summer arts preview | Dance

Collaborations in motion

ICA series pairs dance with poetry, art

In “Co Lab: Process + Performance,’’ choreographer/dancer Rashaun Mitchell (pictured) teams up with poet Anne Carson. In “Co Lab: Process + Performance,’’ choreographer/dancer Rashaun Mitchell (pictured) teams up with poet Anne Carson. (Einar Falur Ingolfsson)
By Karen Campbell
Globe Correspondent / May 23, 2010

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For 14 years, Summer Stages Dance at Concord Academy has been a beacon on the local dance scene. This spirited little festival was created as a rigorous training program for young contemporary dancers and an intensive laboratory environment for choreographers. Now this summer, artistic directors Richard Colton and Amy Spencer have teamed with the Institute of Contemporary Art to present a promising new series, “Co Lab: Process + Performance.’’

The series aims to bring together some of America’s most adventurous voices in visual arts, poetry, and dance for new collaborations, providing opportunities for participants to develop and present new multimedia works and share insights about the creative process.

“We’re offering audiences a chance to see work develop along the way, to understand the beginning and follow through the process to see how it resolves,’’ explains Spencer.

For this summer’s initial residencies and performances, the program pairs acclaimed poet Anne Carson with choreographer/dancer Rashaun Mitchell on July 20, followed by renowned visual artist Jenny Holzer and choreographer Miguel Gutierrez on July 28.

Carson, recipient of a MacArthur “genius’’ fellowship, and Mitchell, whom The New York Times called the “most riveting’’ member of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, are collaborators who bring their acclaimed “Bracko’’ as well as a new work in progress called “Nox.’’

Reflecting Carson’s literary scholarship and passion for the classics, “Bracko’’ pairs her spoken translations of the lush, fragmentary texts of the Greek writer Sappho with a danced duet between Mitchell and fellow Cunningham dancer Marcie Munnerlyn. “Nox’’ takes inspiration from Carson’s just-released book of the same name. A kind of eulogy for her brother, the book features photos, sketches, and poetry paired with Carson’s translations of the Roman poet Catullus.

“Anne and Rashaun are a dream collaboration,’’ says Colton. “They’re both classicists, but Anne’s poetry has a kind of visceral energy and Rashaun’s work is very refined, but has a kind of animal quality mixed in.’’

On the other end of the collaborative spectrum, Bessie Award-winning choreographer Gutierrez and conceptual artist Holzer have never met. Their pairing this summer marks Holzer’s first dance collaboration since 1985, when she worked with choreographer Bill T. Jones on the iconic “Holzer Duet . . . Truisms.’’ Best known for provocative language-based installations in public places, Holzer will pair her text projections with Gutierrez’s choreography for 10 dancers.

“We’ve thrown together these two provocative, in-your-face artists,’’ says Colton. “Jenny’s work is this incredible distillation of controlled elegance, and Miguel has this wild fury, kind of messy in the best sense of the word. It will be great to see how they mesh.’’

(A third collaboration, between choreographer/dancer Trajal Harrell and artist Sarah Sze, who have known each other for two decades but never had the opportunity to work together, is scheduled for November.) “Co Lab’’ (a play on “collaboration’’ and “laboratory’’) is an extension of the relationship that has grown between Summer Stages and the ICA since the museum’s inaugural summer in its new waterfront building three years ago, when choreographer Stephan Koplowitz created the site-specific “iseea.’’ Other dance presentations have followed in subsequent summers.

“It’s our hope and expectation that the audience is going to get to understand a little bit more about the artistic process and get the opportunity to see some really remarkable artists in that creative stage,’’ says David Henry, the ICA’s director of public programs. “We don’t know what’s going to happen, and that’s the joy of it.’’

Karen Campbell can be reached at

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Anne Carson and Rashaun Mitchell (July 20), Jenny Holzer and Miguel Gutierrez (July 28).

Presented by Summer Stages Dance and the Institute of Contemporary Art.

At: ICA, Boston. $20-$25.