Tahni Holt is a choreographer, teacher, curator and organizer based in Portland, OR, who has been creating performances for the past 18 years. She is deeply invested in the ecology of her field.
Her creative practice follows her curiosities by asking questions that demand rigorous specificity yet remain open to a terrain of inquiry – inviting rather than prescribing interpretation. She actively uses her intuition, improvisational forms, collaborations with the performers, her on-going somatic practice and any other thing that she obsesses about to create work.
She is fascinated with how an audience sees to what a performer does and is always trying to keep the complexity of this relationship. Is it possible to create a performance that insists on being experienced through multiple and conflicting lenses at once?
In regards to her choreography her work has been presented throughout the United States, at On The Boards (Seattle), Fusebox Festival (Austin), The Lucky Penny (Atlanta), and PICA’s TBA Festival (Portland) to name a few. In 2010 Holt was curated into the PORTLAND 2010 Biennial and is an Oregon Arts Commission Fellowship awardee (2007). She has had the pleasure of being an artist-in-residence most recently at Caldera, as well as Anchorage, Boise, Atlanta, Walla Walla, Austria, France, Greece and, in 2013, Romania, with Bucharest choreographer Madalina Dan, funded through the Suitcase Fund of New York Live Arts. She is honored to be a 2014-2015 NDP Touring Award recipient for Duet Love, which toured to Velocity Dance (Seattle), Pica’s TBA Festival and DiverseWorks(Houston).
This past year Holt received the Barney Award from White Bird Dance. The award commissions her latest work, Sensation/Disorientation, to premier in the winter of 2017.
Artist Questionnaire for Double Exposure
How long have you been making your own work as a choreographer?
I started making work when I was 6 or 7 with the neighborhood kids. I didn’t know, though, that what I was doing was choreographing and collaborating. I just thought it was called having the final say and getting to act out the ideas in my head. I got official about it in College at Tisch when I was a freshman, which was about 21 years ago.
How long have you been making work on the West Coast?
I am from Portland so I have been making work on the West Coast in one form or another for 33 years.
Who generally performs your work – yourself, your company, a pick-up company, other companies, etc.? How collaboratively do you work with your dancers?
Every project is different from the next. I gather people I really want to be around for the next two years and who I think are brilliantly situated to work in whatever I am currently doing. It is a deep collaborative effort. Through intense dialogue, an improvisational process and any and all other things that end up with us in the rehearsal process my choice making and perceptual awareness is tethered to the circumstances and dynamics in the room.
Who would you describe as your most important influences in the dance field?
Wow, my most IMPORTANT influences? Jennifer Lacey is pretty much it for me yet I still wouldn’t say my most important influence. I am influenced by so many things-it is a large matrix (all art forms, feminism, pop culture, cultural theory, somatics, living my life, parenting, my story) that I do not even pretend to map it out. Although I can say that I’m massively curious about the almost-effable array of sensations and perceptions dance produces in contemporary circumstances. Inquiring into how and why dance generates its unique weave of impressions and affects has continually driven my work. I recently saw Dana Michel’s Yellow Towel and it kicked my ass on so many levels and inspires me to go back into the rehearsal process and go deeper, work harder and keep questioning. I have much gratitude for that.
Where do you start with a commission like this – the relationship, an image, a piece of music, a movement phrase, etc.?
Honestly it starts with the three of us in a room together.
Have you ever previously created a work this short? How does the duration impact your decisions/process, if at all?
This is by far the shortest work I have ever created. And really it is hard to use the word “Work”. That implies that it is a whole piece. And I don’t think of it that way. I know there is information that happens before and after my choreographic moment that completely informs the experience of the section I am in charge of. I am deeply curious about this and look forward to creating something that allows for this unknowing and gives the performers access to use the accumulated information that comes before and after.
Do you often create duets? How much are they a part of your larger body of work?
I work with two people in relation to each other often. Yet most of the time I do not think of them strictly as duets. There are so many things that are in dialogue. The word “duet” seems to reduce the conversation to just the two bodies when in actuality there are so many conversations and relationships at play. And yet, my last evening length piece was called Duet Love. Long live my relationship to contradictions.
How does the duet you’ve created for Double Exposure dialogue with your other work?
I look forward to figuring this out.