I talked with faculty member Carl Flink in Commons about his background, company, and, of course, food! Take a look at some of my short notes from our conversation.
Tell us a little about your background outside of dance. What made you return to dance and how does it influence Black Label Movement?
-First of all, I started dance very late in my life. Took my first class when I was 19, after intense soccer training. Eventually I moved to New York for a year, and 10 years later I was with Limon and doing that whole process.
-My life partner Emily and I had been there for a long time (8 and 11 years, respectively), and we both realized we didn’t want to move to another company. So I made a decision that I wanted to apply to law schools. My undergraduate degrees were in Political Science and Women’s Studies. My professors encouraged me to do law school as a more portable degree. I was lucky enough to go to Stanford and thought I was done with dance. -After about 2 months they invited me to be a guest lecturer, and I actually never stopped dancing. After law school I worked for a wonderful organization in Minnesota called Farmers Legal Action Group that promotes sustainable agriculture and family farms.
-Once the dance people found I was there, I started doing dance again. Then daughter Willa came along and it was too much, the seams started to show.
-I applied for professorship at University of Minnesota and established Black Label Movement as an entity. I used to joke that my first school of dance was soccer, but I’m serious about that now. It was more of a mental shift and re-examination of how the body is being used.
Why is it called Black Label Movement?
-I love it because people always ask me about it. People are actually interested and ask what it means.
-In the late 70s,early 80s when I was teens to 20 there was these things called generic foods. Now they actually have glossy branding. Back then, you would walk into the generic end of the grocery store and see boxes and boxes of cans with a black label around them. “Peas” and “Peaches”. I would go in and walk down those aisles for the serenity of no nonsense commerciality. No jolly green giant. That no- nonsense approach to selling seemed a very honest and consistent way with doing the work the way I want to do.
-Trying not to hide behind a veneer of glossiness. This is what we are, being true to the artistic choice of the moment and not trying to hide it. The movement part of Black Label Movement is very important to me. I have not tried to get away from my social justice work of women’s studies, I like the multiple layers of what ‘movement’ means. It’s about being in the world and communicating with others. A core value of the art I’m trying to make and the community that I’m building inside of my company.
What about in connection to food? I’ve met many ballerinas-turned-chefs, summer farmers who are Fall and Winter modern dancers, etc etc. Any thoughts on these links, besides the obvious “food as fuel” connection?
-I’ve undergone a recommitment to my relationship to food. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that the examination of how food comes in and is eliminated becomes really important. It’s difficult to keep eating patterns when you were younger as healthful in 30s…40s… 50s.
-One of things I’ve learned recently is to have an encounter with food that sees it as every level of its use. That holistic examination has let me have an efficient relationship with it rather than obsessing about it.
-My interest with food isn’t so much in its production of making of it, but in terms of its impact on multiple layers that food goes through in our bodies.
You mentioned your daughter is enrolled in the youth program. What do you hope for her to learn about food and nutrition as young artist?
-What I appreciate is that they do have a commitment to providing a healthful diet and being extremely embracing of different diets. My daughter is a vegetarian, and the YAP program meets that need, and that is unusual. It seems like it shouldn’t be in today’s world. But it still is.
-She actually comes home and talks about the food that she eats, it’s quite important to her. To be in a place that gets that, makes it pretty special. I also think it helps young bodies learn how to energize at a young age. To have my daughter learning that when she’s 9 and see it reinforced in an institutional space is really important. In other spaces she always has people question her choice, making fun of being a vegetarian, and it’s nice to know there are spaces for her to go where that’s not going to be the imperative.
-What’s wonderful about nutrition is that your body because an incredible lab, not in some weird way. If I eat only fruit in the morning, is that enough? How does that impact me? Different diets have different impacts for different bodies. That has been revolutionary for me.
What is your favorite meal in Commons?
-Sesame nuggets. Raspberry fritters with mango sauce. Take the cake.