Beginner's Guide to Catherine Cabeen and Company Dec 20, 2012

by Heidi

Here are a few factoids to get you warmed up for local legend Catherine Cabeen's dance piece, Fire!

1.    Catherine Cabeen is the second artist this season, the first being Gob Squad and their live video homage to Andy Warhol’s films, who is looking back and drawing inspiration from a visual artist from the 1960’s.  In Fire! Catherine reflects on the work of Niki de Saint Phalle, the only female member of French New Realism, a movement founded in 1960 by art critic Pierre Restany and painter Yves Klein.  The members were banded by the search for ‘new perceptual approaches to reality’; the ‘realism’ of their title referenced the Realist movement of the mid-19th century where art was to represent life faithful and empirically, whereas ‘new’ signaled a shift in how ‘reality’ could be defined and represented. 

The movement was Europe’s answer to the same issues Pop Art was addressing in America—a response to a consumerist, mass-producing, industrial culture.  It was also strongly influenced by the Dada movement.

Cabeen talks about being drawn to the New Realists because—recoiling from the post-WWII ‘art stars’ of Abstract Expressionism—they made experiential, collaborative, and chance based work which, at times, incorporated performance.  Their art gave value to experience and tried to capture physical action, acknowledging the artist’s physical body as inseparable from their work.  Cabeen believes the New Realists work was a pivotal in how visual art was conceptualized; a shift which caused the motives of visual art and dance to approach one another.

2.    Cabeen finds particular interest in three different bodies of work within the trajectory of Saint Phalle’s career: Saint Phalle’s Shooting Paintings, which are paintings made by shooting at a plaster surface covering buried pockets of paint which would explode as she shot at the work, her Nanas, which are giant, voluptuous, mosaic covered sculptures of women-like figures in exuberant, dancing, poses, and her huge installation pieces like Tarot Garden, a garden filled with massive sculptures of the tarot's major arcana, each covered by intricate mirror and tile mosaics. 

  Shooting Paintings


    Tarot Garden

3.    This is the fourth presentation of Catherine's work at On the Boards.  She performed the precursor to Fire!, titled Ready Aim . . . at NW New Works Festival 2012. In the piece, Catherine made a poignant and funny lecture/dance that became an audience-interactive feminist critique of how the female body is represented in choreography (Catherine has a MFA in Dance from the University of Washington with an emphasis in 20th Century History and Feminist Theory).  She also created Into the Void for the 2011 season, a piece reflecting on the work of Yves Klein, another New Realist.  Finally, she performed in The A.W.A.R.D Show! in 2009.

4.    Catherine Cabeen and Company was founded in 2009 in Seattle and has toured internationally and nationally.  A few of Catherine’s accolades include being a finalist in the 2009 The A.W.A.R.D. Show! Seattle and being named Emerging Choreographer at the Bates Dance Festival in 2011.

5.    Formerly a dancer in both the Martha Graham Dance Company and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Catherine has a diverse resume as a modern dancer.  The contrast between Bill T. Jones’ testosterone-filled solos and dancing Martha Graham’s archetypical female characters in their long flowing dresses caused her to develop an awareness of how gender can be represented in choreography and fostered her interest in feminist history and theory.  Her choreography shows traces of influence from these two legends, but undeniably, she has her own thoughtfully crafted voice.