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Q&A with Christian Swenson | 1996 GAP, Performance

Artist Trust

Q: What kind of art do you make? 
A: I am an interdisciplinary performing artist making art with my body and voice. 

Q: What did you use your award for? 
A: I/we used this award for a performance project with Butoh dancer, Joan Lagge, and didgeridu player, Ken Hoffman from Yakima . The other member of the cast was a 500 lb. granite stone… We performed as part of the 1997 ‘On The Boards’ Northwest New Works Festival at Washington Hall. 

Q: What was the impact of this award/Artist Trust on your art career/life?
A: This grant brought me together with two very different artists whom I had admired for several years.  I met Ken while working as an Artist in Residence in the Yakima Valley.  I’d been teaching myself Central-Asian throat singing which is a perfect blend with didgeridu.  Joan and I had admired each others work for several years and collaborated in 1996 during the celebrating Asia Festival in downtown Seattle.  The huge granite stone brought me back to my roots in New Hampshire, ‘The Granite State’, where I’d spend many years working on a trail crew moving and setting stone steps, walls, etc.  My family also is in the granite business back there.  I am primarily a solo artist, so any opportunity to collaborate with other artist enriches me, and allows audiences to see me create a different world.  I learned from Joan’s deep knowledge of Butoh and her sense of dramaturgy and also learned the insanity of working with such a massive prop.  It rests and grows moss in my yard now…  I haven’t been in touch with Ken Hoffman for years.  Thanks for the reminder.  I’ll look him up now as I’ll be in LitFuse at Mighty Tieton in September.

Christian Swenson has an extensive background in dance, mime, voice and improvisation.  He is known for his pioneering work in what he calls “Human Jazz”, a global fusion of dance/drama/music for body and voice.
In 1977 he received a BA in Theater from the University of New Hampshire and moved to Seattle to work with the Bill Evans Dance Company.  Further training has included work with Tony Montanaro; Diane Schenker; Ruth Zapora; Korean shaman, Hi-ah Park, and with the late Pakistani master-singer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan.  He has performed with Bill Irwin, The Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and The Jay Clayton/Jim Knapp Collective and in Europe with Jim Nollman of Interspecies Communication Inc. He presently teaches in the Theater Program at Seattle University.
For the past 30 years he has been performing creations for the body and voice searching for a more global aesthetic.  Since 1980 he has been a touring artist visiting communities and schools in the Northwest and beyond.  He has performed and taught throughout this country, as well as in Canada, Europe, Japan and Nepal.  Christian released his first compact disc, Off-Road Vocals in 2000.
As a guest artist he has been seen as: The Monster in The Minnesota Opera’s production of Frankenstein, at New York’s Serious Fun at Lincoln Center and The New York Improvisation Festival, with The Flying Karamazov Brother’s New Old Time Chautauqua and the 2002 Rolling Thunder Down Home Democracy Tour and has been heard on National Public Radio’s Sandy Bradley’s Potluck.  He was a teacher/performer at the 2005 American College Dance Festival in Buffalo, NY and at the 1998 Body & Soul Northwest Conference.  For two years he was a vocalist with the Integrated Music Program at two Seattle hospitals and is a founding member of the improvisational ensemble Molten Vocals.
Christian has also received Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Washington State Arts Commission. He resides happily in Seattle with his wife, Abigail, and they have two grown children.