Spotlight Series Issue 14 | Carrie Hanson

Spotlight Series Issue 14 | Carrie Hanson

Welcome to M2057’s Spotlight Series: In Her Own Words, which features dynamic, stylish, and powerful women who inspire us.

This month, we chatted with Carrie Hanson

Carrie has built a career in dance as a choreographer, director, producer, and educator. She has taught at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago for 22 years and is the Founding Artistic Director of The Seldoms, a dance company that will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. Carrie’s love of history and reading can be seen in her work; her favorite, most successful project for The Seldoms was a multimedia work about Lyndon Baines Johnson, and the company’s 2021 work, GRASS, was inspired by her reading on marijuana and lawns.


Special thanks to  Sarah Kammerer for the beautiful photography for this spotlight! 


Carrie is wearing the Harriet top, Kamala pant & Avenger belt, Paola blouse & Rani pant, and Shivali dress.




WHERE I FIND JOY: I find tremendous joy in teaching dance technique, even after 20+ years. I find joy in learning and research, and in dialogue about ideas and events. I’m interested in history and very specifically, presidential history. I read Robert Caro’s excellent LBJ biographies and took a deep dive into his life and times, traveling to his ranch, “The Texas White House” and the Presidential Library several times…I even took my dancers along. I find joy in planting in my garden and watching things grow. And I find joy like none other in being with my 11 year-old son and watching him grow. Being a mom has been the best teacher for me.  
HOW I TAKE CARE OF MYSELF: I’m lucky in that taking care of myself is built into my workday. Each day includes physical practice. When I’m teaching dance technique classes or rehearsing, I fold yoga into the warm-up. To be able to focus on movement and fluency of the body every day is an absolute pleasure, and to do it with people I love creating dances with—my wonderful ensemble members—is the best combination of work and play. But I do certainly feel the difference between age 53 and 35, especially the knee joints. I have morning rituals: lemon-water first thing, followed by a smoothie with spirulina, barley grass powder, turmeric, chia seeds, banana, wild blueberries, and cilantro. It looks menacingly dark green but tastes great and is a good detox.
WHAT I LOOK FOR IN CLOTHING: Color, shape, texture, simplicity. I prefer simple, clean lines. What I love about M2057 is just that—strong clarity of form, bold and pure color, interesting sculptural lines. Plus, extraordinarily easy to put on, to pair, and to care for. It’s dressing with speed but artfully! Maria is first and foremost an artist; her fabrics sometimes come from her paintings. I love her Dita Top and have it in two fabrics. I think that what Maria is doing with her design is important—it honors women because it liberates women. One can satisfy a desire for gorgeous color and striking, flattering pieces, and achieve it simply, with little fuss. I love that Maria is doing the work for women, so that women can bring their creative efforts to their own work. 
ON COLLABORATION: I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with Maria several times, and hopefully will do more in the future. She created the most imaginative, wild set of costumes for our 10th anniversary site-specific project at the Harris Theater of Music and Dance—she knocked it out of the park! We’ve worn her M2057 garments for “Sidewalk Dances”, GRASS, and for Floe, currently projected for ART on theMART through June 29.  The ensemble members love moving in her M2057 pieces—the fluid, weighted fabric allows full range of motion and follows the movement in a kind of echo-ing way.
ON GOOD BOOKS: I love to read and wish I had more time for it. Most of what I read is nonfiction, and in relation to projects I make for The Seldoms; for our 2021 work, GRASS, I read Grass Roots: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Marijuana in America by Emily Dufton and also Lawn People: How Grasses, Weeds, and Chemicals Make Us Who We Are by Paul Robbins, Dean of the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at UW-Madison. Those sound academic but both are great writing and compelling reads! If you want to learn about the American obsession with turgrass, read Lawn People! Currently I’m reading material by poet and deep ecologist Gary Snyder for our next project, Superbloom. His collection of essays, The Practice of the Wild, advocates for sustainability ethics and a revitalized commons, where we all steward and share natural resources. The indigenous concept of “dish with one spoon” instructs a limited use of the Earth’s resources to allow continued abundance. I’m passionate about these ideas and issues, and more broadly about environmental and social justice—which go hand in hand. These are the subjects I’ve been making performance work about for a decade—I believe dance can speak to serious issues. I’m not overly confident that evocative performance and art can effect change on big, complex issues, but I am hopeful. I stage a problem-solving body, often within intractable problems. Hope is not on the surface of my dances, but it may be within them, in the DNA of our muscular language that expresses endurance and daring. I want to charge the audience to problem-solving stances. 
BEST GIFT I’VE RECEIVED: The best gift I ever received, because it was so surprising and thoughtful, was a pair of t-shirts with the number “36” printed on them. They were presented to me after the premiere of my big project about Lyndon Baines Johnson, our 36th President. The gift-giver knew how oddly obsessed I had become with LBJ and what a success that work was for me. I love a gift that is creative and made just for you.
BEST ADVICE I’VE RECEIVED: A valuable piece of advice given to me by a mentor and leader in the dance community, Jan Erkert, was to think about how much time you’d need, and then double it. Wise words, and I can’t say that I always follow it…still learning! Two other quotes that I try to live by: “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you can be violent and original in your work” (Flaubert) and “Boldness has genius in it” (Goethe). I share that one often with my son—to encourage daring and courage in trying new things.

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