Norte Maar’s CounterPointe10 – Alejandra Seeber and Sarah Yasmine Marazzi-Sassoon

Photo courtesy of Julie Lemberger

The impetus for this series of conversations between a visual artist and a choreographer comes directly from my recent collaborative work with a choreographer as part of Norte Maar’s CounterPointe10. In this unique project a choreographer is paired with a visual artist to create together over two months a dance performance that integrates the two disciplines into a cohesive vision. Here is the conversation between artist Alejandra Seeber and choreographer Sarah Yasmine Marazzi-Sassoon.

Tell us about your collaborative process.

Alejandra: It felt very fluid, both Sarah and I are quite fluid in our process. 

Sarah: We used my research on birds and bird mating dances that I had been working on for a few years and had just finished a major project on prior to CounterPointe as a jumping board for our initial conversation. The project then took on its own dimension. 

Alejandra: Specifically, I was struck by Sarah’s description of the Vogelkop Bowerbird and how the male constructs a bower to attract a mate. That evolved into the structure I created for the piece which we saw as a form of nest or cradle, hence the piece being called “Cradle”. This also made us want to cast two dancers. I interpreted this motif using the elements I already use in my paintings so that the stage and the dancers and the device became a scene in a big drawing. 

Sarah: From there I thought of how a cradle brings in a sense of childhood or discovery, and we wanted the structure to be full of surprises and evolve throughout the piece. This led us to think of how the choreography and the interactions with the structure that Ale built could become a game of Cat’s cradle. The dancers kept twisting themselves around each other and the structure to create shapes like the string in a game of Cat’s cradle.

Alejandra: I am also very grateful for Material for the Arts where I sourced all the materials I used to construct the cradle. What I found at Material for the Arts dictated and inspired us as to how the cradle was constructed and the overall look for the piece and the costumes.

What is your takeaway from this collaboration?

Alejandra: Any collaboration always pushes me to a new and unexpected result and that is a luxury!

Sarah: I agree! The beauty and the challenge of this program specifically is the short time-frame we have to meet one another, find a common interest, and create something ready to be performed. In many ways, this allows both of us to distill the essence of collaboration and just go with it without overthinking!

Alejandra: We were able to go outside of our own work and process with each other to still go back into some elements of what we usually create.

Sarah: Yes, both this year working with Ale and last year, which was my first time choreographing for CounterPointe, I felt as though through collaborating with an artist in a different discipline I was able to learn something new about my own process. And create new relationships and collaborations with artists I would have not met otherwise!

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Rehearsal in Ale’s studio with a mock-up of the final structure.
Dancers: Sasha Gologorskaya and Ethan Schweitzer-Gaslin.

About the artist: Alejandra Seeber, Buenos Aires 1969, lives in New York since 1999. She was a fellow in the grant program directed by Guillermo Kuitca in Buenos Aires, (1994-1997). In 2000 attended Skowhegan School of Painting ,and in 2003 she developed a Project at Le Corbusier’s La Cité Radieuse , Marseilles, was granted the Joan Mitchel Grant ,attended Atlantic Center for the Arts ( 2005); was nominated for Tyffany Foundation Grant, and also for the Anonymous was a woman award. Group shows: Fundación Proa, Buenos Aires, 2009; Hausler Contemporary, Zurich, 2010; Hausler Contemporary, Munich, 2011; Sperone Westwater Gallery, New York, 2003; Parlour Projects, New York, 2000, She was part of the 3rd edition of the S-files Exhibition at Museo del Barrio in NY , the 7ma Bienal do Mercosul, Brazil. Recently she has taken part of the show Caza at The Bronx Museum , Ultramar-Seeber -Kuitca -Tessi (Thyssen-Bortemiza, Madrid )and Fuera de serie, at MALBA.

About the choreographer: Sarah Yasmine Marazzi-Sassoon is a New York City based American, Italian choreographer and graduate from Barnard College of Columbia University where she combined evolutionary biology with storytelling and dance. Raised in Paris, France she trained in ballet at the Académie Américaine de Danse de Paris and then in San Francisco at the SF Academy of Ballet. The study of animal behavior and her choreographic goal is to understand what makes us inherently human. Her research looks at the evolution of storytelling in humans by looking at mating behaviors in birds. She explores how and why we, as a species, tell stories and how our relatives in the animal kingdom can tell us about ourselves. Why we get intense feelings of gratification from dancing and watching dance and why we have a thirst to tell and consume stories, are related questions that are at the root of what makes us human.