Don't Miss Eva Dean Dance at First Night Boston!

Monkeyhouse LOVES Eva Dean Dance!  They joined us for Against the Odds, Eva performed with us at First Night and TOMORROW Eva Dean Dance is going to be at First Night Boston!  You don't want to miss these amazing performances!

Eva Dean Dance is performing magical excerpts from PETER PAN to original music by David Kahne.   

Other "mesmerizing" dances performed are a nocturnal samba and illuminated Poi Ball dances.  Suited for ages 3 to 93.  
Time: Saturday December 31, 2011 3:30pm - 4:00pm and 4:30pm - 5pm
Location: Hynes Convention Center Rm 302, 900 Boylston St. Boston, MA 02115  

Photo by Yi-Chun Wu Dancers: Cristal Albornoz and George Hirsch


Get to Know Karli Cadel

In July of 2010, I was fortunate enough to be a member of the inaugural Tap program at The School at Jacob’s Pillow. The previous summer, I later learned, fellow New Yorker
Karli Cadel had interned there as a photographer. We met after I received an email from Karli, via the Pillow, that she was looking for dancers to participate in her senior thesis. Eager to meet a fellow Pillow alumna and get some new dance photos, I replied right away – and Karli and I have been in touch ever since. As she is a terrific young professional with a keen eye and great passion for dance, I thought it would be prudent to interview her and introduce her to the readers of this blog. --Ryan

Why don’t you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Karli Cadel, and I am a documentary and editorial photographer specializing in performing arts, portraiture, and event photography. I was born and raised in San Diego, California and graduated from theater program at San Diego State University and the photography program at Grossmont College in El Cajon. I now hold a Master of Professional Studies in Digital Photography from the School of Visual Arts in NYC, where I live now.
I first combined my passions for live performance and photography in 2009, when I was the Photojournalism Intern at Jacob's Pillow. I was able to continue this work in 2010, capturing artists on stage and behind the scenes as a staff photographer at the Glimmerglass Festival, an internationally renowned summer opera festival. My photographs of dance and opera have been published in The New York Times, The Boston Globe, and Dance Magazine.

How did you get interested in and involved in photography?
Growing up, I always took pictures – parties, outings, walks, vacations; if there was a spare camera around, you would find me playing photographer. Making images was always a part of my life, but because I was so involved in music, theatre, and dance growing up, it was never something I considered I could pursue professionally until I realized that I was spending more time shooting photos than memorizing lines for rehearsal. In high school having my photo class before lunch was always a problem because most of the time I would work straight through lunch in the darkroom, sometimes not even realizing my next class was about to start. In college my free time was spent photographing for different campus publications, and it wasn’t until I was given my first concert assignment for The Daily Aztec newspaper at San Diego State University that I discovered how enthralling it was to photograph subjects I had been a part of my entire life.

I have such a strong connection to documenting music, dance, and theatre because I have been immersed in those fields firsthand. Photographing the performing arts has become a springboard for many other personal projects, and I have let my interests flourish into creating portraiture that deals with the personalities, physicality, and personal experiences of performing artists. It is through making this work that I have been given a great personal gift, which is the realization that life doesn’t get much better than when you find a way to combine your passions.

Why did you choose dance(rs) as your primary subject(s) to photograph?
Since my time in 2009 as the Photojournalism Intern at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, I have chosen to make dance the primary focus of my work because it is a subject I feel drawn to explore beyond its surface. There are so many elements of the medium that go unexplored photographically, and Jacob’s Pillow provided an environment in which I was exposed to the many facets of dance, both those that I grew up with and those I have yet to explore with my camera. I’ll know when it time to move on, but right now I have a feeling that capturing movement is something that will captivate me for years to come.

Describe your experience interning at Jacob's Pillow.
Interning at Jacob’s Pillow Dance is an incredible learning experience. For ten-plus weeks you are given a dance education like no other. The caliber of performance you are surrounded by is at the highest and is always thought provoking. Looking back now, for a young photographer it is so much more than three months of shooting dance; it is an independent position that pushes your creative and technical abilities in a range of situations. One day might be full of shooting events, while the next day could be a morning of shooting in The School at Jacob’s Pillow, followed by a dress rehearsal for one of the world-famous companies performing that week. Your mind is always going, which trains your eye to always be looking for your next image. The connections I made that summer and the experiences I gained still affect my work today. It was a roller coaster that I didn’t realize shaped my path as a photographer until my job that summer was complete.

What is your personal mission/style as a photographer?
I strive to create images that are striking on both an artistic and technical level. I’m interested in moments. The beautiful, sad, brave, unpleasant, sorrow, joy – I have always loved capturing the range of reactions we have to our experiences in life. When I’m photographing a performer or arts event in the studio or onstage, the decisive moment for me is when an artist becomes lost in their craft. Perhaps it is my background in the performing arts, but it feeds me as a photographer to provide the visual for someone telling a story, sometimes a piece of their own journey, with their body, voice, words, mind, and heart.

Describe your master's thesis and how it came to fruition.
As a lifelong dancer, I have always wanted to express the aspects of dance that go beyond sheer physical performance, even at its most intense. I realized that for me, the most meaningful way to do this was not with dance itself, but through photography. Thus my thesis project, Moving Meditation, aims to capture the way dance embodies both human emotions and the unique physical personalities of its practitioners. These things are told through my lens by capturing the work of several dancers who perform and train in a variety of styles.
For this endeavor, my visual vocabulary relied on several techniques. I used high-speed flash to freeze the dancer’s movements, and in combination with a grey background, this made them appear as strong, graphic forms in a neutral, stage-like space and allowed them to be seen by the viewer as emblems of physical power and artistry as much as individuals.
I have observed that in the world of contemporary dance, movement itself is a medium that has transcended its own conventions. Dancers create works that speak not only about their own training, but about their personal history and sense of self. I think the same is true of photography. The act of creation is a cumulative meditation on personal, professional, and artistic experience, which is a fundamental part of both photography and dance.

