June 26, 2014

Photo Credit: Yi-Chun Wu


Location: Manhattan, NY


Artist’s Work:



Manhattan, NY



Barkin/Selissen Project, led by Kyla Barkin and Aaron Selissen, is a NYC based dance-arts company focused on interdisciplinary collaboration and thought provoking, emotionally driven work. The company has worked with FALKOR Systems and their autonomous pet drone, Sirius String Quartet, Ray Anderson, was commissioned by James Simons to create Differential Cohomology, and by Balance 1 (Berlin, Germany) to create Indelible Cognition. B/S P has been presented by or featured at The Staller Center, Jacob’s Pillow Inside/Out Festival, Flushing Town Hall, Joyce SOHO, American Dance Guild, Tempe Center for the Arts, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Insider, and more.

Consenses Interview with Sally Taylor:

Your Name: Kyla Barkin & Aaron Selissen
Where you live: NYC (East Harlem & Nolita)
Where you came from: Phoenix, AZ & Green Bay, WI
Your Medium: Dance
The name of your work: Concrete Illusion

What made you want to participate in this project?
We were intrigued by the invitation and the design of the process. The intuitive freedom and spontaneity it cultivates is well aligned with some of our current goals. We feel strongly about collaboration as well as artistic individuality and this was also the perfect opportunity to share in a unique method that merges collaboration with independence and mystery.

What was your first reaction to the music? (thoughts, emotions, memories, tastes, smells etc?)
Gray, silver, industrial, dripping water, helicopter sound, spiral zipper, alien meditation song, ritual, circles, sonars, a sense of openness, calmness, and power within a private or solitary setting. Secrecy. A sense of witnessing and connecting with something/one yet maintaining autonomy. An alley tap dance in a puddle/rain, the desert, a stairwell with many flights of stairs. A being, transcendent of space and time, an alley kid, an out-of-body experience.

If you had to choose one word to sum up the song what would it be?

What was the music about for you?
The ambient sounds of some form of timeless ritual.

Take me through each step of your process from getting the music to the creation of your dance. Also where was it shot and what made you choose this location?
Day 1. We listened to the music in isolation from each other, in order to allow our individual interpretations to take shape, and decided we would discuss them immediately after. Once we shared the images that came to us, we began to riff on some ideas and from the most vivid and interesting, we developed a basic scenario. We then discussed ideas for the style of the video and the potential settings for the dance.
Days 2 – 4. We entered the studio with an idea of the movement and essence of what we wanted to create. We developed a series of movement phrases and image sequences and the piece began to form. We knew we would not necessarily find our ideal location on such short notice in NYC (this would be some type of outdoor industrial setting available at night), so we looked for the closest thing possible and vetted locations to film, with top choices being in Chinatown in Manhattan and DUMBO in Brooklyn.
Day 5. We arrived at our first choice location, which was in Chinatown, and found it was the practically the perfect setting and, for the most part, it was available. It was rich in color and texture and gave us the sense of the alley we envisioned. With a little help from friends, we quickly claimed the space, set up, and shot the dance in a few hours.
Days 6 and 7. We uploaded and sifted through the footage, then began the process of editing. It took a couple days of making choices and refining our ideas until we had what felt like the semblance of a dance film that best communicated the dance. After various drafts and revisions, we had our piece!

What did you title your work and why?
“Concrete Illusion”. We chose this title as a verbal expression derived from our initial imagery. Additionally, we felt as though it hinted at the spirit of the piece and was an interesting play on words in regards to the story.

What part of your dance came to you first?
The first thing we were sure of was the environment. Next was the feeling and image of seeing someone actively witnessing something private and of intrigue. The first view of the dance itself was imagined as the fingers reaching around the corner, then of her view of the entity engaged in the ritual.

How do you normally create? How was this experience different?
We utilize different methods and approach each new piece from the point of view it was conceived. By this we mean that sometimes we imagine the full piece in our minds and it is just a matter of communicating and executing, while other times we enter with a concept and/or a more open slate and allow the process and piece to unfold. Sometimes we have a task-based process following a research period and other times we explore and collaborate within a more process-based journey. We often use improvisation at some point whether to introduce new members to the company, to further immerse ourselves in a quality or skill that will be called for, or for the purpose of developing movement. In this particular case we used a combination of pre-conceived images and movement, structured improvisation, themes & variations, and a lot of flexibility to rearrange things based on the potential unknowns at the site. For example, we could not use all angles desired due to various cars and other crews attempting to shoot in the same alley. We also could not perfectly predict the landscape and its relationship to the exact movement in advance since we created in the studio. We also could not rehearse in the alley as it was a bit inconsistent in regards to safety, crowds, noise, and weather (in fact, costumes were slightly altered due to excessive heat, and ambient noise was too high for the dancers to hear the music that day)! Everyone involved remained at ease in the spirit of going with the flow for this project and all were able to make various creative and technical adjustments as needed to communicate the essence!

What techniques/tools did you use to help you express you’re interpretation
Visualization. Different camera angles and takes. Color schemes and costume choices. Structured improvisation. Storyboarding. Free-flowing followed by collaborating and crafting.

Are there certain choices you made which mean something specific to you that the observer might not know?
There may be; however, we feel it is all best left open to interpretation.

Extra credit: Did you enjoy this project? More you want to say about your experience?
This project was a lot of fun for us. The time frame and direction to intuit the essence of the music aided us in generating material freely without overanalyzing. It was truly a magical week!
Meanwhile, we have enjoyed this so much, we are inspired to create a series of “7-day dances”. The experience of having such a limited time was actually quite beautiful and allowed for much freedom within the intuitive process!

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