[Interview] Award Winning Choreographer Brock Clawson: “Crossing Ashland Is a Collection of Experiences”


Choreographer Brock Clawson will bring his ballet masterpiece “Crossing Ashland” to Joffrey’s Contemporary Choreographers next month. The sensual Contemporary Choreographers program will arrive just in time for Valentine’s Day with Chicago getting a front row seat to the extremely modern event. BTSCelebs recently interviewed the Chicago based award winning choreographer to discover the story behind-the-scenes of “Crossing Ashland” creator.

BTSCelebs: What inspired you to create your piece for “Contemporary Choreographers”?

Brock Clawson: A few years ago I decided that I wanted to study another form of design to further my choreography.  I enrolled in a 3 year program at the Regenstein School of the Chicago Botanic Gardens studying landscape design and horticulture.  In horticulture school there is a common phrase, “right plant, right place” which basically means that a plant can survive in its non ideal environment but it will never really thrive unless it is given what it needs to grow.  I began to relate this phrase to humans.  I think that a lot of us go through life in our non-ideal environments, but what happens if we challenge ourselves to find the right relationships, jobs, location etc.?…our “right plant, right place.”

My partner and I live in a neighborhood that is separated by Ashland Avenue. When walking our dogs we would often ask each other, “Do you want to cross Ashland?”  Most of the time we would choose not to, but every once in a while, when we were up for something different and feeling like going somewhere new and unfamiliar, we would cross Ashland.  It sort of became a metaphor for change.

What story does your “Crossing Ashland” tell?

There isn’t a literal story in Crossing Ashland.  It’s a collection of experiences.  I want the audience to relate to the different human connections that the dancers create on the stage.

In your award-winning career, what was the most challenging production to choreograph?

I would probably have to say Crossing Ashland because each of the dancers has 2 costumes…a pedestrian one and their dance one.  Each dancer has moments off stage where they are dressing and undressing in order to make an entrance in the required attire so it gets rather complicated to make sure that it can all happen as planned.  It was a lot to consider when I created the work on the Milwaukee Ballet because the theater didn’t have a crossover space so I had to allow time for all the dancers to run downstairs and come back up on the other side of the stage at times…it was a brain teaser for sure.

Which move has been the hardest for any dancer to perfect?

Ricardo Santos & Lucas Segovia,  Photo by Christopher Duggan

Ricardo Santos & Lucas Segovia, Photo by Christopher Duggan

I’m not sure that there is a certain move that has been the most difficult.  I would say that it’s more of a style issue.  I love seeing dancers transfer from athleticism to lyricism within a single phrase.  I also use a lot of spirals in my movements which can be difficult for some of the dancers.  Crossing Ashland has a lot of floor work in it, which I love doing.  That has definitely taken some getting used to, but I think they have had a lot of fun with it and are doing a great job.

What other career choice was appealing to you besides dance?

Like I said, I love landscape design.  It really challenges me to be a better choreographer. The skills are very similar to me.  I am either moving bodies in a space or plants in a space…it’s all about how you move the eye and connect the dots.

If you had the opportunity to choreograph any movie (American or Foreign), what would it be and why?

Wow, that’s a tough one!  Lately, I’ve been kind of obsessed with 500 Days of Summer.   I love the director and how he can tell a story in a very real and honest way…his movies are never overacted or catering to what the audience might expect.  He also had another movie this past summer called The Spectacular Now.  He keeps it genuine… I love that.

Who are your Hollywood role models in dance?

I wouldn’t say that I really have any Hollywood role models in dance.  I loved musicals when I was growing up (ok, I still do).  I used to learn all the choreography from Oklahoma and West Side Story.  I would also be lying if I said that I never spun around like Maria in The Sound of Music from time to time.  😉

Do you have any plans to star in your own reality series?

Haha.  No I currently have no plans for a Reality TV Show, but I am honored that you would think I just might be that interesting.

Click Here to learn more about “Crossing Ashland” and the Contemporary Choreographers event.

*A Special Thanks to Brock Clawson and Eric Eatherly/The Silverman Group for the Interview and Images*

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