SARAH SLIPPER is no demure ballerina—in fact, her passion and energy can be overwhelming. "Busy, busy, busy!" the NW Dance Project artistic director pants in a break between rehearsals.
NWDP, which turns 10 this year, has been incredibly prolific, staging more than 160 original dance pieces since its inception. "We don't buy ballets," Slipper says proudly. "We take the chance; we take the risk; we want to bring [original works] out to people." To that end, this spring NWDP will remount some of its favorite pieces and premiere new ones, tour in Canada, and broadcast a live performance on the side of a downtown skyscraper. Busy!
AGENDA: How would you define your style as a choreographer and curator? What do you love, prefer, demand from dance?
SARAH SLIPPER: One of the things I try to do is find choreographers from around the world with a unique voice. I'm looking for work that's different from mine, but still draws me in. I like to see evidence of classical training, and dancers used to their greatest abilities... but in works with a contemporary voice. Interactions and partnering are really important to me, too. In a lot of modern works, the dancers never touch each other, but I look for connection. Since I come from a theater as well as a dance background, I also love an element of narrative. I used Pinter's Betrayal as a launch pad for a piece called Casual Act. Not I was inspired by Beckett. I like the conflict of opposing forces—light versus darkness, order versus chaos.
How have the past 10 years with NWDP differed from your time as a ballerina? What have you learned?
As a dancer, mostly you just have to think about yourself... but I always had an interest in other people. I'm very inspired as a director and a choreographer, because this is not the Sarah Slipper Company. I don't believe one choreographer can do it all; it's about feeding and nurturing everyone in the organization.
What's NWDP's audience like?
We have a very mixed audience, but they all want to see brand-new work, and be a part of something exciting—because we offer the most current of the best of what is out there in the world, and our Portland audience sees it first.
And who are your dancers?
First of all, they're the best movers you're gonna see in this country. The word "fierce" comes up; so does the word "fearless." What's more, they're nice people—warm, effusive, they love their art, they love sharing it, and working together as a team. We call them "company members," not dancers. They have a generosity of spirit. everybody works so hard in the arts for so little, you have to be very generous.
Director's Choice: 10th Anniversary, Newmark Theatre, 1111 SW Broadway, Thurs April 3- Sat April 5, 7:30 pm, $25-49, nwdanceproject.org