First Night 2009 Online Program

At the end of our three previous performances at First Night Boston, there have been hundreds of programs left littering the theater. So, this year as part of our ongoing efforts to improve our enviromental impact and to focus our financial resources on programming, we are posting out program online.

- Inspired by adventures in Iceland, Italy, and England

Presented by Monkeyhouse
at First Night 2009
at John Hancock Hall in the Back Bay Events Center
December 31, 2008

Lighting design by Jason Ries
Costume Design by Karen Krolak

Pochemuchka (premiere)*

Created and performed by Karen Krolak and Jason Ries
Sound design by Karen Krolak

Zizz (premiere)*
Choreographed by Karen Krolak in collaboration with Caitlin Meehan and Nikki Sao Pedro
Performed by Caitlin Meehan and Nikki Sao Pedro
Music: Go! by Uncle Monsterface

Firk II (2005)
Premiered at First Night 2006
Choreographed and performed by Karen Krolak and Nicole Harris
Music: I'm Beginning to See the Light by Ron Surace

Knosp (2001)
Choreographed by Karen Krolak
Performed by Nicole Harris
Music: Mr Pushkin Came to Shove by Combustible Edison

Ingeniculation (premiere)*
Choreographed by Karen Krolak in collaboration with Julia Marx, Caitlin Meehan, Nikki Sao Pedro
Music: Cornelius by Boston Typewriter Orchestra and a sound design by Karen Krolak featuring Marty Allen and audience members from Monkeyhouse's concert, And, What Do YOU Want? in July 2007 at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center

* Pieces were developed with partial funding from Monkeyhouse's Bernie Wightman Dance Building Fund

Special Thanks to...
First Night Boston
College Planners LLC
Impulse Dance Center
Arlington Center for the Arts
Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston
Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center
Exit Theater
Marquette Associates
Uncle Monsterface
Boston Typewriter Orchestra
Jacob's Pillow Choreographers' Lab

Pat and Rita Krolak
Steve Wightman and Peggy Wacks
Freya Bernstein and Dr. Martin Broff
Joan and Robert Parker
Richard Miner and Corinne Nagy
Tim Losch and Brandi Brooks
Susan and Gib Hammond
Tom and Viz Ries
Nicky Felix
Dot and Tom Christian
Joan and Roger Panek
LuAnn and Jim Pagella
Kathryn Stieber
Dr. and Mrs. Owen Bernstein
Jon Schaffrath
Drs. Carlos Estrada and Bita Tabesh
Paul Feiss and Margaret McKenna
Pat and Lizzie Krolak
Michael and Carly Krolak
Dr. Michael Shannon
Dave Pavkovic and Becca Rossen
Stephen, Meera and Cody Werther
Christina Augello
Pam and Steve Harris
Marjorie Freeman
Gillian Brecker and Seth Mason
Donna and James Rosenberg
Mike and Judy Panaro
Penny Penniston and Jeremy Wechsler
Tom and Dot Christian
Karen and Mark Slutsky
Amelia O'Dowd and Brian Eastman
Beth McGuire and Nathaniel Panek
Gail and Rick Fine
Adele Traub
Marty Allen
Eric Phelps
Margaret Hagemeister
Anne Howarth and Rick Frank
Martha Christensen and Neal Smyth
Michael Wissner
Julia Blatt
Suzanne Jenkins
Joanne Dougan
Mark Zuroff
Zach Galvin
Shelley Neill
John Aceto and Natalie Pino
Mara Blumenfeld
Irene Gaetani
Gaby Mervis
Sarah Friswell
Sarah Feinberg
Ashley Chandler
Janine Harrington
Leah Sakala
Michael Maggio
...and of course,
Lynne Anne Blom
Timothy O’Slynne

Please feel free to email us at MonkeyhouseLovesME@gmail.com with any questions or comments, if you don't want to post them here.


Update - Monkeyhouse on WBZ

Hey, happy holidays everyone. Just a quick update to let you know that Monkeyhouse will be on the 5PM news on Channel 4 WBZ Boston on Friday, December 26th. Karen answered questions about our performances for First Night 2009 in the lobby of the Park Plaza Hotel and we can't wait to see how it came out.

Monkeyhouse's First Night performances will be New Year's Eve, December 31st at the John Hancock Hall. Performance times are 7:30-8 and 8:30-9. Monkeyhouse will be premiering four new pieces. Hope to see you there!

For more information on the WBZ report and Monkeyhouse's First Night performances check out:



Patriot Ledger

The Boston Globe


Monkeyhouse on WBZ and Downtown Jumbotron!

big news...
Thanks to Joyce Linehan, this Thursday, Monkeyhouse Artistic Director, Karen Krolak, will be interviewed by Lisa Hughes from WBZ. They will be chatting about Monkeyhouse's upcoming performances at First Night 2009.

We aren't sure when the segment will be aired but we will alert you as soon as we find out. If you aren't able to catch it on television, don't get upset. Apparently, as we get closer to New Year's Eve, it will be re-broadcast on a Jumbotron in downtown Boston.


Getting to Know Nikki Sao Pedro

We thought you might want to get yourself ready for our First Night performances. So we asked Nicole Harris to get the inside scoop on one of the new dancers who will be joining us on New Year's Eve, Nikki Sao Pedro.

NH: When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
NS: I wanted to be a dancer or an Olympic gymnast when I grew up. The dream of being an Olympian faded at age 11 but being a dancer never fizzled out :)

NH: Where did you train? Where have you performed?
NS: I started dancing when I was seven and continued all the way through college. I studied at Point Park University in Pittsburgh PA and preformed for Pillow Project Dance Company. When I moved back to Boston, I started working with Danny Swain Dance Company and Monkeyhouse.

NH: And so, how did you start working with Monkeyhouse?
NS: My first experience working with Monkeyhouse was performing "Attraversiamo," in the show "Avec Nous" at Green Street Studios.

NH: Now that wasn't your first professional performance, was it?
NS: No, my first professional dance performance was with Pillow Project Dance Company. I was a junior in College and was an original member of the company. At the company's first show, we were so nervous about not having an audience but ended up having to do an extra show because it was sold out! ... It was such a memorable experience, I photocopied my first check :)

NH: Who or what has been the greatest influence on your dancing?
NS: The greatest influence on my dancing physically were all of the professors at Point Park, especially Douglas Bentz. The greatest influence on my dancing mentally is Karen Krolak.

NH: When did you realize you wanted to dance professionally?

NS: I realized I wanted to dance professionally my junior year in high school. I knew that I could not and would not want to do anything else other than dance. It is my life.

NH: What are your favorite books on dance?
NS: My favorite books are Twyla Tharp's The Creative Habit and, of course, the Technical Manual And Dictionary of Classical Ballet. I am always brushing up on my vocabulary :)

NH: What do you wish someone had told you about the dance world when you were a child?
NS: I wish someone had told me to take as many Ballet classes as I possibly could. I did catch on soon enough!

NH: What has been your favorite Monkeyhouse moment?
NS: So far, my favorite monkey moments have been at rehearsals. So many funny things have been said and done I can't recall just one!


