Please Vote for Monkeyhouse!

Monkeyhouse is thrilled to announce that we have once again been nominated for one of the Boston Phoenix's Best of Boston awards! This year, you can find us in the Best Dance Performers category. All you need is a valid email address to cast your ballot. So please, show the world how much you love Monkeyhouse.

Psst...Since Jason is Production Manager for Actors' Shakespeare Project and Karen is choreographing Coriolanus with them, we hope you will also vote for them as Best Theater Company.


Moving Into Adulthood

Hi, I just wanted to invite everyone to a FREE upcoming event!

Moving Into Adulthood: Options, Ideas, and Information

On Dance After High School

A Panel Discussion for Parents & Students

Moderated by Karen Krolak, Impulse Dance Center Faculty Member &

Artistic Director of Monkeyhouse


Kristen Lung, DPT Sports and Physical Therapy Associates

Melissa Alexis, Independent Choreographer

Lauren Johanson, Massachusetts Cultural Council

Amanda Page, Impulse Dance Center Faculty & Guidance

Jason Ries, Actors’ Shakespeare Project & Monkeyhouse

Presented by Impulse Dance Center

On Sunday, March 15, 2008 at 2PM

At 5 Summer Street, Natick, MA

This free event is open to anyone interested in pursuing dance or careers related to dance after High School. We will tackle a wide range of topics including:

How do you continue dancing into adulthood?

What does it mean to be an arts administrator?

Do you have to major in dance to become a professional dancer?

Please RSVP by March 1 to 508-653-2171

Impulse Dance Center is dedicated to providing a complete, technically sound, dance education to people of all ages. Since 1987 Impulse Dance Center has been offering a diverse spectrum of classes and summer dance camps in downtown Natick. For more information about auditions, classes and events at Impulse Dance Center, please call 508-653-2171.


Military Movements

by Karen Krolak

Apparently, yesterday's post on Actors' Shakespeare Project's Coriolanus perplexed some people. Rest assured that there will be no random "dream ballets" interrupting Shakespeare's plot. Perhaps it would help if I explained that I define choreography as 'creating meaning with movement'. When working on dramatic plays, therefore, I try to emphasize thematic metaphors through movement, to generate subtext through body language, and to shape the physical narrative.

Coriolanus unfolds through a series of battles between the Romans and the Volsci. Though we don't often think of it, dancing and fighting have a long and tangled history that pre-dates Michael Jackson's Thriller by at least a several hundred years. Just this afternoon I stumbled upon a picture of a Marine break dancing in between training exercises in Djibouti in the latest issue of National Geographic.

The Afro-Brazilian martial art, Capoeira, for instance, was intentionally designed to look like a dance even though it could have deadly consequences. Developed by slaves who were bound at the hands and forbidden to fight, opponents would tuck razor blades between their toes added a lethal edge to their stunning kicks and turns.

Coriolanus' director, Robert Walsh is a proficient fight choreographer who envisioned a production that would explore the shapes and sounds of violence. Together we are weaving martial arts, Viewpoints technique, contact improvisation, modern dance, and gymnastics together to ratchet up the visceral intensity of the plot. Rehearsals have been fairly grueling for the actors thus far but I am really excited by the results.


Karen's Choreographing Coriolanus

by Karen Krolak

Just wanted to let everyone know about a really feisty project that I am choreographing for Actors' Shakespeare Project. Robert Walsh is directing a gritty, adrenaline infused version of Coriolanus set to a driving percussive environment designed by Stephen Serwacki who has performed in STOMP.

Coriolanus opens on March 14 and runs through April 5. It is the first production at Somerville's new Arts at the Armory performance space, a gorgeous old gymnasium nestled into the back of this recently renovated, castle shaped building.

After our first week of rehearsal, I can assure you that the actors in this ensemble are fearless performers who know how to electrify this gigantic space with their powerful movements. If you are in the Boston area, I would suggest getting tickets now.


Thank You Somerville Arts Council!

Monkeyhouse is thrilled to announce that Artistic Director, Karen Krolak was selected to receive a 2009 Artist Fellowship through the Somerville Arts Council. This grant will be used in conjunction with Monkeyhouse's Bernie Wightman Dance Building Fund.

Drawing from her experiences at Simone Forti's Logomotion workshop in Orvieto, Italy and the Jacob's Pillow Choreographers' Lab with Celeste Miller, Karen will take walks through Somerville to spark ideas for new pieces. Please contact us at monkeyhouseblog@gmail.com, if you would like to know more about the project or to join Karen on one of her walks.

Congratulations to Callie Chapman Korn, Nicole Pierce, and Jody Weber who were also awarded Artist Fellowships in Dance and Theater. The Somerville Arts Council is supported in part through the Massachusetts Cultural Council.


