Arts & Culture » Culture

Shining a Light on LED

Lauren Edson and Andrew Stensaas, founders of arts collective LED, on Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald, relationships and "ushering in new technologies"


A marriage of artists can be rife with jealousy and warring egos. It can also lead to inspiration and collaboration. For choreographer-dancer Lauren Edson and musician Andrew Stensaas, saying "I do" was followed by "we do," and gave rise to the creation of art collective, LED. On Saturday, Oct. 10, LED will debut at the Morrison Center with This Side of Paradise, a dance/music performance based on the lives of artistic giants Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Having returned to Boise after a summer on tour, Edson and Stensaas discussed This Side of Paradise, how LED differs from their previous projects and where LED will lead them.

How did you arrive at the theme of the Fitzgeralds?

Stensaas: I've been a big fan of F. Scott Fitzgerald. It's what swayed me into reading as a high-school student. From there, it's just delving in and researching their relationship. There's such an incredible drama in their personal lives that's applicable to artists of today.

Edson: I think it's interesting to read their letters and see them coexisting as artists and navigating that together. What's great is to imagine how their relationship might have been and having it not be a period piece, taking themes that are relevant today like celebrity and fame and infidelity.

You mentioned parallels between the Fitzgeralds' relationship and your own.

Edson: We are lucky. As collaborators, it has been a pretty easy thing. We discovered we can collaborate together and collaborate well. There are frustrations. We started LED, we had our baby and created This Side of Paradise. What makes it a unique collaboration is it's not that I'm on my island creating and he's on his island creating: There's a constant dialogue.

Stensaas: They mainly run into the running of an arts organization. Whether it's my nonchalant-ness toward certain things or her on-top-of-it, go-get-'em attitude toward certain things, we've helped each other grow in that way.

How do you portray the Fitzgeralds through music and dance?

Edson: Trying to capture the idiosyncrasies of Zelda, having her continuously walking this line between control and wild abandon. I've given dancers tasks to help them try to physicalize what's going on. There have been times when we've done writing assignments to find a vocabulary that feels like it rests within that character's being. It's not just a gymnastic feat.

Stensaas: Zelda was much more of a socialite. But we wanted to capture some sense of isolation within herself. When we start off, I'm the only musician on stage playing to some pre-recorded tracks as it develops, and then the band comes in. It's a little bit of coming out of the shell. For F. Scott ... it's funk and soul, which are the genres we chose, and to really make it feel like an emotional, fun-packed train wreck.

How much do audiences need to know about F. Scott and Zelda to enjoy this piece?

Edson: People won't have to know anything about the Fitzgeralds to get something from it.

Stensaas: But they will get a lot from it if they do because they're historically accurate depictions of these people.

What's the relevance of the Fitzgeralds' relationship today?

Stensaas: I think the creation of this work and comparing these generations is special.

Edson: There's the element of voyeurism, too. I love the idea that the audience is opening the door to this intimate relationship. I think there's something poignant and heartbreaking about it, too. As an audience member, you'll feel vulnerable and connected.

You've changed as an organization. What's the difference between Lauren Edson + Dancers and LED?

Edson: Lauren Edson + Dancers was really created out of necessity because I had been asked to participate in some festivals in New York and Houston. Andrew and I talked, even before we were married, about starting a collaborative arts organization. We are also commissioning artists coming to Boise to create. We're going to be creating but hiring artists on a project-by-project basis, and then commission artists to come to Boise.

Stensaas: We're also bringing in visual artists. We want to usher in new technologies. There's projection mapping that's visible in European countries and Asian countries, and there are a lot of cool things to be done. You're able to see these things happen live in front of you.

What's next for LED?

Edson: We've been talking to Eric Gilbert at Treefort to have some involvement with that that feels more like a mainstage show. I've been talking with a choreographer from Israel to commission work for her to come up. I want to bring in other choreographers to be able to dance their work. But we're going to do Treefort and a small northwest tour.

Stensaas: We're looking at a few different people for this projection mapping to bring in. Maybe it's something that's going to happen with Lauren and I and a small band, but we're going to talk with some projection artists. Things of that nature that can be explored. I like the technology aspect.

Anything else?

Edson: We want to be a Boise company. They've already embraced what we're doing and we're certainly continuing the legacy TMP set here. But we're more than a dance company. We're hoping that this show sheds some light that we're more than that.