Constellations and Influences: Sarah Skaggs
October 3, 2013
My earliest inspiration came from my dance teacher in college, Eija Celli, who looked like the German Expressionist dancer, Mary Wigman. I couldn’t understand a thing she was talking about but I had a sense that what she was talking about was vast and powerful. In my early years in NYC, I danced for the choreographer, Dana Reitz and learned an incredible amount about rigor in improvisation. I performed in her collaboration with James Turrell at Radcliff and was inspired by dancing inside the three-story structure Turrell had built for us. Currently, the wonderful dancers – Meredith Fages, Joanna Kotze and Emie Hughes – inspire me and have been teaching me new things everyday. My yearlong collaboration with Cori Kresge was especially profound, rich and full of inspired moments.
Other important artists and ideas that have inspired me include Dan Graham’s seminal essay and video documentary, Rock My Religion. His research into and blurring of the roots of American rock and roll with the ecstatic religious practices of the Shakers had a huge effect on me in the ‘90s. Subsequently, I became a devotee of Patti Smith.
Currently, I am inspired by the work of visual artist Josiah McElheny. His work with ideas such as infinity, reflectivity, and multiplicity are interesting to me as I move into a new phase of my work that will look at similar issues in the dancing body. In addition to McElheny’s work, I am very inspired by curator Nato Thompson’s work and am reading a collection of essays from his text, Living as Form: Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011. His curatorial vision has inspired me this past year as I made the new work and as I continue to make work inside the social and aesthetic.
Sarah Skaggs’s The New Ecstatic is an examination of the changing nature of ecstatic dance forms, as impacted by cultural shifts in the meaning of the “out-of-body” in a post-disaster world and features performances by Skaggs, Cori Kresge, Meredith Fages, Emie Hughes, and Joanna Kotze. The New Ecstatic runs tonight thru Saturday at Danspace Project.