11/17/14

Meet our new intern, Isabella!

Monkeyhouse is pleased to introduce you to our new Photography Intern, Isabella Carmenate. She recently helped out during the Fleur d'Orange residency, including taking some excellent photos at workshops, musing, and performance at the Somerville Armory.  To help you get to know her better, Monkeyhouse dancer Aisha Cruse asked her a few questions via email. Keep an eye out for Isabella and her camera at future Monkeyhouse events!

AC: How did you first get involved with or hear of Monkeyhouse? What's your favorite aspect of the organization?
IC: I first heard about Monkeyhouse from other interns, around the time when Nicole was co-directing our fall show. Nicole reached out to me in the summer to see if I wanted to intern and I was really excited. I'm still finding new things out about the organization all the time, but I really liked when I got to watch musings last week. It really showed me how well everyone works together and collaborates, which I think translates over to all the great things the organization does.

AC: Your bio says that you have been taking art classes for seven years, and you're currently Monkeyhouse's photography intern; do you work exclusively in photography? Do you have other mediums you enjoy or frequently work in?
IC: I actually don't have any formal training in photography, I've just been learning from friends, reading books, and the internet. However, I have been practicing the whole traditional art thing since I was in elementary school. I really love sketching and doing oil paintings, especially when the subject is people. They're most interesting for me because every person is different. Yes, there are proportions that most of the time are similar, but everyone's features are different. I think that's kind of why I like photography too because in an instant, you can take a photo and see all these interesting things like movement, or an expression, or even just how someone's features make up what they look like.

AC: Your bio mentions you've recently become involved in theater and dance, and you also sing in your church's youth choir. What drew you to performance?
IC: I actually really hated performing up until about two years ago. My friends sort of pushed me into the whole theater and singing thing because they thought that I would like it. I was very reluctant at first to even get up on stage or sing in front of anybody, but I guess in that first year I got more comfortable with it. Performance has taught me to be comfortable with myself and making mistakes, and I'm definitely different now because of it.

AC: If you could meet and/or take class with any dancer/choreographer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
IC: I would want to meet the dancers who were in the paintings of Degas because I would definitely want to see how those paintings were made.

11/13/14

Get to Know Mohcine Imrharn

photo by JK Photo
Recently, Aisha was lucky enough to do a few quick interviews with the artists of Fleur d'Orange. Today we bring you an interview with the incredibly talented Mohcine Imrharn, who created and performed the music and soundscape for Identity/Identit√©.  He also provided music at many of the dance workshops during the Fleur d'Orange residency, and led a music workshop at the Pingree School in South Hamilton. He was kind enough to share a bit about his musical career and his work on Identity/Identit√©.

AC: Mohcine, what drew you to music? How did you become a musician?

MI: From a young age, I learned to play mandolin and the Guembri, a traditional Moroccan instrument. With time I began to discover other instruments (guitar, flute, piano, drums and percussion), as well as other international styles of music. After my baccalaureate (the French version of senior year of high school and college entry examinations), I worked as a professional musician in the hotels of Marrakech, a tourist city and my hometown. When I finished my studies and found myself in the world of professional music, I began to compose my own pieces, a few of which were very successful. It was then that I decided to become a performer and composer, when I discovered my love of the process of artistic creation.

AC: Have you encountered resistance to your work, both together and separately?
MI: For me the biggest problem was to find a place where I could rehearse.

AC: How has your attitude toward dance and performance changed over time?
MI: Musical ideas tend to multiply when combined with dance, because you have more inspiration to work with. For me, music and dance together creates a more complete environment.

AC: What have you enjoyed most about working on Identity/Identite? What were your expectations verses outcomes?
MI: Identity/Identit√© is my identity, my self, my country and my culture. For that reason when I started composing music for this piece, knowing it would be contemporary, I wanted to introduce traditional Moroccan styles, although I was somewhat spoiled for choice. Morocco is very rich in folklore and diverse musical styles. Eventually I acted with my feeling toward the piece and used four major styles, Gharnati from the northeast, Zayane from the central Atlass mountains, and Gnaoui which is more internationally known. The words I sing at the beginning of the show is from the Jewish-Moroccan tradition.

