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Meet Koryn Ann Wicks

Today we’d like to introduce you to Koryn Ann Wicks.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I’m never sure where to start… These days I identify myself as a choreographer, multimedia artist and immersive dance maker. I’ve been dancing and choreographing most of my life. My parents put me in baby ballet and I took to it. I couldn’t get enough.

Throughout my childhood and teen years, I was always taking dance classes, participating in community performances, finding opportunities to choreograph for school events, etc. It’s a pretty common story in the dance world.

At 18, I moved to New York to study dance at the Ailey School. I graduated with honors and spent some time performing in the downtown dance scene there and in Montreal. All this time, I choreographed my own work and showed it at a variety of formal and informal venues. I enjoyed this period of my life but felt somewhat unfulfilled. I was very frustrated by the intimacy of the dance scene. I felt like I was part of a community of dancers making dance for dancers and I wanted to connect with a larger swath of the population. In 2015, I decided to go to Grad School and moved to California where I studied dance at the University of California, Irvine.

I feel like it was during my graduate studies that I really found my voice as an artist. I went to UCI with the intention of focusing my research on dance and film but connected with a few different professors (John Crawford, Lisa Naugle and Chad Michael Hall) who got me interested in working with interactive media, video and projection. At the same time, I was thinking about how to get audiences more interested and engaged in dance. I started researching immersive theater and the ways immersivity can effect audiences’ experience of dance. Ultimately, my research led me to the creation of Keepsake, an immersive multimedia dance concert exploring nostalgia. Keepsake helped me create a format and toolbox — in terms of how I apply multimedia elements, interaction and immersivity in my work — it’s a format I’ve adapted to a lot of the work I’ve created since.

After graduating, I moved to LA. It took me about a year to establish myself and connect with the team I work with now. I don’t have a company per-say but I work with a network of artists to create immersive, multimedia dance concerts. I conceive of and choreograph the piece and also create the interactive video and projection for my work. I work with an incredible design team including sound/performance artist Alex Lough, lighting designer Morgan Embry, scenic designer Eliana Mullins, writer Sam Alper and videographer Tina Sinlapasai. Dancers I’ve worked with include Jemima Choong, Robyn O’Dell, Jessie Ryan and Brittany Tran, Other performers I’ve brought in include Chris Tyler and Hanah Davenport.

In 2019, I’ve been showing work all over Los Angeles. I premiered I love you so much, SQUEEZE ME TO DEATH (ILUSQME2) at Highways Performance Space. It went up for its second run at the Bootleg Theater October 18th-20th and an excerpt will be at Slamdance DiG Oct 24-25th. My piece Casting also won the grand prize at the first LA Immersive Invitational.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Hahahaha, no.

In fact, right before I was about to start grad school, I thought for a moment I was going to have to make a complete career change. Literally, three months before I moved to California, I was hit by a car crossing the street in New York. I broke my leg in two places and was in a cast all the way up to my thigh. I spent the summer practically bed-ridden in a three-story walk-up. Due to luck, good genes or stubbornness I had a near-full recovery. I kind of just showed up at UCI in a cast with an attitude of, “so what? Here I am.”

In more general terms, making art is hard and rejection is a big part of it. I am a very sensitive person and do not take rejection well. It took me a long time learn to trust myself as an artist and to stop looking for validation.

Making immersive and multimedia art also comes with its own set of challenges, cost being a major one. When I first left grad school, I applied to every grant and residency I could find. Unfortunately, I could not find the kind of financial and institutional support I was looking for. I realized that if I was going to continue making work, I needed to be my own champion. So I got myself into the studio and started making work. I met with theater curators and pitched ILUSQME2. I worked my ass off to cover theater costs, studio rentals, cameras, sets, etc. I reached out to friends and collaborators and came to the amazing realization that I was surrounded by incredibly talented people open to helping me create. It took shaking off the need for someone to say, “you’re good enough. This work is good enough,” to get me where I am today.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I create immersive, multimedia dance. In my work, audiences are invited into the performance space alongside the performers. My work includes choreographed and improvised elements; both of which offer opportunities for audience interaction. The design elements in my work are also created for audience interaction. I use interactive sound, video, projection and lighting design in my work. Morgan Embry and Alex Lough have been a massive part of developing this aspect of my work. All 3 of us bring our own expertise to the work; I work with video and projection, Morgan works with light and projection and Alex works with sound. Even though we all work in different mediums, we share a similar view of how media should function in immersive settings and we work together to conceive of the installations for each piece. In general I’d say we try to make any use of multimedia interaction intuitive and seamless based on the audience’s role in a given piece.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with ILUSQME2 – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of and what sets you apart from others.
I’m incredibly proud of ILUSQME2. Our run at Highways sold-out. We got an amazing audience response and a glowing review in No Proscenium, the leading publication on immersive theater. I’m also proud of Casting. For the immersive invitational, we had 48 hours to conceive of, create, rehearse and perform a 15-20min immersive piece. We ended up developing this incredibly unique piece that was at once funny, absurd and touching.

I think that my depth of understanding of immersive practices sets my work apart from other immersive performances and companies. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking and writing about immersive theater. I’ve learned and developed a lot of tools for dealing with questions of consent, invitations and social frames in immersive spaces. I also think I have knack for evoking experiences using a variety of mediums. In ILUSQME2 we use dance, spoken text, and interactive media to create a sort of live collage that lets the audience co-author the meaning of the work based on their experience of it.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
I’m very excited to show work at Slamdance DiG. The festival takes place in the Wisdome in DTLA, an incredible immersive art space in Los Angeles. For an immersive creator that’s like the Louvre of venues.


Contact Info:

Photo by Erick Lawton. Dancers left to right: Brittany Tran, Jessie Ryan and Robyn O’Dell in ILUSQME2 at Highways Performance Space.

Photo by Erick Lawton. Dancer Brittany Tran in ILUSQME2 at Highways Performance Space.

Photo by Erick Lawton. ILUSQME2 at Highways Performance Space.

Photo by Julia Bennett.

Photo by Julia Bennett.

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