LDHP Timeline - Jac Carley

LDHP interview with Jac Carley

LDHP: Describe what influenced your work, who did you influence.  Did you work individually, collectively, collaboratively?

JC: My work was influenced, as a very young person, by Miss Yvonne and Daddy Jack, when I danced for ten years at Miss Yvonne’s Dance Studio in Stratford NJ. Vaudevillians, hoofers, professional dancers and entertainers - couldn’t have had better introduction. We performed at USO shows throughout the tri-state region, for mentally handicapped and many others — lots and lots of on-stage time under sometimes bizarre and strange conditions.As a dance major at GWU, Maida Withers was my most important teacher-mentor, also introducing me to improvisation and ideas from the Wigman School. As a young professional dancing for Group Motion, Brigitta Herrmann was my greatest inspiration, also a Wigman student. There you go with my influences:  I’m off and on my way to Germany. Aside from being a member of Group Motion, touring and traveling with them, I went on to collaborate with a number of local Philly artists during my time in Philly: Michael Biello, Woofy Bubbles, Ishmael-Houston Jones, Fred Holland, Terry Fox, Dan Martin, Warren Mueller, Tonio Guerra - to name a few. My own performance evenings were solo dance with various musicians and artists, although working with Woofy Bubbles, Jeff Cain, Terry Fox, and Ellen Foreman was collaborative.  It seems the greatest influence I have had has been on my own kids, who cannot fathom taking such risks in their own young lives. So. Much later, recently, I would like to add that I have been deeply influenced by Royston Maldoom, a pioneer of enormous stature in Europe for Community Dance. This has yet to reach the US shores, and when it does, dance will rise again in the US!

LDHP: Were there issues that you addressed in your work,  socio-political atmosphere of the time, antiwar movement, nature/environmental, spiritual, other -isms” activism, feminism.

JC: I was dancing to dance, dancing to figure out why the world is round and eventually determine why that could not be changed. I juggled plungers, danced to cowboy songs, wore porcelain masks, used speaking, clapped and spun, and pretty much just used what felt right for the piece. Later I did address historical political issues:  several of my major evening-length choreographies in Berlin used writings by Holocaust survivor Raymond Federman.I was, however, for a great part of my choreographic career, when my evening-length works were touring extensively, using writings and/or music by Gertrude Stein, Kurt Schwitters, Ernst Jandl, Andrj Biely, and John Cage, Raymond Federman.

LDHP: What of forms?

JC: Form? Trying to improvise and reach an audience on an emotional level, using whatever tools I had to work out any given choreographic notion. I was deeply influenced by Limon, Hawkins techniques - now largely defunct - and of course totally smitten by Wigman/Group Motion improv structures and concepts. I did quite a lot of Cunningham at college, and kept up my ballet training that was begun at MIss Yvonne’s. I was willing to do anything called dance, and love everything from belly dancing to well, everything. I currently focus on tap, study with a Zen master who is a tap wizard, and this makes me unbearably happy because it harbors no ambition and a future of dancing without injuries.

LDHP: What was going on at the time? The prevailing zeitgeist?

JC: At the time, we were still very linked with Judson Street developments, and Doug Dunn also had a major influence on my work. Presenting in real theaters was not a reality, so galleries, rehearsal studios, and the like was where we/I would perform. That was zeitgeist, for certain, as it opened up the dance to new neighborhoods. I think the zeitgeist held more promise, despite miserable working conditions, because so many small modern companies were surviving, doing interesting work, and the idea that eventually financial survival would result with artistic discipline and diligence was in part reality. that type of surviving middle-sized company (with 4-6 dancers) no longer exists on such a broad scale. Also, Young Audiences offered quite a bit work for serious artists in the high schools.

LDHP: What of the material question? Did you make a living as an artist?

JC: I still have the final budget reports of my first self-produced works in Philadelphia, which were copied to show the musicians that I was not making money, not hiding money from them, and despite sold out houses, could not pay them more than I paid myself: about $50 for a good run. I worked as a secretary for NY Life Insurance company during that time, did minimal teaching, until moving to Berlin where I could make a living as a dancer/performer/choreographer. Once Tanzfabrik was up and running in Berlin, I was able to make a basic income although it was not enough to support a lifestyle with two children.

LDHP: Where were places you worked/performed?

JC: Group Motion, Painted Bride on South Street and in Old City, original WILMA space 23rd & Spruce, Old City and in Wear White at Night in Old City.

LDHP: Other thoughts?

JC: The German / Berlin connection was important for Philadelphia roots. Following that thought, perhaps a link to one/two of the most important venues here for local dance would make sense – some say they are quite indebted to Tanzfabrik innovating start-up decades here - for which I was crucial.   Also, I am now  (2014) On-site director for Sarah Lawrence College’s  Summer Arts in Berlin program, in which we explore the entire German modern dance history and its manifold influence on US dance. So a link to this would be ok too. As to local, vibrant Berlin venues that remind me of the places in Philly that enabled me to get a start: http://www.uferstudios.com/   and    http://www.dock11-berlin.de/  are just amazing, and present young companies and dance artists and dance film focus, workshops etc etc. Both sites are also in English. 
Also of Interest: Gitta’s daughter (Laina Fischbeck) lives in and works collectively in a large dance project in southern France. This should be a link as well (I don’t have it.)


More Artist Images/Materials: 
LDHP Timeline - Jac Carley
Published on March 13, 2015 - 7:00pm