By Gabrielle Gainor To quote my mother, one of RDC's number-one fans: "I like to watch (Ian Howe) dance. Also, he can seriously rock a skirt." Rocking a skirt, as in Eva Stone's End of a Year isn't all that Ian can do. I've seen him break it down in a performance worthy of MTV in work by Markeith Wiley and Xaviera Vandermay (though he assures me that he isn't a B-boy), whip out pirouettes with balletic strength and grace, and also step outside of his comfort zone like this year, when I (admittedly, a little greedily) asked both Ian and Warren Woo to start dancing for me almost NINE months ago. In summer, 2015, we started playing in the studio to get to know each other, and generate movement for my piece. For Ian, someone who danced professionally on cruise ships, was inspired by Savion Glover growing up, and could easily whip anyone on Dance Moms into fighting shape, I know that my weird, modern-dance process was far from home base. I asked him to make up gestural moves to words, become less of the dynamo that he is and more of a pedestrian, plus I gave him and my dancers very little to hang on to as my non-linear brain figured this dance out -- much editing occurred, and a lot of original ideas and choreography were tested, then scratched, a process of clarity for me, but I'm sure a cause of frustration for Ian and my dancers. Still, all of them gave generously; they gave so much of themselves to my process even in the moments where I was fumbling. Ian's patience and openness gave me the gift of being able to grow and discover as a choreographer. For that, I'm truly grateful. In addition to my piece, which is inspired by old Hollywood and media archetypes, you will see Ian dance in Austin Sexton's Surface, Emerge, Arise. as well as in Lauren Edson's Below the Surfacewhen we present PRIME.
Ian teaches at dozens of studios all over the Pacific Northwest (you should totally hire him if you need an awesome master-class teacher!). And, in addition to technique and performance quality, I hope his students are able to pick up on his graciousness. As a dancer, he is the perfect combination of both humility in-person, and totally owning it onstage in a way that the audience can't resist. How do you continue to evolve as an artist? I continue to take classes and surround myself with people who inspire and push me to be better. I try to find projects that will make me think outside of my safe zone.
What's the hardest thing for you as a dancer? Letting go and not worrying so much about the perfection of the movement.
What do you excel at? I feel like I excel in making things that feel weird on most people, feel alright on my body when I dance.
What's the best dance show you've seen in Seattle recently? I had the opportunity to go see Jerboa do their Valentine's Day performance and it was a nice mixture of technique and slap stick numbers. Very enjoyable to watch.
What's inspiring you lately? Life. Watching other dancers enjoy their time on stage... where I want to be by the end of the year.
What do you want to see more of? I honestly want to see more letting go of things and people exploring new things. I want to see not just amazing technicians in dance, I want to see great story tellers.
How would your loved ones describe you? Compassionate.
What's one thing that's challenged you or pushed you to grow in RDC this year? The variety of numbers I've had to take on this year. Each one of them has been different in their process and feel. I'm not a contemporary dancer by nature, so I've had to let go of a lot of things that I held onto as a dancer, and explore new ways to move and think.
What's the most memorable moment from RDC this year? Connecting with new people, learning more about their back stories. Not just as dancers, but as people.
Best post-rehearsal treat? Extra, extra dirty Grey Goose Martini. ;)