Christopher Williams is not a shrinking violet. When he’s onstage dancing, you find yourself thinking, This is what Nijinsky must have looked like.
Critics notice him; at 26, barely two years into his career in New York, he’s been singled out for mention in several reviews of other artists’ work. He‘s on scholarship at the Cunningham studio, and currently rehearses with at least three choreographers. He took a couple of years in the middle of his stint at Sarah Lawrence to study mime in Paris at the École Internationale de Théâtre Jacques Lecoq. Recently appointed a HERE artist in residence at the Dream Music Puppetry program, he works with puppets as well as live bodies; among his many mentors is toy-theater maestro Dan Hurlin, with whom he studied at Sadie Lou, and among his funders is the Jim Henson Foundation.
A native of Syracuse, Williams began piano lessons at age 10; his teacher, the church organist, noticed that he preferred composing to practicing. “So she transferred my lessons to musical composition, and let me play the church organ. I wrote music for the choir. She taught me music theory—and music is such a foundation for dancing.”
An English teacher at his high school, who also taught drama, “had such a caring for the integrity of the arts that he made us feel like true professionals. I’d been in four Shakespeare plays by the time I graduated from high school.” He abandoned early ballet studies because he was unmercifully tortured by his classmates, but returned to dance at Sarah Lawrence, where he studied with the late Viola Farber. She inspired him to such an extent, he says, “that I’ll never stop dancing as long as I live.”
After college, he came to New York and supported himself by “selling my body,” modeling for art classes. But he very quickly began earning enough performing and rehearsing that he no longer had to model. Right now, though, he’s barely getting by; money is tight, he has no health insurance, and since September 11 he senses a real change in the funding climate. But he shares a Park Slope apartment with two roommates, so his overhead is low. “My strategy is to build something in which I can plant these wonderful seeds. I’m interested in finding my context in this whole beautiful processional that is the dance world.”
Williams performs with Rebecca Lazier’s Terrain Wednesday through Saturday at the Kitchen. Call 255-5793, ext. 11, for tickets.