Corrections or additions?

This article by Nicole Plett was published

in U.S. 1 Newspaper on June 10, 1998. All rights reserved.

Animage: Kinetic Sculpture at Ground Level

Catharine Vaucher decided at an early age that she

would be a dancer. But it was not until she turned 16 and got a

driver’s

licence that her studies began in earnest. Now the lifelong

dance-inspired

artist — who earned an undergraduate degree in dance with another

in philosophy for added intellectual excitement — is launching

a new dance company unlike any she’s ever known.

The premiere performances by Animage (pronounced ah-nee-mage), her

new company, are Friday and Saturday, June 12 and 13, at 8:30 p.m.

at the Loft Theater of the Arts Council of Princeton. The program

is called "Earth Bound Spirit Creatures," and Vaucher

describes

it as a dynamic and sensuous kinetic sculpture, a wordless poem

designed

to give voice to the life force moving within all creatures.

The newly-formed ensemble of six, three men and three women, span

ages 25 to 52. Its members are Jasmine Ben-Reuven, Jeanne Jaubert,

Peter Krumins, Dan Marks, Michael Weaver, and Catharine Vaucher. None

apart from Vaucher are trained dancers. The array of real-life

occupations

represented includes a construction worker and a professional cellist.

Musicians Daniel Johnson and Stephen Witte accompany the Animage

concerts

with tabla drum, percussion, didgeridoo, flute, and voice.

Vaucher, now 42, says her company uses improvisation to explore the

body and movement as physical expressions of the soul. She describes

the work as the exploration of instinct, sensing, and action using

movement and improvisation that is "the result of collective

energy

and ideas."

The name of the company, Animage, was invented to

reflect

Vaucher’s multi-faceted interests, including her interest in humans

as animals. "Our instinct, intuition, desires, and drives come

from the animal," she says, adding that the name also encompasses,

"anima," the Latin word for breath, life, and soul. The

result:

"an image of anima."

"We tend to forget that we are animals," says Vaucher.

"Somehow

we’ve learned that being physical, animal, or instinctive is bad.

As a consequence many of us walk around feeling closed off from life.

When I teach I use a lot of imagery from the natural world. I find

this not only inspires new ways of moving, but also leads to an

expanded

appreciation of our place within the natural world."

Vaucher is dancer-in-residence at the Arts Council of Princeton where

she has been teaching creative dance classes to children and adults

since 1996. She says her classes are designed to develop movement

skills and cultivate creative living. "The work that we are doing

requires skill in dance and improvisation, and bespeaks of

metaphysical

moments of human experience," says Vaucher.

Born and raised in Orange County, California — "I still miss

the ocean," she says — Vaucher’s father was an electrical

engineer at Hughes Aircraft. Her mother was a homemaker until she

got divorced and joined the work force. Her sister, who is two years

older, now works as a massage therapist on the West Coast.

At 16 Vaucher began formal training in ballet. "I loved the ideal

and the perfection of it — to look and know if what you were doing

was right or wrong," she says. At Irvine, a required class in

theories of modern dance introduced her to that genre and "taught

me how to look at it."

Her undergraduate degrees — bachelors in both dance and philosophy

— are from University of California at Irvine. After college she

danced for Cylinder and the Techno Rebels. At the University of

Wisconsin,

Madison, where she earned her MFA, she took advantage of the school’s

strong dance therapy program, its effort-shape and movement analysis

studies. She also performed, choreographed, and researched dance

composition

and esthetics.

"I’ve learned a lot about dance by looking at other art forms.

studying philosophy, phenomenology, esthetics — I’ve learned about

looking at art, the value of art," she says. "Isadora Duncan

is still my idol in life and in dance. Over the years, she’s sustained

my interest. I love her freedom of spirit, her audacity to be who

she was and to break with the ballet tradition."

Merce Cunningham’s choreography, particularly his

treatment

of stage space, has been a focus of her interest. "He completely

broke down the conventions of where you look on stage," she notes.

"Instead of story lines, he would create by chance processes,

so the work would come out of a non-personal point of view."

Vaucher says she’s interested in many of the post-Cunningham movers

from the 1960s, but most especially in Trisha Brown. "From her

early days dancing on walls and rooftops, to her sophisticated big

stage compositions, I think she is the composer in dance right

now. Not necessarily for her style — it’s how she develops

ideas."

In 1987, teaching at Southern Illinois University, Vaucher founded

her first dance company, Ministry of Motion, and went on to develop

the company at the University of Georgia. Comprised of both dancers

and musicians, the company performed at the Dia Foundation in New

York. One characteristic it shares with Animage is the interest in

getting dance into non-proscenium spaces.

Animage came out of Vaucher’s teaching, and a video project she

created

this year for Princeton’s TV-30 cable channel. "When I slowed

the videotape down, I could sense the shared energy among us. Out

of that, I saw that this group of six was like one organism

breathing."

Married to a graphic designer, Vaucher and her husband are the parents

of a son age 5. Vaucher has had a variety of university teaching jobs.

She was assistant professor at the University of Georgia, a tenure

track position she left to become a teaching fellow in the Ph.D.

program

in dance education at N.Y.U. The program did not suit her, but when

she left, after one year, the market for dance professors had sagged

markedly, and Vaucher had to change her stride.

The couple moved to the area in 1994, when Vaucher taught for one

year at the Lewis School for learning different children. Since then

she has worked with children and adults at the Arts Council of

Princeton

and the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health.

Improvised dance was not part of her training, but

something

she has explored independently. "I found I needed to be challenged

on stage," she explains. "Just to go out and perform movements

that had been set, it wasn’t exciting. I felt like I needed to be

pushed over the edge — to go out on the stage and not know what

was going to happen."

Vaucher describes her performance space, the Arts Council’s Loft

Theater,

as "a rare find," praising its high ceiling and tall windows.

The wood floor is also a boon — but it needs refinishing, she

says. Her company has offered to donate all the labor, in exchange

for the equipment and materials required.

The concert audience will be seated around the dancers, and on the

same level, rather than perched above. "Dance is

three-dimensional,"

says Vaucher. "I like people to see us up close, to see the

humanity

of us. I don’t want them set apart from us, I want them to sense the

weight and the effort. And if we’re really moving, they’ll feel the

wind blow by them."

She was introduced to her musicians by Suzin Green at the Princeton

Center for Yoga and Health. "I love the sound of the tabla —

and it was as if Daniel Johnson just kind of dropped into my lap,"

she says, explaining that Johnson recently moved here from

Philadelphia.

Witte plays didgeridoo and Native American flutes. "They’re

integral

to creating the atmosphere for the work," she says.

"I’ve come through a lot of training, which I’m leaving

behind,"

says Vaucher. "I feel challenged and inspired by this group. This

work is grounded in the body, and nurtured by the intellectual studies

that I’ve done, but these are not in the forefront. What is present

is moving through the body."

— Nicole Plett

Earth Bound Spirit Creatures, Animage, Arts Council

of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon, 732-257-4733. $7. Friday and

Saturday,

June 12 and 13, 8:30 p.m.


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