Is it possible to combine the intricate presentational aspects of flamenco in a vital contemporary context? Wendy Clinard attempts to do that in her latest multimedia show. Clinard Dance Theatre is proud to present From the Arctic to the Middle East (Broken Narratives by an American Flamenco Dancer) tonight at 8:00 p.m., and tomorrow April 22 at 7:00 p.m. at Links Hall 3435 N. Sheffield Avenue, Suite 207, Chicago, IL 60657.
Artistic Director Wendy Clinard leads you on a journey inspired by travels with her daughter to Syria while reading the Arctic travel epic, Kaloona. The work fuses connections between the ancient and the modern, the spiritual and the physical, and those between the essences of struggle and celebration. Clinard questions the forces that shape human history and interdependence. From the Arctic to the Middle East (Broken Narratives by an American Flamenco Dancer) uses the timeless tools of story, song, music, and dance to provide an odyssey and a sense of transcendence which gives the feeling that the journey has just begun.
I recently met Wendy at her dance studio in Pilsen for a conversation about this show. Wendy is a thoughtful, passionate and enthusiastic artist from Chicago that I had the pleasure to know as a flamenco teacher. As her student, I learned that in Flamenco it is vital to be yourself. This is something she learned herself from her teachers in Spain. As an American learning Flamenco, she was encouraged to embrace her own identity and be genuine. Flamenco is about self-expression, and about taking a body of knowledge and work it with your life experience. It is about including people rather than excluding them. In fact, the roots of flamenco come from people from different cultures that were in itinerary camps exchanging ideas and needing to express their hardships. Likewise, ideas are now being exchanged rapidly at a global level; however, when we are exposed to cultural differences, we often get defensive and we try to impose our own worldviews on them. Wendy states that instead of having an attitude of separation, we should see these differences with a sense of curiosity. To her, exposure to Flamenco allowed her to see difference and diversity in this light.
She became interested in Flamenco when, as a painter living in NYC, she tried to sketch a flamenco dance class. The drawings she produced were meek compared to the feelings she had while looking at the dancers perform. She thought that by experiencing the movement of flamenco in her own body she would be able to better capture the feelings she experienced. She started taking flamenco lessons in pursuit of being a better painter. She never ever thought of becoming a dancer. It was not something planned, it was just a path that opened to her and she followed it. Painting to her was introspective, but with dancing she started to work on lifting and and grounding herself. Unlike painting, which is very loose and free, dancing has rules to follow. Having rules to express yourself and to grow was very satisfying to her. She became immersed in the Flamenco dance world, and people started introducing her as a Flamenco dancer without her being aware of this new identity.
To Wendy, Flamenco is a dance form that welcomes a true seeker and that requires discipline, humility and love. And she dances for love. Flamenco is an activity that is deeply connected to her personal life and this is expressed in her work. For example, “ From the Arctic to the Middle East” is inspired by her daughter Sophie. The idea for this piece grew from a personal reflection during a trip they took to Syria and contemplating Sophie’s adaptation to a different environment. During that time, she was reading the Arctic travel epic Kaloona. Wendy started collecting picture files of personal events happening during this trip and quotes from the book that were inspiring to her. She started connecting the dots between them, and discovered a common theme. She found that what started as something very anecdotal became something universal. Her motif for this piece is to pull back from our usual way of seeing common things and to look at them from a different perspective. Through a combination of dancing, and hearing sounds, music, and text , she attempts to offer an opening to people to shift perspectives. The piece talks about biology, psychology, spirituality, and individual growth. Wendy is looking for a dialogue with her audience and for intimacy to occur together. She also hopes that the piece inspire people to have the courage to express and be themselves. She wants people to connect through her work, to reconsider, pause, and feel that it is okay to be who you are and talk about life in different ways. The gift she wants to give through her work as an artist and as a teacher is to allow people to be themselves, to connect, and to create dialogue. If you want to find more information about Wendy, her current production, and her classes, visit her website at http://clinardance.org/wordpress/