How do you take still images of an art form that is all about movement? How does photography reconcile these opposing dynamics and enhance elements of dance and movement?
For me, the most dynamic images of movement are not solely about capturing the “wow” factor of how high someone can jump, or how muscular their body is. Yes, these qualities are part of dancing; it would be silly not to acknowledge that they provide a context of how rigorous years of regimented training shape and strengthen a dancer’s body. However, when I create work, whether I am being asked to photograph a dress rehearsal or conceptualizing a personal project, I try to never just focus on the physical aspect of dance. As I continue to photograph movement, I find more and more that capturing the internal life of dance lies in the small, subtle details: the position of a hand or hair mid-jump; the effects of stage lighting on the shapes of a dancer’s body; how facial expression completes a phrase of movement – these are only a few aspects which, when photographed, enhance not only the physical element, but emotional energy of the art form.
To learn more about Karli and her work, visit www.karlicadel.com.
Photo Credit: C. Bay Milin.


C2C Internship Applications!

Do you enjoy reading about artists on the C2C blog?  Are you curious about the process of being a choreographer?  Are you looking to add some writing credits to your resume?  Have you always wanted to be on television?  Do you like to meet new exciting people?

Monkeyhouse is kicking off our second round of internships in conjunction with the C2C blog.  This program will give you the opportunity to study with Monkeyhouse on the art of the interview, meet artists from all over the world and make a name for yourself as a writer in the process! 

Help us Connect YOUR Community to Choreography!
Click here for more information on how to apply!


Barnes & Noble Bookfair In Store Adventures -- Pt IV

Check out this student run a cappella group from Natick High School at the Barnes & Noble in Framingham TODAY at 6pm!  Catch a sneak peek of them here:

Keep an eye out for more information about Seven's Not Enough soon!
Learn more about the Barnes & Noble Bookfair!

Barnes & Noble Bookfair In Store Adventure Part III

Join members of TAProject at Barnes & Noble in Framingham TODAY from 5-7 as they show off their tap dancing talents!

Barnes & Noble Bookfair In Store Adventures -- Part II

Check out members of Natick High School Drama as they perform Winter's On The Wing which premiered at Remember '11 last weekend.

Barnes and Noble Bookfair Day One -- Part II

Get your purchases gift wrapped by a Monkey TODAY from 9-1 at the Barnes & Noble in Framingham!  For more information on the Bookfair, click here!

Barnes & Noble Bookfair Day One

Here's the deal: For anything you buy online at Barnes & Noble from TODAY to Monday  (using the code #10605954) a percentage will go to Monkeyhouse. It's that simple.

Are you sick of holiday gifts that don't do much more than sit on a shelf? Here's a way to make those holiday expenditures reach even further. Head on over to bn.com/bookfairs, enter the Bookfair ID #10605954 and a percentage of your purchases will go towards Monkeyhouse's Developing Dance Literacy Campaign. Just think, not only will your loved ones love the books you get them, but they'll be part of creating something amazing!

Join us i
n the Framingham store TODAY!  We will be wrapping purchases from 9-1 and performing with Seven's Not Enough, Natick High School Drama and Impulse Dance Center's TAProject from 5-7.


Eva Dean Dance @ First Night Boston

As you probably remember, Monkeyhouse is a huge fan of Eva Dean, who appeared with us as a Guest Artist for First Night 2011. We were thrilled when we got her e-today and discovered that she will be bringing her amazing crew of performers up for First Night 2012. Better hop to it and snap up your First Night Button. Is anyone else surprised that we have reached the end of this year already? .

Eva Dean Dance at First Night Boston!   
Cristal and George Poi
Photo by Yi-Chun Wu, Dancers: Cristal Albornoz and George Hirsch
Eva Dean Dance is performing magical excerpts from PETER PAN to original music by David Kahne.  Other "mesmerizing" dances performed are a nocturnal samba and illuminated Poi Ball dances.  Suited for ages 3 to 93.   

Time: Saturday December 31, 2011 3:30pm - 4:00pm and 4:30pm - 5pm
Location: Hynes Convention Center Rm 302, 900 Boylston St. Boston, MA 02115 

for map click here

For links to reservations and schedule click below

3:30 pm show

4:30pm show

"...mesmerizing choreography...and energizing in that it all looks so fun and free"   
Pia Catton  
Wall Street Journal  

To learn more about EDD visit www.evadeandance.org 


Body Talk: How Dancers "Should" Look

As I stood in line outside Boston’s Hyatt Regency hotel with hundreds of other people, my fleece jacket unequipped to handle the steady drizzle that the morning sky deposited on New England on May 28, 2009, I kept asking myself how I had been motivated to get out of bed at 4 a.m. and join the mob of dancers and wannabes auditioning for the sixth season of “So You Think You Can Dance.”

It was something I never thought I would do, or even want to do, but I had been encouraged by two of my dance teachers – one of whom drove me there at 6 a.m., the other of whom waited in line with me and also auditioned herself – and I decided, with a television debut and job opportunities as potential rewards, that I might as well break out of my shell and have a new experience.

