CC alums return to campus with dance duo HIJACK

HIJACK is a dance duo based in Minneapolis, Minn. Members Arwen Wilder and Kristin Van Loon are both Colorado College alumnae who were back on campus this week to participate in a series of dance-related events in the IDEA Space.

How did you guys meet?

Wilder: It was fifth block of our first year and we were in a dance class together. It was a small class, maybe ten people, and right away we really liked each other’s style.

Van Loon: Part of our bonding was that we were dancing in a lot of student stuff, like dance workshop, and it was kind of a clique-y group of seniors and they were kind of mean to us [giggles]. And so we were kind of the young ones, but we found each other.

Wilder: And we decided that we would run dance workshop, and we would run it differently.

And did you?

Van Loon: Yes. We accepted everyone, and everyone was cast, and I think every proposed piece was accepted, so we did two full programs because there were so many. And we cast a really wide net to get people outside of regular dance students choreographing.

What activities were you involved in while at CC?

Van Loon: I was a Geology major, and that was really demanding, so that took a lot of time.

Wilder: I was a Drama/Dance major. I was involved in a lot of activist-related stuff on campus and in town. We were here during the first Gulf War and so there was a lot having to do with that. And then environmental and social justice issues.

What did you do after you graduated?

Van Loon: We moved to Minneapolis. Arwen had been there before; I hadn’t. And I kind of thought I was taking a year off before I applied to grad school in Geology. So I went for broke, you know, I was like, “Oh great, I’m taking a year off so I’m going to dance all day every day.” And we really did. We took a zillion dance classes, we started dancing in local choreographers’ work right away, we started choreographing right away, we named ourselves HIJACK before the end of the summer.

What is “HIJACK”?

Wilder: It’s a verb. It’s “to take something somewhere that it’s not expecting to go.” We wanted a dance company name that was like a rock band name. A lot of people name their dance companies after themselves and we thought that was boring. We wanted something else.

Van Loon: It was before 2001 for sure. In fact, we had to reinvest in the name after Sept. 11. It was very much called into question.

Wilder: And I think in reinvesting in the name, I’ve come to see another meaning in the word that’s not just about how the work interacts with an audience but what it means to collaborate and that’s what you’re always doing to each other.

Did you know you wanted to start a dance duo after college?

Van Loon: I don’t think that I had any idea that in 20 years I would still be doing it. I didn’t have a vision for a career. And some people leave school who’ve studied dance and their idea is that you go somewhere and you get into someone’s company and then after awhile of being in someone else’s company, you start your own company. That’s not the route we went [with] and I think that not knowing what a dance career looked like, and not having some kind of a long-term plan has allowed us to keep making up what we do and how we do it.

Where you do you guys get inspiration for your dances?

HIJACKWilder: In a general way, I can say that we always talk about Colorado College and it being a liberal arts college and the idea that you make dances from everything you’re interested in. And so, the general answer is: from a lot of different sources and everything we’re interested in. But we could give some specifics.

Van Loon: One pretty major specific that inspired the dance we’re performing here was print journalism, specifically the slow death of print newspapers. It’s interesting watching a transition in technology and what is fundamentally different about taking in news and culture from a computer screen versus a print newspaper. And a lot of models for time and deadlines and the pressure of a print deadline. That was a big part of this dance.

What does an average day in your lives look like?

Wilder: Well I have two kids and I have a job where I make a consistent income, which is training people in Pilates. And so there are some days where I do a lot of that, and almost every day of the last 10 years except for this week right now, I spend a lot of time taking care of children. And in making a dance career, there’s a lot of time spent on a computer, doing email and administration and trying to get enough money to do a show and get enough people at the show.

And I say all of that first, so that I can end with the fun part, which is that we get to dance a certain amount too. We teach class, we teach kind of a lot right now. But one thing that we always have every week for over 15 years we’ve taught Wednesday morning class every week, year in and year out, and that is a major practice for us.

Van Loon: For me, I feel like I’m on weekly cycles. The schedule is very different one day to the next. As much as possible I try to have a physical dance experience, if it’s a rehearsal or class. Even in your 40’s, it’s one of the most amazing things in dance, is you can take dance your whole life. My day job is booking and managing a theater in a bowling alley, so I’m booking plays, rock bands, film, dance, and all different kinds of performing arts.

A lot of what I do also is just going to other shows. Minneapolis has a huge arts scene and it’s really important for us to not just look at dance, so we’re often at music shows and readings and film and things like that most nights of the week. I really try to carve out some time for, well, I call it “staring at the wall,” like daydreaming. I’m finding it’s increasingly important.

What would you say to current students who are thinking about pursuing a career in dance?

Van Loon: I have one thing I want to say right away. Especially if they’re CC students: I do not envy anyone else’s college preparation for a dance career. We teach at a lot of colleges like Carleton and Macalester, colleges similar to here, but also at the University of Minnesota, which has a huge dance program with a very fancy conservatory sensibility. But this was the best preparation. Both not knowing that we were making a foundation for a career as choreographers and the spirit of experimentation that I felt was very strong here. And I feel like within the dance department in particular, our professor taught us to really find our voice and to not imitate anyone else.

Can you talk about your upcoming performance?

Wilder: We premiered it over a year ago at a big fancy theater in Minneapolis. There were nine of us on stage and it was a huge stage and a long piece. We’ve spent the last year turning it into a trio. We’re figuring out how far away from that original piece it can go and still be the same piece.

Van Loon: When we first performed it, the title was “Redundant, Ready, Reading, Radish, Red-Eye.” Then we made a second version and we called it “Tchotchke.” And this week we’re calling it “Soggy Oil Wife.”

How does it feel to be back dancing at CC again?

Van Loon: It’s really fun to be presented primarily by the IDEA Space and Cornerstone… Jessica [Larsen] at the IDEA Space has really let us play out an expression of how inspired we are by visual arts and not just dance. And the food in the cafeteria is so much better now! And Cossitt is still a magic building. We’ve been rehearsing in there some, and it feels great to be in there again.

Wilder: I think it’s fun to be somewhere we know and don’t know, and fun to feel the abundance of a campus like this one.

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