Catching up with Monkeyhouse's Nicole Harris

By Nicole Harris

There have been a lot of changes going on in and around Monkeyhouse since And What Do You Want?. It's hard for me to believe that it has been eighteen months (!!) since all four Monkeys were together on stage. Reading all of Karen's adventures and shenanigans from her sabbatical made me take a look at my own escapades for the last year and a half.

I moved to New York City last summer. There were a lot of things that went into my choice to leave Boston, the largest of which being the chance to study more extensively with Derick Grant. I've also been taking classes with Max Stone, Lynn Schwab, Karen Gayle and a number of other people in the city. In addition to developing some new work involving former Monkeyhouse intern Ashley Chandler and music by Pinataland's David Wechsler, this summer I performed with a tap company at the Edmonton Fringe Festival.

I've been trying to see as much dance in the city as possible, including A Quarreling Pair by Bill T. Jones, ShowDown by David Parker and The Bang Group, and next weekend I'll be at the return of Doug Elkins' Fraulein Maria (with an appearance by David Parker! It's really fantastic and everyone in the New York area should check it out!) at Joe's Pub.

Despite all the excitement of living in the Big Apple, I am thrilled to be performing with Monkeyhouse in First Night, and to have Monkeyhouse visiting New York for the Cool New York Festival this winter. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving and I look forward to seeing you on New Years!


Aurelia's Oratorio

By Karen Krolak

Last night I was invited to Aurelia's Oratorio at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA. It was an exquisite hour and a half indulgence for the imagination that employed optical illusions, mime, ballroom dance, Vaudeville, puppetry, circus arts, and tap. If you are in the Boston area, this holiday season, I highly recommend snagging some tickets to it.

Victoria Thierrée Chaplin, daughter of silent film star, Charlie Chaplin, created and directed this mostly unspoken theatrical. At times the heavy velvet curtains and peculiar characters evoked the whimsical eccentricities of Edward Gorey's books and staged entertainments at the Cotuit Center for the Arts.

The choreography is witty, whimsical, and well paced. Even though some of the choreographic ideas have been used before (One segment was almost identical to one of my favorite pieces by the now defunct Snappy Dance Theater.), performers Aurélia Thierrée and Jaime Martinez lure you into their twisting transformations and madcap adventures with incredible skill. Their seemingly effortless aerial acrobatics on hangers, swinging silks, and over sized cloaks made me long for my summer of circus training with Sylivia Hernandez-DiStasi at the Actor's Gymnasium in Chicago.


Gobble Gobble - Happy Thanksgiving!

'Tis the season for pumpkin pie, tofurkey, and a visit from your favorite Aunt Millie. As we here at Monkeyhouse begin our preparations for First Night Boston (What? You didn't know about First Night? Don't worry! We'll send you more information next week once you've slept off all that turkey!), we wanted to take a minute to wish you all a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. As always, each of us individually (and collectively!) give thanks to all of you who support us personally, professionally and choreographically! We certainly wouldn't be here without you.
Happy Thanksgiving!


Monkeyhouse in Cool New York Dance Festival 2009!

We are thrilled to announce that Monkeyhouse has been invited to present two duets, Firk II and Pochemuchka (one of our First Night premieres) at the Cool New York Dance Festival 2009.

Host by Brooklyn's White Wave Dance Company, this festival runs Thursday through Sunday, January 29 – Feb 1 and Feb 5 - 8, 2009, and features over 60 dance companies.

And knowing that everyone is feeling stretched by the state of our economy, we want you to know that all tickets to this festival are FREE!!! So if you live in New York, you really must come see us.

WHITE WAVE’s John Ryan Theater is located at 25 Jay Street (on the DUMBO waterfront) in Brooklyn. We will post our performance times up on the blog as soon as we get them.


Politics are dancing (part 2)

by karen Krolak

It is odd how patterns begin to emerge some days. After learning about Rahm Emanuel's dance background last night, this afternoon I attended the The Second Annual Artists Under the Dome Event at the Massachusetts State House (where I bumped into Martha Mason who will be mentoring Green Street Studios 2009 winter Emerging Artist Program). As part of the festivities, I stopped in to see my State Senator, Patricia Jehlen. Unfortunately, the Senator was unavailable, but I did learn that her daughter is Wendy Jehlen, a well-respected, local choreographer (who coincidently performed at the Somerville Theater during Art Beat right before Monkeyhouse two years ago in a concert that Alissa Cardone helped to organize.)

Since Senator Jehlen is Chair of Elder Affairs, her aide generously advised me on some resources for Monkeyhouse's Dream 2 Dance At Age Project. She immediately understood the importance of this initiative because she has t
aken adult dance classes with Dicki Johnson Macy. I am so thrilled that I was able to participate in the Artists Under the Dome because I would have never guessed that there were so many dance fans in the State House.

Thanks to the Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, Treasurer Tim Cahill, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development, the Joint Committee of Community Development and Small Business, and the Artists Foundation for creating this informative introduction to legislative resources for artists.

Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak at Joyce Soho

by Karen Krolak

If I didn't have plans already to see my favorite French Horn player, Anne Howarth, perform with the Radius Ensemble this weekend at MIT, I would be seriously tempted to dash down to NYC to see Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak at the Joyce Soho.

Deb Friedes' introduced me to this dynamic duo through a podcast on her Dance in Israel blog and I am truly intrigued by them. Alas, I will have to wait until they return to the States to quench my curiosity, but if you are fortunate enough to see the show, please let me know what you think.

Politics are dancing

by karen Krolak

Last night I was on a panel for the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston discussing their Business Volunteers for the Arts program. Through this program, Susan Hammond has donated an incredible number of hours creating a strategic plan and Advisory Board for Monkeyhouse. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, Susan!) This is a phenomenal program if you are a business person who wants to volunteer your expertise to an organization. I can't emphasize enough how many nonprofits are desperately seeking business volunteers.

After the panel, Alan Kravitz, Founder/President of the Infinite Inkwell, approached me with an interesting fact: Rahm Emanuel, who will soon be Obama's Chief of Staff, studied dance at the Joffrey Ballet and Sarah Lawrence College. According to Joshua Green's Rolling Stone Article, "Friends jokingly theorize that his toughness is actually an outgrowth of being a ballet dancer: With that sort of thing on your resume, you had better be ready to fight if you hope to survive in Chicago politics. " How delightfully ironic!

Thanks for drawing this to my attention, Alan. I hope you get matched with a deserving arts organization.


Attention Boston based choreographers!

by Karen Krolak

Green Street Studios is accepting applications for its Winter 2009 Emerging Artists Program. Selected choreographers will receive 40 hours of rehearsal space, participate in 2 mentoring sessions with Martha Mason and Anna Myers, and be included in a concert in March. This is an amazing opportunity to create a new group piece and to network with other members of the dance community.

The 2008 Emerging Artists concert mentored by David Parker and Nicole Pierce featured a dynamic range of pieces by Jimena Bermejo, Kelli Edwards, Betsi Graves, and Gabrielle Orcha. The juxtaposition of Jimena's "Monster" alongside Kelli's somber trio was especially satisfying to me.

