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Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Artists Reach Out: Charly Wenzel

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

Charly Wenzel

Charly Wenzel
(photo courtesy of the artist)

Charly Wenzel is an award-winning choreographer whose work has been presented in her native Germany, as well as at Dixon Place, Judson Church, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance (BAAD!), The Alvin Ailey Citigroup Theater, Steps on Broadway, The Secret Theater, Connecticut College and many other venues in and around New York. She worked as the choreographer for several recording artists for their live performances and music videos and she choreographed for a number of dance films.

Charly won several awards for her dance films--Global Tides, Licht and Schein--which have been shown at film festivals worldwide.

Charly was a dancer of the Bavarian State Opera Ballet in Germany and performed with Naganuma Dance, Keila Cordova Dances, Regina Nejman & Company, Earl Mosley/Diversity of Dance, Bodystories, LolaLola Dance Theater, Morningside Opera, DexDance, Hydroflo Movement Company, Soul Movement and other companies in and around New York City. She is currently a company member of Third Rail Projects, performing in their Bessie award winning production Then She Fell.

Charly was the Rehearsal Director and Associate Artistic Director of Naganuma Dance and she worked as the Rehearsal Director for Bodystories:Teresa Fellion Dance.

Charly Wenzel
(photos: above, Linda Brieda;
below, Emily Nussbaum)

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

I had mentally and physically prepared for a very busy few months. Apart from continuing to perform six shows a week in Third Rail Project’s Then She Fell, I was about to learn a new role in the show, which I was supposed to premiere in April. I also had one first rehearsal with TRP for a new show that was supposed to take place in Miami in May and in June. In addition, I was about to start rehearsals to set a piece on Bodystories:Teresa Fellion Dance. (It was going to be a mix of film, immersive theater, as well as an onstage element.) I was also in rehearsal for another immersive dance theater production directed by Caitlin Dutton-Reaver, which was going to open at Wildrence in NYC in April. Finally I was about to start a Performance Project with HB Studio, which we are currently trying to adjust to an online platform.

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

I started practicing classical ballet at the age of six. To this day, I remember the thrill of my first performances on that “big” stage and the loose pages that were my diary at the time, which all read “I can’t wait for my next Ballet class!!!”

I began studying with an RAD certified Ballet teacher around the age of twelve and completed a three-year dance program at the Iwanson School of Contemporary Dance in Germany, before moving to New York City to study at The Ailey School. I started choreographing in high school for our talent shows and I presented my work at a few small venues in Munich. I had a project-based dance company in NYC, and we presented at every dance festival and choreographers showcase I could get my hands on. In the last few years, I have transitioned to dance filmmaking, and I enjoy further exploring this medium.

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

As a human, I practice gratitude every single day. I practice self-care and I create the necessary space for myself to stay balanced. I don’t believe in being busy for the sake of being busy, and I recognize the importance of stillness.

As a dancer and performer, my practice comes in the form of my nightly preparation before a show. I give myself at least one hour on my mat before putting on my make-up etc. I always look forward to this grounding, centering, but ultimately energizing practice, which allows me to focus on one of the most essential parts of my instrument, which is my breath.

I envision transformation within myself, but ultimately to hopefully facilitate transformation in our audiences, as well. When I say “transformation," I’m thinking about a journey back “home” to what truly resonates within ourselves and about unveiling the essence of our human nature that connects us all. There are too many distractions in this world and it’s easy to forget about what really matters.

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

I care about bringing people together and for them to realize that we are all the same, especially in this very divisive climate we are living in. I’m often missing a fundamental sense of humanity, especially when it comes to how this country is run.

This realization has to come from within and there is no better medium to help people reflect, question and make compassionate choices than the arts. If I can find a way to simultaneously ground and open up myself through my practice, and if I therefore succeed in reaching our audiences at a personal and deep level, I think the work we do can truly make this world a better place.

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

It’s been important to me to find a balance between acknowledging the difficulty of this situation and to be mindful of the many people, who are affected by this situation in a horrible way, while also maintaining a positive outlook and using this time to continue my practice.

These extraordinary times have allowed me to connect to so many wonderful artists, and I’m currently editing a film that is a reflection of how we all feel during this time. The film is a collage of contributions of forty artists from ten countries in the form of dance, poetry, photography, paintings and music. What better time to connect, create and inspire than now?!

Briefly share one self-care tip that has special meaning to you now.

Every single day, give yourself the gift of ten minutes to lie down on the floor, close your eyes, maybe put on your favorite song and just be still. You have the time.


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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