As part of this month’s series on dancers who facilitate their own dance practice outside of a major institution, New York based Jamie Benson attempts to make sense of his dance practice, how he keeps the wheels turning, and the “why” that drives it all.
How often and in what kind of situations do you perform?
Boy every day of this wild existence is so different, but I seem to have one or two performances/screenings a quarter on average. That being typed, I’ve had three separate performances within the same week before too. In the past, performances mainly occurred in black box theaters, but in recent years I’ve adjusted to performing site-specific work almost entirely (invading streets, piers, parks, museums, bathrooms, bars, etc.). Theater performances are a bit too removed from the guts of my work, which conjures situations and themes experienced in daily life. I’m also transitioning from doing more live work to more film work in order to access a larger online audience.
When and where do you rehearse?
I find myself using the space rental pimp that is SpaceFinder NYC often. In terms of time, I make some concessions based on who’s involved with each project and what their availability is. Evenings tend to be the best time for me to rehearsal. Chez Bushwick and Chrystie Street Ballet Academy tend to be recurring characters in the movie that is my life. Each performance is its own case-study though, each yielding varied results.
Do you take classes or do a personal practice?
Both. Finding a way to deal with this body is a near constant pre-occupation. Do I have a clear regiment? No. Do I wish I had one? Yes. Ultimately, I take some form of both Pilates and yoga two times per week (so four classes total). When I take dance class it’s usually ballet in an attempt to keep some semblance of my “lines” intact. This usually happens at the Mark Morris School or Brooklyn Ballet, but I’m kind of a dance class tourist so I like to mix it up. As a self-absorbed person functioning within a labyrinth-esque schedule, I also turn to YouTube videos to supplement my dance conditioning. A conditioning channel called Fitness-Blender certainly gets some action from me on a near weekly basis too.
How do you fund your work as an individual artist?
What are the benefits to working on your own (as opposed to working within a company or institution)? What are the drawbacks?
You are (terrifyingly) free when working outside of a company or institution. Nothing is diffused. You get all the credit and/or the blame for your creative convictions and how they’re executed.