Whether they’re from Düsseldorf, Toulouse or Tel Aviv, most Tanz Farm artists have to travel a long way to perform at the Goat Farm’s season of contemporary dance. For Greg Catellier and his dancers, it will be a simple matter of driving in from the Emory area.
“I think that Emory attracts a certain audience, and the Goat Farm attracts a certain audience. I want both,” says Catellier, an Emory dance professor whose company Catellier Dance Projects (CDP) will premiere the new work “Cepi Corpus, Cepi Choros: anatomy suite” as part of the Goat Farm’s contemporary dance season at Goodson Yard from May 22 to 24. “I’ve tried for a long time to find a way to get my work outside of Emory. And Goodson Yard is such a beautiful space. The space itself has such a personality that whatever work is put in there you know that you’re at Goodson Yard.”
The one-act work, the title of which roughly translates as “I took the body and began dancing,” was inspired by drawings from 16th-century anatomy books like De humani corporis fabrica (On the Structure of the Human Body) by Andreas Vesalius. The books, among the first books of anatomy based on human dissection, include famous woodcut illustrations by Jan Steven van Calcar and other artists. “Some of the pictures are grotesque and they’re often allegorical,” says Catellier. “We thought, What if we took some of those positions and started from there?”
The piece features moments in the dance where some of the positions from the woodcuts are apparent. “They’re not natural,” says Catellier. “It’s interesting that they were trying to show the body in its natural state, but the positions themselves don’t feel natural at all.”
The entire piece is set to a 25-minute vocal score by Caroline Shaw’s Partita for Eight Voices. Those familiar with Catellier’s signature style know that he often mixes theater, text, film and performance art into his dance works (his short dance film Transit, which was part of his 2012 show at Emory “…the final frontier” has screened at more than 30 international film festivals), but surprisingly, the newest work features none of those elements. “This dance that I’ve made is self-contained,” he says. “I kept trying to throw text in it and I kept trying to throw video in there, and each time I did it felt foreign and wrong. So we’re dancing. It’s interesting to go back to a piece that’s only dancing. It’s been very satisfying process to slowly put this piece together.”
To choreograph movement, Catellier and his dancers utilized contact improvisation in a process that began in January 2014. “I think contact improvisation is the one dance form that ignores the other aspects of dance,” he says. “Time, space and energy become secondary. It’s really how the body feels against that other body; the act of sharing weight creates more of a sense of your own body.”
Catellier’s work will appear on the same program as renowned choreographer Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, formerly of Chicago’s Luna Negra. “It’s exciting, but it’s intimidating,” says Catellier. “But I don’t know much about his work except for what I’ve seen online. I’m like everybody else in this regard. It is really interesting to share a work like this.”
Catellier’s upcoming Tanz Farm work utilizes six dancers and an understudy. The piece represents a number of firsts — CDP’s first time premiering new work at the Goat Farm and the first time performing with Sansano — but also a significant end. The performance will be among the last to include Catellier’s most senior company member, Alex Abarca, who is leaving Atlanta in the fall to attend NYU to get his MFA in dance. “That letter of recommendation to NYU for Alex was very difficult to write,” jokes Catellier. “I wanted to say, ‘He’s a horrible dancer and a horrible person.’ But of course I couldn’t. It’s very hard losing him.”