Captivated by… is an interview series created by Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens to connect the ideas of Casa Captivating artists and thought-leaders to audiences worldwide.
Lara Wilson is the Co-Founder of The Assembly, an Orange County-based contemporary dance company formed in 2014. The Assembly will perform in Casa Kinetic: Contemporary Dance Collective, a new commission from Casa Romantica, on April 21.
The Assembly has performed all over southern California and specializes in producing multi-media productions in non-traditional spaces, united by dance as a leader. Casa Romantica spoke with Wilson about The Assembly’s vision, works, and how community participation has made contemporary dance a familiar face in Orange County.
This is the second of a three-part series on contemporary dance at Casa Romantica.
CR: What inspired you to create The Assembly?
LW: I was inspired to create The Assembly because I didn’t see anything else like it in Orange County. I came from New York, which was over-saturated with artists producing similar work. When I moved here, it was the opposite.
I created works on my own, but I also began working with other local choreographers, and discovered a small but passionate community. In 2014, I asked one of my fellow choreographers if she wanted to share a self-produced show. We decided to call it ‘The Assembly,’ and the company grew around it.
The Assembly’s vision is to create opportunities for artists – dance artists, photographers, visual artists, costume designers, musicians, and food and beverage artists – to collaborate and create around a common idea, united by dance.
CR: What has The Assembly’s journey been like?
LW: In the beginning, The Assembly primarily produced our own shows twice per year, for which we created original or commissioned works. A shift has happened because we have built a small but strong audience around the work we do. Now, we’re starting to be presented by Casa Romantica and other organizations in addition to our own productions.
The best thing that I’ve heard about The Assembly from our audience is that is they feel as though they have been transported by the works, and that’s exactly what I hope for when I see a performance – to be mentally and emotionally taken somewhere else. Another great thing I hear is that our audience is impressed with our attention to detail in the total experience that we create. People who came to our first show have kept coming, and they’re bringing new people. It really does feel like a community.
CR: What is the biggest misconception about contemporary dance?
LW: The biggest misconception about contemporary dance could probably be encapsulated by a phrase I’ve often heard: ‘You modern dancers are always rolling around on the floor.’ [laughs] Which can be true, but there’s so much more than that. The misconception is that it’s inaccessible. I think it’s just as accessible as going to see modern art or contemporary music… or even going to a restaurant that’s a little more avant-garde. You eat the food and it is delicious; it is a totally different experience than the same thing you have every other week! I think that if people would go to a contemporary dance performance, like they decide to go to a new restaurant or art exhibition, they would be so glad that they came.
CR: Why sets contemporary dance apart from other kinetic arts?
LW: What sets contemporary dance apart from ballet, theatrical dance, or commercial choreography is that it’s stripped down so that emotions come through. Although physical form and choreographed sequences are present, there is a rawness to contemporary dance. There’s often not a single narrative: I’d say that it’s about an experience, or about the possibilities of an emotion expressed by movement. If you feel something when you watch it – you’re doing it right.
Watch: Casa Kinetic dance reel
CR: Tell us about Wherever You Are, This One’s For You, which The Assembly will perform in the Main Salon.
LW: Wherever You Are, This One’s For You is choreographed by Marissa Brown and set to music by Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley. The work is about having something to say, and yearning to say it, but never getting the opportunity. So it just bubbles up with a lot of contained emotion that can only be expressed physically. It’s bold and colorful and really fun to watch – and to dance.
CR: What can you tell us about your site-specific work commissioned by Casa Romantica?
LW: Our site-specific work is one that I choreographed myself. It’s called Brusque, and the piece speaks to a domestic relationship. It’s a little bit violent and a little bit tender. It’s about a hidden love – a hard-to-reach love. It will be performed by two of our best dancers.
The Assembly is looking forward to performing at Casa Romantica, which is beautiful and representative of Orange County. It has so much history, and there’s a great energy of art that has filled these walls and of people that have been here. I strive to be inspirited by place and landscape and architecture, and Casa Romantica has all three of these. It’s exciting to be at the forefront of the dance art form here.
Casa Kinetic: Contemporary Dance Collective is happening on Friday, April 21 at 7:00 PM at Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens.
Check back next week for part 3 of our interview series on contemporary dance, featuring Orange County Ballet Theater breakout star Megan Goldstein.