Christopher Caines Dance Company
Christopher Caines, Choreographer/Artistic Director
Christopher Caines began to present his work in New York and his native Canada in 1990. His early work included interdisciplinary multimedia pieces that incorporated monologue, singing, drumming, electronic sound processing, and projections, as well as dance.
“A one-man theatrical band” (Elizabeth Zimmer, The Village Voice) Mr. Caines has often been called a modern Renaissance man. His choreography is enriched by his exceptionally diverse theatrical background. He has studied tabla, frame drumming, Indian classical singing, and bel canto, and performed as an actor (most notably in the work of Ping Chong), singer, and drummer. In the early 1990s, while simultaneously working widely as a lighting designer for dance and theater, he composed music for his own dance-theater works and for numerous other choreographers, as well as two full-length theatrical scores (songs, dances, and underscoring) for director Richard Nash.
Mr. Caines’s commissions for ensembles of student dancers and musicians include dances created as the Ruth Page Visiting Guest Artist in Dance at Harvard University (1999) and as a visiting faculty member at Princeton University and Swarthmore College (2001/02). He has received grants from Meet the Composer, The Field, and the Astral Foundation. He has taught at the Brooklyn Arts Exchange; Harvard; Halifax Dance, Canada; and Tanz Offensive Köln, Germany. In 2001 he was nominated for the CalArts Alpert Award.
In 1996 Mr. Caines composed a sound installation for the Atlanta Olympics comprising the voices of a hundred New Yorkers speaking more than sixty languages, which was heard by nearly one million people. As a choreographer–composer, Mr. Caines has also created many site-specific works, including segments of the Red Dive Collective’s two haunted-house tours at New York’s Lower East Side Tenement Museum, one of which was part of the New York Dance and Performance (“Bessie”) Award–winning Afterlives (1998). In 2001 his dance The War Council was featured as part of a multi-artist event produced by Dancing in the Streets/Dana Salisbury/XO Projects in Brooklyn. In 2003 Mr. Caines made his first choreography for the camera, for Basque director Arkaitz Bastera Zalbide’s film Dance with Her?; and in 2005 he made his first dances for theater, choreographing Romeo and Juliet in Renaissance period style for the Actors Shakespeare Company of New Jersey.
Mr. Caines has toured internationally as assistant director and solo dancer in Ping Chong’s EDDA. He has also worked since 2000 as director, choreographer, dramaturg, and designer for Canadian actor-playwright Peter Aterman, whose award-winning Slaves of Starbuck’s returned for the third year running to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2004, which also saw the debut of their most recent collaboration, Love and Despair: A Comedy.
From 2001 to 2003 Mr. Caines worked as a special researcher for the Balanchine Foundation’s Popular Balanchine project, a research initiative devoted to documenting Mr. Balanchine’s work in musical theater and film. Mr. Caines’s essays have appeared in the International Encyclopedia of Dance (Oxford University Press, 1997), for which he also served as assistant editor; the International Dictionary of Modern Dance (St. James Press, 1998); the American National Biography (OUP, 1998); The Village Voice; and the Movement Research Performance Journal. As a contributing editor to Dance Online (www.danceonline.com) he wrote reviews and co-wrote The Chronicles of Dancer X (1997–99), an online serial comic novel set in the Downtown New York dance scene.
Born in Nova Scotia, Canada, Mr. Caines trained principally with Claire Mallardi, Hanya Holm, Mary Anthony, at the Merce Cunningham Studio (modern), and with Marie Pacquette and Nenette Charisse (ballet). Early in his career he danced for some twenty-five New York choreographers, including Remy Charlip, Douglas Dunn, Bryan Hayes, Robert Kovich, Kei Takei, Susan Rethorst, Sin-cha Hong, and Rika Burnham, touring in the USA, Europe, and Asia and appearing in dances for film, television, and video.
