The second artist of Between the Art’s new monthly format is dancer and choreographer Sadi Mosko.
Originally from Boise in Idaho, USA, Sadi’s path started out as a downhill ski racer, with the intense training as a child influencing how she moves today. Sadi moved to New York City to study at Columbia University via the Barnard College Department of Dance, receiving degrees in Dance and Sustainable Development. Graduating in 2017, she has worked as a freelance dance artist, with her choreography being commissioned by multiple organisations.
Since the pandemic, Sadi has travelled between New York and Idaho, giving her the chance to live both in the middle of the city and in the mountains. With a passion for environmental sustainability and activism that was influenced by her childhood in the Rocky Mountains, Sadi wrote the research paper Stepping Sustainably: The Potential Partnership between Dance and Sustainable Development, which was published by the journal Consilience.
Sadi's passion for using art as a tool to question how we live in and respond to the places that we situate ourselves within comes across clearly in this conversation. Read on for more, including her inspiring advice to navigate realigning your values as an artist.
Where do you work? What makes this place important for your creative process?
It depends on the project, largely for practicality reasons and depending on what is available. If I’m producing work for a more “traditional stage,” I would definitely prefer to be in a standard dance studio. However, seemingly through happenstance, I’m finding myself more and more involved in site-specific projects. As I’ve become more interested in and aware of environmental issues, I’ve had a desire to make work outside.
One piece that stands out as an example is the most recent dance I created, called Tectonic. It premiered at CPR - Center for Performance Research in Brooklyn, NY last December. Work on this started about 5 years ago, even before I was thinking about creating a piece. Every time I went on a hike and had a moment of inspiration, I would film some improvisation directly inspired by the natural landscape. I relearned the improvisation from the videos and combined the material that I made in the outdoors into a piece for the theatre. Creating the work in the place that I was inspired by was crucial in the creation of Tectonic.
Site-specific work has made me think more about place; even if the work is not “site-specific,” I keep finding myself thinking about how the piece will fit in that specific theatre space. This is starting to become second nature within my creative process.
"I think there is something interesting about sticking with one idea for a while and letting it evolve. I often start something as just a fun, small project, but, inevitably, it becomes very symbolic and meaningful."
How would you describe your creative process? Do you use certain mediums/techniques to develop your creative ideas?
In general, my creative process changes from piece to piece. If I did the same thing every time, I would be afraid of making the same decisions. That being said, I have things that I do regularly. I really like to work collaboratively so I try to bring in as many other people as I can. My good friend, Carolyn Silverman, and I make a lot of work together, and we co-founded SilverMoss Dance Project as a platform for our collaborative work. I also really enjoy working with other types of artists, such as musicians or filmmakers, because it’s interesting to get the perspectives of other disciplines in the room.
My process seems to always take a long time! Part of the reason for this is just practical: it takes a while to find the resources, to create the work, and then present it. I do think there is something interesting about sticking with one idea for a while and letting it evolve. I often start something as just a fun, small project, but, inevitably, over the years of creating, it becomes very symbolic and meaningful! Starting with a small concept, rather than trying to achieve a big idea, allows me to feel less constricted in what I can do.
Do you have any rituals that help with this process of creating work?
As a dancer, I definitely have a lot of rituals such as eating patterns and warming up, but as a creator, I don’t feel the same way. This is not necessarily a ritual, but I’m trying to make my process more structured, giving myself more rules to exist within, so that I have fewer excuses to not do the work.
Before I start choreographing, I always need to be physically warm and active. I’ve done quite a bit of physical therapy throughout my life, so my warm-up consists of a lot of therapy exercises. This gets me in a certain headspace of feeling like I’m in a healthy place to start creating.
I’ve never wanted to create a strict ritual in my creative process because I don’t want to repeat myself with everything I make. I always strive to do something new. If I had a ritual that was too strict, I fear that I would repeat previous decisions.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m between projects at the moment, not figuring out what I want to do but how I want to do it. I’m in a place of wanting to learn and take in new skills so that I can bring some ideas to fruition. I have a post-modern, abstract dance background, but recently I’ve become more interested in narrative forms. I’ve been taking acting classes, even a screen-writing class, and experimenting with film so that I can start to incorporate more interdisciplinary forms into my work.
