An Introduction to Adam Thompson

Monkeyhouse is always thrilled when people introduce us to other artists playing with movement. So you can imagine how excited we were when Monkeyhouse dancer, Caitlin Meehan, forwarded an email to us about the Deconstructive Theatre Project (DTP), an intensely collaborative company that utilizes the benefits of ensemble collaboration in art and education. Caitlin worked with DTP on Brecht & Co. and The Girlie Show. In Brecht, she experienced the DTP's process firsthand and experimented with movement, text, and music.

We were so curious about the company that we encouraged Caitlin to interview Adam Thompson, founder and director of DTP. He is currently creating and directing Atomic Triptych, The Orpheus Variations, and Colonia which was recently awarded a development grant from The Puffin Foundation. If this interview makes you crave more information on DTP, please sign up for their mailing list. If you do, you will also help the company raise some money as a clever donor has offered to give $1 for each new person added to their list this week.

by Caitlin Meehan

Caitlin Meehan: What do you think that dance and movement bring to works of theatre?
Adam Thompson: Dance and movement bring a heightened freedom of interpretation to the theatre. Movement is a curious sort of wonder in that it creates narratives that, geometrically speaking, are not solid lines but rather dashed ones. The audience is required to fill in the spaces between those dashes with their own political, social, and emotional experiences. I believe strongly in the responsibility of an audience to be intellectually and emotionally engaged in performance, and I think kinetic communication both allows for and indeed demands that kind of participation. I am interested in how an entire piece of theatre can be built the way a dance is built: the relationship between the micro and the macro, between structure and content.

CM: Why do you require all ensemble members to experiment with movement (even if they have no background)?
AT: I believe all human visual experiences are born from movement.”I think that’s spot on.I am very interested in creating a hyper-visual body of work. It’s logical that a kinetic genesis is instrumental to realizing that kind of work. Movement is the most basic human vocabulary. We’re born and, for the most part, we can do it. We have to learn language, but movement: that’s inherent.

CM: How do you encourage actors who are previously "non-dancers" to explore that physicality? How do you/have you used movement in DTP's work?
AT: I like to begin by asking actors to share different stimuli that engage them: an image, a type of light, a poem, etc.I then ask them to use a new vocabulary to create that same sense of engagement. If you are moved by a poem, how can you translate the experience of that poem using a physical vocabulary? If it’s a painting, what would that painting sound like? I am interested in theatrical vocabulary – in deconstruction, reinterpretation and reconstruction.

CM: When did you first begin to use movement in your work?
AT: Our first production was Moisés Kaufman’s play, “Gross Indecency: The Three Trials of Oscar Wilde”. It’s the only extant play we’ve fully produced. Everything else, we’re created from scratch. But we tackled it kinetically. For the first two full weeks of rehearsal, we didn’t even open a script. In that play, a hand full of actors play a large number of characters, so the actors spent a good amount of time building an awareness of their own physicality, how that physicality could be utilized to inform the different roles they would take on, and – most importantly, I think – how to build a collective sense of ensemble physicality.

CM: Was there anything in your production of Gross Indecency that you would call choreography?
AT: There were a few things that I would call basic choreography. They grew out of less rigid exercises, toward more formal movement patterns.

CM: What is your own movement background?

AT: I don’t have any sort of formal training in dance, but I’ve studied varying techniques of performance composition: Viewpoints, Moment Work, etc.Actually, I have taken one ballet class (which I loved) and am currently studying aerial silk performance (which I really love). I’ve also been really lucky to have been and continue to be informed by the movement and creative vocabularies of the wonderful folks with whom I work.

CM: What movement qualities do you look for in dancers/actors/performers during the audition process?
AT: I look for fearlessness. I also look for confidence and a strong sense of self-awareness. I like people with strong personalities who are intellectually, physically, and emotionally intelligent.