About the Company
The Christopher Caines Dance Company’s mission is to celebrate great music through the medium of dance. CCDC has an absolute commitment to live music, and has never once performed to a recording. The company coalesced in 1999 after a decade in which Mr. Caines created experimental dance-music-theater works with scores of his own composition as well as pure dances, including two evening-length solos. With his breakthrough evening-length dance suite ARIAS (1999), he arrived at a lyrical choreographic style infused with a classical spirit and noted by critics for its intense musicality and dramatic expressiveness. CCDC has become known for a fluid and elegant modern-dance style both lyrical and dramatic, with an unusually strong base in classical technique. Since founding CCDC that same year, Mr. Caines has created some twenty dances for the company.
Mr. Caines’s dances include works set to a broad range of vocal and chamber music, from the Baroque (Handel, Caccini) to the second Viennese school (Schoenberg, Hindemith, Webern); from Chausson, Dvorák, Janácek, and Stravinsky to Irving Berlin and George Gershwin; from Medieval polyphony to contemporary composers Louise Schulman, Frank Ferko, and Giles Swayne. His dances have incorporated references as diverse as the waltz style of the Belle Epoque, Baroque dance, the Charleston, Irish step dancing, Central European Expressionist dance of the 1920s, Nijinsky, Isadora Duncan, and rock-and-roll.
Critics have praised Mr. Caines’s choreography for its exceptional musicality and emotional power:
“Real, honest-to-goodness dances—whose choreographic playfulness and musical refinement seem to have just lit in from the dawn of British ballet, as if a path not taken had suddenly opened up with possibilities and promise.…dance-making drenched in intuitive musicality and cultivated musicianship.…a feast.”
—Mindy Aloff, The New Republic
“Intense and edgily eccentric,…less about dancing to music than dancing through music.”
—Deborah Jowitt, The Village Voice
“[Caines is] a maximilist.…expansive, expressive movement.… His dramatic and musical extravaganzas, as redolent of human passion and tragedy as the poetry of Wilfred Owen and A. E. Housman, cry out for, say, the New Victory.”
—Elizabeth Zimmer, The Village Voice
“Wonders.…so much delirious dancing to be watched.”
—Chris Dohse, The Dance Insider
The company has performed exclusively to live music performed by some of New York’s finest singers and instrumentalists. Musicians who have worked with CCDC include frame drummer Randy Crafton; violist Louise Schulman (founding member and first violist of the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra); pianists Kathryn Woodard and Maria Ilic; mezzo-soprano Alexandra Montano (perhaps best known for her work with Philip Glass); violinist Theresa Salomon; and the Cerddorion Vocal Ensemble under the direction of Kristina Boerger. Critics have called Caines’s musicians “superb” and the dancers “radiant.”
CCDC and Mr. Caines’s project groups have been presented annually in New York by the Construction Company since 1996; by Dana Salisbury/XO Projects/Dancing in the Streets (2001); Red Dive/Lower East Side Tenement Museum (1999, 2000); Performance Mix (1997); SoHo Think Tank/Ohio Theater: Downtown Arts Festival (1997); Dixon Place (1992, ’94, ’97); Brooklyn Arts Exchange (annually 1992–96); Cornfield Dance (1995); Danspace Project/St. Mark’s Church: Food for Thought (1993, ’94); Movement Research/Judson Church (1991, ’94, ’98); Dance Theater Workshop: Fresh Tracks (1992); TWEED/ Crowbar (1992); Harvard University (1992, ’96, ’99); Atlantic Fringe Theater Festival, Halifax, Canada (1995, ’98); and Artefect, Toronto, Canada (1991).
In 2005 the company premiered Mr. Caines’s most ambitious work to date at Danspace Project/Dance:ACCESS: Tenebrae, a work for ten dancers and a forty-voice choir directed by Kristina Boerger, set to three masterworks by English Renaissance composer Thomas Tallis, in celebration of his 500th birthday: the motet “If ye love me,” The Lamentations of Jeremiah I, and the famed polychoral motet “Spem in alium.”