My Music. My Story. is one of Classical Music Indy’s initiatives to feature music, musicians, and music lovers in a fun way. This week we spoke with Caitlin Negron, modern dancer with Dance Kaleidescope and co-founder of Indy Convergence. Caitlin talks about how her father inspired a lifelong connection with music, what it’s like to be an artist in Indianapolis, and how Indy Convergence connects artists to the community.
Caitlin Negron: My Music. My Story.
What is your favorite kind of music and why?
I don’t think I can pick one favorite kind of music. Usually when someone asks, I just tell them ‘anything that doesn’t yell at me’. I feel lucky that dancing brings so many different kinds of music into my life that I’d never think to listen to. If I absolutely had to pick a favorite kind, I guess I’d go with the singer/songwriter genre, or blues, or early 90s R&B, or whatever category Flogging Molly falls into.
What does music mean to you?
That’s a tough question! It’s everything I think and feel about dance. It’s an art form that doesn’t need a language to tell its story or capture a feeling, it’s all the spaces (and deep breaths) in between all the words that fill our days.
How has music influenced your life?
I forget sometimes that my entire day is filled with music- piano for ballet class, percussion for modern and anything from Phillip Glass to Ella Fitzgerald during rehearsals. As much as dance defines me, music does too. It’s an essential part of how I have to work as an artist. I value the time we get to spend with each piece in rehearsals to find the ebb and flow, subtle shifts in tempo, and barely perceptible instruments that make a composition into it’s fullest self.
Outside the studio, like most people, I have very distinct phases of my life that are attached to certain types of bands and when that certain song comes on it transports you to a very specific place, time, smell, feeling, relationship or milestone. I’m a pretty nostalgic person, so I love that music can instantly take me back to middle school, summer vacation, or even a terrible, dramatic break-up.
On a more personal level music has shaped my relationship with my dad. He taught me how to dance in the kitchen to Muddy Waters, BB King, and John Lee Hooker. Every day before school he insisted we have a “morning song” to pump us up before I headed off to school and he went to work. He went through a weird Dixie Chicks phase and loved finding obscure classical pieces to share with me and my brothers. Music was always on in our house. I think I did my first dance performance in my parents living room inspired by a Dolly Parton song he and my mom loved. Today my dad still sends me songs he thinks I should dance to and can’t sit still if there’s a dance floor at weddings or parties. In many ways his unabashed love of music led me to my life in dance.
How does music and the work you do with Indy Convergence intersect?
Indy Convergence gives me a chance to meet and work with musicians that I would never get to work with on such an intimate level. I’m actually really intimidated by musicians. Every time I watch someone play, I am bowled over by their ability to blow air into an instrument or run a bow across stings and create such beautiful sounds. During our residencies I get to ask musicians silly questions and understand a little bit better how they work and create – it’s wonderful. I also love seeing how musicians help develop other artists’ work. One year a choreographer unexpectedly added in an opera singer to his project because he heard her warm-up exercises during his rehearsal. It added this beautiful sense of urgency to his work that forced the dancers into a new headspace that, I think, ultimately created a more interesting piece.
What is the best part about the work you do at Indy Convergence?
I love helping connect artists to people they would never work with normally. It’s amazing to see a writer form Toronto collaborate with a filmmaker from Indianapolis and a musician from New York, then ten minutes later see the same people create something completely new and different with five other artists from other places and backgrounds. I’m also thrilled with how we are interacting with our new community and partners. All artists have experienced that amazing moment when art breaks down a social barrier and I love that our building is becoming a hub for those types of interactions. Simply put, the best part of Indy Convergence is finding new ways to create and engage collaboratively through art with our community and city.
What made you decide to start Indy Convergence?
Robert, myself and our co-founder Dara Weinberg were all at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival the same summer and wanted to make a space where artists could try new ideas without the fear of failure. We all came from different backgrounds, acting, dancing and directing and felt a need for more artists to truly work collaboratively, not just side by side. We chose Indianapolis because I had roots planted here, its central location and arts scene that felt like it was on the verge of something spectacular. We weren’t sure what would happen, but gathered about twelve people the first year and just worked for ten days. And, it stuck! We’ve taken a lot of twists and turns and now collaborate with a partner community center in Haiti and are helping a new branch of Indy Convergence start in London, Ontario next fall. Pretty early on a building and year round programs were a goal, but we never wanted to lose sight of our original intentions to give artists, time, space and freedom to create, fail then try again.
How do you think art and music benefits the Indianapolis community?
I grew up in Indiana, and never thought I’d come back. When I left for college I said my goodbye and figured I’d be back once a year for forever. Then, I got hired by Dance Kaleidoscope as a full-time modern dancer that has rep that’s incredibly rewarding and a contract that’s remarkable. I know people who are moving to parts of the city to be closer to theaters and galleries and see countless posters for shows, calls for public art and community minded art projects that are shaping our city in beautiful ways. Artists in Indianapolis have the ability to bring and keep people here – I see that as a huge benefit. We push, nurture and reflect back to our city who we are and who we can be.