The Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance
luciana achugar '95
luciana achugar is an Uruguayan choreographer based in Brooklyn.
She moved to New York in 1995 after graduating from Cal Arts. In NY she worked as a dancer with several influential choreographers including Maria Hassabi, Chameckilerner and John Jasperse. From 1999 to 2003, she worked in a close collaborative relationship with choreographer Levi Gonzalez and has been doing her own independent work since 2002.
achugar has created six independent works, the last one of which The Sublime is Us premiered at Dance Theatre Workshop in October 2008. Her work has been presented in NY at Movement Research’s MELT Festival; the Ensemble Studio Theatre; The Latino American Dance: Not Festival Project; CANADA Gallery; Klaus von Nichtssagend Gallery; La MaMa; Abrons Arts Center; Danspace Project and Dance Theatre Workshop; in Cambridge Massachusets at the Green Studios and in Uruguay at the Festival Iberoamericano de Danza and the Centro Cultural de España. The Sublime is Us will be presented again by DTW this January 8 & 10 as part of the NY APAP Conference. In April 2009 she will present A Super natural Return to Love (2004) at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, MN.
achugar received a BESSIE Award as Creator/Choreographer for her first full evening-length piece Exhausting Love at Danspace Project which premiered in November 2006 and most recently, in November 2008, she accepted Tere O'Connor's BAX10 artist and artists in progress "Passing it on Award", The BAX10 honors individuals in the arts who have revealed and transformed our creative world, deepened the definition of their field and paved the way for others.
luciana achugar is a 2008 New York Foundation for the Arts fellow in Choreography. She was a 2007 Choreography Fellow of the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at Florida State University and a Sugar Salon Artist, a program developed by WAX in partnership with the Barnard College Department of Dance. She was a 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 Movement Research Artist-in-Residence and has been in Residencies at Barnard College, Bennington College, DTW’s Outer/Space Program, the LEX-Dance Summer Residency, MANCC at FSU and at the Daghdha Dance Company in Limerick, Ireland.
She is a 2008 recipient of Building Up Infrastructure Levels for Dance (BUILD), a program of New York Foundation for the Arts. BUILD is a JPMorgan Chase Regrant Program, made possible by The J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation, with additional support provided by The Starry Night Fund of the Tides Foundation. Her work has received support from the Meet the Composer Fund; the Puffin Foundation; The Leonard and Sophie Davis Fund; and from public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs and administered by the LMCC.
What brought you to CalArts?
I got to CalArts through a recommendation of a faculty member at Northwestern University whom I had had an interview with and who suggested that CalArts would be the right place for me.
How has your CalArts educations been relevant to your professional path?
It was instrumental in developing a strong sense of what I was most interested when it came to Dance as an art form, and in learning to be eloquent when talking about work. It also helped me develop my own sense of discipline and rigor when it comes to approaching my career.
What advice would you give to our current or perspective students?
I would advice them to learn to write proposals for projects and to learn some other skill besides dancing because it is really difficult when you get out of college to start to build one’s career just with dancing skills.
CalArts is unique in that it houses the Schools of Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music and Theater as well as the Division of Library and Informational Resources under one roof. As a student, how did you engage with other members of the CalArts community and how did it influence your art making?
Just by being at CalArts one gets to meet other students from different schools so as the years went on I began to be more aware of what was going on in other schools and was exposed to a lot of music and visual art especially which greatly influenced my view of art in general. I was mostly influenced by the art school because it opened my mind up thinking of work conceptually and by several of the Critical Studies courses I took while I was there. Some of those courses helped me articulate ideas I already had but didn’t know about some of the reasons I was so drawn to working with the body as a medium.
How did the School of Dance fulfill your need to forge a career in dance?
It helped me develop a relationship to dance that was so much more specific and focused than when I started my first year, just wanting to dance but not having a specific path within it. It encouraged me to make my own work and it prepared me by giving me all the responsibility that it comes with producing a show; from choosing dancers to scheduling rehearsals, collaborating with costume designers, composers and lighting designers. It encouraged all of the students to see each other’s work and give each other feedback creating a strong sense of dialogue which kept me engaged and has continued to in my relationship to contemporary choreographers in NYC.
How did the technique classes prepare you for the physical demands of a career in dance?
The consistency of the technique classes and the importance given to attendance helped me wanna seek out the same level of consistency in my own practice once I was out of college. The Ballet classes felt incredibly helpful in organizing my body and they did not feel like they were imposing the classical aesthetic in terms of style but just giving me an incredible tool to use for any kind of work. The Modern classes felt a bit dated when I was there (‘91-‘95) but the regularity of visiting artists that were connected with more contemporary ways of moving and thinking of technique was incredibly influential and helpful. In fact, I went on to study with some of those visiting artists, such as Shelley Senter and Ralph Lemon, once I moved to NY.