Two exhausting days later, I proudly put that experience under my belt and almost forgot about it until four months later, when I watched my fifteen minutes of fame on television from the comforts of my own college dormitory. I was traveling the next day – for a dance gig, no less – so I didn’t get to read any reactions from my debut TV appearance until I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Maryland, where I encountered, among other things, the following quotations from amateur blogs and professional publications alike:

“Seriously, it's like he's tapping in a pair of canoes with hubcaps nailed to the bottom. I like that he taps to hip hop, but Ryan lacks the ‘surprisingly graceful tall guy’ thing.”

“Adorable 18-year-old Ryan Casey didn't go to Vegas, which is pure discrimination in my book. It has nothing to do with gender or race or sexual preference, he's just 6'8''. So basically, he's a walking freak of nature. But the dude can tap like crazy, the only problem is that he has way too much body and can't control it all at once, so his hands flail about as if independent from his body.”

“… His upper body looked like the product of a mating session between an accountant and one of those evil trees from The Wizard of Oz.”

I was not so much offended – I went on that show, after all, with complete confidence in my ability and my unique quality of movement, not simply the misplaced confidence of those people who have been deluded into thinking that they possess some kind of talent that the sane among us recognize is absent – as I was dismayed at the ignorance of these writers and viewers (Dare I deign to call them critics?). Since when did my failure to meet what we might call the standard, or stereotype of The Dancer make me a “freak of nature”? How is it possible to have “too much body”?

I am not ashamed to admit that controlling my limbs, and learning to use them in an effective and artistic way (The Boston Globe referred to me as “adorably floppy” this summer in a rag doll duet choreographed by Michelle Dorrance) has long been, and continues to be, a challenge I encounter as a dancer. But it is not so much a challenge to be conquered – in the sense that I should have my limbs amputated; or I should find a different profession; or, as a pair of self-proclaimed reviewers smarmily suggested in one of their YouTube videos, I should take a ride in the clothes dryer and shrink myself – but rather, one to be met and worked on so that, as in Dorrance’s “The Rag,” my physique becomes a commodity rather than a hindrance – a goal I worked hard at in my years of training at The Dance Inn.

During the episode in which I was featured, the show played back, in slow motion, a portion of my solo, to point out the few seconds in which my arms had flailed during a step. It was as if to say, See? This is wrong. This is not what a dancer should look like. Indeed, it goes without saying that a show as universally popular as SYTYCD determines, unfortunately, or at least plays a large role in determining, what dance is and what it looks like. It presents certain dancers and choreographers and styles and themes, and, broadcasting them nationally, presents them as what is current, popular and cool in the dance world.

True dancers may recognize that this depiction of Dance and Dancers is inaccurate, glamorized, exaggerated, etc. When asked whether or not they watch the show regularly, some dancers respond, “Of course; I’m a dancer!” And others will say, “Of course not; I’m a dancer!” But the public does not know. The public will believe that dance is as it appears on SYTYCD, just as an actual trial mimics what they see on legal dramas and crime programs. Those are the people who come up to me after performances and ask if I have been tested for Marfan Syndrome, or tell me that when I stepped onstage, they didn’t think I would be able to dance, because my height “just didn’t seem like it would work.”

To be fair, and not to spend an undue amount of time harping on the misrepresentation of dance on SYTYCD (which the New York Times recently discussed), this narrow-minded, almost dictatorial depiction of what a Dancer should look like runs rampant in dance studios and classes. The tried and true setup of any dance class places students in front of a mirror, which for many becomes a tool not just for telling them if they are doing the steps right, but if they look too skinny or too fat, pretty or ugly, attractive or not. (One might think of Plath’s famous mirror stating mildly, “I am not cruel, only truthful.”)
While studying this summer with Billy Siegenfeld, Artistic Director of Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, he handed out a diagram from Teaching Young Dancers Muscular Coordination in Classical Ballet (1975), by Joan Lawson (see right ------>).

This diagram clearly claims to dictate what a Dancer should look like. It asserts that a Dancer’s body should and must ultimately be different than the body of a normal person in very specific ways.

The first flaw to this idea is, as I said, that it projects a very narrow conception of what a dancer is. A tap dancer does not strive to make their body look like that. Nor, I imagine, does an African dancer. Nor a salsa dancer. Nor a line dancer. Despite being a book aimed toward ballet dancers, it presumptuously (and rather arrogantly, I think) seems to presume that a ballet dancer is a Dancer and, transitively, ballet is Dance. This is not so.

Think, for a moment, of the last wedding you attended – or, really, any wedding you’ve attended. Think of several, if you can. Typically, when people make their way onto the dance floor, there are a few who stand out. Some do, surely, because they resemble Elaine on Seinfeld doing the little kicks, but when your eye is drawn to someone and you find that you enjoy watching them, why is that? It not likely because they have great turnout, or they are kicking their face, or they have a nice arabesque: it’s because you like the way they move. Whether or not they have had any kind of formal dance instruction doesn’t matter. They have a quality of movement that is genuine and fitting and appealing, and they are dancing.

Can’t they be called dancers, too? Well, yes. But, according to Lawson, they are not Dancers.

I have a friend currently studying in the esteemed dance program at Oklahoma City University who was recently told by the department, not for the first time, that she needs to lose weight in order to be at a certain weight that the department requires. If she fails to do so, expulsion from the program would not be out of the question. I find this disgusting.

