Brian Sanders' JUNK dance troupe makes its New York City debut at the Pace University Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts this weekend. From March 6 to 8, JUNK, which started in Philadelphia in 1997, will showcase its choreography, which incorporates found objects into movement.
“I just started as a creative artist and a trash picker at the same time,” Sanders said about the origins of JUNK. He did gymnastics as a child and was classically trained in ballet, and he reinterprets these styles through his own vision.
“My work is highly acrobatic and experimental at the same time, so, for instance, I have a pogo stick ballet,” he said.
“He found in a dumpster, like, a blown-out window pane from a factory that's been turned into this circular, very magical object,” Billy Robinson, a dancer in JUNK since 2008, said of one of the props Sanders incorporated into the Pace performance.
Sanders said that the window frame came from a building near his home that has since been turned into a condominium complex.
“It became this sort of aerial ballet piece,” he said. “All the lines of the piece are very classical in nature. And then, on top of that, the artist is spinning for six minutes straight.”
According to Robinson, Sanders' use of found objects is a good way of adding variety to the performances.
“Brian always looks for different objects to act on or play with or manipulate, so there's always a new challenge,” Robinson said. “And in that light, you feel very capable and confident that what you're going to do is something ... different from what you did the year before or the show before.”
“His whole kind of idea for us is to discover new movement within the prop that's not really what it should be used for initially and give it new light,” Tommy Schimmel, a dancer who has been with JUNK for over three years, said. “Instead of using the body alone to create an image, he wants almost the body to—at least in my standpoint—become kind of a part of the prop.”
One of the dance pieces at the end of the Pace show's first act is called “Threshold.” “That's probably my favorite piece just because of all the different ways we use the doors,” Schimmel said. “You know, we travel with them, they flow, and then we use them to have relationships, counterbalance with our partner.”
As choreographer and artistic director, Sanders holds a large amount of creative control over his company and holds up every component as vital to his show.
“We have the sculpture doing his part, the dancers—I call them movement artists—doing their part, and then we have the lighting designer, and we have the music, soundscape, or whatever, you know, the music track is. And they're all, like, equally important to me. The costume track is just as important, too, in every piece. I'm not a tights and light creator.”
JUNK has toured before, but this is the first time the company will perform in New York City. Nevertheless, new territory is familiar for Sanders and his company.
“I'm very much not about discovering something new but reinventing the old into something new,” Sanders said. “And that's what JUNK is about: It's about saying that there's plenty of people inventing new. I don't need to do that because I'm not sure it's even possible. There's only so much the human body can do.”
JUNK runs from March 6 to 8. Performances are at the Pace University Michael Schimmel Center for the Arts. Tickets start at $25.