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Showgirls, photo by Svelta Atanasova

Karen Bernard is known for creating a storm of references on the body. In Showgirls, she delves into a delicious deconstruction of glamour in decline. Using evocative imagery of a crumbling Venice juxtaposed with sumptuously adorned dancers in high heels who strut their stuff unapologetically, Bernard orchestrates a visually rich and thought provoking performance that swirls around the audience. Bernard’s Showgirls recognize their imperfections and deny those of the world around them, creating an emotionally charged and complex.

In the summer of 2016, during a residency at the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice, Italy, Karen Bernard was inspired by the city of Venice whose impermanence likens itself to the gracelessness of an aging woman,she gathered photos of facades of Venice architecture. Bernard has been researching period music and images of the 50’s/60’s in Italy.

She has begun to work with dramaturg Andi Stover to flesh out the subtle meanings behind the work. They have discussed exploring the pacing allowing the audience to settle into the meaning of the images; manipulation of set, sound and projection as it relates to the audience in a shared space; finding source material related to Venice and its slow decline; delving deeper into the personal connection with past and present; and the roles and relationships of the performers.

This spring, Bernard will be a resident artist at BkSD, Brooklyn Studios for Dance, to further develop Showgirls culminating in a performance/installation that will take place in May 17-19, 2018.

Development of Showgirls has also been made possible through E|MERGE Interdisciplinary Artist Residency at Earthdance and LiftOff Creative and Project Development Workshop.

Creation and Performance: Karen Bernard
In collaboration with performers: Rachel Thorne Germond and Jil Guyon
Dramaturg: Andi Stover
Video editor: Jil Guyon
Costumes: Hwa Park in collaboration with Karen Bernard
Lighting Consultant: Emma Rivera
Technical Assistant: Dan Pavsic

Bernard has created a digital archive transferring past works from VHS as far back as 1986 through 2006. Historically, Bernard choreographed exclusively for herself. Now she has begun to stage these solos for other performers as a way of dealing with the challenges of aging and the passage of time.

Reperformance: 1993-1996 It Could Have Been Different, a series of four excerpted works with costumes by Liz Prince, was performed by Donna Costello, Jil Guyon, Mersiha Mesihovic, Ryan Migge, Lisa Parra, and Stacy Lynn Smith at Triskelion Arts in New York City in October 2014 and reprized at Soaking WET in New York City in September 2015.

Deepening this research mining another seminal work from 1999 called Vinyl, Bernard began a new work, Vinyl Retro, with long-time colleague Barbara Mahler through Dance and Process at The Kitchen in New York City, which culminated in performances in May, 2016.

In the summer of 2016, a residency at the Emily Harvey Foundation in Venice, Italy provided the time to revisit the archives  During this process, she was struck by the minimal, raw movements and physical embodiment of her dances, has  inspired an expansive palette for making new pieces.

This investigation included re-purposing physical material and concepts from the past twenty-five years of dance-making, in addition to the creation of sourced photographs, video and sound scores. Resources such as time, space and a location with the potential for spontaneous, improvisation reactions impact the development of this work.