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On Collaboration: Sarah and Patrik

By July 30, 2011December 17th, 20142011/12 BDF in Motion

Pearsonwidrig playing with space, motion and line.

When it comes to healthy collaboration, festival co-teachers Sarah Pearson and Patrik Widrig could write a book.  “I’m not big on ownership of ideas,” Sarah says, “everyone in the room is a collaborator.”  And she means everyone.  From her co-director Patrik, to the dancers, to the attentive viewer.  With all-around focus, Sarah and Patrik agree, an idea becomes greater than the sum of its parts.  Strengths are swapped like trading cards to interrupt habitual patterns.  With this environment, Sarah calls the studio a “magic place.”

Mutual trust is the artistic duo’s secret ingredient.   Patrik trusts Sarah to lead rehearsals.  Sarah trusts Patrik’s artistic intuition.  They never stop learning from one another. Sarah explains a typical studio session:  “I tune into Patrik.  It may look like I’m in charge just because I’m the one talking…Actually, we co-direct everything.”

This year, Sarah and Patrik share their knowledge with Bates via Making Dances and Site Specific Exploration. Merely observing their harmonious co-teaching is a lesson in its own right (never mind the class content!).   Leadership passes seamlessly between them.  Sarah explains a concept; Patrik demonstrates.  Patrik pauses the class with a clarification; Sarah nods to continue.  It appears their collaboration is as much about silence and energy as it is about speaking.

Patrik explains that he and Sarah have a catalogue of exercises and teaching tools.  “We draw from that catalogue to plan, but let the class lead us.”   They teach in the moment, gauging the class energy, strengths and weaknesses.  Then, the lesson plan shifts accordingly.

This dynamic duo began working together in 1985. (It’s no wonder their collaboration is smooth).  They met while dancing with the Nikolais/Louis lab in New York.  When Sarah saw Patrik dance, she recognized a talented artist, and they “fell in love on the dance floor.”  They founded the Pearsonwidrig Dance Theater, an experimental dance company that grew to tour the world.  Check it out here:!