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Friday, November 28, 2014

BAM Blog Questionnaire:
Kirk Henning of The Wanderer

In choreographer Jessica Lang’s The Wanderer, which will have its world premiere December 3—6 at BAM Fisher, Lang weaves a ballet that imaginatively interprets Franz Schubert’s song cycle Die schöne Müllerin. Scubert’s score is performed by live musicians who not only accompany, but also interact with the dance. Weaving a tale of love and jealousy, dancers, musicians and scenic design transform the intimate Fishman space into an otherworldly dreamscape. 

Kirk Henning, a founding member of Jessica Lang Dance, performs the title role in the work. The Wanderer is a man who unwittingly falls in love by a brook and subsequently falls into maddening disillusion and despair. In addition to working with JLD, Henning also dances for The Suzanne Farrell Ballet. As he was preparing for his first time performing in the BAM Fisher, Henning answered a few questions for our blog questionnaire.

Kirk Henning and Laura Mead rehearsing for The Wanderer. Photo: Milan Misko
What artist do I admire from a field other than your own?

Picking an artist I admire outside of my genre of dance should be easy, but there are so many that have influenced me throughout my life. It is hard to just pick one. For instance, I love the film actor Gary Oldman—not just because I think he is an incredible actor, but because he influenced me during a part of my life that I needed it. I once had to perform a role where I had to be villainous and, at the time, it was extremely difficult for me to get into the role. I had no idea then who Gary Oldman was—I just remembered a character he played, and so I watched that performance in an attempt to glean some inspiration. After learning who he was, and seeing other villains he played, I was left with admiration for what he does and how thoughtfully he tells a story.

I also love the composer Philip Glass. I have loved and appreciated music my whole life, but he made me, at one point, look at music in a different way. That inspiration has stayed with me.

What is the biggest risk you have taken?

As a dancer, I feel I take risks every day—whether it is physically throwing myself into something, or emotionally trying something new (or something old in a new way). One of the scariest moments in my life was the first time I left company life and started to freelance on my own. It was very challenging to line up shows, find time to take class, book travel, and juggle what was fiscally-viable and artistically-fulfilling. Life is still full of risks, but—like that first year of dancing as a freelance artist—they make you smarter and stronger.

Kirk Henning and Laura Mead in The Wanderer. Photo: Stephanie Berger
What ritual or superstition do you have on performance days?

I really try to not get too caught up in having a set ritual or series of superstitions to follow. I used to have a few, mainly things I have seen and picked up from others—but I let those go as much as possible. I still find myself not whistling in a theater or making sure my shoes are never on a shelf above my head, but I found life is better when you are focusing on things that actually matter.

What am I looking forward to most about performing at BAM?

The BAM Fisher is such a unique space. Having an audience on two sides is going to be challenging and fun, and having a balcony to work with is going to be exciting.

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