Tess' dancers in rehearsal for her rock climbing piece.
Anna Roth (right) and Tess (left) dancing in RDC's second season.
RDC at ARC
January 25, 2015 ARC Dance Productions 9250 14th Ave. NW, Seattle See performances by veteran Relay members and guest artists as we raise funds for RDC's third season performance, RDC3, at Velocity Dance Center in April.
Tess Wendel is a mover and a shaker in general. Not only did co-found Relay Dance Collective, she's an avid climber and a rock star Volunteer and Member Support Coordinator making things happen at The Mountaineers. For Relay Dance Collective's January 25th show RDC at ARC, Tess combines her two loves, climbing and dance, into one performance. Her piece, "The Buddy System," uses both trained dancers and community members to tell a story of partnership and friendship in the outdoors.
What inspired your piece, "The Buddy System"? The work has been inspired by my job at The Mountaineers where I'm surrounded by a committed group of staff, volunteers and members who are dedicated to building community and creating lifelong friendships as well as pursuing an exhilarating experience outdoors. The partnering in this dance is inspired by the partners I've had while climbing. These are people who understand how awesome it is when you have someone you can always call on the phone and then head out into the wilderness with. You trust them, and the two of you just jive. These are the same people who push you to try new things, but understand your limits; they have patience. When something isn't working, they help figure out how to solve it.
Why do you love to climb? I love to climb for the same reason that I love to dance. When I am doing either I am not thinking about anything else except the movement and where I am at the exact moment. There are no bills to pay or emails to answer, you are just in it.
Who is in your piece? The dancers include two climber friends that I attempted Rainier with this past summer, Anna Roth who danced last season with RDC who is my comrade in arms because she is constantly having to balance her time between work, hiking and trail stewardship and dancing, Lillia Deering our youngest and most nimble dancer and my buddy Wes who is always up for trying something completely new.
Why did you want to work with both dancers and non-dancers? I wanted to work with non-dancers because I never had tried that before and wanted to see what that process would be like and because there is nothing I love more than combining two different things I like into one thing. I initially wanted dancers/climbers who were comfortable coiling rope but the reality about both dancing and climbing is you just need a group of people who are comfortable working and moving together.
Tess, you had BRAIN SURGERY to remove a tumor two years ago. How does that affect any physical activity you pursue today? The surgery definitely still affects me, and dance even more than climbing. Dancing involves spinning, off-kilter and upside down movement [editor's note: these are also Tess' favorite and signature moves]. I still have a hard time handling that type of movement, so I have found that I am becoming more of an active audience member for the arts rather than a performer. However, it's been liberating in a way. I am lucky enough to have found climbing after dance, another activity that also intrigues me. The last two years especially have led me to examine the way we choose to define ourselves. I have friends, both in the dancing and climbing worlds, who have had injuries that caused them to either drop the activity or completely reevaluate how they participate. Figuring out who you are after you're forced to leave a sport or art form can be really, really difficult.
However, I've discovered that we really don't need to be defined by one thing; it's never too late to try something new. if you feel inspired to dance or to sing after seeing a show, go do it. Not everyone can (or wants to) be a professional, but everyone can get involved and should get involved with something new if it tickles their fancy and allows them to create awesome experiences with new people. This is one of the reasons I like being part of Relay Dance Collective. Not only are we able to support some amazingly talented professional artists and choreographers making work in Seattle and beyond; we're able to offer a chance to perform or create art for those who might not have initially done that without this open and inclusive space.