Look, as another example, at Bob Fosse. It is well-known that he wore a hat because he didn’t like his baldness – a trait that became a trademark of his dancers. He wore gloves because he didn’t like how his hands looked. Another signature Fosse trait. His style capitalizes on the inverse of many balletic principles: a pigeon-toed stance, bent arms, butt sticking out, cocked wrists. He created a technique that rejects so many long-held, deeply inculcated beliefs about what dance is supposed to look like, and the dance world continues to cherish him and his legacy.
What I’m ultimately getting at, via my hodgepodge of anecdotes and examples, is that the conception of a dancer ought to change. We should get rid of the pretentious idea of a Dancer that is governed too much by balletic principles that, while important, are not the cynosure of all dance philosophy, technique or education, as many people would have us believe. We should look beyond, or at least look critically and carefully, at the image of a dancer that is presented on television via programming like SYTYCD. We should focus less on the idea of what we feel a dancer is supposed to look like, and be more open to the notion that anybody can dance and be a dancer (Whatever happened to the proverb, “If you can walk, you can dance”?).

What do you think?

Is society/media unrealistically, or unfairly, portraying what dancers should look like?

How can dance educators address some of the negative effects of these depictions?

How can we help change the ways in which the image of the Dancer is presented?

Please share your thoughts, comments and ideas below!


Getting to Know Josh Bergasse

 As you know, this year we kicked off our C2C Intern program.  (You've been hearing from our Bloggers-In-Residence Ryan Casey and Sarah Friswell for a few months now!)  Here is the first interview done by Sarah Grace, a high school senior and student of mine in the Natick High School Drama program.  Sarah has a strong interest in dance and theatre so when I heard that Josh was once again doing fabulous things I asked if he could take time out of his busy schedule to chat with Sarah.  After you read about her conversation (and enjoy the day of the turkey!) head on over to Natick High School to see Sarah and the rest of the wonderful cast of Remember '11 as they take the stage to pay tribute to the NHS auditorium this weekend.  Enjoy!  -Nicole

Josh Bergasse is an accomplished choreographer and dancer, having performed in several Broadway musicals and choreographing for shows like NBC’s new series "Smash" and FOX’s "So You Think You Can Dance." I had the opportunity interview Josh about his many experiences in the professional dance world.
SG: What sparked your interest in dance and theater?
JB: I grew up at my mother’s dance school outside of Detroit. My mom had a theater background so my studies involved a lot of theater. I put my first pair of tap shoes on when I was three years old.
SG: Do you have any favorite styles of dance, to perform, or to choreograph? Are there any particular dancers or choreographers that have inspired you?
JB: I love so many styles of dance. I don’t really have a favorite. I have some that I’m more proficient in or better trained in, such as jazz or theater. Some of my inspirations: Robbins, Fosse, Astaire, Gene Kelly, Cyd Charisse, Jack Cole, Balanchine, Hermes Pan, Michael Kidd.

SG: How did you first get into the professional dance world?
JB: My first professional job was a national tour of West Side Story. I played BabyJohn and was the Dance Captain.

SG: Since West Side Story, what was your favorite project?
JB: One of my favorite projects was being in the original cast of Hairspray on Broadway. I was a swing which is a great way to learn the inner workings of the show. It wasn’t bad to be in such a hit show either.

Currently, Josh is serving as the choreographer for NBC’s new television series, “Smash.” This fictional series revolves around the creation of a Broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe, and is set to premier in February, 2012!

SG: How did you get involved with Smash?
JB: I became involved with Smash through Michael Mayer, the director of the pilot and episodes 2 & 3, as well as one of the creative consultants for the series. Michael and I worked together years ago in the out of town tryout of Thoroughly Modern Millie (he directed, I was ensemble/dance captain). 

SG: You've done a lot of work on stage, so what are some of the challenges of choreographing for a camera instead of an audience?
JB: Smash is true to the theater world it's set in, so there aren't many obstacles in choreographing for the camera, more like bonuses.  My assignment is to choreograph great numbers that stand on their own on stage, then we film them beautifully and make them multidimensional.  I think the biggest challenge would be working with the schedules of all the different departments, not to mention shooting an episode at the same time that you're prepping another episode.

SG: Do you have any other projects besides Smash going on right now? Where do you see yourself in a year, in ten years?
JB: I do have other projects that I’m prepping for in the future, but Smash is taking 99% of my time right now. In 10 years, I’d like to see myself relaxing on a beach in the Caribbean islands, or maybe Hawaii!

SG: Do you have any advice for aspiring dancers?
JB: My advice for dancers is to study all styles, learn to sing, find out what you’re good at and market it.

SG: And aspiring choreographers?
JB: My advice to young choreographers is to choreograph as often as possible and get your work out there... it’s no use if nobody sees it!

Thanks, Josh!



Great Ideas for the Holidays and MORE!

Last week I told you about GoodDining, a new program from GoodSearch where you can eat out at your favorite restaurants and a percentage of your bill will be donated to Monkeyhouse.  Now I want to let you know about some other new, sneaky and exciting ways to help your favorite non-profit.  We've raised almost $10,000 so far!  Think of all the good you can do!

1.  Who do you GoodShop for?
We have been talking about GoodShop for years now, but as we get closer to the holidays and you start all that shopping you want to keep GoodShop in mind.   A percentage of your online shopping from clothes to groceries to electronics from thousands of retailers will go to Monkeyhouse if you shop via GoodShop.  Just head over to their website, say that you are GoodShopping for Monkeyhouse, browse the coupons available for the stores you already shop at and start buying!  Your donation will automatically go to Monkeyhouse.  If you're like me and tend to forget about GoodShop until it's too late then you want to get this handy-dandy GoodShop toolbar!  It will tell you when sites you're on are available on GoodShop, what percentage will go to Monkeyhouse and even how many coupons are available.  It's as easy as pie!

