Photo Credit: On 1 Condition
New York City is a creative magnet and artists who find themselves here are welcomed by an audience as hungry for new art as they are to create it. Choreographer, director, and performer Will Taylor is one of those artists and he, along with his co-producer Ryan Daniel Beck, have built a new dance company called On 1 Condition, which is creating fascinating, challenging, moving, and often humorous new movement pieces. In what has quickly grown into a much talked about performance event, On 1 Condition, is taking emerging choreographers and giving them a space and a venue to create new work— but, as you might have guessed, there’s a catch—err, excuse me, a “condition”… and it’s awesome.
With On 1 Condition choreographers and their dancers are challenged to build a movement piece around a “condition”, and that “condition” can be anything from a toilet plunger, to plastic wrap, to.. who knows? The only rule is, each of the choreographers in a set production has to build their piece around the same condition.
After the inaugural performance of On 1 Condition last spring (the condition was ‘Toilet Plunger’), the performance venue Dixon Place here in New York City, picked up the show as a bimonthly series. With two shows this fall, On 1 Condition: Plastic Wrap premieres this Wednesday, September 20th, with another production— and a new condition— set for November 8th. The next condition will be announced at the September 20th show.
Dance Network had the opportunity to speak with creator and curator of On 1 Condition this passed week. We discussed Wednesday’s upcoming performance, On 1 Condition: Plastic Wrap, the process of choosing the “conditions”, and the goals and future of the company.
Dance Network: Will, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us. You’re an accomplished dancer, actor, and singer yourself and you’ve recently been spending more and more time directing and choreographing—how did you find yourself on that side of the creative table?
Will Taylor: I think I always knew that directing and choreographing would end up being a major part of my life, but when I first got to NY I wanted to give my performing career my full attention. So I passed up on a couple opportunities that might have jump-started my directing/choreography career sooner, but I figured I’d get back around to pursuing it. In 2010, James Beaudry, a director I had worked with, had just taken over as artistic director at Timber Lake Playhouse outside of Chicago. Jim asked me to choreograph their summer production of Oklahoma! and that changed the course for me. I loved the experience, and managed to line up more choreography gigs — some in NY. Jim had me back to Timber Lake three more times during his tenure, and I moved up to director for the latter two productions. It has been a slow build, and especially slow since I’ve been juggling the acting career too. But this summer I was able to accomplish something I had been working towards: I directed my first full production in NY, Chickens In The Yard at JACK in Brooklyn. And it went really well!
DN: Your co-producer Ryan Daniel Beck has some equally impressive credits, how did the two of you end up working together?
WT: Yeah Ryan is terrific, and has been instrumental to O1C. I met him about a year ago when my friend Pilar took me to take his bodyART class, and we hit it off. Ryan eventually trained me to teach bodyART (which is a wonderful body conditioning method. check it out!). One day earlier this year I told him I had been wanting to create a challenge-based dance series, and I pitched it to him and he was like, ‘let’s make it happen’!
DN: Speaking of which, where did you come up with the idea of On 1 Condition, and how do you guys decide what the next condition will be?
WT: The show was inspired by an event in New York for playwrights. My friend Brett Epstein has a wonderful series at The Tank called Rule Of 7x7, where playwrights write new short plays and they all come up with rules that they all have to incorporate. For example, a rule might be: “Someone farts loudly on page 10”. I directed for 7x7 a couple times and was really taken by how it immediately engages the audience because they are looking to see how each play solves a problem differently. I looked for something like this in the dance world and couldn’t find anything fun spirited like that. I had a hunch that it would work well with dance and so we launched the first event, O1C: Toilet Plunger last spring at the dance studio, Body & Pole. For each condition, we generally try to chose something that is unusual, a bit stupid, and could be interpreted in a variety of ways.
DN: Once you have the “condition”, describe your process of developing the choreography for a piece.
WT: I usually find music first. I look for music that moves me. I like to edit and mess around with music, and I also compose. So in this case - for O1C: Plastic Wrap, I blended some different songs and sounds to create a soundscape that inspires some kind of story— or, at least an image in my mind. Ryan and I like to encourage the choreographers to find humor in their pieces. And we try to prompt that with a condition that doesn’t limit the tone to being too heavy, although, in this case for O1C: Plastic Wrap, my piece is going to be pretty dark. I was drawn to a very disturbing and chaotic piece of music by ‘Marijuana Deathsquads', and I mixed it with a ridiculously sweet choral song from Lady And The Tramp. I knew I wanted to explore the opposing themes of peace and destruction. I cast two incredible dancers: Ashley McQueen (who is also choreographing a piece), and Anna Zekan. I started to think of them as characters and came up with a loose story arc before our first rehearsal. The way I worked with them was very similar to the way I work with actors. The main difference is we aren’t bound to a prescribed text. I gave Ashley and Anna very minimal pedestrian movement to sketch out the story in its most rudimentary form, then we went back and refined the moments and filled them in with more dance. I let them explore quite a bit, and shaped their impulses. It’s my favorite way of working. I am not crazy about choreographing counts of eight alone in front of a mirror and coming in to teach the dancers what I’ve come up with. Sometimes it is necessary but it isn’t fun for me to work in isolation. I think I came into the first rehearsal with one count of eight prepared to teach, and a ton of loose ideas and images to explore.
Anna Zekan rehearses Will Taylor’s piece, Fireflies. (O1C: Plastic Wrap). Photo Credit: O1C
DN: As the curator and conceiver, do you see the other choreographers’ pieces prior to the performances?
WT: The week before the show we get the choreographers to describe their piece to us because we have to make the show order so the programs can be printed. But Ryan and I see the pieces for the first time in tech, a few hours before the show.
DN: The transition of the show to Dixon Place as a bimonthly series seems like huge move for the show. What do you see for the future of On 1 Condition? What do you see for the future for you as a choreographer and creative director?
WT: I am so thrilled to do the show at Dixon Place, which is the perfect venue for this. I want to see the show grow a bigger following (we have a lot more seats to fill now), and to continue to expand the network of choreographers and dancers that are involved. We are committed to giving emerging choreographers opportunities and we hope that we will attract some more established choreographers who are in between gigs, and looking to challenge themselves. I’d love for O1C to be a home choreographers can count on to be an opportunity to build or expand their work and potentially inspire them to go off and develop their pieces further.
As for me, as a director I am working with writers on several plays, some that are movement-based and some that aren’t, and I’d love for them to get full productions.
I want to create more movement-based work, and more original work. I hope to create a full length movement piece from scratch very soon. I have an idea brewing that I feel like I need to pay attention to.
DN: For any choreographers or dancers out there who might want to get involved, what’s the best way for them to do that?
WT: We are always looking for new choreographers and dancers. Message me through my website: www.willtaylorsite.com
For more information about On 1 Condition and where to get tickets click here. The next show is coming up tomorrow, September 20th at Dixon Place. Check it out!