Company XIV has been on my radar for some time! I love that they produce shows that are geared towards a more adult audience and combine the performance mediums of circus, opera, dance, theatre, and music. I also really enjoy fairy tales. The darker the fairy tale, the better. When I found out Company XIV was doing a production of Snow White, based upon the Brothers Grimm version, I grabbed my poisonous apple and ran into the forest to chat with "Snow White" herself, Hilly Bodin! What lies below is one of the most raw and heartfelt interviews I've done.
Company XIV's Snow White runs through March 12 at the Minetta Lane Theatre in NYC (18 Minetta Lane between MacDougal Street and 6th Avenue). Click here for tickets!
For more on Hilly, follow her on Instagram!
1. You are currently starring in Company XIV's adult only production of Snow White. This is your first show with them. How did they come on your radar and what made you want to be part of this company? Like you would encounter seamlessly in any dance related film or narrative, and totally and utterly contrast from the reality of getting a job in dance, especially in New York City, I just showed up and auditioned. This is not only my first show as a starring role, but in fact my first season, and first job. Trust me when I say there has been someone or something that has been dispersing luck upon my first year after graduating college. Out of mercy, but a deep curiosity, is how I could somewhat describe my desire to work with a company like XIV. During my last few weeks before graduating from Purchase College, I developed a (second time) stress fracture in one of my ankles, but did not consider for a second to postpone what I was dancing in for those last weeks of my college career. Naive, but I have a highly self-competitive nature. Obviously I took initiative to go home, rest, and seek physical therapy, but not long after, I was getting anxious about when I was going to get my life together, dance-wise. There was nothing "really” specific that got me interested in Company XIV, since really, I did not know much about the company repertoire before. It was more perhaps the opportunity to not having to constantly be pushing my physical boundaries and be able to work in one of the complex and hardest cities in the world that made me see Company XIV as that golden opportunity. Now, I have found myself completely devoted to the constant array of ideas we tackle mentally and physically on a daily basis. To me, and to other artists/colleagues that feel, as I do, we understand how fortunate it is to work like that.
2. What do you identify most with about "Snow White," both the character and the story? I’d say what binds me and the character of "Snow White" is youth. In all its highlighted glory, angst, and frustration.
3. This production is a mixture of circus, opera, dance, theatre, music, high fashion and lavish design. What makes this kind of blending arts fun to perform in? Well, it would be most impressive and rather incredible to be able to do all of those things but what makes it incredible is that I can’t. The key to the performance of this work, as well as the last two works we have done is that everyone is valuable, and no one, even close to the level of brilliance that has been developed as a group, can produce what happens on that stage single handedly. Because of what everyone showcases individually, we are constantly striving to perfect and polish, but also alter and experiment with what we choose to offer to each other and the audience. The mistakes along the way makes art more believable, in my opinion.
4. This show is based upon the Brothers Grimm version of Snow White. In the story, "Snow White's" evil stepmother brings her a poisonous apple to eat. Has there been a time in your life when someone gave you what seemed like a lovely gift, but turned out to be poisonous? If so, what was the gift and how did you handle it? If anything could resemble the imagery of a figure in my life who has taunted me with something poisonous, it was being handed false hope of love from an ex-lover. Gosh, I don’t mean to be such a dramatist, but it's true. I handled it how you would handle a snake bite in the wild, stranded, with no aids at leisure. Now if the bite is within proximity to your mouth, let's say, 2 inches down from the elbow, sterilize the area and whatever sharp object you can find to re-puncture the wound [sends a lengthy text message in fury confronting him out on his existence], and then as it bleeds out, suck the rest off from mouth and immediately spit out, and wrap the wound tight in cloth = [delete every reminder of him you have, photos, conversations, social networks etc., and pray you never run into a snake again].
5. Another storyline in this tale is when "Snow White" is considered the most beautiful girl in the world. As a little girl growing up, did this ideology have an effect on you or what you believed was considered beautiful? Growing up, I had a lot of insecurities regarding my appearance. There was a time specifically, in my first years of schooling, at a private Catholic school, that I felt my looks to be beyond lacking what the physical and social norm of my surroundings were. Entirely of Aryan descent, with lengthy and silky blonde hair and the bluest of eyes was the recipe for perfection, since those girls were prominently popular and that was what the boys ever payed attention to. Because of my Asian background, I didn't have the advantage of feeling empowered or attractive or pretty. Not that I was discriminated directly for my ethnicity in school, but to my pure Aryan peers who made up at least 95% of the student body, and who didn't know any better, I kind of was. It was clear that others of ethnic background other than Caucasian, and myself, were socially type-casted for not fitting that certain "pretty girl," mold, and if we were all those things combined, we wouldn’t be as ignored. It’s fucked up.
