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April 3, 2020

Darling Benefits From BAX Artist-in-Residence Program
by Carrie Stern (, published online 04-29-2009
By Carrie Stern

“Arts and artists in progress.” BAX (Brooklyn Arts Exchange), in keeping with it’s motto, has established itself as a nurturer of artists in all phases of their career. Each year four artists are chosen as Artist-in-Residence. Many have gone on to contribute important new work and approaches to movement.

The two-year residency provides rehearsal space, administrative and technical support, artist-advisors, and chances to show works-in-progress in a stable environment. As Sam Kim, who just “graduated” from her residency, says, it gave her the important opportunity “to work with more mental, creative latitude.” The residency is designed for artists at a specific point in their career. Press Director Fernando Maneca, himself a former BAX Artist-in-Resident, describes the residency as a time to incubate your work. Maneca explains that too soon in a career and a choreographer isn’t ready to take advantage of the time, space, and coaching the residency has to offer. Too late, and the artist is past the point at which it will help their career.

“The residency allowed me to have a sustained developmental process to create Darling,” says Kim. “Usually I get a gig first and work toward those dates with a budget that only allows for a certain amount of rehearsal.” During the BAX residency, she says, she “let Darling sit and steep, taking weeks off here and there. I’ve edited ruthlessly, thrown out tons of material. I could do all of this free of the financial hemorrhage of renting studio space. I’ve finally been able to inhabit a creative time frame in which the work dictated the length of the artistic process, as opposed to the performance dates. Experiencing the inevitable, subconscious work that happens when you’re technically ‘not rehearsing’ has been very special.”

BAX tries to create a community of artists among their residency awardees. During the residency, Marya Warshaw, BAX’s hands-on executive director, and two artist advisors — choreographers Faye Driscoll and Shannon Hummel — are available to help think through artistic and other questions. Rehearsals may be open, and Kim relished the moments when “issues common to performing artists” were discussed “examining what’s working, what’s not as we slog through the day-to-day business of being an artist. It helped create a sense of camaraderie in what can often be an isolating form.”

Darling — “such an exaggerated tone for a term of endearment — it’s kind of barbed and quaint — well-suited for this piece” — is a trio for Kim, the wonderful Liz Santoro, and visual artist Ryan McNamara. At times shockingly violent, at others humorous, delicate, even pretty, Darling poses a series of sometimes-mysterious relationships. The piece, Kim explains, “is laced with horror movie tropes. A lot of horror movies,” Kim notes, “like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, are black comedies at heart. What’s interesting to me in that movie, far beyond the butchering and cannibalism, are the dysfunctional family dynamics,” a theme in her work.

“The transgressive layering of the super-quotidian with shame, butchering, suffering, fascinates me and resonates as truthful. I’m interested in creating a specific tone/landscape that has the force of mathematical clarity, but does not succumb to simplistic codes,” Kim says. She does not think “ the work is particularly violent. The violence,” in her mind, “occurs through suggestion. I think there are a number of choreographers working in this way, pushing the boundaries of what’s acceptable in terms of violent imagery [and asking] where do you place yourself?”

Key to Kim’s work is the inventive use of space. Work, she believes, should adapt to “the inherent properties of a space, rather than forcing it to conform to theatrical convention.” At BAX the audience faces the risers where they normally sit revealing the tech booth window, a normally hidden space in which now dancers magically appear and disappear. Getting ready for the work’s next incarnation at PS 122, she says the hardest part is restructuring it for the new space.

The residency experience has pushed Kim to a new artistic level and maybe a new phase in her career. It “irrevocably changed [my idea of] the evolutionary phases I want a work to go through to make an evening-length work to satisfaction. I’m kind of ruined now. I’m grappling with how I’ll work now to recapture that luxurious timeframe without a trust fund.”

The full premiere of Darling will be at Performance Space 122 June 24 - 28, 2009.

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