SPEAK By Kathleen Hermesdorf

By Kathleen Hermesdorf

September 1, 2009, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

“This is the beginning of the future” I thought, as I awoke this past January 1. 2009 is the year of the Ox in the Chinese calendar, a year of hard work and fortitude. It has brought harder realities to us all and demanded us to realize and manifest what really matters. Now it is late August. I just spent two months in Europe after the economic crash and the pandemic. The world is discombobulated. Everyone is worried. I am worried, but I keep chewing on my thoughts of beginnings, futures, hard work and fortitude.

I believe that these are times that can change your life and dreams. The event horizon demands new tools and insights of more necessity and potency. Touchstones are disappearing, creating gaping holes in our systems of consistency, control and comfort. This transition and transformation is uncomfortable, ugly, hard and relentless, yet I’m convinced that it is crucial to not only survive, but find new ways to thrive. Passion contains suffering and faith contains fear. Go for it now if you have the means and imagination and adrenals. Now is a time for seriously creative thinking.

To dance is to investigate, synthesize and manifest the full range of the experience of being in a body—shaping physics, psychology, physiology, breathing architecture, ancient patterns and things that can be conveyed in no other way into expression and communication. To dance is to investigate, synthesize and manifest the full range of the experience of being a human being—shaping philosophy, practice, personal, public, political, professional and the ineffable into expression and communication. Dance demands a higher threshold for sensation and articulation of the human condition. To dance is to move and be moved.

Dance matters to me. It has shaped my body, my choices and my life. I, with my partner, musician Albert Mathias, am attempting to manifest future in the face of the void. We are in the process of shifting from a dance company, MOTIONLAB, to a production company, La ALTERNATIVA, expanding our mission to investigate, create and instigate work of deeply integrated sound and motion to include collaboration among mediums and cultures—locally, nationally and internationally—to bridge art forms and communities and bring the fruits of these connections home to San Francisco.

We are at work on four long-term collaborations with dance, music, video and light/visual artists from San Francisco, Mexico, Cuba, France and Germany, and are also introducing the Alternative Conservatory, a joint effort with Stephanie Maher in Europe and Sara Shelton Mann in San Francisco. The Alternative Conservatory is rooted in, serves, and conserves the fruits of the field by collecting and disseminating unique bodies of knowledge and bodies in motion that are shaping art in contemporary culture. It includes a training program based in practice, experience and interaction for professional-level engagement in physical techniques, improvisational forms, creative and performance endeavors, discourse, theory and critique. Modular and mobile, it offers immersion in a variety of cultures and communities, as well as direct access into the field.

I am, and La ALTERNATIVA is, in the process of deep internal and external change. I feel extremely challenged, but driven beyond the shadow of a doubt to realize dreams and shape the future. It is quite a time; I can barely breathe, but I know that this is a radical shift, a real beginning, and that it requires clarity and vision, hard work and fortitude, movers and shakers.

I am beginning to shake.

This article appeared in the September 2009 issue of In Dance.


Kathleen Hermesdorf is an international dance artist, educator and producer based in San Francisco. She is the director ALTERNATIVA, with musician Albert Mathias, and teaches, creates and performs around the world. She was a member of Bebe Miller Company, Contraband and Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. Hermesdorf is the co-director of PORCH Training Program at Ponderosa in Stolzenhagen, Germany.

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