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Colorado Creatives: Mary Lynn Lewark

Stories flap in the wind at a performance of A Boat of Sails by Bone House North.
Stories flap in the wind at a performance of A Boat of Sails by Bone House North.
Photo by Tessa Machmer, Machmer Movement
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Mary Lynn Lewark approaches dance from every angle: As a teacher, dancer, choreographer and ever-curious student, she fully integrates each role into her work as artistic director of her dance company, Bone House North, and her dance studio, Between the Bones — all in the service of the art of movement. Lewark’s latest project, the People Project — MOOVMENT, grew out of the time of COVID, inspired by the human ability to adapt and the individual stories of transformation that are being written and rewritten in the present.

Learn about Lewark’s goals for telling those stories as she answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.

Mary Lynn Lewark leads her company, Bone House North, in sharing transformative COVID-era stories with the community.EXPAND
Mary Lynn Lewark leads her company, Bone House North, in sharing transformative COVID-era stories with the community.
Rachel Neville Photography

Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?

Mary Lynn Lewark: My open heart…and that of every person I am working with. I know that no matter what happens, I work with an open heart. It does not matter what content, what talent is in the room or what constraints we have, we will make something beautiful. We will make a story — that needs to be told — a story about all of us.

Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party and why?

Buster Keaton, Pina Bausch and the band DeVotchKa

There is something truly timeless in these people and the band: A sense of humanity is communicated in their work that is both ancient and contemporary. They are the vagabonds and players, relying on their wit and intuition. Whatever thing they are doing, they are all in. They all have taken great risks and created work communally. You can feel the gypsy, the tribe and the family behind them.

This speaks to me of times long ago. There is an ease they have for their craft, and even if they were not noticed or famous, they would still do it. Their work recognizes the audience there witnessing it — feeling it — so they speak to our hearts and souls, helping us remember what it means to be human. They have reckless spirits and are more interested in a good beginning with well-laid plans. Plus they would look fantastic, the night would have an "Oh, what a night" feeling, and the neighbors would complain, and then they would join in, and the house would be a mess the next day from all the singing, laughing and dancing. And I would love it all.

A scene from Bone House North's outdoor performance A Boat of Sails.
A scene from Bone House North's outdoor performance A Boat of Sails.
Photo by Tessa Machmer, Machmer Movement

What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?

There is not much happening, so when you do create something, it is novel. The worst thing is that we don’t have a hub or main theater for dance to happen.

What drew you to a career in dance in the first place?

I love movement. After my first dance class, I was done. I was in love, and that feeling has never stopped. I am grateful for that. I love the athleticism, the craft, the training, the imagination and the totality of being. To be a dancer, you have to use everything — body, mind, heart and soul. I love using this virtuosity and creating stories for performance. I also enjoy going to a lot of trouble to make a beautiful moment. It is exciting to create wow, awe, and even move people to feel more deeply. I enjoy that the audience and performers are in present time together, and we get such a beautiful shared experience of life.

A procession of dancers in A Boat of Sails.
A procession of dancers in A Boat of Sails.
Photo by Tessa Machmer, Machmer Movement

What is your philosophy as a dancer and teacher?

Work communally, be playful, and be in a constant state of letting go. Keep connecting to our ancient instinct to move, feel and love. Whether it be in our bodies, ideas, imagination or with each other, this ability to let go or fall into the movement becomes a vital resource not only for dance-making, but for life. This heals us, connects us, makes us grow, makes us remember that we are alive and all things are possible.

What’s your dream project?

It’s called The Story of Love, and DeVotchKa writes the music and plays live alongside us. I am joined by a hearty band of Denver’s fearless humans and artists. I have no idea exactly what we will create, but I trust the story, the people, and that the way we work will blow open something beautiful and moving.

A dancer finds her way in A Boat of Sails.
A dancer finds her way in A Boat of Sails.
Photo by Tessa Machmer, Machmer Movement

Denver (or Colorado) — love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?

The weather, the location, my family, my dance house at the 6th Avenue United Church of Christ, my community.

Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?

Robert Sher-Machherndl of Lemon Sponge Cake Ballet. Right now he teaches ballet online every day Monday through Saturday, no matter what. Whether there is one person or fifty, he is all in. I love his passion for moving, his insane musicality and how he does not break ballet down. He moves you out of your head and says, “Let’s go; stop thinking and move" — which is unusual for ballet teachers. I love ballet and his work, and train with him at least three times a week.

What's on your agenda now and in the coming year?

My newest project is dear to me. My work has thrived during COVID life, and I found a resiliency in my practice and my creations. I actually did not understand the power in my work until this year. I have been very lucky to have some adventuresome students, community dancers and professionals who have all been training and creating with me in spite of the times. We have been working outside and doing performances in what I call the Forest Dance Program, meaning, “We are going to dance outside until this is over, in all weather conditions and world situations, safely.”

Our community of dancers and artists has become stronger, more loving and transformed. Because we are outside, I feel we are connecting to our beautiful Colorado outdoors in a way we never would have before. This makes us all feel more connected to life and nature — and to each other.

I am so grateful for this time in the world, because for the first time, we are all the same. We have all been leveled at the same place. I understand your helplessness and pain, and we share the same joy in simple things, and it all feels so real. The world feels communal to me, which is beautiful, and I wanted to make a performance or class for that — so we could share this moment in time together before that feeling goes away, before we all get busy and forget that at one time, we were all feeling the same things. I know people have been moving things, and like me, you may need a way to make it so or let go. I know we all need to start listening to each other, and this is my beginning, my contribution.

The People Project MOOVMENT with my company Bone House North is a way for people to share their stories of transformation during COVID life.

MOOVMENT is a performance, a class, a workshop, a way to share your story and a way to connect our humanity in these times, ultimately creating a beautiful monument of transformational stories during COVID life. I call it A Boat of Sails.

We hope to do the show many times and to collect as many stories as possible, so in the end we will have an art installation that can go traveling to galleries. We know not everyone can see the show right now, but we are making a way that you can still be a part of it by sending us your story.

Personal mementos lie exposed on the ground in A Boat of Sails.
Personal mementos lie exposed on the ground in A Boat of Sails.
Photo by Tessa Machmer, Machmer Movement

Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?

Julia Wilkinson Manley. She is the owner and artistic director of Colorado Conservatory of Dance. We are connected by a mutual friend. Julia’s heart and soul in creating a conservatory experience for her community is so admirable. She is supportive of the form itself and an advocate for providing the best dance has to offer. She is also genuinely kind and generous. I dream of working with her — somehow, someday.

Upcoming performances of A Boat of Sails are scheduled for January 29, 30 and 31 and February 12, 13 and 14, at an outside location to be determined. The performances are free, but audience size will be limited. Send personal stories of transformation to be used in performances, and watch for additional details and possible changes at the Bone House North website.

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