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
licence that her studies began in earnest. Now the lifelong
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
it as a dynamic and sensuous kinetic sculpture, a wordless poem
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
represented includes a construction worker and a professional cellist.
Musicians Daniel Johnson and Stephen Witte accompany the Animage
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
The name of the company, Animage, was invented to
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
"an image of anima."
"We tend to forget that we are animals," says Vaucher.
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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.
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
and the Princeton Center for Yoga and Health.
Improvised dance was not part of her training, but
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
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
says Vaucher. "I like people to see us up close, to see the
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
Witte plays didgeridoo and Native American flutes. "They’re
to creating the atmosphere for the work," she says.
"I’ve come through a lot of training, which I’m leaving
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
of Princeton, 102 Witherspoon, 732-257-4733. $7. Friday and
June 12 and 13, 8:30 p.m.
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