More specifically, I’m presenting at the Dance Studies Association Conference in Vancouver, Canada in October. I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m on a panel with two other women talking about dance film and activism, and particularly environmental activism. It should be an interesting and new experience.
Earlier this year, I started working with a dance company in Idaho, called LED. I’m mainly doing admin work, which doesn’t necessarily feel like a creative practice, but it is teaching me a lot as an artist all the same. As much as I don’t want to admit it, business is a very important aspect of being an artist. I’m so grateful to gain more experience in this area with LED.
What does “sense of place” mean to you? Is this concept present in your work?
Not only is it having an awareness of a space, but also an awareness of why that space is the way it is: what factors in the past have led the place to looking like it does and containing the elements that it has? This is why I have always found environmental studies interesting. There are so many interrelated factors that create an ecosystem. If you break one of those factors, it changes everything. I think having a sense of place means not only knowing where you are but knowing why the place exists and what it does.
That “sense of place” is definitely relevant to my work! Even separate from my interest in environmental issues, I’m always conscious of place. If I’m imagining a piece, I will always imagine it in the space that it will be made and performed in. Sense of place is always present in my work even if I’m not intentionally thinking about it.
"Art is a good communication tool as it taps in to the deeper, underbelly of our culture. It can target those bigger discussions, getting people to think about issues in a way that normal communication patterns cannot achieve."
Do you have a message that you hope to give to the world?
As with most artists, I hope that people can find a meaning for themselves when they watch my work. Art is a great educator and if it’s done well it doesn’t preach; rather, it allows you to come to your own conclusion (or, at least, it helps an audience come in their own way to the conclusion that the creator wants them to reach). If I had to say something specific, I would say that I hope my work causes people to think about the space that it took place in, why the place exists, and what happens there, both related and unrelated to human use.
To other creators, I would say that art is an excellent communication tool. Because of that, we artists have great potential to be instigators of change, especially in terms of environmental sustainability and social justice. In my mind, those topics are inherently interrelated. Our values, as artists in the Western society at least, are not necessarily conjoined with things that are going to help achieve long-term sustainability. However, if we can reframe these issues, then we can help people to understand how the solutions are, in fact, related to the values that we already care about. Art is a good communication tool for this as it taps in to the deeper, underbelly of our culture. It can target those bigger discussions, getting people to think about issues in a way that normal communication patterns cannot achieve.
Sadi's Book List:
I’ve always been a big lover of reading, but only recently did I start to realise that reading and writing could become a part of my own artistic practice. Here are some books that have especially spoken to me recently.
1.The Overstory by Richard Powers
This is a great example of environmental storytelling and just how impactful it can be.
2. Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner
I read this book in the past year which took me a while to get into, but I’ve been thinking about it ever since I finished. It is about my home state of Idaho, the development of the American West in the late 1800s, and a woman trapped between the traditional ideals of her time and the progressiveness of her spirt and situation.
3. Dune by Frank Herbert
I used a passage from this book in Tectonic. Of course, this story got a lot of hype with the movie last year, but I think it is an excellent comment on the relationship between colonisation, environmental degradation, and the societal implications of those two things. Also, it’s a powerful study on how artistic forms like narrative, character, and metaphor can be used to teach/discuss real-world, Earthly events.
4. Cloud Cuckoo Land by Anthony Doerr
I’ve got to give a shout out this fellow Idahoan! So much happens in this book, but at its core, I found it to be a lovely celebration of stories themselves. And, as with everything I seem to be drawn toward, there are some pretty important environmental themes as well.
To learn more about LED, visit www.ledboise.com
Images 1, 2, 5, 6: Julia Discenza
Image 3: William Bower
Image 4: Artist's Own