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erratic dancer /

janet pa n t s dance By L i sa Sc hon berg p hot o by nat h a n bac ko us

Jane Paik’s work has been described as “punk rock in dance form.” She usually performs with bands at house shows, galleries, and clubs, rather than in traditional dance venues. Energetic, frantic, pulsating yet graceful, her actual style itself doesn’t follow any preconceived notions of what dance is supposed to be. She also drums, sings, and plays guitar in her performances.

Tom Tom Magazine: How long have you been dancing? Jane Paik: I suppose, in some

ways, I’ve been dancing my whole life, but I took my first ballet class when I was 17. Then I studied modern for a couple years after that. Since then I have been mainly self-taught, though I do try to take classes when I get the chance. Were there any specific dancers, performers, or musicians who originally helped inspire and inform your style? Katie Eastburn and Lindsay Beamish, my two

dance mates. German choreographer Pina Bausch–who I consider my permission slip to start putting my ideas up–is probably my hero. Merce Cunningham works for me theoretically, but not always in result. Early Madonna, Bikini Kill, and the Centimeters are all bands that used to sort of put a spell on me. I would actually feel a compulsion to dance when hearing or seeing them–like the story The Red Shoes– and when I did, it always felt very pure to me. Having collaborated with you many times in my bands, Explode into Colors and STLS, I know that you have a fine-tuned sense of rhythm. Are there aspects of your process of choreography that are similar to that of a drummer writing a beat? For instance, do you find yourself tapping out rhythms, or counting them in your head, before you dance them out? Do you use syncopated rhythms in your movements? I choreograph

more in the vein of how a guitar riff would work. Rather than always staying directly on top of the beat, I work through it as well, so, yes, syncopated rhythms will come through. I ought to count more when it comes to choreographing, but I’m sort of poor at it. Instead, I tend to feel moments in the music and place things where I want them when dancing by myself. When working on group choreography, counting becomes more of a necessity so everyone can be at the right place at the right time. I am forced to count more when I’m taking classes, because most choreographers do base their choreography off counts. Oddly enough, I find that I choreograph in silence a fair amount of time. Has anything been especially challenging to you as a dancer learning drums?

Maintaining a steady beat has been challenging. I am a bit of an erratic dancer and that seems to manifest itself on the drum kit as well. I can totally find and respond to rhythm in crazy places in music, but if I have to be the one holding it down I have the tendency to lose it. I teach drums. The most common challenges for my students are finding a balance between the right and left hands, and holding their body without tension. What is your experience with this?

I am pretty good at being ambidextrous, though my left is definitely my weaker side. Just like in dance, I actually enjoy technique, so I don’t have a problem with trying things out on both sides. In terms of form, I recently was told that I should play with my wrists rather than my entire body and was complimented on how quickly I was able to implement that. In those aspects of drumming, dancing has definitely accelerated my learning process. Thoughts on Dance and Drums by Jane Paik I think dancers belong behind drum kits. There is a

The irony is that I have a fine-tuned sense of rhythm

kinship and a crossover. It is unearthing a part of

i n t o t a l l y d i ff e r e n t w a y s t h a t c o m e o u t w h e n I d a n c e .

yourself that is already there. Drumming is dancing in a

Somehow my body is able to get right inside music and

whole new way. It is primal and physical. It is action and

c a p t u r e m u lt i p l e r h y t h m s at o n c e . i t ' s c h a l l e n g i n g , a s

it is meditation. It is limbs working together and limbs

are transitions, but like anything, practice is key. The

w o r k i n g s e pa r at e ly . A n u m b e r o f m y fav o r i t e d r u m m e r s —

ambidextrous coordination I’ve developed from dancing

Knansie Sandercock (Polar Goldie Cats), Busy Gagnes

h a s a l l o w e d m e t o a c c e l e r a t e a t d i ff e r e n t a s p e c t s

( T e l e p a t h e ) , H e a t h e r T r e a d w a y ( Ex p l o d e I n t o C o l o r s ) — a r e

of drumming.

all dancers. I’ll confess, I’m terrible at counting out rhythms, and

There are already so many great drummers around

h a v e o f t e n f o u n d i t d i ff i c u l t t o k e e p a s t e a d y b e a t .

me that it feels awkward to put myself out there as

Though I’ve been drawn to the drums for some time,

another one. But I’m on a mission of sorts to create an

somewhere along the way I was told I couldn’t keep a

experience and an experiment. It’s an act of defying the

beat and never trusted myself to find it. I couldn’t shake

naysayers who said I couldn’t, it’s an act to say that

the desire though, so I kept returning. when someone

it’s never too late. It is an exercise of building my

f i n a l ly s h o w e d m e t h at I c o u l d k e e p a b e at , I s t a r t e d t o

rhythm muscles, a method of improving the musicianship

trust that instead.

in my dance. And it just feels good.


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Tom Tom Magazine Issue #4  

This is the fourth issue of Tom Tom Magazine marking the end of our first year in print. Susie Ibarra on the cover and Evelyn Glennie on the...

Tom Tom Magazine Issue #4  

This is the fourth issue of Tom Tom Magazine marking the end of our first year in print. Susie Ibarra on the cover and Evelyn Glennie on the...