Having presented a new piece through a Space Grant, a similar program at Green Street, I really urge anyone who might be interested to apply. My assigned mentor, Tommy Neblett of Prometheus Dance, really challenged me to break my habits and investigate new methods of generating movement. The project prompted me to seek out new dancers, Julia Marx, Nikki Sao Pedro, and Caitlin Meehan, (who will all be dancing in Monkeyhouse's First Night performances).

Good luck, applications are due December 12.


Congratulations to Aparna Sindoor

by Karen Krolak

As I was getting ready to teach at Impulse Dance Center on Tuesday night, I noticed that Aparna Sindoor, was on the cover of this month's Dance Magazine. Oh my stars and chickens, I was thrilled because I can't remember the last time that a Boston based choreographer was on their cover.

Aparna Sindoor is the third local choreographer, however, to be featured in Dance Magazine this year. Both Lorraine Chapman and Kinodance were included in the magazine's 2008 25 to Watch list. Having presented Kinodance's choreographer, Alissa Cardone's, work in a concert I produced in 2000 and been awed by Lorraine's work ever since I moved to Boston 12 years ago, I've been fortunate to witness the development of both of these artists. Kudos to Dance Magazine for recognizing some of the highlights of the Boston's dance community.

As a Board Member for the Boston Dance Alliance, I encourage everyone in the area and anyone who comes to visit to check out their website to discover our city's diverse spectrum of talented dance artists.


Are You a High School Student in Natick, MA?

Are you a sophomore or junior who attends school in Natick or lives in Natick?
Are you a curious person who enjoys the arts and writes well?
Are you looking for a fun way to stand out on your college applications?

If so, then Monkeyhouse wants you to apply for our newest project.
12 students will be selected to attend a free writing workshop that will prepare them to craft a newspaper article.
Articles by these students will be published in the Natick Tab as part of a series called Connecting Natick to Choreography.

Writing workshop will take place
Sunday, November 23 and Sunday, December 7 from 11-2
at Impulse Dance Center, 5 Summer St, Natick.
(If you can't make one of these dates, let us know when you apply and we will try to schedule a make up session.)
Students will be paired with a choreographer who has either trained, taught, or lived in Natick to interview.
Articles will be submitted to Monkeyhouse and then published as part of a monthly series in the Natick Tab. Two weeks after the articles are published in the Tab, they will be re-posted on Monkeyhouse's myspace blog.

How to apply:
Send a sample of something you have written (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essay, etc) to monkeyhouselovesme@gmail.com by November 14, 2008
Please put Connecting Natick to Choreography in the subject line.
Please include your name, school, and grade.


Deb Friedes & Dance in Israel

by Karen Krolak

In 2003, Monkeyhouse Company Choreographers, Nicole Harris and Amelia O'Dowd, arranged to send me to an Improvisation Workshop at Bennington College for a week. It was an amazing present that introduced me to a gaggle of brilliant dancers as it challenged, provoked, and inspired me.

Thanks to facebook, I recently discovered that Deborah Friedes, whom I met at that workshop, has been conducting some fascinating interviews with choreographers in Israel as part for her Fulbright Fellowship in 2007 - 2008. Apparently, she has decided to stay in Tel Aviv beyond the fellowhsip to continue researching dance in Israel and has started a website on the topic.

It is always wonderful to discover someone else who shares your passion and enthusiasm for a subject and I have really enjoyed her podcasts. Having never heard of Inbal Pinto, Avshalom Pollack, or Shlomit Fundaminsky before, I am eager to track down their work now. So if you get a chance, I highly recommend poking around Dance in Israel.


Catching Up With Anne Bluethenthal

by Karen Krolak
After my trip to the archives on my first day at the Jacob’s Pillow Choreographers’ Lab, I returned to my cabin and bumped into Anne Bluethenthal from San Francisco. Her eyes were full of an inviting sense of mischief and we quickly became friends. She seemed like a natural choice to begin this series of interviews with the other Lab participants.

KK: What brought you to the Choreographers' Lab?

AB: Artistic isolation; career transition; temporary unemployment which allowed me some time; hunger for input; and the urging of a best friend who said this was something I should do.

KK: This sounds eerily familiar. No wonder we connected so immediately.

AB: Yes, I have been creating what I consider community based art for much of my career, and although I am certainly part of one of the richest and most interesting dance communities in the country, and in spite of the fact that I am blessed with many friends, colleagues, collaborators, and students, I have little if any opportunity to work, dialogue, and reflect with a group of like-minded, community oriented/interested choreographers.

KK: Was it strange not to be in charge of the artistic process?

AB: After 25 years as teacher, director, choreographer, Artistic Director, I was keen to spend a week in the role of student and peer.

KK: So, what was the hardest part of the Lab for you?

AB: I realized during the week long Lab that I am a very solitary creature. Human interaction is actually extremely difficult for me. To be in a situation – lovely, stimulating, exciting as it was – where I was called upon to be in constant interaction, was unusually challenging for me.

KK: So how did that affect your work there?

AB: For example, by being compelled to collaborate on choreographies of someone else’s initiation, I had to confront that I am fairly addicted to listening and waiting. That was utterly impossible in that environment of continual interaction. Anyway, all of this was both hard and fascinating and self-enlightening and stretching and learning for me. Finally, being set in the beautiful Berkshire Hills with virtually no time to walk and contemplate was quite torturous.

KK: I looked at your website and realized that Nora Chipamire danced for you. I can't believe that this never came up in any of our conversations because I love her work.

AB: Nora is a gem. She danced with me for just a year, a few years back, but we have stayed in touch. She was delightful. As a dancer, she was a striking performer, hungry to learn what I had to teach, completely embracing of the 'underlying philosophy' of my work, and ready to engage with the material physically, intellectually, politically, and emotionally. She left to go work for Urban Bush Women and is now Associate Artistic Director for Jowalle while being very successful in her own work. We have had a great dialogue about the language of dance, the African contemporary scene, the europeanization of these emerging forms, etc. She's a talented, intelligent, artist -- I'm enjoying watching her make her mark.

KK: I'm really impressed that you have managed to keep a company afloat in San Francisco for 25 years and have a family. What advice do you have about building a sustainable company?

AB: This is not exactly advice, because I don’t know about building a viable company.

KK: What do you mean? Tons of companies never make it to 10 years let alone 25.

AB: Every year or so, I seem to have to reconstruct mine out of nothing. Ephemeral is the art; so is the company. Others may be different.

KK: So how did you start?

AB: My intention was to make work I felt was necessary for me to make…to speak the only way I know how about my passions, my rages, my outrages, my heartbreaks… to try to make sense of a world that otherwise festers inside me and threatens my life. (so dramatic, but true) … so, if you want some idea of success, make that your goal and stick to it.. if you want money, make that your goal and make decisions accordingly… if you want community, make work in a way and in a context that builds that or draws that to you.. I set out to survive and to make work. I have been extremely fortunate to have maintained this enterprise (even if it feels marginal) for as long as I have… and I did it while working a few jobs always. My brilliance was to have all my jobs feed me and my art in the most important ways.

KK: Ok, before I interrupted you, you were going to share some advice…

AB: Yes, collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. Don’t be obsessed about growth.

KK: That last part is so tough though.

AB: Well, it helps to be very clear about what your intentions are and work constantly on becoming mindful about whether your artistic and career choices are in line with these intentions.

