Saturday, September 09, 2006

A Traveling Dance: Roxanne Claire's PARIS/GE

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Roxanne Claire in Paris/GE
Photo by Leticia London

Roxanne Claire may not be one of Houston’s most prolific artists, but she is well on her way to becoming one of Houston’s most provocative choreographers. This September, she unveils her first evening-length work, Paris/GE, as part of DiverseWorks residency program.

For a period of 18 months Claire traveled between Paris and Geneva, which she calls “trips between inner and outer worlds.” “Paris has always been a special place since I was a little girl,” says Claire. “I always wanted to live there.” In Geneva she worked as a consultant for several international organizations. In Paris she lived and worked as an artist. “There is a space between what is true and real in an emotional if not physical sense, and what is possible,” says Claire about the core of the work. “It is in the tension between love and loneliness, desire and despair that we find our center, our inner compass.”

Claire lived in Europe for 10 years. She claims the piece stems from her homesickness for Paris and a healing process from an experience of unrequited love. “I loved living there, she says. It was a very difficult choice moving back. You leave a part of your heart there.”

Claire stunned audiences when she showed Salt, the main solo and anchor piece to the entire work at the 2005 Big Range Dance Festival. “Salt is an image I use in my work,” she says. I’m thinking of the salt of one’s skin, the salt of tears. It’s elemental, primary, and essential.” Salt poised Claire as a mysterious woman anxiously waiting on a bench. Her intricate choreography involved complex moves for her feet and legs that proved mesmerizing to watch. Claire attributes her extraordinary dexterity to her years of training in classical Indian dance, ballet, and flamenco. Audiences were curious to see more. Who was this woman on the bench, forlorn lover, spy, escape artist? Houston audiences will finally get to find out.

Claire followed the success of Salt by adding an film sequence she had created out of old postcards of Paris for Monday Night FootFall last season at Diverseworks. The footage was actually created back in 1986 but it ended up making the perfect opening to the work. Claire admits it takes a long time for her work to percolate. According to Claire, “Paris/GE has been composting since 1986. I have a long gestation period. ”

For Claire, DiverseWorks was a perfect match for her work. “The work needs an intimate setting,” she says. “I have a lot of subtly in my movement so the audience needs to be close.” For DiverseWorks co-director, Sixto Wagan, the choice of Paris/GE was a natural one. He was well aware of Claire’s work from the six years she has spent serving on DiverseWorks artists’ board. "Roxanne is such a meticulous and expressive choreographer,” says Wagan. “The development of her work is over a span of years, and it's a continued focus for DiverseWorks to support such influential choreographers throughout the development of their work.” Claire also feels confident that DiverseWorks draws the kind of audience that will appreciate her work.

Claire has attracted two of Houston’s finest artists to join her in the performance. Terrence Karn, a musician and dancer, plays the part of the mystery man. “Terrence has such a great stage presence,” says Claire. “And, we work together really well.” Dancer/choreographer Leslie Scates plays the part of the muse. Using improvisational techniques Claire and Scates generated enough rich material to create two outstanding duets. The duets with Scates, set to Cassie Culver’s country western tune, represent the most playful parts of this otherwise serious dance drama. Scates, who doesn’t dance in other choreographers work often, has enjoyed the process. “I am drawn to her attention to small detail and to the places she studied in her life,” says Scates. “She has a big eye, which means she looks at art from a lot of different perspectives and appreciates modern and classical forms.”

Claire has created over 20 works and has danced in works by noted Houston choreographers Amy Ell and Jane Weiner. Her studies in Europe include training with Suzanne Linke, Carolyn Carlson, Angelin Preljocaj and Ruth Barnes. In Houston she has continued her training with Naomi Glass (formerly Houston Ballet) and Lisa Ballo (formerly Pennsylvania Ballet).

When Claire is not making compelling dances she’s putting them on film. A life-long fascination with dance film keeps her artistic imagination going. Using an Apple I iMac G5 and Apple Final Cut Pro she is able to edit her own work. She has several films that she hopes will be at international festivals in the upcoming year. In addition to her choreographic and film projects, Claire also owns a popular heights-based dance school and home schools her two sons, ages 9 and 13.

Claire has worked diligently to put the final touches on this work and is ready to show Houston the fruits of her imagination. “I’m ready for it, she says. It’s been a wonderful experience and it feels ripe.”

DiverseWorks presents Paris/GE on September 15 & 16, 8:00 PM. Call 713-223-8346 or visit

Reprinted from Artshouston.