Face to Face: Carl Flink

Flink above frozen Lake Medicine in MinnesotaCarl Flink—a longtime soccer player before he discovered dance—remembers his audition for the Limón Dance Company. He got through to the final round, where he had to show a solo. “All the other men got up and did these slow, flitty dances,” he says. “The first thing I did was throw myself backward as hard as I could. The idea was me in a hallway, an invisible hand slamming me against the wall.” Certain that he’d bombed the audition, Flink was astonished when he got a call the following day from Carla Maxwell, Limón’s artistic director, offering him the job. “She said, ‘I need that in my company,’” says Flink. Now, as artistic director of his own company, the Minnesota-based Black Label Movement, he’s fine-tuned his aesthetic into intense, athletic partnering and wildly physical choreography. This month, BLM partners with another Twin Cities troupe, Contempo Physical Dance, to present a uniquely collaborative season at The Cowles Center.

What he looks for in dancers “I’m interested in people who move like animals. I call it ‘natural virtuosity.’ When you watch animals, they seldom do anything that’s inefficient. They use their feet, balance, weight and strength in an unconsciously intelligent way. That tends to catch my eye: a hungry desire to move, a bodily intelligence that I think comes from being more in touch with your animal self.”

His creative process “I’m able to quickly produce movement—I’m very unprecious with it. We’ll come in, start moving and improvising on our own, and somehow that will evolve into me at the front of the room, and we’ll start to create. The company has become very comfortable with surrounding me like a herd and just going with me. The process becomes very dialogic. A lot of it generates from my body, but very quickly it’s taken hold of by the company.”

About auditioning “It’s good to try and compete with everyone under the same criteria, but if you can find a really individual voice to present, that can shift the whole game. In your dance training, it’s as important to find a deep understanding of your voice and what sets you apart from others as it is to do more turns, get your leg higher and dig into traditional techniques.” DT

Training: University of Minnesota; The Taylor School; ballet under Francis Patrelle; Steps on Broadway

Performance: Limón Dance Company, 1992–98; performed with Creach/Koester; Janis Brenner & Dancers; Shapiro & Smith Dance

Choreography: founded Black Label Movement in 2005

Leadership: professor and former chair of the University of Minnesota Theatre Arts & Dance department

Photo by Bill Cameron, courtesy of Flink

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