8/18/14

August Birthdays


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO OUR AUGUST BIRTHDAYS! 

Bril Barrett, Derek Roland, Kelly Long, Laurie Sales, Ed Ryan, Drew Jameson, Jilly Richcrick, Joshua Legg, Jeremy Wechsler, Zoe Wechsler, Jordan Rosin, Joseph Maimone, Felipe Galganni, Jillian Grunnah, James Gant, Madonna, Denise Sao Pedro, Dorothy Christian, Laurie Sales, Jessica Muise, Alexandra Caporale, Enid Beaton, Michael Jackson, Lisa La Touche, Courtney Blanche, and Emma Foley.

8/15/14

Getting to Know Eva Yaa Asantewaa

Photo Credit: D. Feller

by Daniel Foner

I recently had the opportunity to ask a few questions to Eva Yaa Asantewaa, an acclaimed dance writer based in New York City. If you’d like to learn more about her, I encourage you to visit her blog, InfiniteBody. For now, however, I’ll leave you with our conversation, which speaks for itself better than any introduction could.

DF: What first interested you in writing about dance?
EYA: I was always a writer, from childhood, writing poetry and satire and creative versions of the television shows I loved (what today might be called fan fiction). I read a lot and wrote a lot, training myself to write, and I was always very good at it. I was one of those introverted kids who expressed herself best in writing--and perhaps I still am!
I have also loved dancing since I was a kid--at family parties with lots of Afro-Caribbean and Black American music and, later, rock and soul and the like. It's only now that I realize that not only was I a talented dancer at that time, I was a choreographer! I'd had limited exposure to ballet classes when I was young but, in the coming years, I would pick up folkdance, modern (Graham, Ailey, even Isadora Duncan), jazz dance and Middle Eastern dance classes but never with a serious thought of becoming a professional. I didn't really have a role model for that, and I had absolutely zero family support for that as a career option!
When I graduated from college, I needed something to relieve the depression that I'd fallen into, and I remembered how good and healing it had always felt to take dance classes. So, I went back--to jazz dance, to Afro-Caribbean--and took up bellydance, which is probably the dance form that I studied for the longest. And it was great feeling to get my authentic energy and my body back. That same summer, I discovered two courses in dance criticism were being offered, and it just made sense for me to put these two interests together. I wanted to share my observations and thoughts and feelings about an art that had meant so much to me as a student and a fan.
At first, it was a complicated task to write about dance performances. As a newbie, I think I overcompensated, struggling to capture too many details, not sure of my authority--especially in a field dominated by white writers, as it still is. A friend said, "You are working way too hard." That stuck with me, and I eventually trained myself to relax, to be discerning about what information was significant and sufficient to tell the necessary story, and to allow the keen observer and the poet in me to come through. Writing for non-conventional outlets like The Village Voice and Gay City News was also incredibly freeing. As I went along, I felt more and more permission to be exactly who I was and to express myself on the page. In fact, I think I caught that kind of courage from the art that I was seeing, and I still do.

DF: Dance is heavily dependent on visual and audio aspects. To face this challenge, what's your process for translating these into prose?
EYA: I don't really see a distinction between perceiving, processing and documenting movement and doing the same for visual and audio aspects of a production. I've been "raised," if you will, on interdisciplinary approaches in the performing arts and feel not only able to process and express the intersection and interaction of multiple elements in a performance but excited by that challenge. I have to weigh the relative impact of each element in the overall context and effectiveness of the piece, but I also have to keep all of my senses open for whatever's incoming. I also do something else, on a professional basis, that's similarly complex--divination using imagery from Tarot and other card oracles, the kind of thing that can be intimidating in its complexity, because there's just so much going on in and around these visual images and symbols--and yet I relish this challenge, too!

