Craft Source x Brittany Kohler
Dancer | Choreographer
Ph: 021 0249 8211
I’m Brittany, I’m 22, and I’m currently a freelance dancer and a member of Dance Plant Collective, a contemporary dance collective based in Auckland.
Describe your background and how you came to find your passion?
I danced from a young age after school at Auckland Academy of Dance until I finished high school. Up until then I wasn’t sure about making it a career (I had no idea where to start or if it could be done), I just knew that I loved it. I didn’t realise the multitude of pathways that could be explored through dance until I began studying contemporary dance at Unitec in 2014. I guess this confirmed my passion and desire to keep exploring it into the future and into a career path.
How did you establish your style and how would you describe it? Did you ever delve in other artistic mediums?
Hmm that’s tricky. My style is definitely a mixture of all my training over the years, my own body’s natural pathways and my personal aesthetic interests. Personally, I love the look and use of set and props in dance, and I often bring my awkward/sarcastic sense of humour into ideas too. However, everything we work on is going to be completely different, requiring change in habit and new explorations. I’ve worked a little bit with other artistic mediums, and would love to do more in the future - especially with the combination of film and/or photography and movement. We often use writing within choreographic tasks as well. That’s the thing with dance, it’s a present moment thing, and then it’s ‘’gone’’. Introducing other mediums means that dance can be captured in another and more permanent way which is often refreshing.
Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
I find that ideas often come from everyday life - especially in human interaction and conversation. I also draw heavily from visual influences - whether that be photographs or images online, structures I see, or interesting locations. However, the studio is where most small ideas come to life in long improvisations, conversations and creative tasking.
Who or what are your biggest influences?
I am hugely influenced by those closest to me (mainly the other 5 members of Dance Plant Collective). We spend so much time together and create so much work together that we are constantly learning from and with each other. I think I relate more to people who are or have been in the same boat as me; as well as choreographers who make work that really captures my attention and speaks to my interests and artistic preferences.
Describe your process / Describe your studio set up or the ideal environment for making work / Do you have any odd rituals that get you in the zone ?
Every process is different - but say we are making a full-length work, we usually begin with a discussion around the ideas and desires of the work. Then we move; in improvisations guided by scores (a journey of ideas) and music, or in specific choreographic tasking (e.g. in the most basic of explanations, using an idea to create movement on yourself or with another person). We explore and play for a while, until we have enough content to start shaping and structuring the work. Eventually, you’ll get the final product after many changes and feedback sessions but then it’s all worth it.
For dance, the ideal studio setup is pretty much a welcoming, right-feeling empty space. Dance Plant have had the most ideal situation this year at Studio One Toi Tu as part of our artist residency (thank you Studio One) - an empty room in the studio with big window shutters and bright white walls. I find that the amount of light in the room can really affect the specific task e.g. creating a darker atmosphere can be what you need in some specific situations.
In regards to odd rituals, I don’t feel like I have any that are too weird. I just really enjoy getting into my body by doing a full class or warm-up before-hand. Getting into the right mental space for a rehearsal is ideal too, so often arriving early and letting things settle is what I need.
What’s the most indispensable item used during your process ?
The human body!
What has been your most challenging or favourite work?
There are a few works that come to mind as in most challenging. Currently I think of myself first and foremost a part of Dance Plant Collective - and this is where both my most challenging and my favourite works have come to life. Our first full-length work we made together ‘Desire Line(s)’ was the most challenging in a way - we had just graduated Unitec, and were doing everything ourselves. It was a crowdfunded, koha entry show that we aimed to choreograph equally as a collective, which in itself proved to be a huge challenge. I learnt a LOT from that process, and it was extremely stressful at times, but incredibly rewarding at the end of the process. ‘The Cost of Arms and Legs’ was a double-bill show we created for Auckland Fringe Festival earlier this year, and it was the first time since Unitec that I had most choreographic ‘’responsibility’’ for, as one of the works was a duet choreographed and performed by Tash and I. Our current show ‘MEAT’ that is being performed at Basement Theatre this week is probably our biggest scale show we’ve done as a collective, and equally one of the most challenging in subject matter and in performance persona and stamina. The process has been amazing, as we have been working with a bunch of collaborators who are experts in their crafts, meaning we have a narrowed focus. This show ‘’unwraps the meat industry and explores its social and environmental implications’’, and to go there is a huge physical, emotional and performative challenge. Favourite works….have been all of the above. The biggest rewards come from the biggest challenges and commitments, right?
What does your work aim to say?
Again, every work is different - but I feel that our work is directly going to speak to the now, what is happening currently in our communities and in our time. Some work will simply be explorations of ideas - and will often trigger response from people within the subtleties of the work and within the layers and real-time experiences of these ideas. On the other hand, some work will be more explicitly encouraging thought, questions and conversation around issues addressed in the work. I think in every scenario, because dance is experienced in the now, with human bodies, it’s a pretty powerful medium to explore such ideas.
What project/s are you currently working on?
I’m currently in the show week of MEAT, Dance Plant Collective’s newest work choreographed by Tui Hofmann and performed at Basement Theatre. We’ve been working on this show since mid-June with an amazing creative team, and it’s finally come to life in the theatre and it’s all go. This has been my main project for the last while, but as a collective we’ve had the opportunity to do quite a few smaller projects with other artists lately - including a short performance at The Experiment with Lowtide.! We’re also coming to the end of our ten-month creative studio residency at Studio One Toi Tu, and we have a series of short dance films and some photography in exhibition in Gallery 1 at the studio. (all in collaboration with other artists).
Do you have aspirations to move overseas? How do you feel being from New Zealand influences your work?
I definitely do - I’m aiming to be overseas by next year sometime. Whether that’s temporarily or to live I’m unsure at this stage (many factors, ya know), but I am itching to explore. I think that living in a reasonably small, water locked country is obviously going to influence the way people make work. I know a lot of artists who make the leap overseas, and I think the community is here is strong because there have been artists consistently working here for long periods of time (going overseas every now and then but returning to share knowledge with the NZ community). I’m yet to venture overseas for dance so I feel like I’ll know more of the shift in influences once I’ve experienced it first hand.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received or what advice would you give to other aspiring artists?
Find your community and reach out to people because 9 times out of 10 they’ll be happy to help/collaborate/share ideas etc. I’d say to try find a balance with work and art and make sure you don’t do everything alone. I know that artists often struggle with finding rewarding and flexible work to fit around projects, and I think it’s okay to have shifting priorities and to constantly be changing and working it out. I think it’s also important to not overload yourself to the point of doing everything half-heartedly. For me, I have found interest in a few paths related to dance and movement that I have constant work in which has been great too. I think as long as we are making work that we love and have a clear understanding of why we are making it, it’s going to be successful regardless of the outcome.
What’s next for you?
Once this show season is over, we are preparing to take MEAT to Melbourne Fringe Festival at the end of September, so there will be lots of prep to work up to that. Tash and I will also be reworking a duet we performed earlier this year into a five minute work for Short and Sweet (a short dance show/competition held at TAPAC in September). It’s going to feel like the end of a journey soon I think, with our Studio One residency ending, which will allow a lot of time for planning for what comes next. I’m also focusing on some work related things (taking it back to reality) and attending a Pilates teacher training intensive very soon which will be another journey in itself too!
Are you a local creative looking to join the community? Sign up to CraftSource - it's free!