AWAKE: Moving Dance Forward Canceled

by karen Krolak

I am truly saddened to tell you that the Multicultural Arts Center has decided to cancel AWAKE: Moving Dance Forward based on advanced ticket sales and other funding issues. As the Artistic Director for AWAKE, I have spent nine months researching the questions provoked by the artistic legacies of Pina Bausch, Michael Jackson, and Merce Cunningham. Whether I have been entertained by 8 year old boys imitating the percussive isolations in Beat It or catching snippets of one of Pina's pieces on Moroccan television, I am continually impressed by how these idiosyncratic visionaries have permeated global culture. So, while we will not be gathering together on April 10th to celebrate, I hope that you will find a few minutes that day to honor their ongoing reverberations in some way.

I am deeply grateful to all the artists involved with AWAKE, including David Parker and the Bang Group, Max Pollak, Julia Rhoads, Eric Cruz, David Vaughan, Adrienne Hawkins, the Goethe-Institut Boston, and Monkeyhouse's dancers. Thanks also to Norton Owen at Jacob's Pillow, who shared some fabulous archival footage of both Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham with me last summer and to Debra Cash for building buzz for AWAKE in her spring dance preview for the Boston Phoenix.


AWAKE: Moving Dance Forward (Part 1)

in Cambridge.

AWAKE is more than just a dance concert featuring works by Eric Cruz, Monkeyhouse, and David Parker and the Bang Group, however. It is a day long event that celebrates the lives of three dance legends: Michael Jackson, Pina Bausch, and Merce Cunningham with a series of Master classes, panel discussions, a documentary film, catered meals, and a dance party.

As the Artistic Director of AWAKE, I really hope that you will be able to join us. Over the next two weeks, Connect to Choreography will feature several posts about this project and the artists involved in it.

Event Schedule
10 – 11 am: Master Class with Max Pollak, Artistic Director of RumbaTap

11 - 11:30 am: Continental Breakfast provided by Off the Vine Catering

11:30 - 11:45 am: Introduction by AWAKE Artistic Director Karen Krolak

11:45 am - 12:30 pm: Suspending Sequences: A Facilitated Conversation with David Vaughan, Archivist for Merce Cunningham Company

12:30 – 1:15 pm: Isolating Identity: A panel moderated by Adrienne Hawkins of Impulse Dance, The Company, featuring Julia Rhoads and Max Pollak

1:15 – 1:45 pm: Box Lunch provided by Beaujolais Catering

2:00 – 3:00 pm: Master Class with Julia Rhoads, Artistic Director of Lucky Plush Productions

3:15 - 4:15 pm: Master Class with Boston-based Hip Hop artist Eric Cruz

4:30 - 5:45 pm: Ladies And Gentlemen Over 65 - documentary about Pina Bausch directed by Lilo Mangeldorf and sponsored by the Goethe Institute

6:00 – 7:00 pm: Dinner provided by Season to Taste

7:00 – 8:00 pm: Performances featuring Monkeyhouse, Eric Cruz and David Parker and the Bang Group

8 - 8:30 pm: Talk Back

8:30 – 10:00 pm: Dance Party


Stories from the Somerville-Tiznit Sister Cities Delegation (part 6)

by karen Krolak
Part of a continuing series on Karen and Jason's trip to Morocco with 28 other people from Somerville...including Mayor Joseph Curtatone.

Good morning. Knowing how many people have been excited by the Somerville-Tiznit Sister Cities project, I am chagrined that I have not had time to post more about the trip. However, Jason and I were just interviewed along with four other participants from the delegation on Somerville Art Matters. Our host, Julia Fairclough, managed to slip footage from the gala in Tiznit and from Moroccan television in between chats with us. Thanks to everyone at Somerville Cable Access TV who helped produce this segment and put it up on the web so that we could share it with folks beyond the area.

To comply with recent legislation regarding blogging, I should mention that my trip was sponsored by University of the Middle East project, The U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in concert with Sister Cities International, the City of Somerville, the City of Tiznit and the Moroccan American Cultural Center. Readers should know that my experiences would not be typical for anyone else.


Othello Opens This Weekend!

by karen Krolak

Back when I interviewed Ashley Wheater about Lar Lubovich's Othello, I announced that I would be an Assistant Director on a production this spring. Well, after almost a year of design meetings and a month of rehearsals, Actors' Shakespeare Project's Othello opens on March 13th. Please do not wait if you want tickets as they are selling rapidly.

