My goal as a dance artist is to explore essential aspects of the human experience through movement, and to create dances that transform/illuminate my explorations for the audience. Nature is a constant inspiration to me. Growing up in Michigan, I was able to explore the woods and creek behind my childhood home, and since then I've had a strong need for reflective time to observe, explore, dream, and play. Dance continues to be a sanctuary for me. My work as a choreographer—the space and time reserved for research, discovery, and development of complex movement studies—allows me to make connections and investigative queries into the world of ideas and embody these ideas through dance.
The newest piece by my company, Hedwig Dances, is ASCENDance, a collaboration with sculptor Barbara Cooper and video designer Petra Bachmaier. ASCENDance is about transcendence—unfolding the folded and revealing the concealed. Through the process of expansion, the dark comes into the light, the hidden into the known; the forgotten, the misunderstood, even the fearful become accessible. In this sense, ASCENDance gives rise to a sense of renewal and awareness, and our need to find respite from the bombardment of images, information, and discontent.
ASCENDance is being developed from the ground up through a thoughtful, serendipitous exchange of ideas, with research and discussion of “inner space” and the complexities of transformation in Nature, individual human development, and society. Our creative team is exploring challenges posed to self-knowledge by the frenzied condition of contemporary life and the inner need for reflective time and space that has been erased in this age of instant communication.
Each of us is applying this research to our distinct discipline and discovering areas of overlap. I am working to harmoniously link folded paper structures to the dancers so that body and structure become indivisible. I am also exploring immersive video’s impact on the body. How does the video’s scale change perceptions of the body? Is the body diminished or augmented by this environment? The ultimate goal is that all elements build a work that is greater than the sum of its parts.
The ideas addressed in ASCENDance are essential and relevant to my life and, I believe, will strike a chord with audiences. It will receive its world premiere in spring 2013 at a major Chicago dance venue.
Coincidentally, the name of this piece is a fitting metaphor for Hedwig Dances as we move from our “home” for the past 20 years and into a new chapter for the company. In 1992, we were honored when the former Department of Cultural Affairs Commissioner Lois Weisberg invited Hedwig Dances to become the Dance Company-In-Residence at the Chicago Cultural Center. For two decades, our company contributed its time and talent on behalf of the Chicago dance community and we are proud of our accomplishments, including the seminal role we played in developing new programs such as DanceBridge, the Dance Discovery Series, and Dance for the Camera, to name a few. This is an opportune time for Hedwig Dances to make this move with the appointment of new leadership within the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and the Department of Tourism. For us, it has presented a great catalyst for change as we take a step forward to building the company with a national touring program and establishing international artistic exchanges, commencing with our 2012 Tour to Cuba, scheduled for January 28 to February 5.
Four of our dancers hail from Havana, Cuba, and thus, we decided that this was the perfect destination for our premiere exploration of dance in another country. Cuba is alive with dance; it’s an integral part of the Cuban culture. From social dancing to ballet to contemporary dance, dance is in the hearts and souls of the people there. Cuban-born company members, Maray Guiterrez (Artistic Associate) and Victor Alexander, will join me, along with Art Encounter artists and expert guides, in leading this tour, returning to their dance roots as former, principal dancers with Danza Contemporanea de Cuba and graduates of the esteemed Escuela Nacional de Arte. It will be a rare experience for everyone involved to explore Cuba’s rich history and artistic wealth as invited guests in intimate settings.
The Cuba Tour represents a deepening of Hedwig Dances’ cross-cultural programming. Over the years, I have cultivated a diverse company of dancers and roster of choreographers. The multitude of perspectives fostered by this diversity has enriched and strengthened the experience of the dancers and our audiences. We look forward to developing a long-term collaboration with Cuban dance artists and believe that it will inspire artistic growth for me and my company.
We’re all very excited about this and future possibilities, but our long tenure as the Dance Company-In-Residence at the Chicago Cultural Center will always be highly regarded as an important part of Hedwig Dances’ history. Change is a constant in the world of arts and cultural pursuits, and, for Hedwig Dances it will always be an "ASCENDance"!
Jan Bartoszek founded Hedwig Dances in 1985 and named the company after her paternal grandmother. She received the prestigious Ruth Page Award in 1997 by the Chicago Dance Coalition for her Outstanding Contribution to the Dance Community for "her work at the Chicago Cultural Center, serving as an educator, mentor, presenter, administrator and promoter of dance in the city with inspirational excellence." Her artistic credentials also include choreography fellowships from the Illinois Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her choreography credits include work for Steppenwolf, Northlight, Live Bait and Court theatres, as well as with director Ping Chong. Throughout her career, Ms. Bartoszek has fostered a spirit of collaboration with other artists, merging choreography, media, text and music to create highly theatrical dances.
Hedwig Dances has performed nearly 1,500 times at venues throughout Chicago and beyond, including the Ravinia Festival, the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, Stage 773 and at the Dance St. Louis’ “Best of the Midwest” Spring to Dance Festival, among others. The Company has also toured to colleges and performed at the Grand Opening of Millennium Park and Navy Pier. Joyce SoHo, one of New York City’s premiere performance venues, selected Hedwig Dances to perform in its 2006 and 2009 performance seasons. In 2009, Hedwig Dances created its first dance made exclusively for film, entitled Arch of Repose, and marked the beginning of its artistic partnership with Bitter Jester Creative.
Written in Winter 2011/12. This story includes editorial support by CAR Dance Researcher Meida McNeal.