KK: And how do you suggest people balance that mindfulness with a budget?

AB: Find multiple streams of income all of which relate back to your heart-goals…. I think we all have some core values that manifest in heart-goals… we can either construct our lives in a way that emerges from and feeds back to this point of tether, or we can construct our lives in a way that is antagonistic to it. Without any effort, being in the world and putting our work out and being in relation is going to cause ample antagonism, so best to consciously construct your life and your company in a way that minimizes that.

KK: Anything else?

AB: Get lots of help from friends, family, dancers, administrators, spirits, animals, plants, and anything else that feeds you, gives you perspective, makes you laugh, reminds you that you are beautiful, unique, talented, that your voice is important… and then let them remind you that, at the same time, you are not at all unique and that we are all drops in an enormous ocean and that no particular success or failure matters as much as the fact that we are staying on our heart course, living according to our particular necessity, speaking our truth no matter how popular or unpopular it may be

KK: Any big plans for your 25th season?

AB: I have no idea.. I have no money, little support, few dancers, no venue, and ideas that don’t fit the circumstances… but this is always how it begins… I will no doubt draw a community together for it… I envision big wild retrospective excerpts; raw, intimate, new solo experiments; and some opportunities to pass on to a few younger dancers, old solos I have worn for long enough…

KK: One of the nights when we were sitting on our cabin "porch" chatting, you mentioned that you were considering producing your work in a new venue. Have you had any ideas about that?

AB: My thought about venue change is part and parcel of trying to re-conceive myself as an artist. I'm trying to reconcile some opposing passions and circumstances: my love of the big proscenium stage - my desire to do intimate, visceral work; my love of large scale productions - my lack of resources to support that; my love of ensemble choreography - the unavailability of dancers due to economics and the instability of dancer commitments (they used to stay in a company for years, now a year or 2 is the average); my distaste for the increasing commodification of the arts - the performing artist's need to have audience in order to support the work which is expensive to produce; my body of work which relies on a company - my desire to create a solo repertoire; my desire to create solo work - my age, which is drawing me into a new form for dance-theater...

KK: What are you working on at the moment?

AB: I've gotten caught up in the rush of this upcoming 'dance in the streets' event on October 31, creating a new solo for a show called 'Dancing the Dead/Karma' for November 1, and working on a film on the women's movement in SF mission district. These are 'different' and a nice change for the moment from the large scale company production. So, I'm pausing this moment to allow whatever is formulating itself in me to celebrate this 25th year... maybe it will be a little black box, invited audience, intimate solo retrospective... something where I can feel really free to depart entirely from the prevailing aesthetic forms of my earlier works... a discovery of dance after 50...

KK: Whatever it is please invite me. Well, thanks for taking the time for this interview. I do miss the luxury of talking with you on a daily basis.


Monkeyhouse Open House!

October 18 & 19
Arlington Open Studios
12PM - 5PM
Monkeyhouse's office -
Top Floor Gibbs Center | 41 Foster Street | Arlington, MA 02474-6813

Please get your glitter on and stop in and meet some of the people who keep this organization thriving. You can see some company video footage, get an up close view of some of our outrageous costumes, and purchase Monkeyhouse loves ME!!! T-shirts, hats, blankets, publicity photos, and more. If you are lucky you might even bump into a choreographer or two ;)

Plus there will plenty of other artist studios to peek into. Check here for a preview


Helping Nonprofits - Suggestion # 3

Change - Listening to the debate last night, the word 'change' was a constant echo and refrain. It reminded me of one of the simplest ways to finance a donation: gather change.

It sounds silly but we are surrounded by more nickels and dimes than we often realize. I once purchased a zebra shaped ottoman by recycling cans and saving up the proceeds. The shop clerks had a good giggle when I produced what felt like half my body weight in rolled coins but even they were impressed by the way my patience paid off.

One of the first fundraising efforts that Monkeyhouse put together was the Monkey Money can. We passed out coffee containers covered with illustrations of the orange wigged dancers. Potential donors could take them home to fill with any loose change they found in their pockets and purses. Once the cans were full, they could bring them back to us. We would count and wrap the coins to save people time. Usually, they were delighted when they received their thank you letter to discover that they had given a bigger donation than they had expected they could.

So if you are feeling nervous about being able to afford a donation, get a nice bowl or jar and see how much change it attracts. You might be pleasantly surprised.


Helping Nonprofits - Suggestion # 2

Matching donations - If you can't give as much this holiday season, take a few minutes to chat with someone in your HR department. They can explain your company's protocol for matching employee donations. This could double or sometimes triple the impact of your gift. So even if you can only give half of your usual donation, the nonprofit will still receive the same amount.

Some places are even willing to match donations made by spouses or retired employees. For more information on corporate giving policies, you might want to consult this extensive list. Even though that list is six pages long, it does not include every American company and may not be up to date, so please double check with the folks in HR.

To demonstrate the power of matching programs:

One of Monkeyhouse's major donors works for Google. (It is amazing to have a genius rooting for you :).) We were thrilled when he discovered that Google would provide a 100% match to his family's substantial annual donation. By magnifying the power of this donation, Monkeyhouse was able to purchase its first company computer, an operating expense most grants would not cover. Without this new Mac, however, we would not have had a work station for our first paid intern. Every day we feel the reverberations of how Google's generosity strengthened Monkeyhouse's infrastructure. Thank again Google.


Helping Nonprofits - Suggestion # 1

GoodSearch: You Search...We Give!

In case you missed it, yesterday's Boston Globe featured a front page article that articulately examined the effects of our economic crisis on the nonprofit sector. In September, the Globe also published this article on the subject.

We know that many people are looking for ways to reign in their spending and yet still support the organizations that they believe in. So, Monkeyhouse is dedicating a few blog entries this week to offer you some assistance. As an organization with a very limited budget, we understand your dilemma and have a few simple suggestions that may help.

Today we want to remind you all of GoodShop.We have covered them before in the blog and in our October e-news because they are a simple way to donate that doesn't cost you a dime. If you go to GoodShop before going to online stores, eg. ebay, amazon, itunes, expedia, etc, a portion of your purchase price (up to 37%)will be donated to the organization of your choosing.

The Dow just slipped under 10,000 for the first time in 4 years. In spite of the cinnamon scented breezes of apple cider doughnuts, Autumn is going to be tough this year. Thanks for supporting any nonprofits this fall (especially Monkeyhouse!!!)...they need you now more than ever.


Sabbatical Synopsis - (part 2)

Continuing on in really no particular order...

* Closed out the season at Jacob's Pillow with Celeste Miller and the other Choreographers' Lab participants,

* Reflected and stretched my way through another birthday at Kripalu with one of my remarkable sisters-in-law,

* Sat so close to the stage at the Sadler Wells Theater in London that I made eye contact with some of Pina Bausch's dancers during Rite of Spring,

* Trekked out to Earthdance to pick up Janine Harrington (who I'd met at the workshop in Orvieto) as she explored the dance scene in the US,

* Glowed with glee when three former students, Ashley Chandler, Sarah Feinberg, and Gaby Mervis dance alongside me in their professional debuts during Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center's Boom Town Festival,

* Cruised around Cape Cod in a convertible with the two people who first encouraged me to dance: Mom and Dad,

* Shared a sumptuous meal with several fascinating people at David Parker's Show Down at Rialto,

* Herded people into the Ted Shawn Theater with my giggling prowess on the Glockenspiel and then overheard Wendy Perron, Editor of Dance Magazine, remark "They choose the right person for that job!",

*Was named Wholphin subscriber of the week,


Monkeyhouse at First Night Boston 2009!

