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Columbus Makes Art Presents CoMo Dancer Alicia Hann

Laura Comana Puscas Laura Comana Puscas Columbus Makes Art Presents CoMo Dancer Alicia HannDancer Alicia Hann performs. Photo by Kyle Meeks.
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Alicia Hann will be performing with CoMo Dance this summer in Columbus Recreation & Parks’ Summer Park Pop-Ups. CoMo’s Artistic and Executive Director Laura Puscas chatted with Alicia about developing new work and navigating the pandemic through dance.

Laura: What was it like to continue dancing with CoMo during the pandemic?
Alicia:
I was grateful to have an opportunity to move and connect with other company members even when the studios were closed. The ‘Quarantine Solo’ dance film project that CoMo launched at the beginning of the pandemic really helped me to continue to be hopeful in finding creativity and continuing to make dance. Virtual rehearsals were particularly challenging for me as someone who is not a visual learner. Understanding the movement was one thing, and getting the spacing, doing the movement on the correct side of the body, and picking up small details like gestures was difficult.

It was wonderful to be able to safely move in a studio again, with masks and social distancing of course. We modified our existing repertoire to eliminate lifts, partnering and physical contact. Dancing has been a source of joy and has helped my mental health. As a professional dancer it has been valuable to continue to have work in the field and not feel like I have lost a year.

Alicia Hann, center, performing with other dancers at The Topiary Park.
Alicia Hann, center, performing with other dancers at The Topiary Park.

Laura: What are you looking forward to most now that the company is fully vaccinated?
Alicia:
I am looking forward to partnering and physical contact. We have been rehearsing in-person for a while now wearing masks and social distancing, re-working choreography to eliminate physical contact. I am excited to be able to safely connect. Partnering is such a big part of modern dance and is used extensively in the company’s repertoire.  I am personally excited to share physical weight with other dancers and work on lifts. We have some wonderful residencies planned this season. I am looking forward to working with guest artists and fellow company members on creating new repertoire for CoMo. I also look forward to seeing everyone’s smiles and faces… AND LIVE PERFORMANCES!

Laura: What do you enjoy about being in a part-time professional modern dance company? As an artist, how do you balance rehearsal and everyday life?
Alicia:
I enjoy working with CoMo and feel that the flexibility of working with the company part-time still allows me to grow and work on other endeavors both professionally with dance and personally. In addition to working with CoMo I work as a company member for Hixon Dance. I also do project-based work as a dancer and as a choreographer. I teach dance in the Columbus community to students ages three to older adults and find a lot of joy in teaching. I work as an administrator, have two dogs, am training for a half marathon and am getting married next summer.

Something that has been helpful in prioritizing rehearsal is thinking of rehearsal time as self-care. Rehearsal is a time where I can focus on growing myself as an artist. As a dance educator it’s about giving and when I am working with the company I am focusing on receiving. I enjoy learning new choreography, challenging myself physically and am continuing to work on growing myself as an artist. It’s fun to be a learner. I am continually amazed that I have lived in this body for 31 years and can still discover new movements, feelings and sensations — this is what keeps me going.

Laura: As a dancer who has contributed repertoire to the company, what inspires you to create new works?
Alicia:
I love to create. Different things inspire me; movement ideas often come to me based on other things that are going on in my life (past or present). I often work from a place of improvisation working to embody the ‘thing’ that is inspiring me. Then, I start adding structure. Having the opportunity to create work for CoMo has been one of my favorite things about being a part of the company over the years. It is really such a gift to have the time, studio space and dancers to create work.

Alicia Hann. Photo by Steve Rose.
Alicia Hann. Photo by Steve Rose.

I have made many pieces for CoMo over the years, but two that really stand out to me are “Vulnerability Exposed” and “Lunar Corollary.” “Vulnerability Exposed” was inspired by the feelings of vulnerability and shame. The piece starts in a dark place really battling with covering up or hiding our shame. We used long sleeve shirts to depict this and struggled with them throughout the first part of the piece. Then, in the second half of the piece we take the shirts off, exposing our flesh and vulnerability and tie them all together (representing collective trauma), and create a long diagonal across the stage. I enjoyed working with the symbolism of the shirt versus exposed body in this piece.

“Lunar Corollary” was inspired by water and the cycles of the moon. It was also a study of energy and effort qualities. The final time that this piece was performed, we had buckets of water on stage and rags. It was fun to play with the sounds of the water hitting the marley, our bodies and clothing. In both pieces I really valued the process of the making in the studio and welcome input from the dancers. I enjoy working collaboratively and welcome conversation about the piece as we are creating.

Laura: What is your favorite memory as a dancer or choreographer for CoMo over the years?
Alicia:
In my first season as a dancer for CoMo, the company performed at The Idea Foundry. This show stands out as most memorable to me. The space itself was so inspiring. I also debuted choreography for the company at this show and was very nervous/excited about that. I remember being wowed by the space.  We also had a wonderful turnout to the shows, all the seats were taken, people were sitting on the floor and standing on the catwalk to watch the performance. The energy in the space was incredible!

Laura: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Alicia:
The best thing about the Columbus art scene is that I truly think there is space for anyone who has the drive to create. If you are not finding an opportunity that speaks to you, you can create that opportunity. I also think that the dance field specifically has made some shifts and changes with COVID and embracing film. COVID-19 helped to create ingenuity and dancers/choreographers created work that they otherwise wouldn’t have. I am interested to see what the role of film in dance and other performing arts will be moving forward.

Alicia Hann will be performing with CoMo this summer in Columbus Recreation & Parks’ Summer Park Pop-Ups. The company popped up at Blackburn Community Center in June and will be in the park at Linden Community Center on Saturday, Aug. 21. CoMo looks forward to sharing fall performance details soon for a late September show weekend downtown.

Columbus Makes Art Presents is a bi-weekly column brought to you by the Greater Columbus Arts Council – supporting and advancing the arts and cultural fabric of Columbus. The column is a project of the Art Makes Columbus campaign, telling the inspiring stories of the people and organizations who create Columbus art. Learn more about local artists, organizations, public art and events at ColumbusMakesArt.com.

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