Getting to Know David Wechsler

There aren't a lot of albums that Karen, Amelia and I all own, but Piñataland's Songs for the Forgotten Future, Vol 1 is at the top of all of our lists. We use it regularly while warming up, during improvisations and for a long time we each wanted to build a dance piece using our favorite track, Velocity. In 2005 for Always and a Day... Amelia finally found the right place to use it and became the first of us to use Piñataland music for a Monkeyhouse piece. Since then I used Devil's Airship off that same album for Sublaxation in 2006. I am currently working on a new piece that uses a song from Piñataland's David Wechsler's album, Vacations, called Salt of the Earth in addition to a song David recorded just for the piece. Karen also hopes to use a song off the new Piñataland album, Songs for the Forgotten Future, Vol 2, for a piece she has in the works.

Needless to say, all of us at Monkeyhouse are incredibly grateful to both Piñataland and David Wechsler! If you or anyone you know are in Brooklyn this weekend, you should join me at Barbes (376 9th St. at 6th Ave) at 10pm on Friday the 13th so you can fall in love with them for yourself! In celebration of this weekend's performance, Nicole took some time to interview David:

NH: What is your earliest memory of making music?
DW: My earliest memory is of really hating piano lessons. After bribery didn't work and my parents decided I really didn't like it, I was allowed to quit. Then I took it up again on my own and really enjoyed it, so I started taking lessons again, hated them and quit. After that I decided I would play piano, but not well.

NH: Did you think when you started that you'd be making music for dance pieces?
DW: No I assumed I'd be playing on street corners. Turns out piano's too heavy so I took up guitar, but it turns out you need some kind of permit.

NH: Is your music being used for companies or choreographers other than Monkeyhouse?

DW: A long time ago I collaborated on a song for a piece by Adrienne Truscott (who performs these days as a Wau Wau Sister) on a song that she wrote and I arranged and recorded. It was a big, fun samba number. Then 10 years later you asked me to record something. These are my two experiences.

NH: When and how did Piñataland start?
DW: Doug Stone and I went to college together and started a little band there that played polka music, mostly to annoy people. Then we got out of school and I went back to Chicago and he went to New York until I got a call saying I should come out to New York and start a band with him. Turns out, that band was Piñataland.

NH: Piñataland uses so many interesting and sometimes little known historical events as part of your songs. What made you choose history?
DW: Well, we started off doing these complicated comedy songs. I say "complicated" because I'm pretty sure we were the only ones that thought they were funny. Most of them involved some megalomaniacal narrator saying all kinds of nonsense set to a happy polka beat. But it's hard to write a comedy song that you still want to sing after 4 times. Then one day we got a gig to do a song on a Comedy Central show. (Click here to see!) They flew us out to LA for the taping and it was very nice and a lot of fun. But at the end we realized that if we had to keep singing comedy songs we'd get sick of it really quick so we came back, fired the band and took a break. During the break Doug announced that we should write history songs and came up with Coney Island Funeral, about the elephant that was executed at Coney Island. We just started cranking them out after that, though truthfully Doug writes most of the historical songs. I just write songs and then try to cram them into some historical context.

NH: Where do you find these events and what makes you choose the ones you do?
DW: Well, both Doug and I read a lot of history books. Usually I'll be reading something and some story will resonate with some other topic I've been thinking about. I think Doug thinks more strategically about the kinds of songs he wants to write and the topics he looks for.

NH: I use
Devil's Airship as part of Sublaxation, a piece I built in 2006. People often ask me about the music in Q&As because they want to know where the clip that is the introduction to the song comes from.
DW: It's from a song called Mysterious Moon sung by Ada Jones and Billy Murray (words by A. Seymour Brown; music by Nat D. Ayer) released in 1912 about the same airship sightings that Devil's Airship is about. Unfortunately, I don't even have a copy of that recording anymore. Not sure what happened to it. There's another version of it by Edna Brown and Billy Murray which you can find online here but for some reason I can't find the Ada Jones version anywhere.

NH: Besides Piñataland are you working on any other projects?
DW: Yeah, I've always done a lot of home recording and now that you can do that on a laptop and actually have it sound decent, I've been home recording some albums. The last one I did was Vacations back in 2007 which was all songs about traveling and I'm halfway through another one called The Decline of America Part One: The Bush Years which is kind of look back at the past eight years. It's not really a political or a history album; most of the songs are personal about events that happened from that time period, although there's one angry song about the Spanish-American war from 1898 so I guess you can take all of the above with a grain of salt. Anyway, it's been interesting for me to record it since I'm using a lot of rhythm samples and in general the whole album is a lot more rock and modern sounding than anything else I've done. I hope to be done with it by April. It's part of a planned Decline of America trilogy. Part three's coming in 2012 and part two should be done by 2020.

