Moves Like Perez

Rowley News

Biokinesiology Ph.D. student K. Michael Rowley performs Rudy Perez’s new dance work Unperformable for recent Visions and Voices offering.


Editor’s note: The following is K. Michael Rowley’s first-hand account of his experience collaborating with the USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance and the Rudy Perez Dance Ensemble. Rowley is a graduate student at USC working towards a Ph.D. in biokinesiology. He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Delaware in Exercise Science and Biological Sciences with a minor in Dance.

The other graduate students in Dr. Kornelia Kulig’s research group and I are excited about the academic, clinical and artistic collaborations between the new USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance and the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy.

Last month, I joined an artistic collaboration between the Kaufman School of Dance and the Rudy Perez Dance Ensemble for an event announcing that USC will maintain Rudy Perez’s archives. The event was a showcase of Perez’s work, past and present, including a live performance, a video presentation, an exhibit of props and costume pieces and a panel discussion.

Perez’s choreography is called post-modern or minimalist and is unlike most dance you’ve seen. Movements are simple but packed with intention and energy. A 15-minute piece feels only seconds long as the dancers hold your attention with these slow, purposeful movements punctuated with dynamic action. Recently reprinted in Movement Research Performance Journal, critic Deborah Jowitt comments on the style saying, “His [Rudy’s] brand of stillness is not so much the temporary absence of movement as the charged potential for it.”

This was my first time working in this minimalist way, and it was difficult to adapt. Given a movement phrase, I would have it defined in my memory by certain characteristics— right arm lifts, turn in a circle, jump and run upstage. I soon learned that in Rudy’s mind, this phrase was actually built on much simpler fundamental pieces of the movement, the most important piece being the space. He might alter that same phrase to brush the right leg up, run around yourself, reach up and hold for a few seconds, run upstage.

For the casual observer, and for me when I first started working in this way, these are two completely different movement phrases. For Rudy, it’s just a small change in the “information” while the use of the space remains the same. The experience I gained exploring how to break down movements into simple but interesting pieces has been incredible. The event was a great opportunity to perform as well as to discuss with the audience what it was like working with Rudy and in this unique way.

Michael Rowley once again joins Rudy Perez’s Dance Ensemble at the Highways Performance Space and Gallery’s 25th anniversary on May 3. For more information, go to highwaysperformance.org. You can also check out Rudy Perez’s archives on display in the Doheny Memorial Library’s Special Collections (DML 206), Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturday, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. The Doheny Library is located on the University Park Campus at 3550 Trousdale Parkway, L.A.