CH: What was it like to make the transition from an athlete to a dancer?
KL: It was exciting, it was a big change, and I didn’t really follow dance or watch dance before that. Once I started to perform myself I watched more dance and really enjoyed it.
CH: Can you tell us about the pieces we’ll be seeing at RIPPED?
KL: One piece is called “Passage Hawk,” and it was choreographed by Jim Morrow. We had both been in a piece together the year before, and the choreographer kept referring to “stand up dancers” and “wheelchair dancers.” “Wheelchair dancers over here, and stand up dancers over here.” It kind of bothered him the way he separated us, separated the two groups. So he wanted to make a piece where the lines defining those two types of dancers were blurred. It was really fun making it, we just kind of played around and included the chair as more of an apparatus and less of a chair. We never really use it as a wheelchair in the piece.
CH: How did it feel to have your daughter make a short film about you?
KL: I talked about a lot of things I haven’t talked about in a long time. It was fun to think back and revisit my past and think about how things were at different times and remember the process of getting a disability. I was remembering kind of physically getting used to a disability and psychologically getting used to a disability. I enjoyed it.
CH: How do you begin to choreograph a piece? What’s your process?
KL: It kind of varies, like sometimes I’ll have a song in mind and I’ll want to do something to the song. Sometimes I’ll do contact improv dancing and I’ll just get ideas of different movement from that. I’ll start moving in ways that I haven’t thought of and decide that I want to incorporate that into a dance.
CH: How did you come to work with fellow dancers, Anita Fillmore Kenney and Linda Mastandrea? What are they like to work with?
KL: Well I was dancing with Momenta, and Anita has been a part of Momenta for a long time. The first year I was with them she was dancing and then she went away to grad school for the next two years. When she came back, we wanted to do a duet together and we did Tango #4 by Sarah Najera. We did that in the Fall of ’06 and I really enjoyed working with her so we decided to collaborate and make a piece together the next year. We’ve been dancing together since then pretty regularly. And Linda, she had come to a concert at Counter Balance at Access Living, a dance series that Ginger Lane puts on. Linda was thinking about getting into dance and Ginger encouraged her. We did a duet that Ginger choreographed and we’ve been dancing together since then.
CH: What inspired your piece where you dismantle your wheelchair?
KL: I guess the moment of inspiration was to draw the line between the so called “wheelchair dancer,” and so called “stand up dancer.” The other [piece of inspiration] was to kind of look at things from different perspectives. That might be more my motivation and my storyline. I’m not sure if that was part of Ginger’s thinking. She’s really the choreographer and I had a lot of influence on the collaboration process.
CH: Do you feel like your art, your dancing, has changed over time?
KL: Yeah, I think I’ve just been exposed to more dances, to different types of choreographers, and I keep pulling ideas from them. Or I’ll work with someone who’s asking me to move in a way I haven’t moved before and I haven’t thought of moving that way before, I might incorporate that style. I guess what I’ve changed over the years, I’ve stolen from them.
CH: Do you have any advice for performing artists with limited mobility?
KL: I guess it would be keep trying new things, new ways of performing, and ask for feedback from artists who’s work to enjoy. Sometimes you could really be on the verge of something, but you just need somebody else to show you where you’re going. And just put the time in, stay healthy. Try to develop strength and mobility so you have more options. If that’s an option, if mobility can be developed.
CH: Thank you so much. I can’t wait to see your performance.
KL: Thank you.
Kris Lenzo performs at Victory Gardens Theater on January 17th. Click here for more information.