ilvs strauss is an analytical chemist turned multi-disciplinary performance artist and theater technician living and making work in Seattle.
Born in California and raised in Portland, she turned in her high school acting interest for a promising future in the field of science. While waiting for chemical solutions to cool to room temp in the lab day after day, she found her enthusiasm for this reasonable profession growing cooler and cooler. So she quit. Found herself applying for an internship with Bumbershoot and then getting it. Which meant moving up to Seattle in 2005 on three days notice. Soon after, thanks to the wonders of internship networking, ilvs began working as a stagehand at several local theaters (On the Boards, Book-It Rep) and found herself back in the world of performance arts. She remembers that ethereal feeling of returning home.
In 2008 ilvs started doing Slide Show Performances, narrating original stories to found Kodak slides. They're pretty funny, touching. She's performed them all over town including but not limited to: SAM, Bumbershoot, Annex Theater, Smoke Farm, Gallery 1412, On the Boards, HenryArt Gallery, Vera Project, Richard Hugo House. In 2013 she joined her Slide Show skills with storyteller/musician Wes K. Andrews in a show called Everything Everything Everything that they toured around the great PNW. It was 100% made up, which was good, because it was mostly about heartbreak. And the Dave Matthews Band.
She's done a couple other great collaborations over the years. An absurd Valentine's dance performance art piece at On the Boards with Jody Kuehner in 2010 I believe it was, a music and dance infused letter writing based piece for the Genre Bender series with Ahamefule Oluo in 2014, and an entire show about salt (S is for ____) with Chef Zephyr Paquette for Cafe Nordo, complete with Slide Shows, existential musings, live sketching and dancing abouts between meals.
But really, she likes to work solo.
Her Dance Narrative solo, Manifesto, performed at On the Boards' Northwest New Works Fest 2014 and again at PDX's RISK/REWARD fest that same year, was listed in Dance Magazine’s BEST of 2014 list. She eventually/finally made it into an evening length piece, added 12 dancers and premiered it at Velocity in May 2015 and performed again at Gay City's Calamus Theater in August of 2015. So much for solo work.
A word about Dance Narrative – it's the name for the format she's been focused on as of late - using a voice over narrative and setting gesture based movement to it. After years of working with dancers, she finally signed herself up to take a dance intensive in 2012 and has been at it ever since, increasingly incorporating it into her performance work. Seeing as she started dance in her thirty's, she knew the dance that would come from her would not look like that which flowed so effortlessly from her colleagues. So she approached the medium from a different angle, one that starts with language as the impetus for movement - Crude Gestures - that, when explored deeper, translate into a movement language that both compliments and challenges the voice over. ilvs invites you to think of it as live SUBTEXT to the spoken TEXT.
Aside from performance, she's dabbled deep in visual art: self portrait collages at Odyssey Gallery and Ethnic Heritage Art Gallery in 2011, matchbox dioramas at True Love in 2013, paper cut outs at Hard L in 2013, to name a few. Also in 2013, for Smoke Farm, she created four anamorphic 'Post Cards' using found natural objects, wood and cardboard. It was her first large scale outdoor installation. It shall not be her last.
What else. . .she was real into Haiku poetry for a minute, one won her first place in an online contest through The Subversive Human in 2010.
ilvs volunteers at the Seattle Aquarium, has been since 2012. Why is this relevant? Because it influences her art in a way she never could have imagined. 'It' being the ocean and all it's magnificent denizens, spineless and otherwise.
She also teaches workshops with interesting titles inspired by aforementioned marine life. You should take one. They're open to persons of all experience levels and are about different ways of approaching art, ideas on how to get past art blocks, and investigations on subtle movements, amongst other things. Movement and writing exercises are served with a heavy helping of ilvs' accessibly esoteric, excited ramblings on movement and writing.
A muscle she's been flexing as of late that she never knew she had is her Strategic Facilitator muscle. What. Does. That. Mean. Basically, she helps organizations Figure Out How To Figure It Out. It's everything you would imagine would happen when you mix Office Culture with Arts Culture but without the pulled hamstrings or missing office supplies.
Every year since 2010, around the holiday season, ilvs lets her hair down, grows a beard, and dons some practical linens with a matching crown of thorns in order to portray her friend Jesus Christ in DeLouRue's production of Homo for the Holidays. One of these days, she swears, she will stick that Manna joke.
Oh, hey, remember the bit about Analytical Chemistry? Yeah, ilvs did that for a brief stint back in like 2002 or '03 at a pharmaceutical company in the suburbs of Portland, putting her Chemistry Degree (Magnum Cum Laude, Oregon State University) to work in the most obligatorily apathetic way possible, as was characteristic of most things done in those first years after college. Her only regret is not taking home to wash and accidentally never returning the lab coat that fit her oh so well.
Speaking of non-stage things, ilvs is quite the capable Technical Director and Lighting Designer. She's worked for Pat Graney, KT Neihoff, Salt Horse and Cherdonna, to name a few. She is currently the TD at Velocity Dance Center and through teching shows has met most if not all the modern dancers in Seattle. She apologizes if she does not remember your name, she met a bunch of you all at once and you were all wearing the same outfit and dancing around under the same light.
Oh, and next time you see her, ask her how her utopian sci-fi book, The Venusian, is coming along.