This week's Pearl of Portland is Kristen Stake, director and co-founder of the Living Room dance collective.
What's the mission of the Living Room and how does it differ from other dance and movement organizations in the area?
We are a collective of artists committed to helping each other expand our physical range based on our own sensibilities and curiosities rather than any external standards of beauty. We also value social justice and feel strongly that the dance world needs to be decolonized. Movement should be a place to reclaim and explore our identities, not to reinforce gender roles or cultural conformity.
Our studio is different because improvisation, experimentation, and somatics are the guiding principles of our classes. What also makes us unique is that rather than working towards a performance for the stage, we create community-based performance art events in our studio in which performances happen throughout the space, overlap with and influence one another, and blur the lines between performer and audience.
When you're looking to bring in artists to perform and lead workshops, what qualities and perspectives are you looking for?
We are interested in artists who are pushing the boundaries of performance practices. We look for artists who blur the lines between sound, movement, visual art, etc., who engage the audience in unique ways, who are challenging notions of what “dance” is, and who are using their work to explore what it means to be female, a person of color, GLBT, and living on the margins in today’s world.
You're taking cues from contemporary art and avant-garde circles while also remaining committed to accessibility, inclusion, and low barriers to entry for people who want to participate. Is that difficult?
At first, it was hard to explain what we were doing! But we find a lot of visual artists are coming to us through their interest in performance art, while other folks come who’ve never danced before but see our studio as a safe space, and then there are those who’ve danced a lot but are recovering from some of the toxic aspects of dance culture.
Offering everything on a sliding scale actually taps into folks’ generosity. Some people end up donating more, if they have it, because they see the value of what we’re offering. Folks of color systematically have fewer resources in our community, so it’s important to make sure everyone can attend regardless of income. We would rather have people come and dance with us than stay home because they can’t afford it.
Upcoming Living Room schedule (all events at the Living Room, 408 Broadway, South Portland unless otherwise noted)
- Hi Tiger Artist-in Residence Performance by Nicole Antonette | Sat, Feb 10, 8 pm | $5-10
- "Moving Target Portland," community class with Hi Tiger and Nicole Antonette | Sun, Feb 11, 1-3 pm | $8-16
- 3 Spice Dance teaches Moving Target Portland community class | Sun, Feb 18, 1-3 | $8-16
- 3-Spice artist-in-residence performance | Sat, Feb 23, 8 pm | $5-10
- The Living Room Collective Art Walk performance | Lincoln Park, March
2, 5:30 pm | FREE
- Kaleidoscope Interactive Performance Night | Sat, March
16, 8 pm | $5-10
The Living Room | 408 Broadway, South Portland | www.thelivingroomdance.com
This article has been edited since publication to reflect that Kristen is a co-founder of the Living Room, not its sole founder.
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Pearls of Portland is a weekly interview with an artist, activist, or cultural agent. POP001: Kristen Stake of the Living Room dance collective.