11/11/14

November Birthdays


HAPPY BIRTHDAY NOVEMBER BIRTHDAYS!

Eva Dean, Mia Paschal, Brian Eastman, Chuck Green, Donna Rosenberg, Jon Taft, Aaron Copland, Nick Boraine, Ryan P. Casey, Courtney Wagner, Rick Frank, Remy Marin, Savion Glover, Aaron Ximm, Kyla Barkin, Susie Telsey, Eleanor Powell, Benjamin Britten, Laura Scanlon, Kora Radella, Alexander Godunov, Busby Berkeley, Michelle Schlief, Mandy Patinkin, Isabella Carmenate, and Connor Shea.             

11/7/14

Get to Know Samantha Mullen

Samantha Mullen, Monkeyhouse member and Endicott graduate, has been absolutely invaluable throughout the last few months at Monkeyhouse, from facilitating dance workshops with Fleur d'Orange at Endicott, to her work on the upcoming Project 7.19.  Following the recent Fleur d'Orange residency, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sam about her experience with the Endicott Dance program. I also got to pick her brains about the importance of diversity and community as a dancer.  


AC: How important is dance and performance to a well rounded interdisciplinary education at Endicott?
SM: As an undergraduate business student at Endicott College, I believe dance and performance were and integral part of becoming a better student. For my major, concentration, and one of my minors (all of which did not have any direct connection to dance), I sat in classes that taught students the information needed to obtain concepts and how to accurately research topics to gather useful information. Although there were structured presentations, none of these classes prepared me to be able to present myself with whole-hearted confidence or to be able to learn using different techniques with my body. Dance significantly improved my ability to connect concepts to movement to reality in a sense of immersing my being into an idea. With both dance classes and being on the dance team, I became comfortable with my own style of movement, which also gave me the ability to become comfortable with my own style of learning or processing information. In a recent job interview, it was pointed out by the interviewer that dancers have this incredible ability to look at a situation, in this case a business situation, in ways that many others cannot. It teaches you to think outside of the box, look for different angles that may not be the most apparent, and find ways of moving through the problem solving process that would not be either visible to others nor easy enough to dive into. This is extremely accurate. Dance and performance has created the ability to be quirky and unique while maintaining confidence in presenting my abilities, even if they are not the most common or well understood.

AC: How does Endicott help foster the on-campus artistic community? Does it support local artists in the larger community?
SM: During my time at Endicott, the arts were highly promoted. There were constant opportunities to watch performing arts shows, both drama productions and dance performances, as well as student art on display in the VPAC. I distinctly remember students in the art program creating installations in public areas on campus, which sparked interest in what they were actually doing as I did not know the concepts behind it. There are other campus events that incorporate dance and arts that I am not sure of the name of anymore but one in particular involved dance on the beach and sand art. The school is also really good about connecting alumni and the community to on-campus artistic events with mailings. I have received calendars of all of the art events and post cards about specific ones, which is really nice to be reminded of the shows going on. Endicott also does a very good job about supporting artists by bringing different forms of art to campus. There is a gallery located on the first floor of the VPAC that is always filled with different exhibits from various artists. It is also refreshing because it is not always the same types of art in the gallery, so you are able to experience various things. And the dance program is very good at bringing choreographers from all over the world to the campus for students to learn different styles or watch unique shows. I distinctly remember an African group who sang a song from the Lion King and taught us how to dance as their tribe does. Those who participated in the workshop actually got to perform with them later on during their open show for the campus. Choreographers are also brought in to set work on dance students, and many of them have had local connections. I have been lucky enough to work with many of them and still have connections to a few, which I would not have had if Endicott and Nikki did not work so hard to coordinate their visits to the school. I am not sure about the other forms of art at the school, but alumni dancers are always invited to perform choreographed work in the Student Choreographer Showcase held each December, which is also a great way of seeing where performing artists have gone after school and if they were able to carry on a performing arts career. 

