Q & A with Robert Bettmann: A look into Post 9/11 Security through Dance and Community

By Kelsey King, Pinkline Project

The Pink Line Project sat down with choreographer and artistic director of Bettmann Dances, Robert Bettmann, to discuss the intentions behind his current project Quis Custodiet and the interesting ways he involved the community in its formation. Join Bettmann for the premier of his yearlong exploration of security on September 2, 2011, and ask yourself – 10 years after 9/11 are we safe?

Pink Line Project (PLP): What is Quis Custodiet?

Robert Bettmann (RB): Quis is a dance project, the second project of my company, Bettmann Dances. Quis is a dance about security. Art can be fun to watch and abstract, and it can be fun to watch and narrative… in this case I’m creating little narrative arcs, and not all of the narratives occur in order. Some times you see a character at one point in time and then later you see them in something like a ‘flashback.’

PLP: What is the role of storytelling in your work?

RB: What’s fun about art, and dance, is that it’s not preachy, and hopefully doesn’t try to tell you what to think…. It’s fun, and entertaining. If you’ve got something to say, and you don’t want to tell people what to think, you find a way to tell stories. With Quis we’re telling several stories, including a story about Eve, and a story about Cain, related to the stories you may already know about those characters in the bible.

PLP: This project has been in the works for more than a year, what have you been up to in that time?

RB: Quis is a community exploration of security, culminating in a dance performance. We have not only been working to develop the dance, but have also been creating programs and conversations within the community to help us inform the dance and to generate a thoughtful consideration of the ideas behind the dance amongst the DC population. We have done this through a community blog and a series of dialogues with security related professionals.

PLP: What inspired you to involve the community so deeply in your project?

RB: If you have one smart person in the room you get some smart answers. You get two smart people in the room you get more smart answers. This project involves a lot of research, sourcing, reading, talking, because that’s what the project requires. I’m asking not only myself, but also everyone to help the company consider the topic of security. And from that research we’re creating a work of art.

PLP: What do you hope to achieve by involving the community in your project?

RB: I picked the topic of security because it means something to me, and I think I have something of value to say about it. Within the American Dream, there is a parallel promise of security. As one example: we have a safety net that includes food stamps, social security, etc. How low to the ground should that safety net be set? Through my work with DC Advocates for the Arts I’ve met some folks who serve the least safe in DC, and I’m fascinated by the disconnect between national security dialogue, and community security dialogue. They way we define and pursue security creates policy outcomes. Looking back on 9/11 from a decade away we’ve got a chance to not just put that tragedy behind us, but prepare a little better for the future.

PLP: Can we get any spoilers before the Quis Premiere? What should we expect on stage?

RB: We’ll start posting some videos on to the project site pretty soon. The project site — http://quis.bettmanndances.com — is fun even now. We’ve got resources for teachers, ways for people to submit their own stories, and lots of readings on security. I’d love for your readers to share their own thoughts on Security, or their own experience of 9.11. And of course: come see the show! The dance is very entertaining, and I’m incredibly grateful to be working with an immensely talented group of people.

Original Publication URL: http://pinklineproject.com/article/q-robert-bettmann-look-post-911-security-through-dance-and-community