Catching up with director Sarah Hixon
Chris Leyva is an area playwright and director who recently sat down with Sarah Hixon, the artistic director of Hixon Dance, whose new show Entanglement: Where Science Meets Dance opens at Columbus Dance Theatre and the McConnell Arts Center in April.
Chris: Is there a particular way you approach creating work?
Sarah: I use different approaches depending on the topic. I will do research almost always. If I have an idea or inspiration from a piece of music or writing, I will sometimes find related poetry, visual art, or historical context to get into the world that’s inspiring me. I find that it makes work richer and opens up new possibilities to branch out in different directions.
Chris: How did you decide that the scientific topics of astrophysics and quantum mechanics that you use in your new performance, Entanglement, were something you wanted to explore?
Sarah: I am always trying to challenge myself and grow as an artist. If my process is providing that challenge, then I’m usually on the right path. I am typically drawn to ideas that have a very human or emotional core. That’s why I like poetry and music as inspiration. This time I felt that trying something opposite of that would be a good challenge. And it’s been really hard actually. [Laughs]
Chris: Has it been difficult because it's science versus narrative?
Sarah: I think so, partially, because everything is a little abstract. Gestures can portray a lot of emotional information, but there’s no emotion to portray when you’re exploring subatomic particles. My hope is that even though the performers aren’t intending to portray an “emotional narrative,” people will still find connection. They will find meaningful relationships between the dancers. This is certainly not a “dancers as PowerPoint” of the science.
Chris: How much do you consider the audience when you’re creating your works?
Sarah: I do consider the audience quite strongly. I try to create work that is accessible, so the audience experience is important. In making this piece, there were lots of moments that were accurate to the science concept, but visually too complex. I thought, “No one’s going to understand what they’re seeing if presented this way.” I don’t mind challenging an audience, challenging their eye, and making them sit with complexity, but I was concerned they would not see what I was trying to portray.
Chris: What has been the audience response to your previous works?
Sarah: People really enjoyed our interactive show because there was humor and informality that broke down some barriers. Last year, False Prophets was one of the most “topical” works I’ve made, but that resonated with people. For me, when someone tells me about how a work made them feel and the emotional core is what I was portraying, I consider that a successful work. The dance connected with that person.
Chris: What’s the best thing about the Columbus art scene right now?
Sarah: I think there’s a lot of possibility and potential. There’s also support. It is amazing that we have granting organizations that supply money to individual artists. That’s very rare. I also enjoy how interested other artists, organizations, or even businesses are in collaborating. I think it makes more exciting art possible.