How did the other curricular courses (composition, dance history, anatomy, etc) inform you about the world of dance and how did it prepare you to move forward with your ideas and personal voice?
The Dance History courses were particularly influential because I had a very limited knowledge of what had happened in Dance since Martha Graham when I got to CalArts. I was most specifically influenced by learning about the Judson Church Post-Modern Movement during the 60’s and 70’s, and this prompoted me to go much deeper into studying these forms, going straight to the Trisha Brown Company to study more after College.
The Composition classes were without my knowing it at the time what mostly prepared me for my career. Having had numerous opportunities to create without so much pressure of succeeding while in school gave me an opportunity to play and learn about what my tendencies and recurring interests were. I learned so many different ways to make material and arrange it and most of all I learned to look at other people’s work, to talk about it and to learn what I like in dance through seeing their work.
How has the technical production requirements of the program informed the way you communicate about your work?
The fact that I spent so much of my time at Theater 2 while being in school made me incredibly comfortable and familiar with the technical aspects surrounding a production and it taught me the language that one needs to use in order to communicate with the lighting designer and the crew for everything to work smoothly and to feel a mutual respect with your collaborators; especially when time is so limited in those situations.
CalArts has a strong mentoring system for each student. How did you find the guidance and support of your mentor as a student? Have you had the opportunity to mentor young artist in your career?
I think my relationship to my mentor was a critical part of my education at CalArts. I had a particularly traumatic experience since my first mentor was Rebecca Bobele who passed away when I was on my second year. She was very influential because of her passion for choreography and fierce dancing.
I guess you could say that in some ways I have mentored some of the dancers that have worked with me for a few years. I have given a lot of advice and speficic feedback in terms of choreography and career choices. It feels really good to know that you have something to give back.
Do you continue to work or correspond with any CalArtians?
Yes! I have a lot of close friends that I am in close contact with who are all here in NY. When I first moved here they were my support group and practically like my family.
I started choreographing with Levi Gonzalez with whom I had done a lot of work while at CalArts. I danced for Wendy Winters and for Maria Hassabi before I started choreographing. Later Wendy became a Costume Designer for Dance and she desgined costumes for me and for Levi. I built a Dance Loft space to live and rehearse in from scratch with Maria Hassabi in 2004 but we unfortunately ended up losing it. (NY real estate is a nightmare). And I continue to be a strong supporter of both Maria’s and Levi’s work and they are of mine.
Last but not least I have been collaborating very closely for the last three years with Michael Mahalchick (an CalArts alumni form the MFA Art program), mostly he has been making music for my shows. But it has become more like a relationship to a dramaturg since he becomes deeply invested in the process of the work.
Any other degrees or certifications that you have earned?
I became a Pilates Instructor with The Pilates Method.
Headshot: luciana achugar Photo by Chase Granoff
“legs”: from “A Super Natural Return to Love”, December ’04 at DTW. Photo by Briana Blasko. Dancers: L to R: Kim Osterberger, Willa Carroll, Beatrice Wong, luciana achugar, Anna Azrieli and Jennifer Kjos.
“towards altar”: from “Exhausting Love at Danspace Project”, November ’06 at Danspace Project. Photo by Briana Blasko. Dancers: L to R: (back) Hilary Clark, Beatrice Wong and Jennifer Kjos. (front) luciana achugar and Melanie Maar.
“crawling”: from “Franny & Zooey”, April ’07 at DTW. Photo by Alex Escalante. Dancer: luciana achugar.
“luciana at mirror”: from “The Sublime is US”, October ’08 at DTW. Photo by Ryutaro Mishima. Dancer: luciana achugar.
Performances, Workshops or Exhibitions:
January ’09: Interview in the Issue #34 of Movement Research’s Performance Journal.
January 10th, ’09: Presenting The Sublime is Us, (which premiered at DTW in October ’08) for the New York APAP Conference (2 shows at 5:30 & 8 pm).
Winter ’09: Commissioned by the George Washington University Dance Department to make a new piece on their students.
March 1st: Composition Workshop: The Inherent Proposition in the Making of a Dance, for “CLASS” at BARN in Brooklyn, NY.
April 30-May2: Presenting A Super Natural Return to Love, (which premiered at DTW in December 2004) at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
Winter ’10: Premiere of new work at The Kitchen, NYC.