2.  Barnes & Noble Bookfair
Here's the deal: For anything you buy online at Barnes & Noble from December 1st-5th (using the code #10605954) a percentage will go to Monkeyhouse. It's that simple.  Are you sick of holiday gifts that don't do much more than sit on a shelf? Here's a way to make those holiday expenditures reach even further. Head on over to bn.com/bookfairs, enter the Bookfair ID #10605954 and a percentage of your purchases will go towards Monkeyhouse's Developing Dance Literacy Campaign. Just think, not only will your loved ones love the books you get them, but they'll be part of creating something amazing!

Join us in the Framingham store on December 1st for interactive dance activities and impromptu performances by Monkeyhouse and Friends (including the Natick High School Drama Department, Seven's Not Enough, a student run a cappella group and more!) buy a book to donate to your local library and even get your purchases gift wrapped by a Monkey!

3.  Become a Year Long Supporter of Monkeyhouse!
As we head into Season 11 we want to offer you the option of becoming a year long supporter of YOUR favorite part of Monkeyhouse.  Whether you want your donation to go towards infrastructure or to help your favorite company member, by clicking the DONATE NOW button next to your choice you will send a small donation once a month to help support Season 11--Outside Voices.

Check out all the places you can make a difference by heading over to our new website!



You've heard of GoodShop.  Now those awesome people over at GoodSearch have created GoodDining.

Here's the basics:

1.  Register by clicking here.
2.  Eat out at thousands of bars and restaurants around the US & Cananda
3.  Up to 6% of your bill will go to Monkeyhouse without you paying an extra penny!

Keep an eye out for more sneaky donation options soon!


Thanks 2 YOU (part 1)

by karen Krolak

As cornucopia begin popping up on doorways all over town and Christmas music starts sneaking in on the radio, I find myself reflecting back on all the Monkeyhouse events of the past year. Thanks to our loyal crew of donors, we have accomplished several major goals this year. To celebrate, I thought it would be nice to share some personal photos of highlights and fun memories. This goofy gem was captured during a warm up for First Night but it reminds me of all the Saturday afternoon musings at Springstep that keep Monkeyhouse's creativity flowing.

The process of developing pieces is often longer than expected and filled with dead ends. I feel very fortunate to be able to work with such patient, inventive dancers who fill our rehearsals with laughter. Even though you can only see their lower limbs, this photo shows the clear personalities of each of my four favorite dancers. Nicole Harris ever ready to launch someone else into the air. Courtney Wagner boldly bounding on to her back. Caitlin Meehan, the only dancer I have ever met who slides less in a pair of socks, gracefully leaning away from a counterbalance with our acrobatic powerhouse, Nikki Sao Pedro. I truly cherish these simple exchanges in the studio together. Thanks to everyone who contributes to Monkeyhouse and keeps this creative ritual thriving.


Dance Around The World: Bharatanatyam

by Sarah Friswell

This month, we'll travel to southern India and discover a little more about a temple dance called Bharatanatyam (Bar-ah-tah-nah-tee-yum).  


Bharatanatyam is a dance form that is performed in temples in southern India.    It originated between 400 and 200 BC in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. Dance and music were extremely important parts of ritual worship.  

The women who perform these dances are called Devadasis and it is said that they were "married" to a deity or to the temple itself.  The Devadasis' lives were devoted to honoring the temple and all the deities in it.

Originally the dance form was passed on as a living tradition from the dancers and gurus (teachers) to the younger generations.  It was done only in temples by the Devadasis and gurus until the 20th century when there was a renewal in the popularity of Indian culture.  Today, Bharatanatyam is done in classrooms, on stages, and at festivals and the different dances of Bharatanatyam can be found in the Natya Shastra, an ancient book that describes Indian performing arts including dance, theatre and music.

Bharatanatyam is known for its preciseness and perfection of the movements.  Different postures are called karanas.  These karanas are also what many sculptures in Hindu temples are based on.  There are eight universal emotions, or rasas, that are supposed to be used in every performance. The eight emotions are love, pity, anger, disgust, heroism, awe, terror and comedy. Mudras, or hand gestures are also used in the dancing to help represent emotions.

During the performance, carnatic music is used, which is a very precise form of Indian music.  The dancing is a visual embodiment of the music with incredibly exact choreography from head to toe, including eye movements.  The costumes are just as intricate as the dance and music, and the Devadasis put on dramatic makeup to make their facial expressions stand out even more.

This beautiful art form is now thriving as it leaves the temples and takes the stage at venues around the world. You can check out an amazing video of Bharatanatyam here.


