An Interview with Colin Epstein

By Emmaly Wiederholt

Many of us know Colin Epstein as a dancer, circus performer, and dance advocate. He seems to be everywhere at once, often involved in multiple projects at a time. In addition, he’s enthusiastically supportive of his fellow artists. Rarely is there a show he’s not at, doesn’t know the dancers in, and isn’t excited about. This coming September Epstein is taking the leap from performer to presenter. In conjunction with Dance Mission Theater, Epstein will be presenting Constants and Variables on September 7-9, a variety-format show featuring Palanza Dance, Number 9, Venture Dance Project, Human Creature Dance Theater, and The Thick Rich Ones, as well as Epstein’s own work. For tickets visit

Emmaly Wiederholt: What prompted you to curate Constants and Variables?

Colin Epstein: I am extremely lucky and blessed that I can actually rent out a theater and support people whose art I really like and enjoy watching. They’re worrying about rehearsal space but they’re not worrying about that big chunk of change it takes to rent the theater. I’ve wanted to do this for over a year; it was my only real New Year’s resolution: I’m going to produce this show. I love Dance Mission’s showcases and other opportunities that are dance variety shows for lack of a better word. Oftentimes it’s very hard to create a full forty to fifty minute evening-length work, and I find those very inconsistent. Some people have a really good grasp on how to extend a creative process into a fifty minute show. And there are others who I love what they do, but I think they benefit more from doing four ten minute dances rather than an extended work. And those kinds of shows are how I started dancing in high school and in college, particularly with student-run shows. I wanted to create a show similar to Dance Mission’s showcase but one where I could control the content a little more.

EW: What’s your experience been thus far acting as a curator/producer?

CE: I think I had slightly unrealistic expectations that it would be much more collaborative and I would be able to have production meetings with everyone present and we could delegate the work. I realized I have to specifically ask people to do a certain task. There are many small things that have to get done that I realized I would go crazy if I had to do them all. I’ve had help; I’ve had a lot of input from Kelly Kemp and Hilary Palanza because they’ve organized and produced their own work before. They can tell me if I’m forgetting something. That’s how I actually chose the people who are part of this show; I wanted people who have some experience producing their own work.

EW: What do you hope to give your audiences? What can they expect from this show?

CE: When I contacted the artists I told them they have ten to twelve minutes. I think that’s enough time to show a coherent thought. It can be something new or something reworked or done before, whatever they want. What I hope people will get is the feeling I used to get when I would either perform in or attend variety shows, which is so many different experiences, angles, and styles of movement. There are duets, group pieces; I’m doing a solo as well as a duet with my new trapeze partner.

EW: Do you see yourself doing this again?

CE: Absolutely. It’s been crazy and super fun. Now I have a little more of a handle on how stressed out I’m going to be and how much fun I will have as well. As far as the future, I see it relating back to the title Constants and Variables; some things will stay constant while others will vary. My vision is to establish some consistency. I always want to keep a circus piece in it. I hope to do it every year, possible twice if I can swing it.

EW: I’m curious about the segue between circus and dance. What elements of circus do you want to translate into dance?

CE: Circus for me can become very problematic because it always follows the format where the performer does a trick and then stops and everyone claps. I saw a piece in the last Cirque show that was quirky, driven by character, and the audience didn’t know when to clap. I like to see this sort of integration of character, movement, and tricks. I know people who do more theatrical dance-circus and those are the people that I want to give an opportunity to perform. Dance Mission is an ideal place for circus because it’s rig-able, so you can do aerial work. My trapeze partner and I have been working all summer to learn new tricks and then find how to blur that boundary between circus and dance.

EW: What’s the difference between circus and aerial dance?

CE: That’s debatable; it’s a very fluid line. Specific to trapeze, aerial dance usually uses a single point trapeze. That means the trapeze comes together in a swivel so you add a spinning element and rotation and there’s much more interaction with the floor. Static trapeze where the two ropes go straight up to the ceiling is generally considered more circus. That’s a huge generalization and it depends what the artist does.

EW: Any other thoughts?

CE: For future versions of Constants and Variables I want to change the cast every year. There are a lot of people I know who have work they want to do. I like watching them dance and that’s really my only criteria. If I like your work then at some point I’m going to ask you to do a show with me.   

EW: Do you feel any responsibility as a curator? In many ways presenters have the keys to access opportunities that many artists want.

CE: Absolutely. I feel a huge amount of responsibility and honestly it feels a little arrogant. I freely acknowledge I am choosing the people whose work I like and respect. I happen to think I choose choreographers whose work other people besides me will like and respect because I think I have a relatively good sensibility about what I want to see on stage, and that is a hugely arrogant assumption really. Art is totally arbitrary. Really I just think I’m picking artists that other people are hopefully going to want to see.

First photo by Bob Epstein

Second photo courtesy of Sun-Shier Dance Theatre, Taipei

One Response to “An Interview with Colin Epstein”

  1. bayareadancewatch

    Colin, you’ve assembed a great lineup!! Just know – it has very little, if any, to do with arrogance. Truely. Mixed reportiore is one of the greatest parts of dance performances today…and your chosen lineup is a wonderful example of just that: Kemp, Palanza, Ashley, Jochelle, Meegan, Derick, Epstein & all the others…very very nice.

Comments are closed.