Lauren Mark and I attended graduate school together at the Ohio State University's dance department back in 2004. When the idea for Artist Jane first came to me, Lauren had just emailed me all the way from Taipei, Taiwan to let me know she had stumbled upon my blog. I was so struck by her email to me - how her questions about living a life as a dance artist were so similar to mine, how her concerns were like my concerns, and yet she is living in a completely different part of the world - that I wanted to share more of her words here with you. I'm excited to share some of Lauren's story with you as the first in the Artist Jane Q&A series. Enjoy. xx
What do you do and why do you do it?I dance because it feels like a complete, active expression of the soul. I choreograph to teach students teamwork and to give them diverse experiences collaborating, as well as to challenge them artistically and creatively.
When did you first know you were an artist?
I didn’t begin dancing until quite late, around the age of 15, so for the first several years, I was so preoccupied with improving my technical skills that I wouldn’t have called myself an artist. A big stepping-stone came for me when I took my first dance intensive at the Tisch School of the Arts in NYC midway through college. Having the chance to perform the repertory of different companies under the direction of their company members exposed me to a variety of movement styles that internally gave me the freedom to begin finding my own voice with any movement I was given and to create movement that felt good to me, instead of only trying to fit into other choreographers’ molds.
Who are some of your influences?
To name specific choreographers and dance practitioners, I’ve been influenced by Bebe Miller’s intelligent inquisitiveness surrounding movement and dance making, by the freedom and cross-body patterns of David Dorfman’s movement, by a familiarity of floor movement from my college teacher, David Marchant…陳壽琴’s frontal and lateral approaches to luscious movement… the pristine and breathtaking simplicity of Sankai Juku’s choreography… honestly, though, I’m influenced and inspired by so many dancers of all ages and levels of experience, from high school dancers to up and coming choreographers who post their work on YouTube.
Describe some creative rituals or practices you use to get into your creative process.
Movement-wise, I often use music that inspires me to move, and then I try to collect morsels from improvisation sessions to save for later. Conceptually, I initially draw inspiration from ordinary scenes in my daily life, or from feats of nature that can then be extended metaphorically to describe certain patterns in society.
What do you fear as an artist?
As an artist, I mostly fear that my original intention for a piece won’t read well, or at all, in the finished product. I’m also concerned that the people participating in the art piece, or project, won’t learn or get as much out of the process as they had hoped. Other than that, I usually try to take every aspect of art making as an opportunity to learn – about spatial composition, about transitions, about combining the creativity of dancers with my ideas as a choreographer, etc.…
How do you cultivate courage?
I cultivate courage by trying not to be too attached to egotistical concerns, and by trying to separate those from concerns about the purpose of a project and the well being of those involved. I also try to maintain a sense of curiosity when looking for sources of inspiration to start a new project, and open-mindedness in researching what other people have done and are doing...
What advice would you give to the little girl you once were?
I would tell her not to be afraid to fail, or to laugh at herself, and to approach every endeavor with the same sense of curiosity and enthusiasm that she would any experiment – because they are all a chance to learn. I would also tell her to never stop being silly.
What is your relationship to motherhood and children?
I love children, but I don’t currently have any plans to be a mother.
How do you create solitude for yourself? How do you create community for yourself?
I set aside some time in my house to read, or research, or just be, instead of “doing.” Sometimes that involves meditating, sometimes emailing, and other times, just walking in nature.
What is true female power?
It’s debatable whether power needs to be separated by gender, but you might say that true female power is not being beholden to what men think of us, or to our appearance. As a visual art, it’s easy to allow aesthetic goals drive our dance making, and as female dancers, to be doubly concerned about the visual impression we make on others. True power comes from the courage to be just as we are, and to be authentic rather than try to please.
Lauren Mark is a graduate of the Ohio State University dance department, and is fortunate to have since found a second home in Taipei, Taiwan. There, she is a founding member of the East West Culture Project, a center of cultural exchange and unique learning opportunities with traditional eastern practices. Lauren is also a part-time teacher and choreographer at the Taipei American School, and can be reached at email@example.com.