Tonight’s queer artist feature is Christopher Williams with photography by Andrew Jordan.
A curious "alchemist of theatre" aiming to transcend boundaries between a variety of art forms, Christopher Williams continues to hone a distinctive style that combines contemporary dance with visual design, music, and puppetry to yield multifaceted movement-based works in his own unique genre of contemporary performance. Preferring to cast each new project specifically rather than maintaining a set company, he assembles a wide variety of performers that juxtapose many body types, ethnicities, genders, and orientations as well as span many ages in order to instill each of his works with an unusual corporeal counterpoint.
Christopher is particularly interested in expanding the scope and meaning of contemporary dance by exploring the potential relationship of mythology, folklore, and historical literature, early and contemporary music, sculptural costume, mask, and a variety of puppetry forms to the gesture of the human body. He notices an intricate harmony between traditionally disparate art forms due to their common potential for movement, and seeks to build polyphonous compositions drawing upon each of their innate properties. In his work, dancers' bodies can move independently or become bases for prosthetic accoutrement, musical vessels, media through which puppets can rouse, and even magical shapeshifters.
Fascinated by the ways in which the earliest bands of humans ritually engaged with supernatural denizens of otherworlds, Christopher creates works that present his own contemporary queer testimony to an ancient cultural impulse to journey beyond the known realm. By combining highly technical choreographic vocabulary with vivid visual designs and music integral to each new work, Williams aims to restore a forgotten sense of ritual and spectacle by immersing a broad public in fantastical new worlds.
Christopher Williams, dubbed “one of the most exciting choreographic voices out there” (The New York Times) and “the downtown prodigy” (The New Yorker), is a choreographer, dancer, and puppeteer who has made over thirty original movement-based works in NYC and abroad since 1999. His work has been presented internationally in France, England, Italy, Spain, Holland, Colombia, Malawi, and Russia, nationally in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Princeton, Interlochen, and Kalamazoo, as well as in many of his local New York City venues including City Center, Lincoln Center, New York Live Arts, Dance Theater Workshop, Danspace Project, P.S. 122, the 92nd Street Y, and La Mama. His recent commissioners include The Joyce Theater, New York Live Arts, Danspace Project, Interlochen Center for the Arts, 10 Hairy Legs, and the Wiener Staatsoper, and he has previously been commissioned by the Opéra National de Bordeaux, English National Opera, Teatro Real, Perm Opera & Ballet Theater, NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Princeton University, the Harkness Dance Center, DTW, and through HERE Arts Center’s Dream Music Puppetry Program. His collaborators have included renowned directors Peter Sellars and Michel Fau, conductor Raphaël Pichon of Ensemble Pygmalion, members of the Anonymous 4 and Lionheart, as well as critically acclaimed composer Gregory Spears and visual designer Andrew Jordan. His awards include a 2005 New York Dance & Performance “Bessie” Award, fellowships from The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Bogliasco Foundation, as well as residencies via the Robert Raushenberg Foundation, at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, Kaatsbaan Culture Park, the Harkness Dance Center, the Bogliasco Foundation, Movement Research, Joyce SoHo, Djerassi, Yaddo, and The Yard. His collaboration with director Michel Fau and musical director Raphaël Pichon on a production of Jean-Philippe Rameau's Dardanus presented at the Opéra Royal du Château de Versailles won the Grand Prix du Syndicat de la Critique 2015 in the category of "best Spectacle Lyrique of the year" and his collaboration with Peter Sellars on a new adaptation of Henry Purcell's The Indian Queen presented at The Bolshoi Theater won five Golden Mask Awards in Moscow. He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College as well as a diploma of study from the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq in Paris.
The Art of Being Queer