Woo Hoo! Monkeyhouse is thrilled to announce that we were recently invited to perform at Boston's First Night 2009.

We will present new pieces inspired by Karen's artistic adventures during her sabbatical
at John Hancock Hall
at 7:30-8:00 PM and 8:30-9:00 PM
We are busy organizing things at the moment but we will have more information about it for you very soon.


Sabbatical Synopsis (part 1)

by Karen Krolak

Several people have asked me how I spent my sabbatical so I put together this list to give you a flavor of some of my favorite adventures. Thanks for all of you who encouraged this time away, I

* Lived in a palace in Orvieto, Italy while studying with Modern dance legend, Simone Forti (I awoke each morning to see the ceiling pictured on the left),

*Performed in Rome with a group of glorious improvisors from Italy, Croatia, Switzerland, Germany, England, Greece, Netherlands, and Turkey,

* Indulged in a Delicious Movement workshop with Eiko and Koma in the sumptuous ICA Boston theater overlooking the bay,

*Sussed out stories about slippers, boots, and sneakers as a professional blogger on Shoetube,

* Attended an Inter-collegiate Axe Throwing competition en route to Asheville, NC,

*Interviewed an emerging shoe designer in Iceland who envelops her soles in fish skins,

* Flung myself into the jaws of a giant model whale to create Christmas cards from Panama Beach, FL,

* Feasted with a collection of award-winning playwrights, directors, costume designers, and actors in Chicago, IL,

* Continued teaching my amazing students at Impulse Dance Center in Natick,

* Drooled over the dizzying displays of theater designs in the Collaborations exhibit at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, England,

* Ran down to New York, NY for a day for a sneak preview of Beowulf - Two Thousand Years of Baggage before it opened in San Francisco in May,

*Hustled through the Russian Disco section of Nut/cracked with David Parker and the Bang Group (If you missed it last year, you can see it again Oct 22- 26 in Boston. You can also read about David's newest creation here),

*Planted carrots, tomatoes, peppers, corn, lillies, zinnia, dahlias, garlic, onions, strawberries, basil, dill, and some renegade squash in our garden,

* Discovered 3 fabulous dancers, Julia Marx, Nikki Sao Pedro, and Caitlin Meehan while working a Space Grant through Green Street Studios,


Nut/cracked Rehearsal Photos

The Natick Tab ran a full page of photos from a recent rehearsal of David Parker and the Bang Group's Nut/cracked at Impulse Dance Center in Natick, MA. If you are curious to get a sneak peek inside the process of creating this show, be sure to check it out.


Jacob's Pillow Choreographers' Lab Follow Up

by Karen Krolak

My goodness! I have had some difficulty organizing all of my thoughts about the Choreographers' Lab. It was a tremendous and intense learning experience where I was surrounded by 14 other amazing artists:

Ojeya Cruz Banks
Martha Brim
Anne Bluethenthal
Julie Johnson
Mafa Makhubalo
Kate March
Alison Marshall
Dawn Robinson
Amanda Selwyn
Mila Thigpen
Steven Wright
Bill McLaughlin
Celeste Miller

I don't know that I have ever had the privilege of studying with such a well rounded and supportive group. When I applied, I was a bit afraid that I would be the oldest person there since so many people who attend the Pillow's programs are still in college. However, we ranged in age from 55 to 23 and almost half of the other choreographers were older than I am. People drew from dance experiences in Canada, England, Italy, South Africa, New Zealand, Ghana, and the US to discuss the variety of methods to engage communities through choreography.

Celeste Miller has an uncanny ability to get people to invested in each other's progress. Fortunately, the group is staying connected, continuing to collaborate on projects and to create artistic adventures together. So, I have decided to spread out interviews with this group throughout the coming year and hopefully that will give people a sense of how the program inspired us individually.


My introduction to the Jacob's Pillow's Choreographers' Lab

"Dance magically combines exercise, self-expression, fun group activity, intellectual stimulation, and spiritual uplift. All people should have access to these activities no matter what their age, ability, or body type."

from Teaching Dance To Senior Adults by Liz Lerman

Day One:

For once in my life, I arrived early...several hours early. Given that I was weeks late for my birth and 30 minutes late for our wedding, I was delighted to be the first person to arrive for Jacob's Pillow's Choreographers' Lab.

It had been five years since I drove out to the Pillow to see Rennie Harris Puremovement ignite the stage of the Ted Shawn Theater. Pulling into the driveway, I was awed once again by the majesty of this woodland dance campus.

I hadn't heard who else was selected to participate in the Choreographers' Lab led by Celeste Miller and I was surprised as soon as I opened the welcome packet. The first name that my eye landed upon was Amanda Selwyn. She was in every choreography class that I took at Northwestern University. We drifted apart after my graduation 15 years ago. I didn't even realize that she had her own company when we bumped into each other on Bleecker St before one of Monkeyhouse's New York performances in 2002. How strange to share this process with someone who was in the room when I presented my first series of choreography phrases for Lynne Blom.

By the time that I had gotten checked in to my cabin and sorted out my belongings, lunch was ready. Walking into the Stone Dining Room, I was greeted by Norton Owen, the Pillow's Director of Preservation. He was kind enough to introduce me to a few other staff members and to reserve seat for me at his table. When he heard about Monkeyhouse's mission, he suggested that I drop by the archives that afternoon.

Heavens to Betsy, those archives are filled with photos, videos, costumes, and amazing ephemera. (They are open to the public and I highly reccomend a visit if you are ever out in Western MA.) Norton, who has been a part of Jacob's Pillow for 33 years, instinctively knew to point me to Liz Lerman's book and another about Anna Halprin. He related short anecdotes about both women's experiences at the Pillow as he searched the shelves and his admiration for them was palpable. How magnificent to have a living link to so many of the artists captured in these recordings and documents. I happily sank into a chair to read until it was time for orientation to begin.

[In my delusions, I had thought that I would have time to document every day in this sort of detail. After our tour of the grounds (complete with info on how to scare the bears who roam by the dumpsters!), it was obvious that the intensity of the schedule wouldn't really permit this. So, the next few entries will try to capture the spirit of the Lab and interviews with some of the other participants.]

With oodles of gratitude,

A Prologue to Jacob's Pillow's Choreographers' Lab

by Karen Krolak
Monkeyhouse Artistic Director

America's oldest dance festival, Jacob's Pillow, is nestled in lovely nook of the Berkshire Mountains about 2.5 hours from Boston. As one of the 14 choreographers selected to attend Jacob's Pillow's prestigious Choreographers' Lab, I was supposed to arrive on Tuesday, August 19th by 3 PM.

Jason proposed that we head out to Western Mass a few days early to explore the area and to see The Illustrious Return Of Don Quixote at Double Edge Theater. Earlier in my Sabbatical, we had attended one of their open trainings in Ashfield. We were eager to see how they adapt their productions to outdoor locations(including a pond) on their 105-acre farm.

