Connecting with Jessica Chen (part 1)

photo by: Quinn Batson

by karen Krolak

One of my favorite aspects of performing in the Cool New York Dance Festival is meeting other choreographers backstage. Personally, I love watching everyone warming up in costumes downstairs and imagining what transpires in their piece. Because we never do a full dress rehearsal, we can only catch glimpses of whoever is performing right before us. Hearing the music, occasional thuds or stomps, and the reaction of the audience only heightens the mystery.

I was delighted when one of our fellow choreographers from Program G, Jessica Chen, contacted Monkeyhouse through our Facebook fan page after the concert. It gave me an excuse to suss out more information about her piece, Training the Devil. Jessica was kind enough to indulge my barrage of questions through emails even though she was traveling in Taiwan.

karen Krolak: So was this your first time at the Cool New York Dance Festival?
Jessica Chen: Yes, this was the first time performing at Cool NY.

kK: Since choreographers have to be invited to perform in this festival, do you have any idea how Young Soon Kim, Artistic Director of White Wave, heard about your work?
JC:I got involved with White Wave through the DUMBO Dance Festival. I performed on Sept 26, but I also ushered the night before. Young Soon let me usher a few shows instead of paying the application fee. I was applying to a lot of festivals last year, so this was tremendously helpful and sweet of her. Then she called me and asked if I wanted to show work at Cool NY. How could I turn that down?!

kK: As you know, I wasn't able to see your piece since we were in the same concert. Can you describe it for me?
JC: Training the Devil is a very physical and emotional duet, danced with two blue gloves and one black tie. It is a glance into the merging of two lives and the journey after “Happily Ever After.” Two individuals, who bring out each other’s demons, discover a world of acceptance and reconciliation.

kK: Wow, I like that it is danced by two blue gloves and one black tie...
JC: The truth is I got those gloves from a previous show I did. They are designed by "Sex and the City" and "Ugly Betty" stylist, Patricia Field. I just really like them. So I brought them to rehearsal one day along with some other things. We both got very inspired by them so we kept going with it.

kK: Was that right at the first rehearsal?
JC: This was probably in the middle of our creative process. It fit the story line and the direction the piece was going, so we didn't question it.

kK: I am always fascinated by watching the evolution of ideas within a piece. I wonder how much the costumes alter your movements or added to their meaning.
JC: We actually collaborated with a video artist. She filmed our rehearsals and performances and made them into a music video. It's a different viewpoint of the piece, but it shows some of the movement. Check it out: http://www.youtube.com/user/jessicawchen

to be continued...

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