An Interview with Co-curator and Co-producer of Ten Tiny Dances®, Sara Jinks Oct 24, 2019

Photo credit: Kate Haley
Photo of: Dayna Hanson


An Interview with Co-curator and Co-producer of Ten Tiny Dances®, Sara Jinks

In Houston, I had the opportunity to curate an iteration of TTD in collaboration with Counter Current Festival. I was struck by the amount of imagination that each artist used to transform the stage into another world while creating an intimacy with the audience. Each year the platform shifted locations or one of the elements twisted, from including video projection, to doing it outside or taking over a historic queer dance club. These variations allowed the program to grow and stretch artists’ vision of how to use this platform to make something new.

This year we partnered with Sara Jinks, who recently joined our staff as the Production Coordinator, as Producer and Curator of Ten Tiny Dances®. She has put together a stellar group of artists who range in dance and movement languages, from contemporary, to drag, to street dance, to traditional African dance, and beyond. I’m looking forward to being in the audience and experiencing each performance. This is the first time that On the Boards is hosting Ten Tiny Dances® and we look forward to continuing the tradition with different curatorial voices each year.


RC: TTD is a platform for both short form choreography, as well as for site-specific dance on a 4' x 4' stage. How do those two boundaries/restrictions/limitations inform the work that gets made?


SJ: The parameters of the structure require innovation. I love the way the limitations force choreographers to make different choices than they would normally. The form pushes artists to edit in ways they may never do so on their own, whether it be edits to time, facing, size, or space. It can be uncomfortable to come up against so many obstacles, but that’s what makes the end product so compelling. I think the restrictions also make for a great audience experience. Each dance takes watchers on a mini-journey. No piece goes on for very long and the audience gets to see how differently each artist dealt with the same set of challenges.


RC: How has the making of these tiny dances shifted or stayed the same over the years or since the last time you curated/produced the program?


SJ: While the Ten Tiny Dances® structure or “rules of engagement” (ten dances, 3-8-minute time limit, a 4’ x 4’ stage, audience in the round) remain very rigid, each TTD I and others have produced is unique. I’d say that through repetition and commitment to the form I’ve gotten better at organizing each one and knowing what and how to communicate with the artists. But the tone and content of each is utterly original based on the artists involved. I never quite know until our first showing what the performance will feel like. I also think I take the space and the co-producer into account when curating Ten Tiny Dances®. The Methow Arts audience in 2011 was quite different from an On the Boards audience in 2019 and the programming reflects that.


RC: What was your experience like performing in Ten Tiny Dances®


SJ: It was really fun but hard. Anyone who has performed on a raised surface has felt the instinct to avoid the last two or three feet at the edge of the stage for self-preservation reasons. In Ten Tiny, with only 4’ x 4’ to work with, the entire stage is edge. It takes bravery and a lot of practice to figure out how to move with confidence and conviction on that tiny stage and trust you won’t fall off the side. Also, with the audience on all sides and a lot closer to you than is traditional, there is a heightened intimacy with the audience. Add lights and nerves and it’s a precarious performance experience! But seasoned pros (like the ones in this Ten Tiny) enjoy a good performance challenge. There is nothing like the feeling of over-coming those obstacles, embracing the vulnerability, connecting with the audience, and really going for it.