As I was packing on Saturday, my mom called to alert me about another intriguing show at Mass MoCA by an Australian company called Strange Fruit. Although the timing was tricky, (Mass MoCA is almost an hour beyond Ashfield!) it was possible to see both. We couldn't resist the lure of another company in wild wigs investigating issues of balance. Having spent so many years choreographing for pieces on drywall stilts, I was curious to see the vocabulary Strange Fruit developed on their 15 foot tall flexible fiberglass poles. Needless to say, Sunday revolved around a series of scenic drives and site specific performances.

Poking around pottery galleries in Northampton on Monday, images for new pieces inspired by our adventures were already percolating.


Shop For Monkeyhouse!

As you are all doing our back-to-school shopping, why not raise money for Monkeyhouse at the same time!?

By using GoodShop, you can shop online at all of your favorite stores, and, as you purchase items, a certain percentage will be donated to Monkeyhouse.

Every time you click over to one of the partner merchants from the GoodShop site, such as Amazon, Walmart, and Nordstrom, and then make a purchase, Monkeyhouse earns money. The more you shop, the more we make!

Simply go to www.goodsearch.com and click on the GoodShop link or go to www.goodshop.com. In the "Who do you GoodSearch for" box, type in Monkeyhouse.

Next, click through to the partner retailers and start shopping! A percentage of your purchase will go to Monkeyhouse.

Monkeyhouse would like to thank you all for your continuous support.


Monkeyhouse on Facebook!

Monkeyhouse is officially on Facebook!

Please become a fan of Monkeyhouse to stay updated on the company!

Calling All Choreographers!

As we gear up to get the ball moving on our Wicked Awesome Choreographers' Campaign, we are trying to collect basic information about choreographers. It will be helpful to Monkeyhouse and the participants of the campaign to have a database of choreographers. This database will also serve as a nice go-to for people looking for ideas on pages to create for Wikipedia.

So, if you are a choreographer out there, Monkeyhouse would love love love if you would send us a wee bit of information:

1. Birthday
2. Genre of Dance
3. Hometown
4. Other Town Associated With (i.e. currently reside or work in)
5. Company Affiliation, if any
6. Contact Information

Also, when sending us your information, if you could note whether you would be willing to be contacted by someone researching choreographers, that would be great.

Please send the information to monkeyhouseblog@gmail.com.

Thanks for all your help with this campaign.

And for all you "non-choreographers" out there, please continue to think about and get involved with the Wicked Awesome Wikipedia Choreograpers' Campaign, and feel free to contact Monkeyhouse for any suggestions on how you can help.


A Dance With Dan Wagoner

With our current Dream 2 Dance At Any Age project, Monkeyhouse has been interested in looking at elderly people and how they think about how they move. For this project, our summer intern, Gaby Mervis, interviewed Dan Wagoner, a very notable "older" choreographer who studied with the greatest.

GM: Why did you start choreographing?
DW: Well I started dancing first. And I danced out of an intuitive impulse to perform and to dance. And music, I love music. So I started dancing, went to New York and I danced with Martha Graham and Paul Taylor and Merce Cunningham and after I had been with Paul for about eight years, I realized I really wanted to think about aesthetics, the way to dance. I wanted to do dance differently than the way I was dancing. So I left the company and started very modestly making dances and working with a group of dancers and from there on just built into my company. I had the company for 25 years.

GM: Was it difficult for you moving to New York from rural West Virginia?
DW: It was more difficult in a way that was for me like going to the moon. Back at that time, there wasn't that much good training out of New York City or Chicago or Los Angeles. So you picked it up wherever you could. I had a degree in pharmacy and when I doing that I started dancing with the modern dance group at West Virginia University. I had no real training or whatever. I guess I just followed my instincts. Maybe I copied Gene Kelly movies or something. Then I started choreographing. I enjoyed it and when I went to New York, I felt like I needed to work on a lot of my technical skills. And learn a lot more and did. And New York was very exciting at that time. Late 50s, early 60s. It was a very exciting place. Music, dance, everything was going on. And the more I danced, the more I fell in love with it.

GM: Who are some of your favorite choreographers?

DW: Well, different ones for different reasons. But I like Merce Cunningham's work very much and I go to see Paul quite regularly. And I used to like Twyla's work. I haven't seen it recently and I think it's changed. I guess those are the ones that I would mention.

GM: What was it like studying with people like Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, and Paul Taylor?
DW: Well of course I was very excited because I had read about them in books. I read anything I could get my hands on. I was passionately in love with dance and I don't know why. So of course when I first saw those people was at Connecticut College at the American Dance Festival in the Summer and of course I couldn't believe I was in the same room as Doris Humphrey and Jose Limon, Louis Horst, and Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. I was just trembling with excitement. And I was very fortunate that I seemed to dance in a way that interested most of these people. I never auditioned. I was asked to perform with all these companies. And I just assumed that's what happened with everybody.

GM: Why did you end your company, "Dan Wagoner and Dancers," after 25 years of successful work?

DW: At the time I had a close companion, George Montgomery, who had Huntington's Disease. Well I was trying to take care of him and then the press came out with homoerotic photographs. And many things happened that made the government: senators and house of representatives, very angry because they thought it was pornographic and they tried to do away with me. My funding stopped completely. George was ill, I was trying to take care of him and I just couldn't. I was overwhelmed with taking care of George and trying to raise money and all that so I just decided I had to give up the company.

GM: In general, do you show your work to people while you are developing it?
DW: Well of course I'm not making that many new works anymore. I don't have commission. There would be certain times I wouldn't want people there but at other times, it would be perfectly alright for people to watch. It changes the situation, of course. The minute you have people sitting and watching but no, that would be alright.

GM: What was the first piece you ever choreographed?

DW: Let me think. The first piece I really made was called Dan's Run Penny Supper and I left Paul Taylor, and Harry Bernstein hired me at Adelphi University to teach and he gave me a commission to make a dance for the senior dancers and that was Dan's Run Penny Supper. And then later on, the next year, I did a concert, my first concert at a church, and I did that piece and two other duets. I guess Dan's Run Penny Supper was really my first piece. And I used traditional music; old-timey music with banjos and fiddles.

GM: What do you remember about the first public performance of your work?
DW: Jennifer Tipton did my lights. I guess I just remember an incredible mixture of fear and tremendous excitement. And pleasure. The space was good. The audience that came was very receptive. And it just seemed like I was doing what I was meant to do.

GM: How do you record your choreography?
DW: It's frustrating, but sometimes, I'll write out musical scores, but mostly it's video. I have had two or three pieces that have been notated at the laban center in New York.

GM: Have you seen any significant shifts in your work or the creation of your work?
DW: I guess. I'm sure it has shifted and changed. I've been doing it for so long that I've changed. I haven't been making that much work more recently because I've been teaching at universities. And usually the dancers are so busy that you can't get a good chunk of rehearsal time. And my dances are intricate and difficult usually so it takes a lot of time and I haven't had that.

GM: How old are you?
DW: Sunday was my birthday. 76.