ACDo you feel it's important to showcase racially and culturally diverse artists?
SM: I think it is extremely important to showcase all types of artists to expose how each is different yet similar all at the same time. Art is beautiful whether it is from a white, Hispanic, black, Muslim, christian, puritan, American, African, Asian, any sort of background a person could possibly have. Showcasing diverse artists fosters the notion that all people can have intricate thoughts, innovative ideas, and create beautifully, sometimes misunderstood artwork that has a message of some sort. There is a big issue of generalization or categorization that has been occurring for countless years. It causes problems in group dynamics and the acceptance of different types of people. This is also true for the acceptance of their art forms or artwork. It would be like saying it is okay to perform contemporary dance pieces because that is what is accepted on national television every Thursday night, but any other form is not real dance. That is false. A dancer could sit in one place on stage taking a moment to make eye contact with each individual in the audience or bark like a dog, and it would still be real dance. Showcasing racially and culturally diverse artists at such a crucial time when there are influences all around students will, hopefully, prevent these generalizations from occurring in the future. 

AC: What role does diversity play in building a strong dance program?
SM: Diversity is important in a strong dance program because many students come from a studio setting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any sort of dance studio setting for learning how to dance, but it is not enough to carry on dancing after school. Skills and technique are important in being a good dancer, but it is the concept of diversity that makes a dancer well rounded. Being able to understand the different textures of dance, how to dance as an individual, and how to be part of a group are significant as well. At Endicott, I was able to learn from dancers from different areas of the country and the world as well as from different cultural backgrounds and dance styles. It has improved my concepts of movement and helped me find my niche. It also helped me be more open minded to accepting/pushing myself into various types of dance forms instead of sticking to what is main stream or believed to be "popular" at any given time.

11/5/14

Connecting to the Fleur d'Orange Residency

by Ruth Faris
Ruth (right) at the Opening Reception by JK Photo

When Karen invited me over to Ruth's house last weekend for a party to paint a shingle on her new Little Library (which was great fun, by the way.  If you don't know anything about these little libraries, you should check it out!) I immediately thought, oh wouldn't it be great if she could share with us some of her thoughts on the residency!  Ruth is such a beautiful, vibrant, enthusiastic person.  I am so glad Karen introduced me to her!  -Nicole

When Nicole asked me yesterday to write something for the blog about my experiences last week during the Fleur D'Orange residency, and Karen added 'yes you were one of our main supporters,' I felt like 'what, who, ME?....how can I have been seen as being out-front in any way, and what can I possibly say about DANCE?' So, my train of thought developed from that powerful initial response, and I decided I could write on identity (fittingly enough) and community.

When I met Hind at the opening reception at Brickbottom, she asked me something like ‘what kind of dance do you do?’ to which I quickly replied ‘oh no, I am not a “dancer”!’ Similarly, the following night when I went to sign in to the dance workshop at the Armory, the young woman at the door asked something along the same lines, and again I gasped ‘no, not a “dancer.”’ At a party or a club or a wedding, I am the last one up dancing, for the most part, unless I am muscled or guilted on to the floor by a friend. So, clearly, being A Dancer has never been part of my Identity. Ever.

So, why was I even at these events? Well, I was there because I know Karen, and because she had sent some information way back a few months ago about her intention to bring this Moroccan troupe to town. I generally will make an effort to go to something that a friend promotes, where I would be unlikely to go if it’s a ‘cold call.’ Also, I happen to be on the Board of the Center for Arabic Culture, and I help set up a collaboration between CAC and Monkeyhouse…..so, I was thrilled that this was coming about, and had written the dates into my schedule as soon as Karen mentioned them at our first meeting about it. All of this then made it very likely for me to participate….which I think is a truism for organizers of any sort, that the personal connection with someone is the biggest motivator toward attendance/participation.

I step back a bit further; why do I even know Karen, and thereby get this email from her about a Moroccan dance event? Well, I know Karen because we went to Morocco together, twice in fact, as part of a Sister Cities exchange between Somerville and Tiznit. And I grew to love and value her so much over those shared experiences.  And how had I come to be part of those delegations, considering that it was mostly teachers and artists, of which I am neither? …Well, that was because I am a longtime resident of my neighborhood, and had witnessed the Armory over many years….seen it as a wretched mess of a building, serving as an RMV outpost, an occasional bingo hall, and even an actual armory when Reserves units came to muster….then, totally empty and abandoned and looking worse than ever. So, when the Armory was renovated, I was excited to check it out, and went over when I saw some balloons outside in some version of a community open house. Wandering through the building, I saw to my amazement that there was something called ‘the University of the Middle East’ (UME) there, and I introduced myself to the staff member who was there….and probably a year or so later he thought to email to me to let me know about the upcoming Sister Cities project.

