Our latest Creative Resident, Eric Handman, recently spoke to us about his introduction to GroundWorks DanceTheater as well as what it’s been like to work with David & the company.

“I met David at the American College Dance Association’s Western Conference in 2014 out in Arizona. He was an adjudicator and saw a quartet that I had brought to perform. He gave us some very generous public feedback – but it wasn’t until the last night that we had a chance to meet face-to-face (as the conference included a blind review process where judges do not know the choreographers or the schools). This was after my piece was chosen for finals – David mentioned the GroundWorks creative residency program right away. He has an incredible amount of guts and faith – I am extremely appreciative to have had the opportunity to work with him.”

Ironically, though both Handman and our own Shimotakahara have national reputations that precede them, both men also have ties to Northeast Ohio. For Handman, this was a chance to see first-hand what the creative community he had known peripherally was all about:

“I had connections to the area through my in-laws who live here as well as through

[other professional/personal ties]. There is an incredible cultural scene here that I was excited to get to know.”

Handman came to Cleveland in May to meet the dancers and begin fleshing out ideas that would make their way into the piece he would come to choreograph. His process is highly collaborative, drawing inspiration from the dancers themselves, letting their ideas for movement and interpretations inform his thoughts on the works. He shares that he prefers to create new work, rather than restaging his older pieces, as for him it is about what he and the dancers can make together, at that moment in time.

The process Handman employs to create new work is highly experimental and interactive. He begins by sharing movement ideas with dancers – having them manipulate them. From there, sequences are formed. Then it’s time for chance. Each dancer rolls the dice to deconstruct and reconstruct the core movement material. This introduces the opportunity to mix and match parts of each phrase, creating new and surprising combinations on stage.

“Chance sparks creativity and presents the possibility for us to get out of own mental habits. The point of choreography for me is to be surprised. It’s not about translating what’s in my brain to the dancers bodies. For me, it’s about seeing ideas that I didn’t know that I wanted until I see them. The GroundWorks team is completely in tune with the way that I create. They have encountered many approaches and were immediately game to play, contribute, share and take feedback. They are extremely professional and true collaborators – it is incredibly inspiring to work with David and all of the dancers.”

The piece continues to evolve with the dancers’ input – once music is in place it will be fine tuned to reflect the ideas of the composer as well: “I’m working with [dance composer] Michael Wall. We have had many conversations about influences and David filmed our rehearsal while I was in studio so that Michael could get a sense of the ideas we are working with. We will have all original music for this piece in place by early July.”

In much the same way that David shared his compliments with Handman in their initial encounter with one another, Handman has issued several reciprocal words of praise after having a chance to work with GroundWorks: “This company is of the moment and world-class – they are of that caliber – they could work anywhere. The dancers are all so unique. I was so impressed with the way – with similar rules – each dancer came up with vastly different solos. They drew upon their own experienced, physical histories – having a deep understanding of what their bodies do. There is a great amount of physical diversity amongst them – they are all extremely strong individuals. Cleveland should be happy that they have such an amazing world-class group of dancers – there is nothing provincial about this company and that is a testament to their work ethic, talent and David’s eye for casting, creativity and leadership. He himself was at every rehearsal – he has a hungry mind for creativity. His curiosity pushed us to do our best work.”

Stay tuned for further updates as Eric Handman joins us for our Creative Residency at Cleveland State University’s Department of Dance beginning on June 29th!