Interview - Bachtrack / by Sarah A.O. Rosner


Interview in Bachtrack Choreographer's Project on June 26, 2014. View original post here.

1. What influences are important to you and your choreography?

Currently: Feminism(s), Queer Theory, Glitch Theory, Virginie Despentes, science, Catherine Brilliart, pornography, Miguel Gutierrez, epic film and literature (especially James Joyce), grass roots economies, the first Matrix movie, gender theory written about horror films, Alien, and the internet.

2. What (if anything) do you want audiences to take away from your choreography? 

There are always a lot of ideas (/politics) in my work that I’m working with, and I hope those come through. But I think what I’m most interested in is an audience that will open themselves up to the work (emotionally, intellectually) and let the work both resonate and glitch.

Moments that resonate might be experienced as a shared feeling, identification with what is being presented—a feeling of home or memory or acceptance with what we’re sharing. Moments that glitch make the viewer shift their understanding—or rather, unravel one mode of understanding, and ravel together a new and unexpected one. If audiences are opening themselves up enough to experience both of those things then the what of what they’re taking away is less important to me, because the work is accomplishing the how.

3. Is there a piece of your choreography that you are most satisfied with? Why?

I felt quite satisfied with our last work, barrish, which was developed from 2010-2012, and premiered at HERE Arts in NYC in 2012.  We created barrish alongside and through a sustainable business experiment structure (as we do with every work), which in this case was the MENU project.  It was our first experiment where it felt like we had really touched on something sustainable, and choreographically/performance-wise, it felt like it was filled with really resonant moments.

The basic structure was that, rather than making a work linearly, we created it in sections, and then, rather than hoping that it would be picked up by a venue or a presenter, we encouraged individuals to curate it into their spaces. Each time someone wanted to curate it, we would work with them to craft a new version of the transmutable sections that they were most interested in, so as it was being developed it ended up being a 5-person dance through a curator’s apartment, a duet as part of a shared bill, an installation in a gallery space, a workshop for college students, and more.  Each iteration helped us really craft the work, and at the same time, grew our audience, earned income, developed our supporters, garnered press, etc. When we finally premiered the work, it felt fully researched in a very satisfying way, and we’re able to continue to tour it and create new versions because it can be presented in any space for any occasion with any of the performers for any budget.  The fact that it continues to be remade feels satisfying to me—it keeps learning from itself. We’re using a similar structure in our current work, the ETLE Universe.

4. How important to your choreography is your relationship with the dancers who perform it?

The performers I work with through the AOMC are true partners in the creation of the work.  Not only do we build the work in rehearsal together, but each of them inspires me to come into rehearsal with different ideas and strategies really suited for how they move and think and problem solve.  It’s a special kind of [artistic] flirting—I bring in ideas that I think will really push them, or will really be at home in their bodies, or bring out their talent, and they push right back to bring out the best in what I can do.  When we work, I’m the one bringing in the basic idea, whether it’s a narrative about time travel or a sketch of a lift I’ve been envisioning, but then we work as a team to investigate it and craft something out of it. What we end up with is crafted directly by the people who are in the room.

I feel lucky to be working with this particular iteration of the AOMC – Lillie De, Anna Adams Stark, Leah Ives, and Aya Wilson are all incredible makers and thinkers—performers to watch out for.

5. When you’re creating a new piece, how and where do you begin? What do you enjoy most about the process?

When I start a new piece, I usually have had ideas mulling about in my head for quite a while—years usually.  Then I sit down alone and I make an idea web very early on in the process, one that maps how this collection of ideas or concepts might relate to each other. For example, for our current piece, the main concepts were: the gender binary, male, female, numeric binary, 0, 1, blood, milk, monstrous feminine, certainty, unknowability, presence, and absence. Then I’ll map out what the connections and offshoots are. I map my personal associations, pop culture, the linguistic roots, definitions, etc. Any and all connections, to create a relational network. And then as the connections and relationships emerge, we make the actual choreography and scores to interrogate those relationships.

I enjoy the ideas-end of things, which happens solo, but I really love the making when I’m in the studio with my performers—the crafting and pushing and negotiating as scores or movements come together. I like having an intuitive sense about what will make something work (no, your weight should actually be here instead, or what if we all tried narrating out loud while this happens?) and how all those little tweaks and rule sets and logics build into something that feels nuanced and researched and fully embodied.

6. How is making dance works changing? Where do you hope choreography will go in future? 

I can only speak for myself, but my dance work is getting less and less interested in being “dance work,” in part because of the economic failings of the form creating entirely unsustainable conditions for making, and in part because I am interested in opening up the work to audiences outside the insular dance world. I am (at the moment) interested in working and making in a way that is intra-media--that begins with a body-based making practice, but expands to also include writing, and visual art, and media, and more. I am also interested in anti-ephemeralism—in finding ways that the work can leave lasting artifacts. Last, I am (constantly, obsessively) interested in how performance work might create more sustainable economic ecologies for itself, and in so doing, allow artists to work harder/better/smarter on their craft, rather than just trying to stay afloat.


Sarah A.O. Rosner is a queer maker/hacker, choreographer, arts businessman, and aspiring postmodern pornographer making work out of Brooklyn, NY. She founded the A.O. Movement Collective in 2006, and has been at their helm creating Anti-Ephemeral PoMo Humanist work and ideology ever since. A DC native and graduate of Sarah Lawrence College, Sarah pioneers radical business, champions sustainability, and loves to yell about art. In addition to running the AOMC, Rosner is the founder/director of A.O. PRO(+ductions) where she works as a freelance consultant, and had been featured as a panelist and speaker at arts organizations including the Field, New York Live Arts, Dance New Amsterdam, Dance Theater Workshop, Gibney Dance, and Bard, Purchase, and Sarah Lawrence Colleges. A self-professed maximalist, she is obsessed with gender, bodies, sex, power, and the future. 

Brooklyn-based since 2008, the A.O. Movement Collective creates work that is digitally native and fantastically human.  They have performed at NYC traditional performance venues large and small (Joyce SoHo, HERE Arts Center, RAW festival, THROW, Open Perform, WAXworks, Green Space, AUNTS, the Center for Performance Research, Dance New Amsterdam, the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, Dance Place, Hi Art Gallery and Exit Art Gallery), as well as stairwells, rooftops, and other non-traditional spaces in Philly, MD, DC, and NY. The New York Times has written that the AOMC "bring[s] a raw, vulnerable quality to their movement that’s highly arresting” and the Gay City News has said that their work "communicate[s] a profound hopelessness but also a tenderness — and queerness — that embodies the new American generation.”

Rosner’s/the AOMC’s current epic is the ETLE Universe, a queer/feminist cyborg time travel epic…thing…which will produce ten inter-related works, each based in a different media. More at