DF: What are your favorite styles of dance to write about, and why?
EYA: When I got into this field, I was seeing a wide variety of work--from Ailey and other Black American choreographers to ballet to Graham and various forms of dance from other cultures. Also lots of postmodern dance. So my head was opened up to a lot. I never got stuck in one mindset about what dance could and should be or who the sacred cows were. My first review editor--Tobi Tobias at Dance Magazine--insisted that I stay open to covering many kinds of dance. That was exciting and empowering, and I'm grateful for Tobi's insistence.
I'd say my range was bigger than than it has been in more recent years, since I don't really cover ballet anymore. I consider New York's rich slate of progressive, contemporary dance to be my beat. That world, in itself, is pretty big and diverse. But I also love opportunities to see and cover traditional dance forms from a variety of world cultures because that most often speaks to my spiritual values as well as my love of travel and a broad range of music from around the globe.

DF: You've been writing on dance since 1976. In your view, how has the art and the community changed through the years?
EYA: There are so many valid answers to that question, but the one that most haunts me concerns the impact of money--or, rather, lack of money--on the field. When I started out, there was much more funding available. It was a great time to be in love with dance. I think, in this society, you always have to have noble courage to stand up for dance and dancers, but things were a little easier then. Since the funding has dropped off, I think it's just harder for the individual dance artist or small dance organization--and even some big ones--to stick their heads up and take big risks that could impact their careers and opportunities for funding and presentation. Certainly, it's hard to be the kind of artist who speaks truth to power--and I don't just mean political power, although I do mean that, too. I also mean the power of all those who hold control--the funders, the presenters, certainly the critics and journalists, even arts administrators and individual teachers. There's too much fear of consequences for saying what you're thinking.

I have a triple heritage--Black, feminist, lesbian--from kickass communities with solid histories of not only speaking truth to power but also banding together, hanging tough and building our own resources for the common good. (I should add that the women in my immediate family were all union women in the garment industry.) I especially saw that and participated in that kind of activism in the lesbian community in the 1980s, and I kind of miss that communal energy and determination and get a little impatient when I don't see it around me with the people I care about. But I have to remind myself that a dancer is usually working overtime not only to make excellent work but also to just plain survive on the daily as a human being, especially in an expensive city like New York, to have a viable life. And dance artists give us their very best, for which I remain respectful and grateful every single day.

8/12/14

Michelle Dorrance Takes the Pillow by Storm

Photo by Christopher Duggan
by Nicole Harris 

This summer Michelle Dorrance took the Pillow by storm.  Again.

Now, anyone who has ever talked tap dance with me knows that I am a huge Michelle Dorrance fan.  I think her work is thought provoking and technically inspiring.  Most people will tell you that she's one of the hardest working people they know, not to mention humble, generous and sweet as can be.  I am honored to have been one of a relatively small number of people who had the opportunity to see both last year and this year's Jacob's Pillow concerts.

Last year Michelle was the recipient of the Jacob's Pillow Dance Award.  With the award money she created a brilliant evening length work alongside musician Toshi Reagon and co-choreographers Derick K. Grant and Dormeshia Sombry-Edwards.  The overall work was beautifully crafted, visually stunning and musically captivating.  On top of that, each individual piece had the strength and integrity to stand alone.

Michelle and Nicholas in The Blues Project.
Photo by Christopher Duggan.
Much like last year, this year's show sold out weeks before Dorrance Dance hit the Massachusetts border.  I purchased the last available ticket and convinced my friend Patrick to come up from New York to go with me.  We drove out to western MA and ogled over the incredible landscape the Pillow calls home before we were ushered into our seats at the Doris Duke Theatre.

ETM: The Initial Approach was created by Michelle and Nicholas Van Young and performed by Michelle, Nicholas, Warren Craft, Karida Griffith, Demi Remick, Caleb Teicher, Leonardo Sandoval and b-girl Ephrat "Bounce" Asherie alongside musicians Donovan Dorrance, Aaron Marcellus and Greg Richardson.  One of the things that amazes me about Michelle is her ability to train so many talented dancers.  Her company, Dorrance Dance, has had more members than I can count over the last few years.  But instead of the work turning into a generic mash of talented tap dancers, her shows always maintain a true sense of "Michelle" while she simultaneously coaxes her dancers to find their own personality and voices within the work.