From Sole to Soul: A Choreographer's Journey, Part 2

By Ryan P. Casey

As proud as I was to have created and performed my original tap choreography with my original poetry, I had not initially envisioned a solo piece. I had sacrificed my original vision to produce something that was, at the time, more feasible given time and budget constraints. The solo turned out to be more successful than I had imagined, but I was still itching to get to work with a group of dancers and incorporate other styles besides tap.
Earlier this year, my opportunity arrived. Boston’s own Urbanity Dance announced that they were seeking a ‘wildcard choreographer’ to set a piece for their spring show, “Mixtape” – someone whose background was not necessarily in dance. I was already familiar with the company, having been to some of their previous shows to support Lori LoTurco, a company member who had been my jazz teacher for many years, and having recommended them for a segment on The Steve Katsos Show, on which I had previously made an appearance. Eagerly, I submitted my proposal and was thrilled days later when director Betsi Graves Akerstein called and offered me the position.
My excitement was matched only by my anxiety. Urbanity, while featuring dancers with rich backgrounds, is primarily a contemporary dance company. And my dancers would not just be using my recording, but also reciting portions of the poem aloud. I not only had to craft an entirely new structure for the routine, playing with which lines and stanzas would be spoken and which would stay in the recording, but I had to develop a very clear vision of what I wanted to see so that the dancers could help me choreograph in a style that was not my own. And I had only seven hours in the studio over the course of a weekend to work with them.
I reverted again to the “first thought, best thought” strategy, going through the poem and writing down precisely what I had first envisioned when I had written it. As I now had six contemporary dancers to work with, rather than just myself tapping, I had the opportunity to take a more visual approach to my choreography. In some cases, it was much easier to adapt themes or ideas from my solo for an ensemble. For example, the walking motif that formed the backbone of the original piece was more effective when I had a group of dancers who could easily bring to life the image of a crowded Manhattan sidewalk. As I did not have to focus on the rhythms of their feet, I could experiment with the rhythms of their upper bodies and their legs and how those more visual rhythms told the story. I was also able to develop a cast of characters by costuming the dancers uniquely and giving them individual, pedestrian movements to repeat throughout the routine. The sensations of confusion, overstimulation, and isolation that pervade an urban setting were easier to depict with an ensemble of dancers. I maintained my tap roots with a body percussion section as a reminder that the crux of the piece was still rhythm, even though the dominant style of dance had changed.
Perhaps the most effective choreographic decision derived from Betsi herself, who found a brilliant way to utilize the Boston University Dance Theatre to adequately set the scene. During my piece, the shades were raised on the windows on the stage’s back wall, revealing the sidewalk and street behind it. The lights from cars and buildings outside, and the shadows and movements of pedestrians – including curious ones who peeked in to see what was happening – provided the perfect backdrop to a piece about assimilating into city life.
I was fortunate to work with a cast who were willing to explore with me, offer their own ideas, implement my cues quickly and creatively, and learn their parts as both dancers and slam poets.
Company member Kate Patten Cook reflected on the experience:

It was unlike any choreographic experience I've been involved in. I'm used to being told what moves to do to which parts of the music, and how those moves should work alongside of the tempo and melody. With Push, we had no specific moves, no music, no tempo, and no melody. I was scared at first to dance through the silence. I was scared to have to improvise and invent more than I'd ever had to working on a piece in the past. I was scared that we might not be able to work through the whole piece in a way that was outside of all of our comfort zones in a short period of time.
But almost instantly, things started coming together. We learned to hear the rhythm and the beat and even the melody of the words that were being spoken. The more time we spent with Ryan, the clearer his vision became. Some of the phrases we tried didn't work, so we threw them aside. Ultimately, each one of the dancers had some creative input in what we did with our bodies. And Ryan wove it all together.
The experience of speaking onstage while dancing might have been the scariest bit of all. I hadn't been in a play since the third grade, and had never had to talk while dancing in the past. At first, I felt discombobulated - and exhausted - to force words out of my lungs while turning, swooping and kicking. But bit by bit, we all go the hang of it. It was an experience of discovering a new layer of strength as a dancer and performer. And I loved it.”
In retrospect, I think both the solo and the ensemble piece have their respective strengths. They both approach the poem in different ways, emphasizing different themes while staying true to my original purpose. And there is still so much to explore that neither piece covers. I would love to set this piece on an ensemble group of tap dancers; or to create a duet with a contemporary dancer in which I represent the Pedestrian and s/he represents the City; or to do the same with a group of tap dancers and a group of modern dancers; or to revamp my solo so that I can say some of the poem aloud. The poem itself offers so many creative avenues to follow that I have not yet begun to investigate. For now, though, I am pleased with both pieces.
What do you think about each piece? Is one more powerful or engaging than the other? Does one stand out to you? What else could I do to interpret the poem and my ideas onstage?


Monkeyhouse Workshop @ Mass Dance Fest

The hurricane that swept up the East Coast in August, forced the Massachusetts Dance Festival to postpone its events. We are delighted that Monkeyhouse will be able to lead our partnering workshop on the new date, October 30th.

Massachusetts Dance Festival Workshop Schedule

Workshop I - 10:30-Noon
  • Intermediate Ballet - James Reardon
  • Classical Indian - Mouli Pal
Workshop II - 12:15-1:45
  • Advanced Beginner Tap - Thelma Goldberg
  • Modern Partnering Intermediate - Karen Krolak
Lunch Break - 1:45-2:45

Workshop III - 2:45-4:15
  • Modern - Annie Kloppenberg
  • Hip Hop - Sarah-Kay Jerome
 October 30, 2011
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA
The Mass Dance Festival Studios 
are in the Totman Building on Eastman Lane on the campus.
Enter in the back door off the parking lot.
Register here!
Each workshop is only $15

Season 11 - Outside Voices

Monkeyhouse, an award winning nonprofit that connects communities to choreography, needs YOU to take us all the way to eleven.

Against all kinds of odds, we have survived since September of 2000 on brash ingenuity and a shoestring thanks to the amazing support of donors, volunteers, and dancers. But, if YOU want us to continue to counteract society’s sedentary tendencies and get communities moving with meaning, YOU need to invest in our double long season of 2011-2013 celebrating Outside Voices. Please donate now to help us raise $25,000 this fall to launch this ambitious season. (We have already raised $2100!)