GM: Do you tend to create pieces for a large group of dancers or a smaller amount?
DW: I like the idea of using a larger group. As much as fifteen dancers, but I usually don't have that luxury. So I usually do seven or eight.

GM: What is your favorite piece that you have choreographed?
DW: I think it was the last piece I made to the music of a string quartet. It was the last piece I made for the London Contemporary Dance Theater. The music is very complex.

GM: You teach at Connecticut College now?

DW: No, I am at Florida State University in Tallahassee.

GM: And you teach a technique class?
DW: I teach technique and choreography. And I do some other mentoring and stuff. It's a big department. It has a master of fine arts program. So I do a lot of counseling and mentoring.

GM: How long have you been down there?

DW: Three years.

GM: When you were a guest artist at a school, would you have the piece choreographed already or do you develop it as you get to know the dancers?
DW: It worked out both ways. Usually I would try to use material that I had used in some way, if not the same exact dance. Again, because the time was usually limited. And you had to get right into movement vocabulary and teaching how to do the steps. And then trying to add an artistic over-line to try to really approach a serious dance. But it worked out both ways.

GM: Can you tell me about the project that you're doing now at Summer Stages?
DW: Well I taught technique for the first week and what I'm doing now is every dancer is enrolled to take this repertory class. The technical levels are all really different. So I am trying to reconstruct two sections from two dances that already exist. And to try to keep it exact and yet work with it so it is at a level that they can actually dance it and not just make steps. So that's a really tough one.

GM: How old are these dances?

DW: One dance is from '84 and the other is from '91.

GM: What is the difference in using dancers that are so much younger than the ones in these pieces originally?

DW: Well they are very different. The culture has changed tremendously. I think of dance as behavior. We behave very differently because in your culture you were raised with all these machines and sound and images and visuals. The dancers now-a-days, I feel I have to push. It's almost as if they believe the machines are going to do it. Like if you want to lose weight, it's like they want to get on a machine and just stand there. As when I do it, I use movement with the body. But I enjoy a lot of younger dancers. Their technical skills are often very high. I find that they often don't energized the movement. They don't push themselves or extend themselves. They pull back. I like to really push the boundaries of the movement. A Big, strong, elongated body. And strong use of the pelvic area. So I do enjoy a lot of younger dancers but I find that I really have to push for the kind of dancers I really want.

GM: What is the process of rebuilding a piece like?
DW: It is very fun and frustrating. Because you have to learn it from recorded video. So I'm not good at taking it off the video myself, but I try to start with the dancers taking it and then I have to go back. Because you can't always see the exact intent, the weight, and the quality. So I have to go back and try to really remember what I did when I first made it.


A Show Down With David Parker

Our Summer Intern, Gaby Mervis, interviewed David Parker, Artistic Director of David Parker and the Bang Group, about his newest creation, ShowDown. Summer Stages Dance partnered with award-winning chef Jody Adams of Rialto Restaurant to present this innovative production in Cambridge, MA .

GM: Can you generally and briefly describe ShowDown?
DP: ShowDown is my choreographic reinvention of Irving Berlin's great musical Annie Get Your Gun for my company of 9 dancers. It is designed to be performed in very small spaces(15 square feet) so that we can offer it in cabaret, nightclub and restaurant settings which are places where people gather to enjoy themselves. This is important to me now. The piece breaks out the themes of the musical--the show down between men and women, the limitations of gender stereotypes, ambition, competition and the allure of show business--without using the conventional narrative or characters.

GM: How long have you been presenting ShowDown?
DP: ShowDown had its premiere in New York City at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater in June. I also made a version of it for a wonderful contemporary dance company in Cleveland called Groundworks and have offered a sneak preview at Boston's First Night Festival last December.

GM: Why did you choose to dance to Annie Get Your Gun?
DP: A visionary producer named Robin Staff who commissioned this show for New York's Dance Now NYC asked me to do it because she saw me do a song and dance number from the show at a private event, the 50th wedding anniversary of my parents. She is initiating a series of all-dancing versions of famous musicals by contemporary choreographers at Joe's Pub in New York. The first was based on The Sound of Music. It is called Fraulein Maria and was choreographed by Doug Elkins. I dance in that too. I play Liesl, the eldest Von Trapp daughter.

GM: Did each of the dancers represent specific characters in the musical or did you just use its music?
DP: There are no specific characters from the musical itself in my version but I think that each of the dancers in my work has created a character that is quite distinct. Amber Sloan plays a character who is closest to Annie herself but also Nic Petry plays another slightly more whimsical Annie. The fluidity of gender roles and couples is a very key element in the show.

GM: Did dancing in jeans prove to be difficult?
DP: The jeans have a bit of stretch in them, but yes, it is difficult and there was much moaning about the hardship. Fortunately, I get to dance in a formal suit instead.

GM: There are many guy-guy lifts, do you find them easier or more difficult or how is it different than guy-girl lifts?
DP: I think it's pretty much equal in terms of difficulty, some men are very good at being lifted, which is traditionally the woman's role, and some are better at doing the lifting. The biggest difference is in the minds of the audience in terms of what this suggests to them. Does it mean something different for a man to give his weight to another man than when a woman does it? For me it's just a natural way of relating.

GM: Was your entire company in this performance?
DP: Almost, Marta Miller who is in the original cast, injured her shoulder (picking up a bag of mulch, not dancing) and wasn't able to do this set of shows. She'll be back soon.

GM: How long does it take to put on a show from first rehearsal to first show?
DP: I began working on this show in July 2007.

GM: Do you have specific dancers in mind when you choreograph or do you match it later?
DP: No, everyone learns all the movement material and then I see what directions it takes and what suits which dancer. I did always know that I wanted Amber and Nic to be very central in this piece because they were both in periods of great artistic expansion.

GM: If you had to classify your choreography as one type of dance, what would it be?
DP: Contemporary. That means it can include anything.

GM: Who is one choreographer that you look up to?
DP: Merce Cunningham.

GM: Why did you start choreographing?
DP: I was very much turned-on by seeing the movie That's Entertainment when I was 15. It exposed me to the richness and depth of the dancing done in Hollywood in the first half (or so) of the last century. It was an explosion of creativity and beauty.

GM: In general, do you show your work to people while you are developing it?
DP: Yes, as often as possible.

GM: How has your tap background influenced your choreography?
DP: It has made me extraordinarily sensitive to time and rhythm and shown me the possibilities of extreme precision in the use of time. Tapdancing breaks down beats into astonishingly dense and complex patterns and has a baroque level of complexity which I find exhilarating.

GM: Do you require your dancers to have a tap background?
DP: No, but they have to have a brilliant sense of rhythm and they have to love rigor. Only about half the company has a tap or percussive dance background.

GM: What is your typical audience?
DP: That depends on the venue. In Boston we have reached a wide and "general" audience, while in New York my audience is much more dance-world people. On tour I'm marketed as being accessible and entertaining to general audiences. I think my ideal audience is simply comprised of people who love responding kinesthetically.

GM: Is the bonus dance that I saw you perform in the main show as well?
DP: Yes.

Tell us about it.
DP: It's the song and dance I performed for my parents' anniversary that I mentioned above and I also think it is very topical with regard to same sex marriage and updating traditions.

