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Laist Interview: Choreographer Kitty McNamee

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Kitty McNamee is the artistic director and founder of Hysterica Dance Company, which was founded in 1997. Her primary training is in modern dance, but Hysterica’s visceral, physical work draws on influences from cinema, music, and popular culture.

The LA Times wrote this about Hysterica in 2002: “Choreographer Kitty McNamee sees contemporary pop culture too clearly to be seduced by its lies. Probing it in a series of eerie, neo-Expressionist dance dramas for her Hysterica Dance Co., she’s found layers of alienation, fear, and desperate pretense.”

There are two opportunities coming up to see Hysterica’s work – a new work-in-progress premiere at REDCAT and a benefit to support the company.

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The benefit takes place this weekend, Sept. 23 and 24, 8pm at FOCUSfish performance space, 6121 Santa Monica Blvd., Studio B, Hollywood CA. Tickets are $20. The performance will feature dance from all genres by members and friends of Hysterica, including Ryan Heffington, Bubba Carr, Tovaris Wilson, Lisa K. Lock, Mandy Moore and more. Detailed info at

The new work in progress “reflex,” will be performed at REDCAT/studio, 631 West 2nd St, LA CA 90012, Oct. 2 and 3 at 8:30 pm. Tickets are $10. For reservations, call (213) 237-2800 or go online to

Age and Occupation:

How long have you lived in Los Angeles, and which neighborhood do you live in?
12 years, currently Mt. Washington, I lived in Hollywood for many years.

Why do you choose to live in Los Angeles?
My work is here, it is a great environment for the arts. A lot of unique, creative dancers gravitate to LA.

What gave you the idea to start Hysterica Dance Company? How did the company come to exist?
I was getting some work as a commercial choreographer, but not enough to fulfill me creatively. my background was in concert dance and theater, so I decided to combine the two and make dance theater works.

How was the name Hysterica chosen for the company? Does it symbolize anything?
The name just came to me. It means many things, none of them easy to explain….it is more a feeling of intense creativity.

Why is Hysterica primarily focused on modern dance? What does “modern” dance mean to you?
Are you interested in other forms as well?

I feel that the work we do is more contemporary, really in the dance theater world. I am very interested in mixing all mediums of dance. The physical side of the work is actually ballet based. I am very interested in hip hop.

How do you select company members and dancers for Hysterica?
Usually through referrals for the current dancers, or from seeing someone in class.

What is the process of creating a new work like for you? About how long does it take to create a new piece, from concept to finished product?
I usually start w/ the music. That is my passion. Then I choose the dancers and really devote myself to exploring what they do, who they are and how we can maximize the music. Every piece is different. Some come out easily, some take a long time.

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What do you think are some of the challenges and unique facets of the LA dance scene? What is the audience for modern dance in LA?
Bad:There is little financial or organizational support for dance in LA, particularly to launch companies into a bigger arena.
Good:Because LA is spread out, everyone's work seems to be unique.
Our audience is different than most companies, we tend to get people from the fashion, theater and film industry as audience...

LA is a center for a lot of recorded choreography and performance, from music videos to commercials. Do you ever work in this world? I do work in the commercial world, primarily on stage.

You also do choreography for many Los Angeles theatre productions. How is this different from your work with Hysterica? I get paid! + each job has a unique set of challenges,which I enjoy. Plus, I have been fortunate enough to work w. some terrific directors. I enjoy not having to run the show, happy to let the director do it.

How often do you ride the MTA subway or light rail?
Only one time.

What are your favorite movies or TV shows that are based in LA?
Old film noirs.

Best LA-themed book?
Day of the Locust.

What's the best place to walk in LA?
Griffith Park.

It's 9:30 pm on Thursday. Where are you coming from and where are you going?
Going to teach a class in Hollywood.

If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?

What's your beach of choice?

What is the "center" of LA to you?

If you could live in any neighborhood or specific house in LA, where/which would you choose? Mt. Washington.

Los Angeles is often stereotyped as a hard place to find personal connections and make friends. Do you agree with that assessment? Do you find it challenging to make new friends here?

What is the city's greatest secret?

Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?
Don't do it.

Describe your best LA dining experience.