Nicholas Van Young in "ETM: The Initial Approach";
photo Christopher Duggan
Nicholas Van Young, a brilliant tap dancer and choreographer in his own right, has been cooking up some amazing electronics that he calls his "Compositional Tap Instrument."  If you saw Dorrance Dance here in Boston back in 2012 then you saw Nicholas' first solo using the ingenious tap board technology.  Not only can he change the sounds of the taps as they are amplified but he can record, loop and playback  phrases in real time while he's dancing.  This is the basic concept used in ETM: The Initial Approach.  Only image it being done with a whole ensemble of dancers and you might begin to get the idea of the sort of night we were in for.

Throughout the evening all lines were blurred.  Tap dancers played the drums, musicians looped and played back their riffs while accompanying their recorded selves, your traditional metal on wood tap sounds turned into electronic noises of every variety and the stage was constantly transformed as tap boards were moved in and out of the space in very well choreographed transitions.  Just when you thought that the electric tap boards were all you were going to get Michelle and Nicholas dug into their STOMP background and dancers were using metal grating and lengths of chain to create additional music.  It was an all out carnival of music and dance that you really didn't want to end.

Michelle Dorrance in "ETM: The Initial Approach";
photo Jamie Kraus, courtesy Jacob's Pillow Dance
While last year's show The Blues Project had a very clear setting and style for the entire evening, ETM ran the gamut of emotions.  There were definitely technical and sonic through lines to the evening but what really held it together for me was the sense that this show was incredibly personal.  Every person on that stage was going through something that we were simply being given the gift to catch a glimpse of before it moved along.

My favorite piece in the show was a duet performed by Demi and Caleb.  It had all the intimacy you find in a modern or contemporary duet with the quiet intricacies of two talented young tap dancers.  Personally, I often struggle with how to take the compositional tools I use in modern and transfer them to tap and I feel that Michelle accomplished this perfectly during this gorgeous duet.

I am always a fan of Ephrat, who is also an incredible choreographer, and her duet with Michelle towards the end of the show was another highlight for me.  Ephrat filled the show with a contagious sense of playfulness and her movement was a natural fit for Michelle's full bodied tap choreography.

I was a bit disappointed that we didn't get to see more of Nicholas tap dancing and towards the end I was beginning to tire of some of the vocals.  But across the board I give this latest Dorrance Dance adventure a HUGE thumbs up.  I just wish the didn't sell out so quickly so more of you could get the chance to see it.

Hey Michelle!  Come up to Boston more often, okay?

8/6/14

EDD's Peter Pan and the Pirates in Prospect Park

by karen Krolak

Given Monkeyhouse's current theme of Misplaced/Displaced, we were delighted to discover that our dear friend Eva Dean is adapting Peter Pan for Prospect Park's Zucker Natural Exploration Area in Brooklyn. The performances are FREE so hustle over and get ready to swashbuckle!


Linda Leseman from the Village Voice declared that Eva Dean Dance's Peter Pan and Stardust Dances was "a joy from start to finish."  when it premiered at the 2013 FringeNYC. I am confident that there will be dozens of moments to love this new version too. Peter Pan and the Pirates is an immersive dance theater event that features Peter Pan vanquishing Captain Hook and his Pirates with the help of the brave Princess Tiger Lily, and the fierce crocodile. 

Eva Dean Dance has performed in many of New York City's finest venues including The New York International Fringe Festival, Brooklyn Museum, Dance Theater Workshop, and Brooklyn Botanic Garden. The company has also performed nationally in the USA and internationally in Dubai, Amsterdam, Prague, and Berlin.  Eva Dean Dance's body of work has received awards, most notably Best of Fringe New York in the Amsterdam Fringe Festival, and for its site-specific dances in Brooklyn. 


