. Photo courtesy of John Sisley.

Sometimes, the sky can be profoundly awe-inducing. From the heat of a midday sun to the purple hues of a twilight dusk to the different shapes a cloud can make, the sky has inspired artists and performers seemingly forever, and the latest person to fall under the spell is dancer-choreographer Jody Sperling.

Sperling will present Book of Clouds June 7-10 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City. Her company, Time Lapse Dance, has been collaborating with other artists for the evening-length show. Included among the partners are Amy-Claire Huestis, a Vancouver-based visual artist, and Omar Zubair, composer/video artist.

The piece promises a deep contemplation of the skyscape and will include cutting-edge lighting, movement and sonic composition. For the opening night performance, on June 7, audience members can also enjoy a revival of the company’s Ice Cycle, a physical rumination on the Arctic. The June 8 show begins with a panel discussion on climate change, and on June 10, beginning at 3 p.m., audiences can experience Book of Clouds as an ongoing durational installation.

Sperling is the founder and artistic director of Time Lapse Dance. Not one to take the conventional route, the dancer-choreographer joined a polar science mission in 2014 to research ice formation processes. She also danced on the Arctic ice and made a short film, Ice Floe.

For her performing and choreography, Sperling is seen as the predominant interpreter of Loïe Fuller’s dance style, one that involves expansive silk costumes and extends the body’s motion into a “larger kinesphere.”

Recently, Sperling exchanged emails with Hollywood Soapbox about what audiences can expect at Book of Clouds. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.

What can audience members expect from Book of Clouds?

Audiences should expect to take a respite from the world and enter a space to contemplate the sublime. Amy’s painted cloud imagery transports us to an atmospheric realm, giving me a chance to dance through the clouds to Omar’s light-filled music. The evening performances offer viewers an hour-long cycle of sky imagery — clouds seen through blades of grass, mountain mists, and the earth blanketed with clouds. The six-hour durational performance [on Saturday, June 10] expands the cycle into a more open installation where you can come and go throughout, experiencing the work at your own pace.

What was the collaboration like with Amy-Claire Huestis and Omar Zubair?

The three of us collaborated on a project last year, and it was such a marvelous experience, I knew we had to find a way to work together again. We began the process for Book of Clouds with a residency this March at the UCLA Art | Sci Center. Amy is based in Vancouver, and Omar was working in L.A. at the time. So that was [a] great meeting ground for us. The biggest challenge we face is that so much of the work has had to be done long distance, but I’m incredibly excited for the three of us to coalesce the next chapter of Book of Clouds in NYC.

What do you envision as the ultimate goal of Time Lapse Dance?

My aim with Time Lapse Dance is to create visually alluring choreography that deepens our understanding of the body’s relationship to the environment. Alongside the artistic output, I’m interested in creating a context to cultivate climate literacy.

What do you hope audience members take away from Book of Clouds?

Book of Clouds offers a mediated cloudscape that we hope inspires people to look up and appreciate with renewed wonder the real natural world around them. We need to appreciate the beauty of the Earth, on a visceral level, to feel responsible for taking care of it. The Earth needs some love right now!

What’s next after these NYC performances?

We’re looking to install Book of Clouds in museum settings. This fall, I’ll be a resident artist with Human Impacts Institute, and I’m looking forward to more collaborative endeavors around climate.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Jody Sperling and Time Lapse Dance will present Book of Clouds June 7-10 at the Baryshnikov Arts Center in New York City. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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