CM: What has it been like learning about and experimenting with aerial choreography? How is this different from directing and shaping ground-based work?
AT: I love aerial work. I am really interested in its capabilities as a performance vocabulary.I find aerial to be a beautiful way to explore sexuality and sensuality on stage because it is all about trust, danger, excitement, and proximity to another body.The obvious difference between aerial work and ground-based work is that aerial work comes with a heightened awareness for safety. There may be a really great way to use aerial to present a moment in the piece, but it may not be entirely safe for the performer. There are a lot of logistical concerns. On the plus side, because aerial is so heightened in its theatricality, it allows one to really work in metaphor and poetry, which I think theatre is the most well-equipped of any art form to do.

CM: How do you/have you combined movement with text and characters in DTP's work?
AT: Historically, the theatre has primarily been the domain of the playwright. Everyone else comes in afterward and lays their work on top of the text. I prefer to flip that process on its head and lay the text last (if at all), or at least simultaneously with other elements. Often, we will start with a textual inspiration (a poem or an essay, maybe), interpret that via a different vocabulary, and then lay entirely different text on top. I also like to experiment with how a character’s identity can be fragmented among elements or actors: one actor is the voice, another is the physical body, another is the mind, etc.I think one of the great strengths of the theatre is its ability give all of the elements of the stage equal power to convey the context.


Audition Advice

Auditioning for summer programs, colleges, and various choreographers can be a daunting task for dancers. When we heard Sarah Friswell rave about how much she enjoyed her audition for Jacob's Pillow's Tap program, we were really impressed. We invited her to write a little about her experience to see if it might provide insights about how to make this necessary process less stressful.

by Sarah Friswell

This past January, I had the opportunity to audition for the newly created summer tap program at Jacob's Pillow. Luckily, there was an audition in Miami, FL that was accessible to me as I attend the University of Tampa. I left my school at four in the morning and made it with plenty of time to spare for the 10AM audition. I had already had the pleasure of participating in a master class with Dianne Walker when I was a student at Impulse Dance Center in Natick, MA. I was so relieved that she ran the audition with the same feeling as a master class.

We learned a combination in three parts and set it to all different tempos and styles of music. Throughout the two hour audition, we talked as a group about how we wanted to interpret the sounds and what we wanted our feet to be saying. I really enjoyed the combination we did. In fact, I decided to use it in my choreography for the University of Tampa's student show, The Spring Dance Happening.

I was very touched that Dianne also talked to us about her professional career and she really spoke to us as a community of tappers. One phrase Dianne talked to us about is to "put it in your pocket". This phrase is used to describe a dancer really understanding movements fully and fully embodying what the movements mean. I have used that phrase since then to inspire my dancers to work together as a group and to really feel the movements in the piece instead of just performing different steps. I will never forget the wonderful experience I was able to have and I am so grateful that I have gotten to work with Dianne now on multiple occasions. She is truly and inspiration.We worked very hard in the audition and it really exemplified how valuable an audition is as a learning experience. It also showed me just how much more I might receive through the tap program at The Pillow should I be lucky enough to attend their program sometime in the future.


Nora at the ICA

by karen Krolak

Heads up everyone! If you are free this weekend, please mosey down to the ICA to see Nora Chipaumire perform Lions Will Roar, Swans Will Fly, Angels Will Wrestle Heaven, Rains Will Break: Gukurahundi. This concert will also feature live music by Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited. Jason, Nicole and I will be attending Saturday night's show, so drop us an email if you want to grab a coffee and chat before hand. Saturday is supposed to be gorgeous so it will be a magnificent day to stroll around the waterfront.

As you may remember from an earlier post, I am awed by Nora's volcanic grace. She is a stunning dancer from Zimbabwe and her new creation delves into life as an exile. There is a short clip on World Music's website but it is a poor substitute for her magnetic power over a live audience. Seriously, go see her.

Nora Chipaumire
with live music by
Thomas Mapfumo & The Blacks Unlimited

Performing the Boston premiere of
Lions Will Roar, Swans Will Fly, Angels Will Wrestle Heaven, Rains Will Break: Gukurahundi
Friday, April 23, 7:30 PM
Saturday, April 24, 8:00 PM
Sunday, April 25, 3:00 PM

Institute of Contemporary Art
100 Northern Ave
Boston, 02210
Reserved seating


Movement at the Mills (part 2)

by karen Krolak

We are continuing on with the interview we began yesterday with
Andrea Blesso, curator for Movement at the Mills, at Boston Center for the Arts (BCA). This is part of an ongoing theme of delving into sit-specific choreography that we began on our first episode of C2C: Connect to Choreography on SCATV. Movement at the Mills' final installment for this season will feature Weber Dance, Sun Ho Kim & Dancers, and Kendra Heithoff on April 30th.

karen Krolak: Wow, how wonderful that Movement at the Mills has attracted hundreds of people each night. That is pretty rare for new experimental dance projects. Andrea Blesso: Well, Movement at the Mills connects the BCA and the participating dance companies with a new audience by providing free entertainment in an atypical dance performance setting. The audience may come and go as they wish and get their own size “sample” of dance. It also allows the audience to see new forms of dance without fully committing to a large ticket price or a full evening of work. A true crudités of dance. engages local dance companies in an informal, community performance at the Mills Gallery, specifically aimed at reconnecting the BCA with the Massachusetts dance scene.

kK: When is the next deadline for choreographers to apply?
AB: The Movement at the Mills program occurs three times a year with an ongoing application submission process.
This program offers performance opportunities and free rehearsal space for local dance companies without significant financial burden.

kK: How does the process work? Do you select the the artists for each program?
We have a panel that determines the selected participants for each Movement at the Mills performance. Once the companies are selected, via panel vote, I then build the performance from their repertory and proposed ideas.

kK: As a curator, what are some of the challenges that you face?
AB: One of the main challenges is finding the right mix of dances that represent each choreographer’s vision but compliment the other companies’ work.
Movement at the Mills is a very intricate program with many logistics to balance – the technical limitations of the space, numerous stages with overlapping performances, and the encouragement of proper audience and dancer flow.

The hardest part of this program, I must admit, is building the performance layout. The layout must invite the audience into the Mills Gallery space and share the concept of the program itself while also presenting a clear and enjoyable performance flow across multiple stages. Other factors to juggle in the performance layout are the normal technical prop cues and creating a moment for the dancers to breathe. Since the performance rotates through two times, dancer energy level is a big consideration.

kK: It is amazing how seamless and organic everything felt when I attended the January performance.
AB: Much like dance movement itself, the more smooth performances appear, the more intricate they were to coordinate.

Yes, that is so true. I am really surprised that the BCA devotes so much time to a program that doesn't generate ticket revenue.
AB: Since it is a free event, it will help build a new dance audience for future BCA dance programs, at which we may charge a ticket price. It also helps ease the BCA into the path of possibly producing future dance concerts. Since Movement at the Mills supports three dance companies per round, and is a series throughout the year, it has the ability to cover a wide variety of dance styles and appeal to a broad audience – as well as cover an expansive audience group by tapping into the participating companies’ fan base.

kK: Well, I am looking forward to seeing future installments of Movement at the Mills. Thanks for adding such a dynamic bridge to Boston's dance landscape.


Groton School Residency (part 1)

by karen Krolak

How did you spend your Patriot's Day? If you live outside of New England, were you even aware of today's holiday? By any chance was anyone part of the throngs cheering on the Boston marathon runners?

As much as Monkeyhouse admires anyone with enough stamina to endure that legendary course from Hopkinton to Back Bay, I headed out in the opposite direction today. For the second year in a row, I scooted out Route 2 towards Groton to begin a week long residency at the Groton School.

I was in the black box studio for a few hours and I thought you might enjoy seeing images of the space. Good lord, that school has facilities that would make professionals weep with joy. (Wait til I include a some shots of the main stage.) Oh, and I also threw in a few fun shots from a few of my movement sketches.

While I was noodling around, I stumbled upon a sound piece that I began last year. It was a based on a text that I developed after one of my neighborhood strolls as part of my 2009 Artist Fellowship from the Somerville Arts Council. At the time, Anne Bluethenthal contacted me about creating a sound design for her re-worked version of a piece entitled Spine for her concert, Pluto in Capricorn. I crafted several different drafts of soundscapes using the text but they didn't quite fit the piece. Towards the end of my rehearsal, I began editing it again...perhaps this belongs somewhere in Monkeyhouse's latest creation which stole some inspiration from Spine. I will keep you posted.

Well, I am headed back to Boston now to attend the IRNE awards ceremony. The event is free by the way. So if you are available at 7PM, stop by the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama to find out first hand who is going to win Best Choreography. I am so excited just to be nominated. Thanks again to all the staff at Actors' Shakespeare Project and the cast and crew of Coriolanus.

Movement at the Mills (part 1)

by karen Krolak

We dedicated our first episode of C2C: Connect to Choreography on SCATV earlier this month to the topic of site-specific work. To continue exploring this theme, we decided to chat with Andrea Blesso, curator for Movement at the Mills , about this exciting series at Boston Center for the Arts (BCA). Movement at the Mills' final installment for this season will feature Weber Dance, Sun Ho Kim & Dancers, and Kendra Heithoff on April 30th.

karen Krolak: Personally, what excites you about site-specific work as opposed to seeing dance in a more traditional setting?
Andrea Blesso: I feel that the dance world is in crisis right now. Between the limitation of funding and the loss of audience members with financial worries – it is getting tough to afford producing dance in traditional proscenium settings. I believe that site-specific work is the direction in which dance must go to survive. It also pushes dancers to explore movement outside of their training and develop new levels of audience connection. Which will bring new interest and breath into the discipline of dance.

kK: Are there any site-specific choreographers who really inspire you?
AB: It is very exciting to have Boston-based choreographers showing site-specific work. Most recently I have worked with lizroncka/Real-Time Performance Project and have watched Michael Jahoda’s White Box Project.

I am influenced by everything around me. Being married to an architect has invited me to see ‘sites’ from a different perspective, so I tend to let the actual site influence my movement and spark my creativity rather than my training or other choreographers.

kK: I know that you choreograph as well. Are you pursuing opportunities to create site-specific pieces?
AB: Although I consider myself a choreographer and improviser, most of my efforts are focused on creating dance opportunities at the BCA right now. In addition to the Movement at the Mills and Dance Residency programs, the BCA is incorporating dance as part of its high-level fundraising events. So not only am I directing the dance programs, but I get to lead and create site-specific dances for those fundraising events. Which is really fun!

kK: How did Movement at the Mills get started?
AB: The BCA is a wonderful organization that allows each staff member’s voice and ideas to be heard. When our Executive Director, Veronique Le Melle came on board in January 2009, she invited me to share my dance ideas. Movement at the Mills grew from there.

kK: Why did you want to develop this new project?
AB: Movement at the Mills is a unique program designed to meet clearly identified and unmet needs in the discipline of dance. In Boston, it remains difficult for smaller, local dance companies to find sufficient space in which to display their creative work. Movement at the Mills

kK: Can you describe the physical space for readers who have not been to an event there yet?
AB: The Mills Gallery is a fairly “raw” space - white walls, painted white plywood floor, and numerous small nooks throughout the gallery. This program is designed to use the Mills Gallery in an unexpected way and to showcase dance in an atypical performance setting. There are no stage lights or audience seating, as found in standard performances. Multiple stages will be performing throughout the evening to create an “exhibit” environment.

kK: Would you explain a little more about what you mean by an exhibit environment?
AB: Each Movement at the Mills session invites three local, independent dance companies to showcase complete or in-progress works. The audience is invited to walk through the space and view an “exhibit” of various movement styles; rather than artwork being displayed, it is dance that is displayed. Movement at the Mils is aimed to support young, high quality dance companies in the creation of new work or experimentation with existing work; to expand the public and artist’s vision of a standard dance performance format; to blur the lines between audience and performers.

kK: How have audiences responded to the first two installations of this series?
AB: Movement at the Mills has been pretty successful so far. The first ‘unveiling’ performance on October 29, 2009 had over 300 audience members and was a hit. The second performance on January 9, 2010 had approximately 200 audience members, in the midst of a snowstorm just after the Holidays. So we feel that there is a market for a program like this.

Check back tomorrow and we will continue on with information about how the program is curated...


Best of Boston!!!

by karen Krolak

Last night as Jason and I were driving to the Sherman Cafe to participate in one of the Somerville Reads (For the programs inaugurual year, Somerville is reading The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, one of our favorite books) programs, my G1 phone buzzed to announce that an email had arrived. I am glad that I took a moment to check it as it was a lovely message from our neighboor, Robyn informing the building that both Actors' Shakespeare Project (Best Theater Company) and Monkeyhouse (Best Dance Troupe) won in the Boston Phoenix's Best of Boston Readers' Poll.

At the Sherman Cafe, we had a few minutes to browse the rest of the winners and discovered that the Arts at the Armory building where Jason works won two awards. JP Licks, where Nicole makes ice cream when she is in Boston, was also dubbed Best Ice Cream.

Thanks to all of you who make Monkeyhouse such a vital and exciting organization. Monkeyhouse really does love you. As we have said before, without 'U' we would just be Monkeyhose!


Great Scholarship For High School Dancers

We saw this call for applications from Urbanity Dance on the Dance Action Network and wanted to help spread the word about this fabulous scholarship. Last year's recipient, Yanyun Xiao, is now attending Duke University and said, "The process of writing the essay even further inspired me to have dance enrich my life throughout college." This year's scholarship will be presented at Urbanity's spring concert, Versus, on Sunday May 2nd.So get writing, and best of luck.


Essays Due April 20th, 2010

High School Seniors: Win $500 for college!

Essay Writing Contest Just For Dancers

Do you have a passion for dance? Are you headed to college next year?

Tell Urbanity about it and you could win cash for school!

THE CHALLENGE: Tell us in approximately 500 words: ‘How and why do you plan to balance dance and school during college?’

THE PRIZE: $500.00 College Scholarship

DEADLINE: April 20, 2010 (Scholarship will be presented Sunday, May 2, 2010)

INSTRUCTIONS: Email your 500 word essay to youth.urbanitydance@gmail.com

Along with your essay, also include the following:

1.) full name

2.) date of birth

3.) mailing address

4.) phone

5.) email

6.) current high school

7.) current dance school

8.) current dance teachers

9.) the college/program you anticipate attending in fall 2010


Urbanity Dance Spring Revue

Friday, April 30 & Saturday, May 1, 2010, 7:30pm

Sunday May 2, 2010, 2:00pm

Boston University Dance Theater

In Versus, Urbanity Dance examines the struggle of the self to keep from getting lost amidst the masses, trends, and pressures of modern life. In the spirit of true community collaboration, ten original works will be presented – choreographed by five Urbanity Company members. Costumes are designed by local fashion designers; lighting and sets by local artists and architects. Creativity abounds as Versus studies the joy and tension involved in the daily grind that hurtles us through each day.


$22 General Admission

$18 Students/Seniors/Boston Dance Alliance Members

Dance Theater Box Office: 617.358.2500

Office Hours: Wednesday - Friday (2pm-6pm)


Congratulations to Bari Rosenberg

by karen Krolak

Some of you may remember a tiny tap dancer who performed alongside Nicole Harris in Monkeyhouse's Always, and a day... back in 2004. Her name is Bari Rosenberg and she was just selected by Honor Student magazine (from over a 1000 candidates) to be profiled in their April issue. Is it any wonder that she has been accepted to both MIT and Brown University?

Nicole and I both met Bari while teaching at Impulse Dance Center in Natick, MA when she was quite young. Since then Bari has advanced in to the Repertory level modern, jazz, tap, lyrical and ballet classes, assisted classes (including my beginning modern class for four years) and been chosen for the studio's two elite teen ensembles, Connecting Point Dance Company and TAProject. Currently, she is Nicole's Dance Captain for You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown at Natick High School. Somehow she also manages to squeeze in time to be the student liaison to the School Committee, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, tutor a boy struggling with autism and excel academically. Congratulations Bari, we are so proud of all that you have accomplished.


May Monkeyhouse workshops in Brooklyn, NY

Join us for a month of Monkeyhouse's Musings this May at Union Street Dance (USD).

by Karen Krolak, Founder/Artistic Director of Monkeyhouse.