Choreography: Eva Dean, Artistic Director | Music: David Kahne | Performers:  George Hirsch, Katherine Moncebaiz with Guest Artists: Satomi Itohara, Julien Kanor, Graziella Murdocca, Hiram Pines, Christian "Pepe" Serrano, Jeff Shortt, TBA | Stage Manager: Sarah Melot | Sound: Luke Klingensmith

Dates/Times:
August 9th &16th (2pm &3pm)

Duration:
30 minutes

Location:
Prospect Park's Zucker Natural Exploration Area
MAP  
For more information, visit:



7/6/14

Getting to Know TPO


This summer Monkeyhouse has been honored to interview some of the incredible artists performing at Jacob's Pillow.  Here is our first interview with the artists of TPO.  Check out their interactive performance at Jacob's Pillow today!

NH:  I love interactive work.  I am very curious about what you’ve noticed about how different communities react to and interact with your work.  I know you are primarily geared towards children, however I would assume many adults also take part in your work.  Is there a difference in how those two groups behave?  What are circumstances that get adults involved that differs from how you work with young audiences? 
TPO:  There are some differences in behavior, of course.  Adults (apart from dancers) have less spontaneity or agility in moving on the ground, but they seem to feel comfortable interacting together with their children. Sometimes indeed it is important for the kids watch adult acting or playing with sensors [in the work] since they don’t like to be just observed.  In any case we consider our works oriented for kids. 

NH:  Your work has traveled all over the world.  Have you found that different parts of the world interact differently?
TPO:  Yes, kids could be quite different.  Generally speaking there are kid that act naturally without thinking so much and other that need to “understand” how the relationship of cause/effect is working.

NH:  Since your work is so multidisciplinary, how do you get started in the creation of a new work?
TPO:  Our process is reminiscent in some aspects to cinema. We work as a team, we starts from a storyboard than we develop the concept of any single scene considering the limits or the potentiality of the devices we are using. So, first we discuss a lot about the interaction images/sound and how it could work then we do many improvisation sessions with dancers and kids. So normally we need four months to prepare a new show.

NH:  What is your collaborative process between the disciplines?
TPO:  We are a polyhedric team: directors, engineers, video maker, musicians, scenographer.  We all work together without any hierarchy

NH:  You are performing at Jacob’s Pillow.  Can you tell me a bit about BLEU! and where it came from?
TPO:  This story of the sailor’s encounter with the forces of nature is inspired by the legends and mythologies that the Mediterranean Basin has treasured since the beginning of time. Two dancers take their place on stage: he is a Sailor, She is a magical character. 
A few at a time groups from the audience will be invited into the stage space, as little sailors, to take active part in the games that mark various situations arising during the narration of the story.  The mysterious woman figure is at times the sky, at others the wind, wave, sea. She will lead the Sailor – and the many little sailors in the audience – on a journey through landscapes of nature and of fantasy. 

6/13/14

Dance'n Feet @ DWC Saturday

by karen Krolak

Saturday is a special day for me filled with performances by some of my favorite dancers. Over the course of the afternoon, my choreography will be presented by second graders on up to seniors...both the kind that are graduating high school and ones in their seventies. While I will spend the day in Natick cheering on my students from Impulse Dance Center, the mighty women of Dance'n Feet will be showing off their splits, lifts, and head stands at the 6th annual Dance For World Community festival in Harvard Square.

If you have never seen Dance'n Feet before, I think they will surprise you with their chutzpah and acrobatics. Between the group of twelve women in their 60's and 70's, they have dozens of grandchildren. Some members have survived cancer while others have endured through the loss of a spouse. One of them performed on Broadway before she settled down to raise a family. Each week at their rehearsals, I marvel at their willingness to embrace challenging physical exercises. They do not obsess about mistakes and they relish their rapid progress. They dance because they can.

I am so proud of Dance'n Feet and wish that I could be there as they perform to Uncle Monsterface's take on Madonna. If you attend this free event, please hoot, hollar, and just shout strange sounds for me.

Dance ľn Feet
SATURDAY, JUNE 14
2:10 PM

Massachusetts Ave. between Remington and Bow Streets
Harvard Square, Cambridge



LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails