5 With: April Sellers

January 15, 2015

I always look forward to seeing the dances of April Sellers because she's constantly committed to pushing the limits and boundaries of her work, so I know I'll see something really exciting (and at least a little controversial). Her latest dance, Big Baby, was no exception-- a really satisfying and hilarious combination of movement and text, drag and gender-bending. I'm grateful to have April's voice as a part of this series because she's great at telling it like it is. In the arts world, where we often makes assumptions that other people have it easier (or more funding or connections), it's refreshing to be reminded that everyone has their share of doubts, and that hard work and persistence are always required.


Describe your current creative work and how you came to make it: 
I am a choreographer. The current underbelly of my work is questioning what feminism is now and more importantly what my generation’s role in feminism will be-- what we will have contributed. I have been working on developing these tools in my recent body of work: the integration of text and movement, crescendo, improvised text based structures, allowing myself to repeat structures from previous dances in hopes of improvement, and non- linear development. I am also very interested in ensemble and making work that is specific to the ensemble, so that the work is an exaggeration of their experience or some part of their personality. 

My work changed pretty drastically right around 2010. I was recovering from an injury and questioning where I was going in dance, because at that point I didn't feel like I had reached the success or stature that I desired. I also wasn't having fun, and I had no money. Giving up dance wasn't a possibility for me, so I decided to change something about my creation process to make it fun again. One major shift in my work has been using text. I found that I had some skill and some tools for writing text and timing humor. I had always made serious, abstract work with a strong point of view, and I hope that I have now found a way of maintaining that point of view while delivering it in more enjoyable way for the audience.

I don't wake up every day anymore wondering if I will be a choreographer-- I just am.  It’s what I do everyday for work, and how I got here was through a lot of fucking hard work. I still feel I haven't even come close to what I want to achieve.

What are your biggest creative challenges?
+ My process takes a long period of time - it’s not cost effective. I have to live with a work for a couple of years to fully realize it, and take time to build relationships with my ensemble members and to build an ensemble sense of timing so they can anticipate one another in our improvisations. 

+ I work with an ensemble of four or five and typically don’t perform in my own work, so it can be very expensive to tour or move a piece around.  

+ I struggle to build relationships in my artistic community because I am kind of afraid of everybody. I have strong, bold opinions and speak directly, and am actually really reclusive.

How do you balance work that pays the bills with work that's creatively exciting to you? 
I have no balance; there is no such thing. I think of it as a moving scale and I am always running up and down the scale and the shifting is constant. Over time, the work I do for money and the work that is creatively satisfying have come closer together.

That said, I fail a lot, I don't pay all of my bills on time, I end almost every show in the red and I am dependent upon the generosity of others to support my work. I try to keep my bills to under 1,000 dollars a month or less because I feel like that’s how I can survive as an artist. Living a frugal life leads to more creative riches, and I am very good at not having any money.  

What resources have been helpful to you? 
The one thing I feel has more powerful than anything else in the creation of my life as an artist is mentorship, and I have been very blessed with a small handful of amazing mentors: John Munger, Judith Howard, Colleen Callahan, Patrick Scully and Laurie Van Wieren. These mentors have collectively guided me through everything from how to sharpen my choreographic tools and communicate with dancers, to how to write a press release. They’ve given me feedback about my work and helped console me when I failed. I am constantly grateful. 

What's inspiring you right now? 
I don’t feel a magical or grand sense of inspiration; I am always on the heels of one dance and precipice of another. I am making a new work with Judith Howard that will premiere in June.  And I am desperate to get back into the studio with my current ensemble that I created my latest work, Big Baby with. I feel like I have just scratched the surface of the pot of gold we can create together.

[Find April on mnartists and on twitter. Find more of the 5 With series here.]

1 comments:

  1. I LOVED this post (all of it), but really want to know more about the $1,000 monthly budget. Is that business expenses or personal? If personal, without trying to be invasive in any way, I'd love to know more about how you can make that happen. Is it supplemented by a partner?

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