Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre
Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre has been creating site-specific productions throughout Southern California and beyond since 1985. Originally incorporated as Collage Dance Theatre (CDT) in 1988, the company has created and presented over 100 dance performances in Los Angeles, New York City, Miami, Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland, Atlanta, Montreal, Hong Kong, and Russia. In 2010, Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre celebrated its 25th anniversary; Duckler was recognized with two significant honors: an American Masterpieces Award from the National Endowment for the Arts to tour Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre’s signature work Laundromatinee; and a commission to be a part of the Night International Festival of Music & Dance on the Volga in Russia. Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre works exclusively outside of the traditional proscenium stage setting, which inherently invites the community to become the epicenter of the work.
Mission and artistic direction
The company's founder and artistic director is choreographer Heidi Duckler. Duckler has a B.S. in Dance from the University of Oregon (from which she received the Distinguished Alumnae Award in June 2012) and an M.A. in Choreography from UCLA. Her work has been commissioned by companies including Miami Light, Grand Performances, REDCAT, Aben Dans in Denmark, Brookfield Properties, and the Hong Kong Youth Arts Foundation. She has participated in the Los Angeles County Arts Commission's Arts Leadership Initiative and served on the City of Los Angeles Mayor's Cultural Master Plan Advisory Committee. Heidi Duckler was named "the reigning queen of site-specific performance" by the Los Angeles Times.
Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre takes as its mission to create performance events in nontraditional spaces, commercial buildings, and diverse neighborhoods in order to redefine the relationship between audience and art. Individual pieces have been performed in laundromats (Laundromatinee, 1980s-2010), a church (Church of Food, 1990), a reflecting pool (Foundations, 1990), commercial buildings (Cover Story, 2002), a government building (Governing Bodies, 2010), a baseball diamond (Stealing Home, 1993), an empty swimming pool (Life in the Lap Lane, 1994), and the concreted-over Los Angeles River (Mother Ditch, 1995). Heidi Duckler's choreography focuses on expressing the psychological relationship between people and their environment through organic movement phrases. In both large-scale works such as Sleeping with the Ambassador (Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles, 2003) and more intimate works like Laundromatinee (various laundromats), Duckler creates choreography that both responds to a space and undermines assumptions regarding its original function. In some pieces, the audiences moves around rather than occupying fixed seating.
Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre has codified the company’s community engagement into five sectors:
- Curbside Conversations: Cross-cultural and community dialogues, Q&As, & workshops
- Public Practice: Open company rehearsal in public sites
- Repertory Residences: Multi-day workshops crafted for high school/university dancers
- Speaker Series: Lectures at local schools, colleges, and organizations by Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre Administration and artists
- The Duck Truck Residency Program: Curriculum-based residencies constructed for the non-dancer that take place in schools and community centers
Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre has a sister company based in Portland, Oregon: the Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre/Northwest. This company pursues a similar mission and initiates collaborations with artists and communities of the Pacific Northwest.
The Groundskeepers | 2013 A traveling multimedia performance, The Groundskeepers created a series of moving murals inspired by the architecture and history of Linda Vista Hospital. Offering audience members a chance to experience this iconic hospital as it was built in 1924 and explore areas of the site not typically open to the public, the work animated a fire escape staircase, entryway, chapel, boiler room, and outdoor wall. Written by George Moreno, The Groundskeepers featured original music by composer Lu Kunene, dynamic projections by international multimedia artist Refik Anadol, lighting design by Grant Dunn, and typographic artwork by Andrew Byrom.
Cleopatra, CEO. | 2012 This multimedia dance performance took place on the 51st floor of Paul Hastings Tower in Los Angeles, which Duckler transformed into an Egyptian executive suite into order to retell the story of Cleopatra. Celebrating the Egyptian Queen’s return to power, it evoked new a reinterpretations of leadership and ambition.
Expulsion | 2011 Taking as its theme the often temporary nature of home, Expulsion was performed in a vacant lot in Glendale, CA. On scaffolding three stories above the audience, four male dancers from Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre collaborated with five female dancers from the Iranian-Armenian Glendale Arts, Djanbazian Dance Company to initiate a dialogue about the impact of expulsion from home on individuals, families, and neighborhoods. The dancers were accompanied by Alex Noice’s original score. This collaborative project was part of the World Festival of Sacred Music.
A Gallerina’s Guide | 2011 A multimedia dance theatre work, A Gallerina's Guide, explored the relationship between artist, audience, and the walls of a gallery space. With the audience listening on infrared headsets, live performers in oversized frames exposed the mysteries of the nude, the action of the still life, and the kaleidoscope of the color field. Something between a living art show and an interactive exhibit, it received a National Endowment for the Arts' Artistic Excellence award. Venues where it was performed included the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Phoenix (AZ) Art Museum, and Laurel Hardware Space in West Hollywood, CA.
Governing Bodies | 2010 Thie piece celebrated the democratic process by involving the audience in a work that focused on both the Los Angeles arts community as a whole, and the strength and power of the artist’s individual voice. It took place at Los Angeles City Hall.
Oh Cosmonaut, She Looks for Where She was Born | 2010 Commissioned by the Link Vostok International East-West Arts Exchange to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of Yaroslavl, Oh Cosmonaut was inspired by the life of Yaroslavl resident Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman cosmonaut who traveled in space in 1963. It was part of the 9th International Festival on the Volga, Yaroslavl & Kotroma, Russia.
Longing in Hong Kong | 2007 This site-specific work in a commercial district of Hong Kong was commissioned and presented during Swire Island East’s Urban Dance Festival. Five Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre dancers performed inside the glass-enclosed Lincoln Bridge as well as throughout the surrounding architecture, and on Tong Chong Street below.
Laundromatinee | 1980s–2010 As Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre’s signature site-specific work, Laundromatinee was originally performed at the Thriftywash in Santa Monica in the company’s early days. Its 2010 reprise at the Spin Cycle Laundr-o-mat, Historic Filipinotown, Los Angeles, won it recognition by the National Endowment for the Arts as an American Masterpiece. It was also reprised in New York in 2006, as part of the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council’s Sitelines Festival.
Cattle Calls | 1991 This western-themeed work was choreographed by Heidi Duckler and performed by Collage Dance Company members. It premiered at The Powerhouse, Santa Monica.
Foundations | 1990 This site-specific work by Collage Dance Theatre was performed in and around an outdoor reflecting pool at Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles. Set elements included floating fluorescent letters, reconfigured fishing equipment, and a rusty bicycle.
Church of Food | 1990 Choreographed by Heidi Duckler and performed by Collage Dance Theatre, this ensemble work had its premiere at Unitarian Community Church of Santa Monica, CA.
- "Heidi Duckler, 2012 Distinguished Alumna". School of Music and Dance. University of Oregon. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
- "Performance Gallery". HDDT. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
- "Heidi Duckler, Artistic Director". HDDT. Retrieved July 21, 2012.
- Breslauer, Jan (August 17, 1990). "Heidi Duckler Serves Up 'Church of Food'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
- "About the Company". HDDT. Retrieved July 21, 2012. Also contains the mission statement.
- Josephs, Susan. Heidi Duckler Dance Theatre Prepares Cleopatra, CEO. Los Angeles Times Feb. 2012
- Josephs, Susan. For Heidi Duckler, it's Location, Location, Location. Los Angeles Times Feb. 2010
- Segal, Lewis, "Top Wulf on the Street". Los Angeles Times, November 19, 2007
- Dunning, Jennifer, "Performers Conjure Life, Loss and Lint Traps". New York Times, July 16, 2006