Angie Flanagan  Angie’s Residency

Angie is working in 2 pieces:

–A rethinking of The Dying Swan. It may seem odd to start from one of the most classical of classical ballets, but I began there too. And, as Allegra Kent says in the book The Swan : it isn’t a dance about a woman pretending to be a bird, it is rather a piece about the fragility of life and how passionately we hold onto it. I read once, somewhere, that Fokine wished for each movement of Pavlova’s arms to represent a moment of her life she was reflecting back on in her final moments. So, perhaps better to say I would like to explore the journey of a woman’s life and how she perceives that journey as she takes her last breaths. I will focus instead on our ancestral use of the animal kingdom to represent the mysteries of life and the depths of our humanity.

–A piece based on the life of the dancer Marta Becket. I learned of her when I was five. I was living at the time in Death Valley, and I overheard one of my mother’s friends say that a woman had bought a theater in Death Valley. At noon she put out a sign, inviting people to come watch her dance. Then, she put on her costume and her makeup and she danced…even if no one came. Who would be crazy enough to do such a thing, said my mother’s friend. And although I was only five, I thought, ME! I would dance every day even if no one was watching. In February, I had the honor of dancing in her theater in February and took a lot of video footage. I would love to create a piece that includes both live and video footage to tell Marta’s story and also to tell my own story of growing up in the desert. It has always been a dream of mine to work on this but I have never had the technology available. I have a lot to learn. I also look forward not to having a product, but to get lost in the process. Marta believed that her stage called to her from a ghost town in the Mohave Desert: use me, it said, create with me. I look forward to exploring how I answer that call in my own way. 


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Residency blog posts

The Serpent As A Symbol of Transformation

In the desert, to find the skin of a snake is considered a sign of good luck. The snake or serpent is a symbol of transformation. A snake sheds her skin when she has grown too large to contain herself in it. This process requires that she hide in the cold darkness, emerging again into the light with all the tenderness and sensitivity of a new skin.  

Don’t we all wish to feel warmth and light more keenly? As a symbol, it is important to consider that the snake doesn’t shed her knowledge, but only what no longer serves her. While the snake is seen as a dangerous creature, this process of shedding her skin leaves her temporarily unguarded. This is the paradox I love exploring. Perhaps not all of our impulses need to be polite and safe, but on the other hand, perhaps with growth and maturity it is possible to stay soft and vulnerable.

Let Me Introduce Myself!

I am, at heart, a collector of stories. I create both live performances and video collections that include dance, poetry and sound as a means to curate from the chaos the memories, stories, and the extraordinary in everyday life. I often explore poetry through different languages, most often French, as a means of exploring what can be understood, what is often misunderstood, and how image and gesture fill in the blanks. I believe the purpose of life is to discover the story only you can tell. We are all in the process of becoming, and my work is an homage to my fellow travelers and collectors on the journey of life. 

I have been teaching and choreographing for 20 years, and my happiest moments are in the studio experiencing the joy of movement. I have studied and teach in many modalities, from ballet and modern to improvisation and composition. My modern classes combine Horton and Graham techniques with concepts from African dance and Flamenco, incorporating methods to unlock emotion, musicality, fluidity and a strong relationship to the ground. One of my missions as a teacher and choreographer is to exchange with other artists (in all fields). I seek to learn new mediums of teaching and choreographing with a goal to provide dancers of every age and ability the opportunity to not only train physically, but above all to discover methods of expression and to share a kernel of truth about the human experience.

Finding My Title

The beautiful Maria K wrote to me, what do you plan to work on at Lake Studios? Ah! My stomach turned. How to explain? How to commit? Perhaps I could pretend the email was lost in my junk folder? No. I had to answer. I had two ideas in mind. Both felt in opposition to one another and appeared to be in opposition to, for lack of a better word, a modern concept of dance. And yet the two ideas remained, stubbornly taking space in my imagination.

The first idea was a retelling of The Dying Swan. While the choreography and the music transfix me, I understand that from today’s perspective, the movement is from a bygone era. And yet, from the standpoint of Fokine and Pavlova, it was quite innovative. It should be viewed instead as a moment when classical dance turned away from the heavy hand of the ballet master and the Imperial court to give artistic voice to the ballerina. Dance as voice…dance as a female voice…this is what thrills me. I began to think that I had something to say about memory and the fragility of life, which I came to see as the underlying theme of The Dying Swan.

My second idea was to continue developing a collaboration I was very lucky to experience with artists Heather, Cat, and Tim Goodwillie, as well as Cris Nochez and Judy Pfeifer, in Death Valley, California. I filmed myself dancing in abandoned towns and in the theater of one of my heroes: Marta Becket and her Amargosa Opera House.

I learned of Marta when I was growing up in the Mojave Desert. She danced in her theater every day, even when an audience didn’t come. In fact, she painted her own audience on the walls of her theater. I will speak more about Marta in upcoming posts.

For those who have lived many generations in the desert, to find a shed snake skin is a sign of good luck. The snake sheds her skin when she has grown too large for it, and so it is a symbol of growth and transformation. I thought of Marta, her imagination grown too large for the tight spaces of NYC, and she finally found herself in the vast emptiness of the desert.

After one of Marlon’s mindful mornings (ooooooh, that’s a mouthful!), as I was settling in for a few hours in the beautiful big studio here, I found the title for my work over the next four weeks.

In Marlon’s class, we spoke of change and impermanence. I thought of how it is the way we move through…against…into an ever-changing world that we grow…that we transform. This is what the Dying Swan symbolizes. And I thought of Marta’s theater, which is always at risk of disappearing in the harsh desert elements. I thought of Marta dancing into her 80s until the pain was too much. And I thought of myself, an aging dancer with a body that doesn’t always do what I want it to anymore, and yet I still have so many stories left to tell.

Who is the Dying Swan? She is Marta. She is me. I thought I had two ideas knocking at the door of my imagination, but it was always only one. So, I have my title and the thesis of my next four weeks of work: Impermanence and Transformation.
Enough for now. I am in Berlin (me! A little girl from the desert!) And I am dancing. My first act of investigation is to enjoy every moment.