GM: Have you ever sang in one of your pieces before?
DP: Yes, I've sung in several of my pieces but mostly in a somewhat satirical way. This is the first time I'm doing it...um..."straight".

GM: Why did you decide to do it as a same-sex couple?
DP: Mostly because I'm gay and I think of it that way, but also because I knew it would make a good duet opportunity for both Jeff and me because we each sing and tap and are big old musical comedy queens.

GM: As you know, Monkeyhouse loves you, but how much do you love Monkeyhouse?
DP: I loves me some Monkeyhouse as much as I loves me my rhythm. All joking aside, I think Monkeyhouse is a fabulous phenomenon and enriches Boston's dance-and-performance scene immeasurably.


First Wikipedia Entry!

Hey! Our first Wicked Awesome Wikipedia Choreographers' Campaign is up on Jody Sperling! Be sure to let us know if you post other ones or if you need any help or suggestions.

Also, Monkeyhouse is hosting our first "How to Post Party" on Tuesday, July 29th from 6 to 8 PM. There will be food, friends, fun, and lots of Wikipedia wisdom. It will be held at the Monkeyhouse Office at the Arlington Center for the Arts. R.S.V.P. to monkeyhouseblog@gmail.com. Please join us!


Interview with Peggy Wacks

Our summer intern, Gaby Mervis, interviewed Peggy Wacks, a member of Dance'n Feet, a senior women's dance group out of Newton.

GM: What is Dance'n Feet?

PW: We are an independent senior women's dance group that practices weekly in Newton Lower Falls; are available for dance performances at dance festivals, community and charitable events. We have a very limited repertoire at present so cannot do a whole show on our own, but need to be part of a performance with multiple groups.

GM: Who is in it?

PW: Twelve women; non-professional dancers and few have any dance background; most are retired but some are still employed full or part time. Most are grandmothers. Our professional backgrounds include education, law, medicine, nursing, art, administration, insurance, physical education. Many members pursue sports seriously: competitive soccer, volleyball, running, bicycling, cross country, etc.

GM: What is the age range of its members?

PW: 58-70

GM: Why are they in it?

PW: The group started as a line dancing team to compete at the annual Senior Games in MA for athletes 50 and over. The group competed there for several years, and since they always won, the event was made non-competitive (performance only). The group started competing at dance competitions and performing at dance festivals and went way beyond the line dancing format to incorporate jazz, Broadway, cheer, and acrobatic features. Most are in it for the fun and exercise - and some for the thrill of competition and performance.

GM: What does it feel like to perform and is it any different from when you were younger?

PW: It feels great to perform, like a fantasy fulfilled (big show off that I now am). I didn't perform when I was younger, so I have no basis for comparison. I think it is less intimidating now, after all, what do I have to lose - so what if I make a fool of myself (worst case scenario)?! I'm much less nervous now and totally enjoy the whole thing.

GM: Do you have any special memory that you would like to share?

PW: I remember when we did a special performance at the awards ceremony of a national competition in Atlantic City a few years ago. Also performing were a bunch of young men doing a very athletic and professional and amazing hip hop number. They looked like something on Broadway and were terrific. These young fellows (around age 20 or so) all told us how terrific we were.

GM: What is your favorite aspect about dancing and performing?

PW: Learning and perfecting something and seeing it take shape with a wonderful group of women and then "taking it on the road" and get the audience feedback and appreciation.

GM: What is your favorite dance move?

PW: In our current number, Don't cha, my favorite move is not a dance move, but a gymnastic one: the double forward role I do with the choreographer, and our gymnastics coach, Nancy Simcock.

A Chat With Martha Clarke

Note: This was an earlier interview that we are posting again.

Some of you may remember meeting an enthusiastic, high school, volunteer named Kelly Long at the Monkeyhouse fundraiser at the Cantata several years ago. Since then she has gone on to major in dance at Hofstra University. When we heard that Martha Clarke, one of the founding members of Pilobolus, would be a guest artist at Hofstra this year and that Kelly had been selected to dance for her, we begged Kelly to interview Martha for us. There is something really exciting about having a former student work with one of your idols.

KL: How and/or why did you start choreographing?

MC: Not to make money, that's for sure. I had to. I was at Juilliard, and before that, I studied with a very famous choreographer teacher named Louis Horst, who was Martha Graham's musical mentor. I started choreographing when I was 15 as a student at the American Dance Festival, and he liked me. Even though he was mean, he encouraged me. But I did not know I wanted to be a choreographer. I KNEW I wanted to be a performer.

KL: How do you record your choreography?

MC: I use videotape, in portions of rehearsals that I find interesting, or I will film 10 or 15 seconds of something so I can remember it so when I'm working I can put it in snip-its. I only record work that I like.

KL: In general, do you show your work to people while you are developing it?

MC: No.

KL: Why?

MC: Until I know what I want, I don't want input from others. From within the company, of course - of course I take input. I don't want outside opinions because if I don't know where I'm going, why should I expect them to?

KL: What do you remember about the first public performance of your work?

MC: For my graduation from Juilliard, I made a solo to Dylan Thomas, reading from a poem he wrote called "A Winter's Tale" oddly enough. And I took a white china silk dress from the costume shop with a beautiful full skirt, and I remember spinning... and I actually remember some of the movement, and I did it at Dance Theater Workshop. It was my first work of my own done outside of school. And at the time I thought it was good enough to go on a program. I don't know what I'd think today. But it probably had the seeds... working with text, language, costuming... the seeds of the elements of theater that I still have. Even the style of movement. Other than that, it was inconsequential.

KL: Who are some of your favorite choreographers?

MC: Anthony Tudor.

KL: Anyone else?

MC: Federico Fellini. Igmar Bergman

KL: How do you spell his last name Fell-?

MC: Oh! You don't know Federico Fellini?

KL: No.

MC: Put that for my favorite director. The Great Italian film director from the 50s and 60s. Federico Fellini. Go watch 8 ½..

KL: Okay I'll see if I can find it on-line for Thursday.
KL: What was the first thing you ever choreographed?

MC: The first thing I remember with affection was this study in composition class from Louis Horst, but I performed it at 1 o' clock concert at Julliard. You know, we had these student productions. It was kind of earthy, primitive. I looked like a crouching vulture.

KL: What was the transition like from being a performer to being a choreographer?

MC: I was in Anna Sokolow's company. Um, I started really being a choreographer when I joined Pilobolus as a founding member. And... so I was performing my own work. So that anything that was on stage was something I made up, so it was rather seamless actually, the transition. One feels more vulnerable doing one's own work, because if people don't like it they can say "Oh I thought you were wonderful, but I didn't like the piece," you know? It's one in the same.

KL: Have you seen any significant shifts in your work or the creation of your work?

MC: It's gone from... well, a recent transition is from super-refined and elegant, to kind of... to... much rougher, more visceral style. More spontaneity.

KL: What do you think caused that shift?

MC: It's just natural evolution. You can't keep repeating yourself. And I try with each piece to do a new vocabulary, but it always looks like my work, for better or for worse. Or Pie's work, when it's really good. (Referencing her most adorable puppy dog Pie, chewing his biscuit on the floor.)

KL: When is your birthday?

MC: June 3rd...1802.


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