Reflecting on Platform

Written by Liane Burns

As Charlie and I make the final changes to the piece, the production team perfects the intricate lighting, video, and set design for the work, and we all gear up for Platform’s world premiere, I feel fortunate to take the time to reflect on how it all began.

Photo by Kegan Marling

Photo by Kegan Marling

Since moving to San Francisco in 2012, I have been a part of FACT/SF’s many unique, creative processes and performances as both dancer and collaborator. Each of us in the company helps shape the work by generating material and providing feedback, with Charlie as the director with final veto power. Platform’s process was significantly different for both him and myself, as we agreed to equally share creative input and authority throughout the creative process. Having been on the dancer/collaborator side of the relationship for so many years, I had my own concerns for myself and Charlie. Would I feel comfortable speaking up? Would Charlie be able to loosen the reins and share the responsibility with me?  

In 2015, sitting at a bar and sipping sangria, Charlie (my boss, colleague, and someone who would become a dear friend and creative partner), asked if I had listened to Holly Herndon’s latest album, Platform. I could tell by the enthusiasm in his voice how completely stoked he was about the music. Having danced in FACT/SF’s Relief to one of Herndon’s tracks from her first album, Movement, I shared Charlie’s appreciation for Herndon’s genius. Charlie already knew I had a desire to choreograph my own work, and asked if I would be interested in co-creating a duet to Platform, the album. I was like, “Hell yes!”

Without a budget, plan, or premiere date, we both committed right then and there at the bar, not only to make a duet together, but to use every single track on the album. What seemed like two simple guidelines at the time turned out to be both a challenge, and a wonderful way of pushing us to make new choices together that we might never have made on our own. Platform’s journey has been an exciting and adventurous two years, due in large part to Charlie’s experience and knowledge as a director and dance maker, to the team of creative advisors and designers who generously agreed to help shape the work, and to FACT/SF’s supportive community. I am forever grateful to both Charlie and the Company for believing and trusting in me.

Over the last two years, iterations of Platform have been shown in San Francisco, Bulgaria, and Serbia. Platform v.1 was created and performed in San Francisco for FACT/SF’s JuMP 2016. These first three sections took the longest of all 10 tracks to make, largely because Charlie and I had to learn how to co-create a work together. This process was slow, tedious, and considerate, resulting in 2 of the most intricate and detailed sections of the work. Soon after closing JuMP 2016, Charlie and I flew to the Balkans for a creative residency in Bulgaria and to teach and perform in Serbia. I found our 5 weeks traveling, teaching, and performing in the Balkans to be the most significant part of the overall process. Not only were we given the time to focus solely on dance, but we lived, worked, ate, drank, and shared an apartment together. In this time, I got to know Charlie as a person and a friend, not just a boss or colleague. The Balkans trip provided us with a deeper and more comfortable working relationship and a completely new audience, which allowed us to make more risky and unapologetic choices for Platform v.2.

Photo by Andrew Weeks

Photo by Andrew Weeks

What I love most about Platform is that it is made out of collaboration. Darl Andrew Packard and Delayne Medoff, two lighting designers with a history of working with FACT/SF, have co-designed the lighting for Platform. Monique Jenkinson (Stylist) and Keriann Egeland (Costume Designer) collaborated to give us our looks. Cara Rose DeFabio (Dramaturge), and James Fleming & Maurya Kerr (Creative Advisors), are all familiar with FACT/SF’s work and provided feedback and insight throughout the creative process. This fantastic team significantly helped me and Charlie shape Platform.

What a journey! Each iteration and performance of the work gave us the opportunity to test out ideas on a live audience, and to then learn and reflect on the choices we had made and where we wanted to go next. From its first performance in JuMP 2016 to its premiere this Friday and Saturday, Platform has developed into something I am both honored and proud to share with each of you who come to support and witness. I know I can speak for both Charlie and myself when I say we are ready and excited to share the little dance baby we made together called Platform. See you at the show!

Liane has spent the last four years working in San Francisco as a company member and collaborator with FACT/SF and detour dance, and as a guest artist with Simpson/Stulberg Collaborations, RAWdance, LEVYdance, and Christine Bonansea. Liane is the Lead Instructor at Elevate Group Fitness, and corporate Group Fitness Instructor with City Move’n Fitness. Liane received her BFA in Dance and Performance from Chapman University, and completed her postgraduate studies in Israel at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance. While living in Israel, she additionally apprenticed and performed with Amir Kolben's Kolben Dance Company. She has both performed and created work in Orange County, San Francisco, Israel, Bulgaria and Serbia.


[Editor's Note: FACT/SF invited Platform collaborators to write about their experiences witnessing rehearsals and contributing to the development of the work. In addition to the writing above by Platform Co-Choreographer, Liane Burns, FACT/SF has also shared reflections from James Fleming (Creative Advisor), Maurya Kerr (Creative Advisor), Cara Rose DeFabio (Dramaturge), and Charles Slender-White (Co-Choreographer). In offering these thoughts, questions, observations, and impressions, FACT/SF aims to provide some insight into our creative process and a bit of context for Platform's conceptual considerations.]