The Creators: Sitting down with Garet Wierdsma

Garet&Co dancers

Jennifer Almquist

The Creators: Sitting down with Garet Wierdsma

On Saturday, March 9, the people of Norfolk, Connecticut, enjoyed a dance performance by northern Connecticut-based Garet&Co, in Battell Chapel, titled INTERIOR, consisting of four pieces: “Forgive Her, Hera,” “Something We Share,” “bodieshatewomen,” and “I kinda wish the apocalypse would just happen already.”

At the sold-out show in the round, the dancers, whose strength, grace and athleticism filled the hall with startling passion, wove their movements within the intimate space to the rhythms of contemporary music. Wierdsma choreographed each piece and curated the music. The track she created for “Something We Share” eerily contained vintage soundtracks from life guidance recordings for the perfect woman of the ‘50s. The effect, with three dancers in satin slips posing before imaginary mirrors, was feminist in its message and left the viewer full of vicarious angst.

Following their performance, Wierdsma and her dancers sat on the dance floor and answered many questions from audience members, regarding subjects such as how long they have been dancing. The six young women have each been dancing for more than 18 years, a lifetime of sweat and discipline, perfecting their craft.



Jennifer Almquist: What first inspired you to become a dancer?

Garet Wierdsma: I was put into dance when I was 2 years old, in a baby ballet class. My mom was a dancer, my aunt was a dancer. I had the option of choosing between many sports, yet I gravitated to dance because it was quieter. I was very quiet as a child. Dancing gave me a place where I could just be and express myself quietly.

I wasn’t aggressive when I was a kid, but I have become more competitive as I’ve gotten older. I was also lucky enough to have cousins around my age that also danced. Whenever we got together, we made up shows and forced our families to sit and watch us. Those shows were fun, and creating our own thing, then presenting it, planted the seed that made me want to continue and be a choreographer when I got older.

JA: Was there a teacher who inspired you?

GW: I had teachers that I loved. Being a dancer can be difficult. I remember that when I was 7, I was disappointed by not being asked to be in a certain group. When I was 11, in response to losing a part I felt I deserved, I went on a journey to prove them wrong. I switched to a different studio and really connected with my new teacher. I owe a lot of my passion for dance to her. She recognized my quiet personality, my determination. She recognized that I wanted to be as good as I possibly could, even if I wasn’t loud about it.

Her name was Brenda Barna of The Dancing Slipper in Southwick, Massachusetts. Her passion for dance and her passion for movement resonated with me and lit a fire for what I was doing. It wasn’t all about the tricks or skills. She was a person that loved to move and loves music.

JA: Did she help you develop your body physically in a healthy way, build your muscle, your ability to handle what dancers must endure?

GW: So much goes into that training. For me to get to the level I achieved I had to train at that studio as well as at my high school and a ballet school elsewhere. I was also doing intensives all summer long and master classes any weekend that I could. Plus, I was training myself at home by clearing out our living room.

We didn’t have a living room for probably seven years because it was my dance studio. With dance you are also training your brain. You must sit and think about things or discuss things. As a teacher now, I stop class and try to help my students understand the concept, which takes a lot longer. It’s a huge time commitment. It means you must be taking even more time to be able to build up the strength to do it.

JA: Physical strength is essential. How do you sustain that?

GW: Dance is very physical. I think it’s just about that base training, like making sure that you have all the training to back up what you’re doing. I personally don’t take class as much as I used to. I’m not in class every day, but because I was in class every day for six hours a day for more than over 10 years, I have the foundation now to be like, ‘OK, I remember those muscles and I can do it.’

JA: Does that help you know how much you can ask of your dancers?

GW: Exactly! It is important because your dancers look to you for that — how do you know your own body, too. Dancers are really in tune with knowing their limitations or where they can push.

Garet WierdsmaJennifer Almquist

JA: Tell us about creating your dance company, Garet&Co. Are social media, the use of AI [artificial intelligence], and photography or film tools for your business now?

GW: I started my company based on a film. During the downtime of COVID I realized I really love choreography. I’m grateful they had a lot of choreographic opportunities at NYU. I was supposed to create a solo for a show at school, then suddenly we’re all shut down. I decided to make it a film instead and had a fun experience doing that. I submitted the film to a festival; it was accepted.

When I graduated from NYU in 2021, I had been teaching whenever I was back home. I grabbed three of the students I had taught at one of my workshops during the winter — ‘Hey, do you want to make a dance film with me in my backyard?’ We made the film, which I submitted to a few festivals, where we won a couple of awards. Then I accompanied my film to live dance festivals with the intention of saying, ‘Here’s my film but I want to make it a live piece.’ That is how the company started. At festivals I kept being asked what company I was with, and I answered Garet Wierdsma. I finally said that is our name: Garet&Co.

JA: How do you find your original dancers?

GW: I found my dancers a couple of different ways. I asked some of my students to join me. Then the stars lined up when a colleague took a gap year while I wanted to do festivals. She was the first adult professional that joined my company. I put notices for dancers on Facebook and Instagram — ‘Hey I’m looking for dancers. Email me your dance reel and your resume.’ I got some great dancers from that, two of whom are performing in this show tonight. Garet&Co is in our third season, and I held my first audition this year.

JA: What is next for Garet&Co?

GW: We will be continuing to share the joy and catharsis of contemporary dance through offering lots of classes and performances throughout the Northeast this spring and summer, culminating with our Season Four audition in August.

Our upcoming events:

March 24: “Something We Share” at Spark Theatre Festival in New York City

April 7: Garet&Co Contemporary Community Workshop

April 11: Garet&Co Open Company Classes (classes open to all)

April 28: “bodieshatewomen” at Central Connecticut State University

May 4: “bodieshatewomen” at Artistic Dance Festival in East Longmeadow, Massachusetts

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