Wonderment, Imagination, and Duration: Maurya Kerr and Dazaun Soleyn on the FACT/SF Summer Dance Festival

Charles Slender-White — the passionate and highly motivated Artistic Director of the FACT/SF dance company and all of its initiatives — launches his second festival August 15-17 at the Joe Goode Annex in San Francisco. The curated mixed bill includes a new work by Slender-White plus 4 other guest artists: Joy Davis (Boston), Eric Mullis (Charlotte), Maurya Kerr (San Francisco), and Dazaun Soleyn (San Francisco). Jill Randall interviewed Kerr and Soleyn separately by phone last week.

{ DIYdancer }, Jill Randall: Tell me a bit about your piece for the festival.

Maurya Kerr: The title is my beloved comet. It’s a duet for dancers Alexandra Carrington and Chelsea Reichert, with original music by Ben Juodvalkis. It was a part of a larger work I did last year at ODC called kosmos. It was a 9-minute duet but I’ve expanded it to 23 minutes. So it’s a new creation with roots in a former piece.

Dazaun Soleyn: It is a solo called a message of truths, choreographed on Claire Fisher.

JR: Do you have a few words or phrases to describe this work? 

DZ: Warm; transportation through imagination; unfamiliar; a new journey for us both.

MK: Five words to describe my beloved comet: stillness; duration; presence; depth; freedom.

JR: How did you go about casting?

MK: Alex and Chelsea are both physical powerhouses and completely fearless, plus also deeply intuitive. They are a joy to work with, and they can both so clearly manifest ideas. I say something absurd, and they make it happen. They are amazing to collaborate with!

Prior, Chelsea was in kosmos last year, and Alex has been with tinypistol for about 5 years now. Alex is a graduate of the LINES Ballet Training Program, where I teach. I knew her as a student.

DZ: Claire and I went through the LINES Ballet Training Program together. That was around 2013. The first thing I choreographed in San Francisco was a solo on Claire. Ever since then, I have pretty much worked with Claire every season: a duet, a solo, and in my company’s first full length work. We have been consistently working together for a while. 

When I got the offer from Charles to be a part of the festival, I wanted to offer Claire a gift…with the solo. A space to just be her. I told her, “I want people to see you. I want to offer you the space to share your evolution and growth with the community.”

JR: What are your seeds of inspiration or choreographic questions?

MK:The theme for kosmos was really about wonderment and looking at people of color’s access to or prohibition from wonder. Within that exploration, we are trying to experiment with different senses of time in the body and different access points for wonderment in the imagination, as a tool to move. 

I wanted to see how much I could stay with duration and really move past my discomfort with “nothing happening.” I am trying to pass my own expectations…to pass the physical pyrotechnics that many have come to expect during performance. I am looking for emotional and intimate pyrotechnics – another way to talk about it. Detail to nuance, and deep thoughtfulness. There are 14 different sections within the 23 minutes of the duet, varying in duration. I’m trying to allow dancers the time to sink in, and to allow the audience to sink in. Lots of audiences don’t want to sink in.

DZ:  My intention is to get to time and duration through the mind. I want to figure out a way to create these different worlds or states for Claire to travel to, through her mind, within the piece. And the relationship between what she is imagining and how that changes and determines the qualities that she embodies in that moment of time.

There is a lot of space for play, and I feel that it requires constant child-like curiosity. Leaving much room for shifts within the timing of the performance.

JR: What else should we know about your process or what we are about to see?

MK: Working in this way with patience, stillness, and duration is so antithetical to our current culture of smartphones and social media. In my own personal life I’m really trying to tackle this addiction. I think we all need to be challenged. I feel like I’m trying to attend to my own lack of delving into my own life because of all of the distractions. Our expectations for dance works is related to this as well. 

DZ: We were really envisioning the space during the creative process. We think about the space often and it has become the foundation for the floor pattern movement.

There are also two exciting things about the festival. One is that I am really grateful to share the same bill as Maurya, as she has been a mentor of mine for many years. And I respect her presence in the community so much. I am also really excited to witness Charles as a creator and an administrator. Charles’ mind is so efficient, and he is so kind. I am excited to be in the space with him and witness what he does.


Maurya Kerr is the artistic director of tinypistol. She is a choreographer, performer, and teaching artist. Her performing career included 12 years with Alonzo King LINES Ballet. Most recently, she was an artist-in-residence at ODC (2015-2018).

Dazaun Soleyn is the artistic director of dazaun.dance and a teaching artist. Soleyn graduated from the University of South Florida and then went on to train in the Alonzo King LINES Ballet Training Program. In 2018 he was listed as one of the “10 Contemporary Black Choreographers You Should Know” by Arts Boston.  

The 2019 FACT/SF Summer Dance Festival runs August 15-18 at 8pm at the Joe Goode Annex. Click here to purchase tickets.

The 2019 FACT/SF Summer Dance Festival runs August 15-18 at 8pm at the Joe Goode Annex.

Leave a Comment


Start typing and press Enter to search