Your support is critical to our success. Monkeyhouse’s programs defy easy categorization and therefore we must rely on visionary donors to bring them to fruition. For example, consider these highlights from the last year:
  • Æ, our collaboratively created site-specific piece for Dance in the Fells, lured hundreds of people up the steep path to Wright’s Tower in Medford, MA. We were so honored when Dance in the Fells was awarded a Gold Star from the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
  • Moving for Meaning, an afterschool program for kids at the Healey School in Somerville, sprang out of a conversation after the first Somerville-Tiznit Sister City trip. Our Somerville students, most of whom do not speak English as a first language, are gaining public speaking skills, acquiring a better grasp of English grammar, connecting to students in Morocco and exercising.
  • Against the Odds: Stories of Adaptation, Interpretation and Survival, Monkeyhouse's first mini-festival, gathered together over 40 artists over the course of 4 weeks to examine the intersection between sculpture, stage combat, body percussion, puppetry, architecture, and choreography. Months later, people still contact us to bounce around ideas for new pieces or to share stories about how Against the Odds nudged them to explore their world differently.

By donating to Monkeyhouse today, YOU will be an early investor in our next two seasons.  After evaluating the first decade, we have realized that we can accomplish more by taking the long term view of our organization and activities.  As we delve into the theme of Outside Voices, Monkeyhouse will be inviting other Boston based artists to set work on the company, introducing blog readers to choreographers/dance styles from around the globe, and expanding Moving for Meaning to incorporate deaf students in Morocco and possibly a Passamaquoddy school in Maine.

YOU can usher dance activities to the streets of suburbs and cities, provide mentoring for artists, and encourage economically challenged children to excel.

YOU will be at the center of the conversation about how choreography can be used to solve problems in communities, fill the gap between languages, and overcome challenging medical conditions. 

This extraordinary season is all about YOU and we are grateful for that – thank you for being a part of our journey.

With endless gratitude,
Karen Krolak
Monkeyhouse Founder/Artistic Director


Dance Around the World: The Asante People

By Sarah Friswell

Two summers ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Ghana in West Africa. It's commonly referred to as "Africa for beginners" since it has been a very stable and peaceful country for over 10 years. While in Ghana, I had hoped to learn about the dance culture and rituals and I stumbled across tons of awesome dancing. Kumase, the second most populated city and the center of the Asante (ah-shan-ti, ah-san-ti) culture was bursting with markets and art of all sorts.

Photo Credit: Brie Zupko

The Asante people are ruled by an Asantehene, an elected king. At one time, a qualification of his election was that he was a good dancer. The Asantehene is called "master of the music and the drums" or "master of the dance", since drums and dancing go hand in hand for the Asante people. The most accomplished drummers have the ability to make their drum "talk" to the dancers and communicate what the dancer should do with his/her body.

The Asantehene is expected to dance in front of his people to display his royalty and to honor the ancestors, who are very important in Asante culture. There is one dance, played by the fontomfrom drum, that beats out a challenge to the Asantehene as if to say, "Some men fight, some men run away. Which kind of man are you?".  The Asantehene then returns the challenge with his own choreographed display of strength as he jumps, hops, stamps, turns, and sways. He makes motions to say, "These are my people, I gather you together. I sit on you, I am your chief".  He does not move fast because they say a king is more majestic when he moves slowly.

Once the Asantehene has danced, chiefs, leaders, and anyone who wants to pay homage, may dance in the drum circle. These dancers must proceed with caution though, because they have high standards to live up to. If a dancer does not dance at the highest level or chooses inappropriate dance movements, the drummers may use drum censorship. This means they will just stop playing and the dancer will get humiliated in front of all the onlookers.

So dance in central Ghana is used as a celebration, a homage to ancestors, a visual display of power and royalty, and a display of respect to those above you. I was lucky enough to dance with some women in a village called Bolgatanga in the Upper East region. Thankfully, I proved to be good enough, but I think they just enjoyed watching my very "strange" movement style.

Watch some Asante dancers and drummers here.

For more reading on the Asante people, I suggest Dancing
by Gerald Jones.

The old Asantahene Palace, now a museum
Photo Credit Angel Chinea


From Sole to Soul: A Choreographer's Journey, Part 1

By Ryan P. Casey

When I made the great transition from suburban Massachusetts to Manhattan in the fall of 2009 to begin my studies at New York University, I was thrilled to learn that my Fifth Avenue residence hall, unlike the others, had its own dance studio. While some of my peers were out drinking and carousing, I envisioned myself spending late nights sweating it out in the studio, the thrill of new rhythms and musical explorations a more practical and useful endeavor than beer pong. I was rather disappointed to discover that the studio was no bigger than my own room, with a slippery tile floor, crooked ballet bar, and no sound system. And it was typically invaded by study groups or student theatre companies. While I did fulfill my dream of late-night choreography sessions, shuffling in my sneakers to avoid a wipeout, I knew I needed a better space in which to practice.

I soon decided to cash in on some of the hours of studio time I had accrued from my part-time position at the American Tap Dance Center. I penciled myself into the schedule for two hours and showed up on a Friday afternoon with the full use of a brand new studio at my fingertips – or toes, really – complete with sound system and sprung wood floor.

But after half an hour, I was bored. Finally, I had the perfect practice space, space I had earned, and I was uninspired to use it. I found myself putting on different songs and growing thoroughly disappointed with my improvisation. I would experiment with choreography I had planned in my head or in my sneakers and find that it didn’t fit the music or was not interesting at all. I ended up letting my iPod play while I walked around in frustration, trying to let myself be inspired by something, anything. What was wrong with me?

Five years ago, in high school, when I had set out to choreograph my first solo, I hadn’t encountered any mental barricades like this. My teacher, Thelma Goldberg, and I had selected a song together, and agreed that I would work alone in the studio every day for a week and then show her what I had created. It was a slow process, I remember, and not just because I spent a lot of time raiding the studio cabinets, trying to find something to eat (all I could find were strawberry NutriGrain bars, though I could hardly complain). But at the end of the week, I had a pretty good rough draft of my routine, which turned out to a big hit at Tap City that year. Okay, so there are no granola bars in the ATDC studios. But that could hardly explain my lack of motivation.