We are pleased to announce that achugar's next work, *PURO DESEO* premiering
at The Kitchen in the Spring of 2010, will be supported through a generous
grant from the MAP FUND. *PURO DESEO*, which translates both to "pure
desire" and "nothing but desire," will examine the relationship between
artistic process and art as commodified product. To create *PURO DESEO*,
achugar will deepen her collaboration with visual artist Michael Mahalchick.
The two will work with her other recent collaborators including lighting
designer Madeline Best and dramaturg Victoria A. Davies.
PURO DESEO and its whole collaborative team, received a 2010 New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award “for casting a spell on the audience and taking them into the dark, dark mysteries of the body and all its desires”.
For more information about 2009 MAP FUND grantees, click
BAX names luciana achugar a 2009/10 Artist-in-Residence*
**achugar is currently developing her new work as a 2009/10 Artist in
Residence at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange. She also will present several
public work-in-progress showings of *PURO DESEO*throughout the year. As part
of the residency achugar receives administrative and artistic support. For
more information about BAX and the AIR Program, click
*Winter Tour to Uruguay*
Two of achugar's works, *A Super Natural Return to Love *(2004) and *Franny
and Zooey* (2007) will be presented in Montevido, Uruguay at Teatro
coming December. The home of opera, ballet and classical music for 150
years, Teatro Solis will present the performance in the newly-minted
contemporary dance and theater wing of the renowned theater: the first venue
of its kind in Uruguay.
*A Super Natural Return to Love **presented at Walker Art Center*
achugar's 2004 work, *A Super Natural Return to Love* enjoyed a successful
Minneapolis premiere as part of New World Dance: New York. The work
completed an evening featuring work Nora Chipaumire, Nami Yamamoto and
achugar. ìIn an evening defined by strong female artistic perspectives,î
said Caroline Palmer of the Star Tribune, ìachugar's 'uncivilized women'
provoke the most extreme reaction.î
For more information on the Minneapolis premiere at Walker Art Center, click
*The tour was supported in part with funding from the Foundation for
*LMCC honors luciana with the 2009 Liberty Award*
The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, honored luciana achugar at The
Downtown Dinner 2009 Gala on April 20, 2009. Maggie Boepple, President of
the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, presented achugar with *The Liberty*,
LMCC's 2009 prestigious President's Award: The Liberty. For more information
on LMCC programs, click here <http://www.lmcc.net/>.
For more information on upcoming shows and the work of luciana achugar,
Jan. 22nd & 23rd at 7:00pm - Brooklyn Arts Exchange
Workshop: *Puro Deseo*
421 5th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Premiere *Puro Deseo*
512 W 19th St
New York, NY 10011
During 2010 I was very grateful and proud to be the recipient of a Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants for Artists Award, receive support from the Jerome Foundation, make new commissioned work on 8 dancers for the Zenon Dance Company of Minneapolis and to be selected for a second year Residency at BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange as a Research Fellow, where I am doing research on teaching dance technique as I begin working on my next project tentatively titled Feeling Form.
2011 is already shaping up to be a fruitful year. I will be working with 16 students from the New School to make a new work to be premiered during their April Concert at the Alvin Ailey CitiGroup Theater, I will continue my research Residency at BAX and begin development for my next work to be premiered in the WInter of 2012. I will also be traveling to Montevideo, Uruguay during the summer to perform PURO DESEO and to make new work with Uruguayan dancers as a way to continue my commitment to remain in communication with the dance community there.
Last, but not least, I would like to share with you that I will be featured in Dance Magazine's January 2011 "25 to Watch" article. I feel very grateful for this honorable mention and I was particularly moved by what Noemi Lafrance, who nominated me for this, had to say about my work..:
"luciana is doing something that has an edge, but it's also very clean, concise, together. I feel like her work,while experimental, is also accessible. You could see it if you hadn't been exposed to dance and still be moved. It has a touch of being universal.
As a performer, she's powerful without being arrogant; her power is very pure. She's a very down-to-earth human being- generous and natural.
Her last show, PURO DESEO, really brings you on a journey. It takes a little while to evolve. You hear this humming, this singing, and she goes into this very repetitive back-and-forth. But you feel as though the room is starting to get haunted. There's some kind of shamanic quality; the air is getting a little bit thicker. When artists are able to do that, they transcend the space with what they are doing.
I'm curious to see what she does next. She definitely has more intriguing work up her sleeve."
Noemi Lafrance for "25 to Watch", Dance Magazine.
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