Though my friend Fred has been egging me to try it for over a decade, this is my first foray into directing a theater piece. While there are many similarities to choreographing, directing a beloved piece of Shakespeare is a such a weird beast. Actors enter the process with really specific ideas about their role, everyone has to agree on which folio version to use knowing that reviewers will compare each moment to previous incarnations of the play, and they have a massive budget by comparison to any dance piece that I have ever worked on.

If you haven't had enough of my blathering on (and keep in mind there are oodles more posts on Monkeyhouse's projects going up in the next few days), I have written for their blog too. On Sunday, March 14, I will also be leading the post show discussion. I would love to hear what people think about the production so feel free to send comments here. Thanks again to everyone who has encouraged me on this endeavour.


By William Shakespeare
Directed by Judy Braha**
March 10th - April 4th
Villa Victoria Center for the Arts
85 West Newton Street, Boston
Directions to the Venue

Tix by phone: 866-811-4111

Jason Bowen*
Ken Cheeseman*
Brooke Hardman*
Olivia Hendrick
Cloteal Horne
Matt Ketai
Paula Langton*
Sydney Lemmon
Doug Lockwood*
Denise Marie
Bobbie Steinbach*
Michael Forden Walker*

*member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States
**Members of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers

Connecting with Jessica Chen (part 2)

by Karen Krolak

Yikes...it has taken me a while to get the second half of this interview with Jessica Chen published. When you read the barrage of posts that are about to go up, though, you will understand why that is. To refresh your memory, Monkeyhouse met Jessica while performing at White Wave's Cool New York Dance Festival.

kK: I read on your website that you started out studying traditional Chinese dance.
JC: I studied Chinese Folk dance for many many years (6 to be exact) and toured Southern California with a semi-professional company. At that point, I didn't have many friends at school because I was busy every weekend performing.

kK: And, how did you become interested in contemporary dance?
JC: When I was 13, I decided to quit and join my junior high cheer team. That changed my life, because I joined the dance team in high school and then danced in the modern department at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Upon graduating from UCSB, I moved to NYC to go to the Ailey school. It was in NYC, working with other choreographers, that I discovered contemporary dance. So you can say it started when I wanted to make more friends at school.

kK: Hmmm...contemporary, cheerleading, and traditional Chinese dancing is quite an unusual combination. How do you feel that your choreography reflects this diverse range of dance styles?
JC: One of my new pieces is a sword dance, which is one of the traditional dances. It was the dance I was working on when I quit. I never got to perform it. Now I get to choreograph my version of a sword dance. I also love partnering work and maybe that is influenced by my background in cheerleading. At UCSB, I was what you called a "flyer" and I had only one "base." I was always really good at being lifted and thrown around (as a flyer), but I also knew how to lift others (as a base).

kK: So, how did you begin choreographing?
JC: Well, when I was young, around 8 or 9 years old, I would produce shows with my sisters and cousins for our parents. They included dancing, singing and acting. That was fun.

kK: Oh, I loved to do that too with my best friend, Sandy. When did you first show your work publicly?
JC: My first experience choreographing was in high school. I was a dance team leader and our coach was let go. We had a transition coach who was very much like the con-artist choreographer from the movie, Bring It On. He even made us do "spirit fingers." Long story short, I had to step in several times to re-choreograph our show. Anyway, I choreographed my first piece when I was 19 for a Teen Choreographer Showcase hosted by the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance.

kK: My first choreography project was also in high school. Ricki Lombardo created the part of the narrative shadow dancer for me in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and asked me to create all my dances. It wasn't until I studied with Lynne Blom, though, that I realized I wanted to be a choreographer. When did you know?
JC: It wasn't until I was at the Earl Mosley Institute of the Arts in 2006 that I discovered I really liked choreographing. Out of two summers (6 weeks) I choreographed three pieces. It was from the second summer that I decided to form the J. Chen Project and pursue my choreography career.

kK: Are you working on any projects while you are in Taiwan?
JC: I am in Taiwan to visit my 94 year old grandpa and my aunt. He is a strong, interesting man and has been through so much. It's nice to come and spend time with him. And it is Chinese New Years, so lots of good food and celebration. I would like to tour here someday soon, so I am looking at some potential theaters and checking out the contemporary dance scene in Taiwan.

kK: Thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions.
JC: Of course, it's always fun to do interviews. I am producing my first evening length show in June so this is great exposure for me.

kK: Well, please keep us posted as I would love to see your work one of these days!


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