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Bob Eisen

Laura Molzahn: What was the motive for starting Links? What were the times like for dance in Chicago?

Bob Eisen: The initial motive was a place for the contact improvisation group, which Charlie [Vernon] and I were part of. I remember going [to Links] way back in 1974 or so to see Jim Self dance, as he rented the space and would present these delightful performances with others, Donna Mandel among them. To be honest I can’t remember how Carol [Bobrow] got involved, though I think Amy Osgood may have had something to do with it as Carol and Amy were friends. Then there was Wendy Taucher, who is even more a mystery as to how she got involved. But she was the first to leave, rather early on. I happened to run into her in New York last January and told her about this Links 30 event, and she was quite serious, it seemed, about wanting to be a part of it. She now runs the Yard [a dance program on Martha’s Vineyard and in NYC].

Back then, things centered around MoMing and the Dance Center of Columbia College, wherever Nana [Shineflug] happened to be. It’s easy to say it was a nice time, more sense of community, it was cozier, smaller, looser, more fun, but I don’t know if that is necessarily true. It was exciting, having a new space, planning things there. [Links] was dirt-cheap … rent was $250. The location was great, it was always warm in the winter, the el would rumble by. Then we got incorporated and Charlie wrote some grants to the IAC, we got some money to plan bigger events … residencies, performance series.

What was Links like in the early days?

Links as well as the neighborhood were quite different. There was none of the hipness there is now, none of it. The building was then owned by a couple Japanese guys (there always has been a big Japanese connection…Dr. Link was a dentist, hence the name). And I remember Sunday mornings all these Japanese guys would gather in front of the Nisei Lounge (“second generation” in Japanese) to go golfing together. The building was half empty of tenants, and it was a bit seedy. I somehow remember that in one of the rooms, what is now I think Links Hall’s office, someone died—was a drinker or something and just up and died right in the room. If memory serves he was there for several days … it was that kind of scene.

When did you leave Links, and where are you now?

Charlie and Carol left and I stayed on, co-managing the place with various partners, notably Michael Zerang, Kay LaSota and Bill Dietz, Selene Carter, Asimina Chremos. I left in 2000, moving to New York, where I still live—when I am there, which in the past 4, 5 years is no more than half the time.

[In 2004-2005] I traveled around the world (hence Bob’s Book) and have been spending much time in Russia, where I live, travel, perform, sometimes teach, study the language (a big part of why I am here now), and go to the fitness center. I do not have much of a “dance life” in New York, but I like the city very much. And though of course there are things I miss about Chicago, I have no regrets about leaving. I wouldn’t be standing here (the school where I study has free computers, but you have to stand) writing this from Russia if I had stayed in Chicago. Soon I need to go do my homework.

What will you be doing at the Links anniversary celebration?

A solo, another piece where I talk. After leaving Chicago I gave up group choreography. I miss the social aspect of it, and in my better moments I loved choreographing. But it means finding money, which means time, and I would rather go to the fitness center. Plus I feel I had sort of reached the end of that line, and I don’t at all feel that way about my dancing and performing.

Interview conducted via email August 10, 2009 and edited by Laura Molzahn.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 09/03/2009 2:38 am

    go bobby go…


  1. Charlie Vernon’s Dances « Links Hall 30/30 Pages

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