But looking at myself now, through the eyes I had during my growth as young lady, I would of never thought having this buzzed head, small chested and tom-boyish, androgyny look I have going on now, to ever be considered beautiful. Let me make it clear, that stating aesthetic in an exterior point of view makes this topic of "beauty," very shallow right now, but it was a mindset that was hard to stray away from at the time when it was always constantly reminding you, "you’re not blonde, or white, nor do you have boobs. You’re irrelevant." A lot of what has gone on internally, as far my creative drive and imagination as an artist, and most importantly, maturity, has definitely played the most important role of what has made me beautiful. I’ve dedicated my life thus far, to art, which continues to be beautiful, strange, ugly, maddening, and seventy million other adjectives, and it has given me that confidence to know that I am beautiful. And I don’t regret my lack of confidence growing up, it obviously payed off.
6. Have you met your "Prince Charming" yet? If so, what makes him so wonderful? If not, what do you look for in your potential "Prince Charming"? As much as I personify this "chill, outgoing, adventurous, sugar/spice, and everything nice," description, which, I am a very down to earth, and grounded person, I am also equally, out and away from earth and floating in my own imagination and unrealistic scenarios when it comes to finding my "Prince Charming." It’s really a lot of fun to imagine all these impossibly passionate and hilarious ways of meeting your soul mate. I don’t think I’ve met him yet, maybe I have. Time will tell. But as for now, I’m hoping the next potential "Prince Charming," is a mix between Michael Fassbender and a young David Carradine, may he rest in peace. Too specific?
7. If you had to cast Snow White, who would you choose to play her? In terms of the story being on film and on stage, I'd choose Lupita Nyong’o. That would break some cultural walls that have been past due, especially for a historic narrative like Snow White.
8. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Oh the influences! People, works of art, objects, music, cinema, memories…these have all played a role in inspiring me to perform. I can tell you people, things, places, [specifically], but when I think of them, it turns out to be quite a different realm. The affluences of each of these categories have been there to contribute to the work, but I feel as though the internal strength to go beyond external sources and for it to be YOU to inspire yourself, well, makes you worthy to call yourself a performer.
9. According to press notes, this show is dark, dangerous and decadent. What is a time in your life when you walked through the dark? Around the 4th week of running Snow White this year, I received news that a friend from home, (whom I attended art schools with and who was also very close with my best friend’s younger sister), died instantly, in a head on car collision with a distracted driver, while on her way to see her boyfriend on Valentine’s Day. It’s been a week since the death, and in that week I walked through a seriously dark forest of thoughts. From questioning my relationship with God, to my lack of admiration and communication (on my part), with the people and family that I love, I had a serious mental and emotional crisis prior to losing someone I felt I should of been more available to.
This is the first time for me losing someone, and I’ve been enveloping its impact in each and every day. The first show we did after I found out, I felt like I was going to freeze on stage. My insides were numb, my dancing felt numb, my portrayal of the character felt numb. I actually don’t remember too much of that Tuesday performance. Even though the stage lights were apparent and operating, I tried everything to be spatially in the dark for every opportunity I did not need to be seen by the audience. There is a moment on stage after the "Snow White in the forest scene," were I am trying to get out. When it ends, I have a cross over from upstage right to upstage left. I couldn’t even cross over. The only thing I truly remember from that performance was hiding and clenching my body behind the light truss, crying and panting in desperation for it to all be over so that I can just go home and be alone with my thoughts.
In time I’ll find the irony of all of this somewhat amusing in a nostalgic sort of way, but right now the heart is still scabbing. That very moment last week has to be my most occurring "walk through the dark," I’ve experienced thus far. I am not scared of death, but let’s just say I’m taking life, and people in my life more seriously, and have been practicing every day to sustain it in the light.
10. On "Call Me Adam," I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent everyday. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent everyday? If I had to choose what to improve in my life by one percent each day, it would be self-love. As an artist, or academic, or anyone who strives to be happy, you must give yourself the love you feel you deserve. Find that one minute in the day to thank yourself for being here and relevant. If there is one thing I regret that has taken me in opposition from improvement, it was self-criticism in my work. I mean come on, I’m only 22! I’ve made a beyond conscious effort to better apply my art, that at times, would have taken an unconscious course, and make it extremely hard to ever see anything in a larger picture. We cannot belittle ourselves, as it stops the momentum of our potential. Focusing too harshly on the cons of whatever is put to mind and/or body results in lack of perspective. In terms of working in the arts or not, perspective is everything, and it is better to make mistakes, then to avoid every encounter of something you feel that you cannot challenge or control. In that defying moment between being in control and out, is the most empowering feeling in the world, and a feeling to cherish and look back and say, "I’m glad I made a choice." Don’t make your life one sided or abide by the rules you make for yourself out of fear. Make this life on earth a life open to mistakes, because that’s the only way you’ll truly appreciate your success and overall happiness.
Hilly majored in dance at Douglas Anderson High School (Jacksonville, FL). She holds a dance BFA from SUNY Purchase, & showcased works by Jessica Lang, Nicolo Fonte, & Doug Varone. During college, Hilly danced with Ismael Ivo's, Biblioteca do Corpo (Vienna, Austria) & has studied with The Forsythe Company (Frankfurt, Germany). Under the direction of William Forsythe, she has performed excerpts from In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, and Quintett. This is her 1st season with Company XIV.