Two Artists Get Wet, Break Rules At The North Boulder Rec Center

Listen Now
4min 00sec
<p>(Corey H. Jones/CPR News)</p>
<p>Dancers Laura Ann Samuelson, left, and Joanna Rotkin perform “Goodnight, Courtney Love” in the leisure pool at the North Boulder Recreation Center on Friday, Feb. 19, 2016.</p>

You might think dance is meant for a stage. But don’t tell that to Joanna Rotkin, of Boulder.

“I did a piece in my Subaru Outback, I’ve danced in creek beds, an art gallery, a cafe, and the racquetball court in the North Boulder Rec Center,” she said.

Rotkin and her dance partner, Laura Ann Samuelson, are back at the recreation center for their latest performance, called "Goodnight, Courtney Love." It's set in the leisure swimming pool.

The title is a nod to the rock musician who has made a lot of headlines. But Samuelson says really it refers to any female public figure. She says this dance explores how women are portrayed and perceived.

​“We’re really curious about what women have to do and are doing when they’re in the public eye and how people are responding,” Samuelson said.

The duo will perform the piece again on Saturday at 7 p.m. A talk-back with the artists will follow.

“I think the words I would use are quirky and absurd," Rotkin said. "There’s a lot of space for us to navigate unexpected moments that are happening all the time.”

During a recent performance, those unexpected moments included Samuelson losing a shoe and a voice coming over the loudspeaker announcing the rec center's closing time. And the duo just rolled with it.

Rotkin loves site-specific dances. She says it’s a way to bring more art into daily life.

“The other thing is there’s not a lot of affordable art spaces right now,” Rotkin said.

The artists are able to use the North Boulder Recreation Center for free. And they can break some rules too, like wear clothes in the pool. The dancers are dressed in what they call "power suits," with high heels, panty hose and purses. Rotkin says the outfits remind her of Hillary Clinton.

"In that outfit, I have to project that certain power, there's no room for vulnerability," Rotkin said. "It changed things dramatically once we costumed; the way we moved, our relationship to each other. It added this whole other nuanced layer."

The artists incorporate elements of improvisation into the choreography. At times, it alludes to barriers that women face, like hitting the glass ceiling in a company. For instance, Rotkin demonstrates this by walking into a wall. And Samuelson gets her whole body entangled in the rails that divide the swimming pools.

From the audience, Tauna Houghton of Boulder says she can relate to some parts, like when the drenched dancers frantically try to brush their wet hair.

“Like the futility of brushing your hair in water," she said. "How many times do I do that kind of a thing in my life where I am doing something that is not very fruitful?”

Houghton says as a kid, she swam before she even crawled. And she still loves to swim.

"But I haven’t recently, so this inspires me to get back in the water,” she said.

In fact, that’s dancer Joanna Rotkin’s hope. She wants to invite others to join her for future performances of “Goodnight, Courtney Love.”

“A grand vision is that it would get much much bigger and we would include a lot more people,” Rotkin said.

And the duo wants to do more events at the rec center. After all, Rotkin says there are basketball courts and hallways she could easily turn into a dance stage.