ARTISTS WHO INSPIRE: LIZ OWENS AND 5 STAGES OF FIBONACCI
Dancer and Choreographer Liz Owens shares her inspiration behind short film 5 Stages of Fibonacci and her secrets for cultivating creativity after 40.
JB for EV: Liz, can you tell us about the meaning of the name of this piece and why you chose it?
LO: Yes, the name is meant to reflect the 5 stages of the mourning process. It’s actually a re-visit to this topic for me. I originally tried to tackle this subject in my undergraduate senior choreography project. At that time, I had recently lost my brother and I don’t think I was in a place to solidify all the focus into my theme and get the quality I wanted into the work. Now, even though the choreography is new, that theme of the mourning process was something I wanted to revisit because I felt like I hadn’t fully expressed that.
JB for EV: And the Fibonacci connection?
LO: I always liked the Fibonacci pattern. I learned about accounting repetition and Fibonacci in one of my computer science classes talking about the history of science and mathematics. I thought it was a really neat pattern and signifies recurring themes as well as the dichotomy of the scientific backbone of my piece against the human emotional element as well.
JB for EV: This piece is so beautiful. Tell us about your history with dance and how you’ve come to this place in your creative evolution.
LO: The first piece I choreographed was back in 1995 which was my senior year in high school. I was in a dance ensemble and took the initiative of choreographing. When I showed it to my teacher, she put it in the show. That first piece was about mental illness and homelessness. My character was a homeless person. Half way through the song, I throw down, pretending to be schizo and screaming and yelling. It kind of stunned the audience, but I think it did reach some people. My work has always had that vein of art and humanity more so than hard core technique.
JB for EV: How are you different creatively now than, say, 20 years ago when choreographing your first piece?
LO: Having the routine and a career that allows me the finances to train really helps, because it’s expensive to take class and I can be a little scattered if I don’t have any routine. So, having more stability in my life. The finance piece and the relationship (Liz has been happily married to husband Torrey for 18 years) piece being more stable in my life allows me to feel not tied down by the pressures of reality when I do get a chunk of time to create. Also, where I am in my life now and in my focus, I’m able to work better with others. When I was young and artistic I didn’t even know how headstrong I was and how my energy could push other people away because I had already decided what I wanted to do before including them. Now, I enjoy that collaboration with other artists.
JB for EV: Has your artistic journey been influenced by mediums other than dance?
LO: Yes, I took about a 10 year break from any kind of dance class in the 2000s and I got back into it about 3 years ago. My 10 year break was more about financial and scheduling reasons, so I explored my creativity through painting.
JB for EV: Any particular type of painting?
LO: I did abstract mostly inspired by guitars and dancers, flamenco dancers in particular.
JB for EV: How did your exploration of painting during those years influence how you create now?
LO: Well, I’m thinking this just as we’re talking about it, but when I first started painting, I wouldn’t even have a plan as to what I was going to paint. But when I started taking classes, I’d have to plan for what was happening on the canvas so i could prove my understanding of the technique I was being taught. And I think that has served me well and translated into being able to tell my full story in a piece of choreography.
JB for EV: So, Why film instead of live performance?
LO: I have fallen in love with film in a different way. I didn’t realize the amount of creativity that can happen. I guess it’s just two different experiences. So, as I’ve been studying dance for camera, I’ve come to understand how the camera makes the dance exist in another dimension. There is an ability to go “out there” in a creative sense and not worry about any restrictions. And it’s exciting to feel unlimited in that way.
JB for EV: How much do the other elements of film production become part of the creative process for you - casting, lighting, editing, post production etc?
LO: A LOT! And I love to learn, so it’s been a really good experience for me. We’re on a small crew, so when I come up with these ideas to create things I feel very indulgent because I don’t have to follow anyone else’s plan. I kind of engineer things as I’m studying things. I can see myself more in the director role as I learn more and have more to offer.
JB for EV: What do you hope to do with this latest expression of your work - dance and short films?
LO: Well, I hope my work affords me the ability to do more work. I’ve been submitting to film festivals. I want to share my art with the world and be recognized as a potential resource to other artists as a choreographer and director.
JB for EV: And what do you hope your work does for the viewer?
LO: I hope to show them a different perspective on something they probably already know or are familiar with. There is a unique calmness in film that doesn’t exist live and allows the material to be absorbed in a different way.
JB for EV: What's next for you and Dance Idea?
LO: For our next film, I have a working title called Peak and Trough. In the research world, peak and trough refers to how a medication rises and falls in the bloodstream. I'm using it as a metaphor for the highs and lows of the creative process. As artists, we all deal with the rush of excitement that comes with a new idea, then the insecurities and vulnerability of sharing our work. This one might be more of a dark comedy - more lighthearted than some of my other work. I want to take a step back from the loss and mourning theme that has recurred in my work to explore other things. There are things about us that are funny. Other parts to being human. Other feelings to be enjoyed.
Liz Owens is a Healthcare Quality Control Consultant by day, conscious creator at Dance Idea by night. She lives in Dallas, TX with her husband, Torrey, and two dogs, Billie Jean and Sidwell.
To see Liz’s short film, 5 Stages of Fibonacci, in it’s entirety, CLICK HERE.