Visiting artist pursues passions outside of full-time job

KAITLYN SPECHT

Arts & Life Editor

The plans that Coco Loupe, the visiting Vail Series artist, had had for her life were about as perfect for a dancer as it could get.  But when her dreams of becoming a dance professor actually came true, it was not everything she had hoped. Now, as an employee at Trader Joe’s, Loupe has found that her life as a dancer and creator has been much more fulfilling than the perfect image she had previously had for her life.

The artist, who had been visiting classes and working with students for the past week, gave an artist talk on Sept. 30 in the Knapp performance space, showing the full range of emotions that go into producing art.  The way she spoke, in slow, soft tones and eased herself into some of the difficulties of living as an artist, unfolding her past struggles, Loupe truly made herself vulnerable while talking about her work.

Loupe has had a rocky relationship with dance and art, moving from place to place until finally achieving her dream job as a professor of dance.  Her dream job did not turn out to be as wonderful as she had imagined, however, and so she resigned and had to “keep following [her] nose and [her] body” to find her creative home.

Loupe read her past job application, which she had sent to twelve different universities, as a way of showing her thought process and how she thought about her work.

“I didn’t want to make anything up,” she explained.  “I sorta knew it wouldn’t get me any jobs. I wrote them to feel like I have a place in this world.”

The applications illustrated the love/hate relationship that she has with dance, how she does not enjoy the actual process of dancing, but of creating and teaching.  The application was heartbreakingly honest, as she was throughout the talk, and, as the past memories of this moment in her life were brought up once again through the reading, Loupe became emotional.  When she finished, she crumpled the paper up and tossed it to the side, saying that she was not sure that she believed what she wrote anymore.  They represented the perfect life she had been seeking, not the way she viewed her work now.

Overall, the talk gave great insight not only into the mind of a dancer, but of any sort of artist.  Art tends to have a romantic connotation to it, but Loupe showed that it can be painful and exhausting, and that it is always changing.  Once Loupe thought that she had to work in her field to feel fulfilled, but now she works at “the graveyard of graduate degrees,” she said with a laugh.  She said she has this “wild work life that [she] can leave completely and go make art…[she] can support what [she is] compelled to do.”

Alivia Tacheny ’18 found that it was interesting how she was not ashamed of her work at Trader Joe’s and that she still found a way to pursue her passions despite not having a full time job in that field.

“I thought it was very cool and very inspiring that she was so open and that she embraced that she had all these jobs to support her passion and that that wasn’t a burden, that wasn’t like she wasn’t making it as a dancer yet, but there were other things she put herself in to so that she could do this other thing, too,” Tacheny said.

In her first days on the job, she was given the task of stacking avocados in the produce section.  No one told her how to do it, so she sort of stuck them in there at random and if one began to fall, she caught it and replaced it, over and over until it stuck.  When she was done, her boss came over and told her that she was wrong, that they needed to be lined up to form a pyramid.  While the pyramid method may work best for avocados, Loupe saw that it did not work for dance, that the randomness of piling them and reforming them worked as a much better metaphor for her creative process.

“This is how I make dances,” Loupe said.  “The avocados are the raw materials. if a piece starts to fall off, I pick it up. the movements sort of hang off each other.”

The way that movements work and how they feed off of each other translate into life experiences.  Loupe was intrigued by the way that a dance she had loved where the dancer had begun shaking.

Loupe said, “It looks so known in his body, but I can’t tell if he’s improvising his movement…can you shake, can you make choreography that you can replicate?” After trying it, she said, “You can’t do it.”

The things that seem so known, are, perhaps, not as set in stone or concrete as previously thought.  Loupe thought she knew what she wanted when she applied for teaching positions at universities, and, while she still loves to teach, she finds now that Trader Joe’s provides her with the financial support she needs to keep moving and producing art.  The idea that she had for her life before was not the one that allowed her to cultivate dance in the way that she wanted.  So Loupe keeps reworking things, catching the falling avocados and replacing them until they form the shape that she wants for them.