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Interview with Jamie Benson (updated)

March 30, 2012

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Jamie Benson, a former Los Angeles-based choreographer and dancer making a new home within the New York dance scene. Benson is presenting a dynamic new work entitled Bowel Movement, a self-stylized “satirical ballet” meant to blend both technicality and tradition with a heavy dose of humor and irreverence. Bowel Movement is a collaboration with freelance fashion design, costume designer and visual artist, Andrae Gonzalo and ballet dancer Shannon Grant.

Jamie Benson - "Bowel Movement" - All rights reserved

What is your background?

I was classically trained as a studio jazz dancer then switched my focus to modern forms while attending Seattle’s Cornish College of the Arts.  I’m still trying to reconcile the experience of these very different worlds.

What’s the underlying philosophy and purpose of your work?

A lot of the work I do plops dance into everyday experiences in order to playfully demystify the, sometimes enigmatic, presentation of dance. Much of it straddles lines of entertainment, high concept art and humor, enticing the untrained eye, jump-starting new audiences for dance, while offering the academic world something new to wrap their minds around. It’s not meant to be either goofy or fresh for the sake of being so, but rather to surprise. Hybridization is very 21st century; that’s one way you can make an experience stand out when our world seems so saturated with regurgitated ideas. People seem to struggle with how to place it though. My friends in the fine arts mix call it  “entertaining” while my entertainment pals note how “artful” is. This has never been more apparent then with my, perhaps most shocking, dance experience, Bowel Movement.

Briefly tell us about “Bowel Movement” and what you hope to evoke in your audience.

The piece is in the vein of The Nutcracker’s dream sequence, wherein a very refined lady battles her darkest fear, her own excrement. This will be a balletic  “paux de poop” – the costuming keeps the piece from being a traditional paux de deux. The original version was included in our first full evening work called Bathroom Follies, showcased at Highways Performance Space in Los Angeles. Personal bodily functions are still a very taboo topic, whether in conversation or the arts, and we hope Bowel Movement will provide an opportunity to face our humanity in as humorous a way as possible. It’s being presented as part of the Triskelion Arts’ 3rd Annual Comedy in Dance Festival in New York, a niche we hope to take by storm.

If you could wave a magic wand, what would you like to see for your dancing in the future?

Eventually I plan to have a larger company of dancers to work with.  Future works will continue with a strong thread of human and public experiences, further integrating modern, jazz, ballet and ballroom styles into long form works. I aim to translate past work and create new work in the film genre as well (hear that filmmakers?).

Do you have any words of advice for aspiring dancers and choreographers?

It’s important to get involved with a community or “cult” of dance.  School and training is of paramount importance, but make sure you are near a strong dance community to engage with.  Immerse yourself in a strong community of people doing the kind of work you want to do.

Also, marketing and fundraising are your two best friends. It’s crucial to know how to present yourself, how to ask for money and the digital platforms entailed in that process. Good luck!


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