All this to say….what, exactly? I’m not sure what I can say that will be of any use or generalizability to others. But being asked to do this did force this train of thought and taught me some things about myself: for me, community is a powerful draw. Left to my own devices, I am happier to stay home and read a book, but if you invite me to something that’s meaningful to you, I might venture out. Also, though I don’t seem it as much these days, I am a shy person, who has only belatedly and even reluctantly learned that putting out a bit of social energy might actually be okay, and even GREAT.

And, that I have a certain fixed idea of my identity, and it takes a whole lot of extenuating circumstances to find myself being a Monkeyhouse cheerleader! When I am around Karen, its possible to feel that I am A Dancer, though don’t say that too loudly.

11/4/14

Fleur d'Orange Residency Wrap Up (pt 1)

by Isabella Carmenate
by Karen Krolak

Several years ago the Boston Dance Alliance asked me to be a panelist for an event about touring dance. One of the questions that arose during this conversation was, "how do you define success?" Another panelist measured success in the number of people in attendance, the number of shows performed, and the number of cities visited, etc. As I listened to his answer and watched as choreographers and presenters in the audience nodded in response, I felt hesitant to share my own thoughts on the question. When the microphone was passed to me, I almost chickened out of an honest response.

You see, while I do understand the economic reality of touring and of presenting dance in general, the finances are unrelated to my sense of success. I want engagement...genuine connection that sparks curiosity and creativity. My metrics are harder to track and I think that they often frustrate grant makers. My metrics range from stories from participants to new projects that evolve or doors that open in people's minds or careers. They require time to develop and often tenacity to track down.

It has only been two weeks since Monkeyhouse's Fleur D'Orange residency ended but each day I get more evidence of how deeply it has affected our community. There is no question that it has surpassed my dreams for how it could be successful. To illustrate the impact of the residency, I would like to share some stats and stories.

To create this residency, Monkeyhouse began by brainstorming with our long term partners, Luminarium, Impulse Dance Center, Endicott College, the University of the Middle East Project, JK Photo and J.P. Licks. Based on the encouragement of those supporters, we reached out to seven new collaborating organizations: Center Stage, Brickbottom Artists Association, the Center for Arabic Culture, the Arts at the Armory, the Pingree School, BJ's and Not Your Average Joe's. These 13 partners helped us gather together diverse groups of people for all the events that week; more than 50% of whom were totally new to Monkeyhouse. While that is an impressive statistic for a presenter, it does not reveal the depths of our relationships with these partners. so I would like to offer just a few stories to exemplify their dedication to this project:

1. Both Impulse Dance Center and the Center for Arabic Culture, were so inspired by the Hind and Soufiane's workshops that they actually offered to contribute more funding to the residency than we had initially agreed upon.

2. In addition to proposing our residency idea to the Arts at the Armory, inviting their supporters to all the residency events, and helping to guide our post-show discussion, Luminarium's Kim and Russell Holman stayed until the bitter end of the Sunday night strike. They even volunteered to help get our extremely heavy genie back onto the U-haul.

3. Two members of Endicott's dance faculty, Nikki Sao Pedro-Welch and Mariah Steele, did a phenomenal job promoting their campus workshops to Endicott students and people at other local dance studios. When we realized during tech set up that our projector was not working well enough for Fleur D'Orange's performance, Nikki immediately loaned us one from her department. Nikki even drove one of the campus vans down to the performance to help more of her students attend the show in Somerville.

4. Center Stage and the New England Foundation for the Arts were so excited by the artist presenting artists aspect of our residency that they have asked me to be a panelist on the subject at APAP, the world's largest networking forum and marketplace for performing arts professionals, on January 12th!

Check back in a day or so and I will have some more stories on audience reactions and how the residency inspired at least one new project.

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