UNCONSTRUCTED: conversations with creative innovators
#2 Lydia Zimmer
Global Square Artistic Director Hassan Christopher talks with dancer / choreographer Lydia Zimmer
Bring it All In…
I first saw Lydia Zimmer perform in Los Angeles in 2013 and was immediately captivated. She had that unmistakable presence around her that both charges and connects the space. It’s rare to see, especially in combination with the level of fluidity and technical prowess Ms. Zimmer displays when moving through contemporary balletic lines that hover off center into grounded “creaturesque” floor work that poetically disorients the mind.
Zimmer is a rebel… Contrary to the “check it at the door” mantra that most young artists are taught in school, she made a decision early on to start “bringing it all in with her.” [It] being whatever is going on within her that day, that moment and at that time in her life emotionally. Perhaps it’s this philosophy that makes her improvisational performances so hauntingly electric to watch.
While Zimmer can easily boast virtuosity, she says for her, “Improvisation is about moving beyond the wow factor and waking up the movement.“ She wants people to open their eyes and let experience really affect them, and she feels dance can do that.
In fact, it was observing a young man with Parkinson’s disease watch a dance performance that fueled her passion for being a movement artist early on. “He was shaking uncontrollably, but as soon as he started watching the performance the shaking stopped.” Zimmer continued on about mirror neurons and the power of transference as our conversation spiraled into an agreement that we are both motivated by the therapeutic power of practicing and teaching improvisation.
There is a big difference between practicing improvisation and actually performing it. Zimmer uses a host of techniques and approaches to get herself into the performance zone. “Keep it an experiment,” “erase the moment before” and “surprise yourself by going in a completely different direction” are a few of the key thoughts that anchor Ms. Zimmer to what she calls a “whirlpool tapped into her senses.”
“Performing improvisation is like jumping off a cliff, so I have to settle down and conquer my adrenaline before going onstage.” When Zimmer doesn’t do this she may go through an entire set without remembering what happened or become self-conscious mid performance. However, she feels even this can be an opportunity to wipe her mind and start again. “When I’m not in the zone it feels like I have ADD, and I am hyper-aware of all the wrong things. When I am, it feels like ecstasy ” she laughs, “…not the drug”.
Check out more of Zimmer’s mini-experiments: YouTube.com/lydzimmer