Monkeyhouse's Musings stretch your mind along with your muscles. Drawing from an eclectic series of improvisations and choreographic sketches, you will discover how Monkeyhouse (Voted Best Dance Company in Boston twice!) fuels people's creativity and infuses movement with meaning. Karen Krolak encourages performers of any style to wander beyond 'what if ?' and boldly embrace 'how could you?'

This USD LAB is the first time that Monkeyhouse has opened their Musings to the public. Don't miss this rare chance to delve into their idiosyncratic style of dance making. Participants will leave with fresh phrases and an arsenal of ideas to spark new pieces.

Dates/Times: May 7-28, every Friday from 4-6pm

Location: Union Street Dance, 725 Union Street, Studio B - Park Slope, BK

Price: $40 four class series, $15 single class -- DROP-INS WELCOME!

Susan Marshall (2006)
Francine Ott (2008)
Keely Garfield (2009)
Erica Essner (2009)

2010 USD LAB Guest Artist - Monkeyhouse!

Hooray! More good news...Monkeyhouse has been selected to be the 2010 Union Street Dance (USD) LAB guest artist!

Q: What is the USD LAB?
A: USD LABS are led by seasoned Guest Artists who know how to have fun and play in the studio. Participants gain hands-on experience while gathering insight into their own creative process.

Q: When did this start?
A: According to Eva Dean, Founder of the Union Street Dance studio and Eva Dean Dance, "The inauguration of our USD guest artist workshops was in 2006. At that time it was called the 'USD Repertoire Workshop' and was led by Kristen Hollinsworth of Susan Marshall & Company. Last year we changed the name of the workshop to the USD LAB and shifted the focus away from repertoire and towards creative process."

Q: Kristen Hollinsworth is an amazing performer. Who else has been a USD LAB artist?
A: Let's see, Francine Ott, Keely Garfield and Erica Essner.

Q: Wow, that is quite an impressive collection of choreographers. Congratulations, Monkeyhouse. So, where is Union Street Dance?
A: It is really easy to find in Park Slope, Brooklyn. If you take the R train to Union Street, it is only a block away at 725 Union Street, Studio B.

Q: So, this means that Monkeyhouse will be teaching classes in New York?
A: Yes, Karen Krolak will be leading a series of workshops on Friday afternoons in May. There will be more about those in an upcoming post.

Q: And, are these classes open to the public? Can I take them?
A: Of course, and feel free to bring your dancing friends. USD LABs are just right for open minded and adventurous dancers and choreographers. These workshops give participants a jump start in expanding movement potential and choreographic intent.


C2C's first episode on Channel 3 - SCATV

Q: Did I hear that Monkeyhouse has developed TV program?
A: Yep, and we are very curious to see how this project develops. C2C : Connect 2 Choreography launches tonight at 9PM on Channel 3 in Somerville, MA. We will be producing a new episode each month. We would love to hear if you have any ideas or suggestions for future episodes.

Q: But what if I don't live in Somerville?
A: If you don't happen to live in the area or have cable, episodes will also get posted here.

Q: How did this happen?

A: After Karen appeared on Somerville Art Matters last month, she met Bill Barrell, the Tech Director for the Thursday Night Production Company at SCATV. After just a few minutes, plans began brewing to bring Monkeyhouse's blog interviews to another level. Who knew when Karen trotted off to Tiznit that she and Nicole would end up on hosting a show that delves into choreographic topics?

Q: So, what's the first episode about?
A: We were really excited about Two Road's upcoming project Dance in the Fells: 5 Pieces 5 Places. It prompted us to focus our pilot on site-specific pieces and interview Kyna Hamill and Wanda Strukus, the founders of Two Roads.

Q: Where can I go if I want to see more site-specific work or discover more choreographers who perform outside of theatrical settings?
A: Be on the lookout as we will be posting more information on the blog throughout the month of April. Oh, and feel free to give us feedback on the show but go easy on us. We jumped into this project feet first and improvising as we go. We promise that there will be fewer awkward pauses and odd facial expressions in upcoming episodes.


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