Mary Wohl Haan

Mary Wohl Haan
March 21, 2016 Jane E. Werle

RIDING THE EDGE WITH MARY WOHL HAAN


 

Calling choreographers! Creative whirlwind (dancer, choreographer, human) Mary Wohl Haan seeks similarly spontaneous artists with whom to collaborate. Bring your wild ideas and careful plans to an exploration of the edges of expectation as we become more, together.

 

Photo by Jamie Kraus Photography.

Photo by Jamie Kraus Photography.

Mary Wohl Haan’s focus on movement and expression for all is the basis of her artistic commitment. Haan is immersed in the idea or concept of self in space, in relationship to and with other people, things and ideas. She proposes movement as the manipulation of these relationships for the purpose of understanding and expanding them. She works (seemingly tirelessly!) to make movement accessible, appealing and effective for the community.

Her job for the City of Boulder Office of Arts + Culture as a coordinator of Creative Sector Initiatives includes the direction of Dance Bridge, which grew out of necessity and a community desire to address some of the unmet needs of dancers and dance companies in the Boulder area. A dance resource, networking and leadership program, Dance Bridge annually presents “ Dance is for Every Body! ” an inclusive, free community event that showcases and celebrates diverse dance and movement art(ists) from along the Front Range. Haan seeks to expand this program to involve even more dancers and kinds of dance, and to further knit and connect interested, involved, and curious folks.

From her initial contact with Boulder Dance Alliance when she first moved to Colorado in 1989 to her current influence on the cultural future of Boulder, Haan has witnessed an ebb and flow of interest, funding, and organizational participation. She notes that there is a tremendous amount of talent in the area, and is excited for what she perceives as a rising renewal of the energy and growth potential she experienced here initially. Haan knows from extensive personal experience that the overlapping of dancers, companies, organizations, and audiences enrich and bond our coexistence, as well as being necessary for our area’s artistic development and success.

Photo by Jamie Kraus Photography.

Photo by Jamie Kraus Photography.

The artistic director of HAAN Dances, Haan is also a passionate and compassionate teacher, focused on adult (and teen!) community classes. While she realizes that arts education for kids is crucial, she feels strongly that continuing (adult) education is important too. She encourages her students to experiment, to move freely, to indulge in play and the joy of creation. Adults need opportunities to learn new things, just as children are constantly expected to do.

Play and the importance of imagination in Haan’s worldview is evident in her creative dance for camera work. Video extends her choreographic reach, enabling Haan to manipulate perspective and challenge points of view. See the exaggerated movements and facial expressions (and note how she incorporates strategic sound and editing components) in 101: Having Fun, 202: Off Shore or 303: A Good Day in the Field. I also admire her ability to convey conceptually rich and otherworldly environments (see Alone).

Haan discovered dance as a young adult, when she was a pre-med freshman in college and attended an Eleo Pomare master class with her roommate. In light of the new world that opened up for her, Haan’s enduring interest in the body shifted from medicine to dance. Physically and intellectually intrigued, Haan changed schools and programs and studied under Elaine Valois at the University of Toledo. Workshops, travel and guest teachers exposed Haan to a variety of disciplines and techniques. After receiving her M.F.A. in Dance from the University of Utah, she was invited to become a part of Chicago based Mordine & Company Dance Theater.

Photo by Jamie Kraus Photography.

Photo by Jamie Kraus Photography.

Of company founder and Artistic Director Shirley Mordine, Haan says, “her rich and demanding eye for the true theater of the body helped develop my voice as an artist, especially as she recognized my ability to tap into sensation.” That natural tendency toward self-awareness (and its resultant empathy) shines through Haan’s everyday interactions as well as in her work, especially her collaborations. When she speaks of appreciating “the sensual beings that we are,” she is accepting that aspect of herself, but she is also recognizing the depths of the feeling and thinking beings all around her.

Since settling in Colorado, Haan has choreographed more than forty dances and produced more than twenty concerts. For a more comprehensive listing of some of Haan’s many accomplishments and awards, visit http://www.haandances.com/about.html.


 

Jane E. Werle: At three months of age Jane E. Werle, unable to protest, was removed from Loveland, Colorado by her well-meaning parents. In 2004 she was able to rectify this error when she relocated from Massachusetts to Boulder for graduate school. One M.F.A. and a husband later, Jane works to further the arts in the Front Range as a writer (reviewer, interviewer, curator) and enthusiast (no-shame, first-on-the-floor amateur– despite some training– dancer). Jane is also a longtime nanny and a visual artist, taking one of these very seriously and the other as a growth experience. Every child she’s cared for has experienced some form of the SDP: Spontaneous Dance Party.

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