Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Artists Reach Out: Katherine Crockett

Dear friends,

Welcome to Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation. I dreamed this series of interviews out of grief for my work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance. In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.

But there's no distancing around what we still can share with one another--our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.

So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I'm glad they're part of our beautiful community, and I'm eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.

--Eva Yaa Asantewaa, InfiniteBody


Katherine Crockett


Katherine Crockett
(photo: Adrian Buckmaster)


Katherine Crockett is a New York City-based performance artist. She was a Principal dancer in The Martha Graham Dance Company for 22 years.  She has had works created for her by such diverse artists as Robert Wilson, Yvonne Rainer, Lucinda Childs, Martha Clarke, Richard Move, Larry Keigwin, Maureen Flemming-Odo, Anne B. Parsons and Susan Stroman.

Crockett starred in and choreographed her role as the Queen in the immersive Off–Broadway hit Queen of the Night. She danced as Cate Blanchett’s dancer double in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Crockett was the guest soloist, dancing the role of Helen, alongside Mikhail Baryshnikov with his White Oak Dance Project in The Show--Achilles Heels, choreography by Richard Move. Crockett has been televised performing Graham’s legendary Appalachian Spring (PBS), Herodiade (PBS), and the iconic solo Lamentation (BBC). She also performed Lamentation as a guest artist for the “Return Festival” in Kosovo hosted by Vanessa Redgrave and UNICEF.

Crockett was featured as Helen in the SITI Company’s production of Trojan Women (After Euripides), directed by Anne Bogart. Ms. Crockett is the lead actor of the feature film Fall to Rise, written by Jayce Bartok. She has performed and choreographed for special events and galas worldwide including the Cannes Film Festival with Dame Shirley Bassey, the VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, the Gala of the Stars of the 21st century, The FYC/Vanity Fair Emmy’s special event for TV series The Alienist, Paramount Pictures Premiere party for I Am The Night, Ovation TV premiere special event for Versailles, the runways of Alexander McQueen and Victoria’s Secret as well and as dancing as the featured soloist for PRADASS2020 Shanghai.

Her company ExquisiteMuse Productions creates and produces immersive experiences, such as Fetish 67 for Steven Klein and Visionaire Magazine at Art Basel, Cirque Du Nuit for The Knot Gala, Yellow Submarine, an immersive cinema experience, Down the Rabbit Hole for TrueX/FOX, and several other projects collaborating with Comcast, House of Yes, Brooklyn Mirage, BBQ Films, Little Cinema, Brooklyn Museum, Park Avenue Armory as well as individual artists.



Katherine Crockett
in Martha Graham's Cave of the Heart
(photo: Albert Watson)

Katherine Crockett's Icarus
(photo: Mark Moseley)



Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?

Yes, I’ve had several things postponed into the unforeseeable future.  One was an immersive multi media performance called Prisma.  Also, I’d received a scholarship to attend the HERE Immersive Summit in LA which was postponed. Another project which is an immersive experience for the premiere party for the TV series SnowPiercer has been adapted to be a virtual experience. I also have several other pieces in progress that are on hold now.

Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.

Both of my parents are artists. My father is an abstract painter, and my mother is a performance artist, so I was surrounded by art all my life.  My mom started me in dance lessons at the age of 4. I trained in ballet and then at The Martha Graham School before joining the Graham Company for which I was principal dancer for 21 years. I’ve performed with other choreographers in both film and theater. I moved into immersive theater creating my role as The Queen in Queen of the Night, which lead me to making more of my own work, inspired by ritual, ceremony and intimate site-specific spaces. I create worlds for audiences to step into and allow them to have their own agency to discover. I often have performance moments created especially for one audience member only. 

In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?

The practice that developed from performing these one-on-one moments in my immersive theater pieces shifted my approach to onstage performance, as well. I saw that I had to let go of my own trying and self-judgments in order to allow the creative impulse the space to emerge and unfold, like in improvisational dance. I had to remain open to respond in the moment to each unique person or audience, as they are a partner in the unfolding. To allow oneself to be seen, with full vulnerability, is essential for true connection and communication. This is a practice of being present, despite whatever fears I may have, and regardless of other people’s opinions. I choose to re-interpret that pulsing wildness of my heart beat not as fear, but as exhilaration. I choose to trust my instincts, and to leave space for the unexpected to come in.

How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?

There is something incredible about the act of performance, because it is this living moment experienced and shared together in real-time and only existing in the moment. Therefore, it is fully about being in the present. It is also the way I express my heart and ideas.  It is my voice--my language--the way I communicate and connect. To be able to share and connect through my art and performance is like breathing for me.

Martha Graham said, “Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired." And whether in life or in art, I believe this to be true. I think of the Aramaic definition of perfection, which translates to “ripe." To practice being present so that I am ready, allowing and alive to the impulses, the curiosities, the inspirations, and the spontaneous wonders of the creative process.

How does your practice function within the world we have now?

This is a true challenge, and I’m asking myself this very question. Right now, there can be no group public gatherings, so no live performances can happen until who knows when. I miss performing, and remote digital streaming is not a replacement for that live shared journey. But the necessity to express and connect is much too important for all of us.

I believe this will spark new ways of creating and ways of coming together until we can share physical space safely again. So here is that challenge of entering the unknown and the opportunity for me to practice being present even in the face of fear, and to stay open. To find the connection within myself; my bones, my muscles, my flesh, my limbs, my heart. I am taking daily walks in the park, noticing the spring blossoms change, breathing and letting all that I feel be there, and practicing taking one step at a time.

Self-care tip:

There was a point in my career when I started having a lot of anxiety, and went to see an incredible Biofeedback Performance enhancement therapist. Her name is Dr. Leah Lagos. We worked in particular with specific breathing exercises that through practice help you strengthen the vagus nerve which reduces, stress, anxiety and inflammation by activating the “relaxation response" of your parasympathetic nervous system.

One breathing technique that helped me was to inhale for four counts though my nose and exhale six counts through my mouth--with no pause in between--and repeat this for twenty minutes twice a day. It is recommended to do this for ten weeks straight. It completely changed my performing and my anxiety levels. Perhaps this is a good time to do this as many of us have more time in our days than normal.

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DISCLAIMER: In addition to my work on InfiniteBody, I serve as Senior Curatorial Director of Gibney. The postings on this site are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views, strategies or opinions of Gibney.

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