NH: Part three is coming out before part two? Why?
DW: I have a better idea of what part three will sound like and be about conceptually. As a three part series of the Decline of America, part one is causes, part two is the actual falling apart and part three is the result. I have a vision of the place that America will be after we're not on top anymore which I'm interested in exploring but don't have a good feel for the actual falling apart section so I'm going to hold back on that one.

NH: Did you go to school for music?
DW: I studied ethnomusicology, mostly Afro-Cuban and Afro-Brazilian drumming. Most of that influence gets squashed in Pinataland but you can hear it every once in a while. For a while I was a pretty good conga player and percussionist but I dumped it all for some reason and started playing accordion with Pinataland.

NH: Do you feel like there were advantages/disadvantages because you did/didn't go to school for music?
DW: Not really. Except for when I was studying drumming I've never been that interested in being a good player and while I think I could probably play a lot more music if I was better trained, I'm mostly interested in playing my own music. The few times I've sat in with other folks it's been nice to do a show and actually get paid, but I get bored quick. Studying the Cuban and Brazilian drumming has probably taught me more about composition and music than the college courses I took that actually talked about those things. Come to think of it, I used to drum for dance classes back in college.

NH: Do you see a lot of dance?
DW: Wow, y'all are gonna hate me, but to give you an idea of how much dance I've seen in my life, I just saw the Nutcracker for the first time this past Christmas. When I studied the ethnomusicology stuff I would do dance, because in those cultures the music and dance are so tied together, and I got into Capoeira for a while, so I've seen lots of traditional dance concerts but even those are pretty far in the past.

NH: Where can people find copies of the Piñataland albums and your solo album? Is there somewhere people should be looking out for more information about the release of your new album?
DW: Good luck. We ain't in stores. You can either get a CD at a show or by emailing me or you can download stuff from the usual online suspects — Amazon, iTunes, Emusic etc...

NH: Are there other musicians/bands/albums that you think people should check out?
DW: I've recently been on a late 60s-early 70s Brazilian pop music kick. It's just about the best stuff ever recorded. Check out the mid-period Jorge Ben stuff like his '69 album or Negro e Lindo, or early Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso... Chico Buarque is amazing. So much great stuff. As for new albums, I was kind of disappointed in 2008 for music. I was trying to put together a best of year mix and while there's some great songs, I couldn't really find too many albums I loved. My favorites were ones from Shelley Short, the Felice Brothers, Curtis Eller's American Circus, Palliard and the Old Believers. I'm looking forward to the new Eleni Mandell album that comes out on 2/17. Her 2007 album "Miracle of Five" was probably the last album I totally fell in love with and played to death. Probably means I'll be disappointed in the new one...


Updates from the Cool New York Dance Festival

by Karen Krolak

Hey, we had a weekend of full and enthusiastic houses at the Cool New York Dance Festival. I was really impressed by how many people skipped the Super Bowl to attend on Sunday. There will be 9 more performances this weekend so scoot on over if you are in New York.

White Wave's stage is a funky little space with glorious, wide beam floors. You have to climb down a ladder to get to the dressing rooms which made it feel like you were going into a curious little tree fort.

After our tech rehearsal on Thursday, David Parker took Jason and I out for drinks and snacks at Cowgirl. He confided some of his ideas for his 10th Anniversary performance at Summer Stages in July, with us and now I am even more curious to see how it evolves.

While I did not get to see most of the pieces that were on the programs with Monkeyhouse, I did catch Program A before our show on Saturday night. What a fantastic way to get psychologically warmed up! Belinda Mc Guire's solo, Hex, blended balletic grace with sharp gestures that seemed to repel and attract the audience at the same time. Her gossamer silk dress added an unusually buoyant quality to her tense muscularity.

Donlin Foreman's duet, Not our Only Life, sparked with a magnetic humanity that somehow remained soft and inviting. It was a balanced counterpoint to Idan Sharabi's ready to boil duet, ADAR. Each time John Bessant III flung Belinda McGuire through the air by her neck, I gasped. Even though I could guess the mechanics behind this illusion, the powerful image still shocked me with each repetition.

Both of Young Soon Kim's pieces, SSOOT II: On the Wall (an excerpt) and What IS ???, profited from regular rehearsal in the space. They seamlessly integrated the scenic landscape and animated the architectural quirks. The excerpt from SSOOT II was exquisite and may lure me down to New York MAY 13 - 17 to see the full length production.


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