Part of it, I know, was related to a revelation I had had in Barbara Duffy’s improvisation class earlier that year: I am a very self-conscious tap dancer. No doubt this characteristic is a result not only of my generally anal ways, but of my continuing quest, sparked by Thelma, to be the best dancer that I can be. I had earned a reputation for being a very clean, clear tap dancer, and I felt pressured to live up to that expectation all the time. As a result, I was being too careful, ironically limiting my abilities in my attempts to perfect them. It was when Barbara encouraged me to let go, let loose, BREATHE, and ignore my mistakes for once that I realized I do not have to be careful in order to sound good; my technique is polished enough that I am confident I always will.

After experiencing this same frustration and failure a second time, leaving halfway through my scheduled three-hour session, I decided that I was truly bored with myself. I was not seeing my technique improve; I was not creating anything new and interesting; and I was effectively wasting my time in the studio. As discouraging and upsetting as it may be to fail others, I think it feels worse to fail yourself, and ultimately I was doing just that. Where was my mettle, my drive, my confidence? Surely I had not abandoned them back home in Lexington, MA.

While struggling with my lack of productivity, I was also battling the typical demons of the first semester of college: homesickness, loneliness, an obnoxious roommate, and the absence of purpose and identity in my new environment. As these were not emotions that I knew – nor, it seems, was able – to confront through my dancing, I resorted instead to words.
Playing the stereotypical struggling writer, I found myself, one brisk fall afternoon, sitting at the window of a Starbucks on the Upper West Side. From within the toasty, coffee-scented confines of my favorite hangout, I scribbled in my notebook, a gift from my best friend after graduating high school. I had a front row seat to an urban comedy of people hunkering against the wind and grappling with unwieldy umbrellas on Broadway, while I somewhat guiltily sipped hot cocoa that, while satisfying my caffeine craving and keeping me warm, did little to quell the first-year jitters dancing inside me. For several hours, I expunged my emotions through my pen – writing in cursive; crossing out; rewriting in shorthand; tapping the cap contemplatively against my front teeth, adorning the margins with question marks and alternative words. When at last I had drained my cup of cocoa, I had completed the final draft of my poem. Eager, in what I now recognize as a puerile, self-indulging sort of way, to share my distress with the world, or whatever small percentage of it would read what I had to say, I published the poem online.

I see a dance in the making with your voice and a musician as accompanists,” Thelma wrote. “Beautiful... an image I can imagine and embrace! Thank you for sharing!”

I agree...merge the dance with the poetry. It can be done,” one of my cousins concurred. “So, go to a recording studio in New York and record one of your poems, then choreograph to your own voice.”

But the poem I had written, as proud of it as I was, was too short to become a dance. So, what could I write about? The answer could not have come to me at a different time. As a pilgrim to Manhattan and a new student at NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, I began to envision not just one dance, but a series of dances inspired by my impressions of and experiences with the city. I started writing other poems, sketching a storyline, and contacting fellow dancers and musician friends who might be interested in collaborating with me.

When applications for my school’s arts festival were posted, I recognized my first opportunity to experiment with and present my ideas to the ideal audience. Its acceptance gave me the confidence that my idea was feasible and had a future, and that I could take charge of my own creation and develop it further with successful collaboration.

Prior to the arts fest, I had only seen a few attempts at fusing tap with poetry, but never in a setting where the two forms were performed simultaneously so that the rhythms of one could interact with the rhythms of the other. As a dancer who has been trained rhythmically in all disciplines for so long – for which I am endlessly grateful to the instruction of Billy Siegenfeld and Jeannie Hill, and to Thelma, for introducing me to them – I thought that this was a severe injustice to both art forms, which are inherently rhythmic.

A big part of this project, therefore, derived from my desire to create something that was uniquely mine, and to discover who I am as an artist in the process. Fusing writing with dance seemed to be the best way to showcase my skills both as a writer and a dancer, as well as an appreciator of all kinds of dance, and respect the rhythmic roots therein.
My following sessions in the studio were more productive and rewarding than ever. Following Brenda Bufalino’s advice, “First thought, best thought,” which I hold as a key tenet of the creative process, I choreographed a solo to the first New York-related poem I had written, “When Push Comes to Shove.” My advisor, Kathryn Posin, helped me through the process, and her late husband John helped me produce a professional recording of the poem. The experience forced and allowed me to find an authentic voice for myself – literally.
Aside from hating my own voice, like most people, I also dislike reading my own work – but with this project, I had no choice. Recording the poem reconnected me with my work, brought a new level of personal meaning to my writing and my routine, and was a process of self-discovery and experimentation.

The final product was a success. Praise from friends, family, and faculty assuaged all fears I had had of whether the audience would understand or appreciate what I was trying to accomplish. It renewed my inspiration and confidence as a soloist, and allowed me, as Barbara Duffy had encouraged me, to let go and explore more of myself, rather than feel caged in by some recorded jazz groove or Michael Jackson song. So pleased was I with its reception that I immediately proposed an independent study for the following semester that would allow me to produce more pieces in the same style. Little did I know just how far out of my comfort zone it would take me. . . .

Stay tuned for Part 2 next month!


Musing Photo of the Day

I am very excited that Sarah is back in the Boston area and will be joining us for Musings!  She is fearless with that blindfold on and was a great addition to our adventure!


Musing Photo of the Day

It looks a lot like Sarah is about to catapult Caitlin into the sky.  And Caitlin's got her wings ready to go!


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