The members of Four on the Floor, who will perform ‘Good for Her Age’ • Courtesy

Role models in the modern dance scene have included veteran dancers such as Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan, and Ruth Saint Denis, but the modern dancers we typically see on stage these days are generally young. But now, four career dancers in the Seattle area have formed a dance collective, Four on the Floor, and Karen Garrett de Luna joins Diana Cardiff, Sara Jinks, and Sarah Paul Ocampo in this group to present Good for Her Age, a meditation on aging, sexuality, and dance.

According to de Luna, Four on the Floor was conceived as a group in 2021 during the pandemic as a response to the limitations of the quarantine, choreographing, and filming outdoor site-specific work around Seattle. The group name came from Ocampo, a drummer, who emphasized the 4/4-time signature in drumming, and the name is intended to convey strength, particularly the power connoted by anthemic, fist-pumping music.

The four dancers have known each other for years, from the University of Washington dance department, the local dance scene, and from holiday Buttcracker productions. “During the pandemic, we were all depressed and anxious,” de Luna recalled. “We started doing art assignments, rotating who proposed the assignment and sharing what we created. Sometimes this was dance, sometimes it was other things like visual art and music.”

De Luna also credits Ocampo with the originating idea for Good for Her Age. “At first, it was going to be a piece that she directed and we performed in as the supporting cast, but then we decided to open it up so that each of us could contribute our own creative ideas about the experiences of aging and being an aging woman,” she said. “Three of us were born the same year, 1972, and all of us are over 50 years old.”

The dance piece explores the aging body in a youth-focused culture. “We don’t want to make a sad old lady dance,” de Luna said. “A little humor goes a long way.”

Unlike many dancers, de Luna began dance lessons only as she approached adulthood.  “I was a very moody, existential teenager and had stopped doing group sports in my early adolescence,” she remembered. “I recognized that my mind was eating itself and had the idea that dancing would be a way to bring my body and mind together and so I started ballet lessons at the age of sixteen.”

Then, she earned an MAA in Visual Arts from Emily Carr University of Art + Design, and BAs in Dance and Mathematics from the University of Washington. “I attended Cornish College of the Arts as a dance major for a year and then transferred to the University of Washington with the intention of double majoring in dance and mathematics,” she said.  “But once I was in all of those math classes, I felt as if my math brain had atrophied since my high school math whiz days.”

However, a career in dance proved no easier. “I got very discouraged by the amount of money it took to mount a performance versus the amount of money being offered in grants,” de Luna admitted. “The competition for grant money and the audition process also were quite difficult for me mentally and emotionally.”

And de Luna’s math training continued to influence her. “Having ‘math brain’ is a peculiar gift,” she observed. “I am very detail oriented in some aspects of my work and often rely on, occasionally elaborate, structure to support my creative expressions.”

Over her career, de Luna has been a multidisciplinary artist, focusing on photography, dance, and aerial acrobatics at different points. “I was a math nerd and budding artist, and working in the dark room was technical and photography was artistic, so it became my preferred means of expression in the visual arts,” she said. “Aerial arts is hard and I was happy to have found something that was challenging physically and also had an artistic component.”

Then, at age 30, de Luna encountered the practice of meditation. “I practice a wide variety of artistic, physical, and inner disciplines including dance, photography, martial arts, collage, circus arts, and meditation, and depending on the inspiration, each discipline contributes form or energy to the final product,” she elaborated. “It’s like trying to tease apart which parts of me are Filipino and which parts are white, because the truth is that I am both/and as a human and an artist.”

In all of her creative work, de Luna strives to focus on making the invisible visible.  “Photography is ‘light writing’ and light itself is invisible until it strikes an object and is reflected,” she said. “In Good for Her Age, death is always with us and can appear unexpectedly. What in my life is unfinished?”

Concurrently with this dance project, de Luna is also working on an ongoing photography series, The Lives of Saints. “Each portrait is accompanied by a legend that is a key to reading the portrait,” she explained. “The layers of symbolism in each portrait refer to dreams and healing specific to each subject which normally remain unseen but keenly felt.”

de Luna is also a practicing Buddhist, drawing upon Buddhist ideas such as impermanence, interconnection, and karma in all of her work. “I am a Filipino American artist of mixed race and this hybridity figures into all of my work,” she added. “’Hapastance’ is a term I use to refer to my point of view, as it alludes to both mixed heritage as well as the haphazard and happenstance nature of present experience.”

Good for Her Age runs December 15, 16, and 17 at NOD Theatre at eXit SPACE, 1621 Twelfth Avenue, Seattle. 

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