When Sydney Burrows first came across Suzie Rzecnik, she was immediately drawn to her fluid, yet clearly isolated movement and commanding, confident presence. She has a unique range of abilities, and brings her choreographic and performative skills to her work in both the commercial and concert worlds. At the moment, Rzecnik is dancing for Amirov Dance Theater, creating her own work, and freelancing all around New York City. Despite her crazy schedule, she took the time to chat with Burrows about everything from her photo shoot experience to dancing with Phish in Madison Square Garden.
ON THE PHOTOSHOOT
Working with Jim (Lafferty) is always so fun and inspiring. Before we started shooting, we chatted shortly about what was going on in our lives and our current inspirations. I love shooting with him because he has this way of really seeing you and capturing you in your most honest moments. I think this was the third time we’ve shot together, and each time I’ve been in quite different periods of my life, so it’s been interesting to reflect on my growth though working with him. He doesn’t say much during the shoot; he just wants you to be you and move. It’s quite liberating to have this freedom to just be and trust he’s capturing this essence of you that he sees.
ON HER OUTFIT
I got the shirt in a thrift store in Berlin this summer. When I travel I like to go thrift shopping and see if I can find cool things that feel inspiring to dance in or just wear instead of souvenirs. It has these awesome big 80s shoulder pads in it!
ON DISCOVERING DANCE
I was really active as a kid and I always needed to have a lot of physical exertion. I was always playing sports but eventually, dance took priority. I realized that (dance) was what I wanted to do pretty young, and I just focused on that. As an art form, I feel like it’s an extension of our human experience in general. When I’m dancing and moving and expressing in that way, those are the moments that I feel the most alive. It’s almost like the rest of the time doesn’t matter as much as when I’m moving. I was not someone who necessarily liked to speak up or express myself, so performance has always been kind of cathartic for me. I don’t think I fully understood that part of it for myself until recently. So that’s kind of where I’m at — exploring what dance is for me now.
ON BRIDGING COMMERCIAL AND CONCERT DANCE
Navigating the commercial scenes is a little difficult, especially because I don’t have an agent or anything. I just use my network as much as I can to find the opportunities. It’s important to be able to shift and mold into what the specific project needs. I feel like I identify more in the contemporary world than in the commercial world, but they’re blending more now, so I’m trying to not limit myself to one or the other.
Process is very different in the two worlds. When you’re filming something, it’s kind of like when you’re doing high intensity interval training. You rest for a bit, but then you have to be on 120% like you’re on stage but without an audience – or with a different kind of audience. Whereas when I’m getting ready for a concert performance, I have rituals that I do that day, and I am able to properly warm up for this one burst. And then you also have the energy from the live audience. In a live performance, you have the opportunity to make split decisions, whereas when you’re filming, you can also do that, but then there’s only one shot that actually makes it in. Commercial and concert are almost like completely different lifestyles, and dancers have different attitudes and ways they express themselves. When you’re trying to do both you just have to be as malleable as possible.
ON HER CURRENT PROJECTS
I started with Amirov Dance Theater last year in November and have performed in a couple of festivals with them and in an evening length at Gibney Dance Center. Alex (Amirov)’s work is mostly based on her cultural identity. She’s an immigrant and has assimilated multiple times: from Russia to Israel to New York. Each of the works are quite different. Some of them are theatrical and some of them are more virtuosic and dancey. It just depends on what we’re working on at the moment.
I presented my first solos, of my own choreography, at a few different places over last year: Triskelion’s Improv Festival, The Craft: Performance & Brews in Brooklyn, and Spontaneous Combustion, which was a show Sara Chen (a friend of mine) held on the roof of her apartment. I’m continuing to work on that last solo, and I want to make it a film eventually.
I’m also working on a project with Tyler Gilstrap, a mentor and colleague of mine, for a corporate conference for a bunch of tech companies that’s going to be happening in Stockholm, Sweden, at the end of the month. I’m very deep into the freelance world. It’s hard to remember all the things I’m working on.
ON DANCING WITH PHISH
Phish has played at Madison Square Garden for the past 6 or 7 years I think for multiple days in a row. On New Years Eve, they do a gag at midnight, and they try to keep it top secret from the fans. In 2017, I was working for the Kuperman Brothers, and they created a dance with 16 or 18 of us for it, to the Phish song that’s about the rain. They made it rain on stage and we were dancing with these umbrellas that were on a rig. Being in Madison Square Garden was just totally insane and like no other stage I’ve ever been on. When it’s packed there’s like 24,000 people in the audience. Typically you would think of getting to perform in Madison Square Garden as something only commercial dancers would do, but I think most of us were contemporary or theater artists.
ON DIY DANCING
I was a little nervous for whatever you were going to ask me, but then I starting thinking about how DIYdancer aligns with my life, who I am, and why I’m even in this magazine. I think the do-it-yourself idea aligns with the way that I’ve approached my career and my training and everything. I definitely didn’t have a traditional straight shot into where I am now. I went to a performing arts high school that was just getting started. Then I went to one college and left and came to New York before going back to college and finishing my degree. At one point I thought I would do the full-time company route, but I worked on understanding what my skills are, and being flexible is one of them. I know now that I can make these extreme changes and use my network. It is a do-it-yourself kind of way to navigate the dance industry in New York.
Images by Jim Lafferty, words by Sydney Burrows