Meet Ryan Casey!

by Nicole Harris

Ryan Casey is relatively new to Monkeyhouse, yet he has made a number of appearances on the blog recently. We are excited to hear what he has to say as a Blogger in Residence over the next year as he spends it studying journalism and furthering his already impressive tap career in New York City. Not only is Ryan an outstanding tap dancer he is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. Honestly. Ask anyone who has ever met him. Ryan, welcome to Monkeyhouse!RYAN P. CASEY, a youngARTS scholarship recipient and Presidential Scholar in the Arts nominee, is currently an undergraduate student at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Inspired by Savion Glover’s appearances on Sesame Street, he began studying tap and jazz at the age of five at The Dance Inn in Lexington, Massachusetts. He spent seven seasons with the Legacy Dance Company, under the direction of Thelma Goldberg, where he was profoundly inspired by the Jump Rhythm Jazz technique of Billy Siegenfeld, and served as Dance Captain of the New England Tap Ensemble, directed by Riverdance alumnus Aaron Tolson. He has danced in solo and ensemble pieces throughout New England as well as New York, Baltimore, and Miami, and was featured on So You Think You Can Dance. Ryan is currently engaged in fusing tap dance with spoken word poetry, and his has performed his solo piece, “When Push Comes to Shove,” in Boston, New York, and Canada. His choreography has been featured at the Dance for World Community Festival, the Massachusetts Dance Festival, and with Urbanity Dance. He is also a proud alumnus of The School at Jacob's Pillow.


Meet Gaby Mervis!

by Nicole Harris

Like Sarah, Gaby has been around Monkeyhouse for a long time. She was our first summer intern and, in fact, was the person who started this very blog. Now that Gaby has graduated from college we are incredibly excited to have her as one of our Bloggers In Residence. She'll be spending much of the next year in Israel so keep an eye out for her international voice as she starts posting!Gabriella is a recent graduate from Goucher College with a degree in Dance Administration and minors in Psychology and Management. At school, she served as the Hillel President, as well as the Overnight Coordinator for the Ambassadors Organization and Admissions Counselor Assistant. Additionally, she spent the spring semester of her junior year studying at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. She loves to dance, learn, and be silly. She has had incredible involvement with Monkeyhouse including volunteer for many years, intern during the 2008 summer, and performer in the Boomtown Festival that same summer. She is excited to be involved with the organization in yet another aspect and is looking forward to bringing an international perspective to the blog, as she will be living in Israel for the next ten months.

Want to know a little more about Ryan, Sarah, Gaby, Sarah and Sabrina? Check out their bios on our website! Keep an eye out for more news from them soon as they start their posts next month!


Meet Sabrina Schwartz!

by Nicole Harris

Monkeyhouse owes a lot to Impulse Dance Center. We rehearsed in their beautiful studios for many of the early years and both Karen and I have been on the faculty there for a combined total of over 25 years. In all that time we have had the pleasure of working with so many amazing young people. From eight year olds discovering modern for the first time to teenagers in a youth tap ensemble, we have seen them all. Many of our former students have gone on to work in the arts and with Monkeyhouse. In fact, three of our new interns were once Impulse students.

Sabrina first came into my jazz class with a strict ballet background and I remember having to repeatedly remind this bright bubbly little girl that she should breathe while dancing! Like many of our students, as she grew up she took on more and more dance classes including tap, jazz, ballet and modern in addition to the theatre work she did outside Impulse. She has so much personality and joy in her when she dances and I can't wait for her to share that personality with you as a C2C Intern!

Sabrina is currently a student at Framingham State University where she is studying English and getting a minor in Secondary Education. Sabrina has also attended the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University where she studied acting for a year. Since she was young, she had a passion for dance, whether in class or on the stage. She has studied ballet, jazz, modern, character, and tap. Her favorite form of dance is modern because of its abstract expressive nature. She is extremely excited to join Monkeyhouse as one of their new C2C interns.

Want to know a little more about Ryan, Sarah, Gaby, Sarah and Sabrina? Check out their bios on our website! Keep an eye out for more news from them soon as they start their posts next month!


Entrevistar a Susana Pous

DanzAbierta in MalSon; photo Carlos Furman
Durante el fin de semana, DANZA ABIERTA hizo su debut en los estados unidos y bailó MalSon, de Susana Pous, en Jacob’s Pillow. Después de leer mucho sobre la danza cubana en nuestra entrevista con Max Pollak, pensé que a la gente le gustaría leer la perspectiva de Susana. Gracias a Bari Rosenberg por traducir mis pensamientos a español.

karen Krolak: Usted ha descrito MalSon como una “carta de amor a Habana.” ¿Puede decirnos un poco sobre su decisión de mudarse de Cuba a Barcelona?
Susan Pous: Estuve en cuba como asistente de dirección de María Rovira Directora de Transit y descubrí cuba por primera vez y conoció a mi familia cubana, pues Equis Alfonso era entonces su nueva pareja.

Sentí una manera diferente de vivir el arte y la vida y me sentí seducida y después de dos anos de hacer frecuentes viajes decidí parar y probar Cuba por un ano, y así siguieron los anos y van ya 13 anos.

kK: En una entrevista con el coreógrafo de Nueva York, Max Pollak, fundador de RumbaTap, él explicó que la danza afrocubana “toca una fibra profunda y espiritual” en él. ¿Qué piensa Ud. es único sobre la danza cubana?
SP: Que el bailarín no esta tan lejos de ser una persona normal. Desde que nacen crecen alrededor de la danza. Todos los cubanos saben bailar y están muy conectados con la danza y el mundo de la espiritualidad.

DanzAbierta in MalSon; photo Carlos Furman
kK: Tan pocos americanos han experimentado Habana en persona y es posible que no sepan mucho sobre “Son,” la tradición música. ¿Qué puede decirnos sobre este ritmo, su papel en la cultura cubana, y sus asociaciones con el ritmo?
SP: El Son es la música y la danza tradicional cubana que se escucha hasta en el aire y que todos bailan y escuchan en la calle. Para mí lo más importante es que la palabra SON en catalán (mi idioma natal) significa SUENO, y me pareció una casualidad cuando quise hablar del mundo del sueño en un lugar donde esa misma palabra significaba ritmo y danza.

kK: Finalmente, su experiencia en el cine es muy destacado en esta obra de danza. ¿Qué espera Ud. que esta experiencia añada a la danza? Cómo equilibra la enormidad de la imagen con las dimensiones humanas de sus artistas?
SP: Ami siempre me ha interesado el mundo de la imagen por eso estudie en la escuela de Cine y cuando empecé a trabajar con Equis ahora mi esposo que es músico y director de audiovisuales empecé a descubrir que la imagen podía aportar muchas cosas y podía llevarnos a caminos diferentes, de todas maneras en la danza me interesa que la imagen no vaya por si sola sino que exista una relación, no simplemente una escenografía sino que este inmersa dentro del concepto.


Meet Sarah Grace!

by Nicole Harris

For the past eight years I have been lucky enough to work with the Natick High School Drama Department on their fall musicals. I can not even begin to explain how extraordinary this group of young people is and how much I have loved being able to work with them. This past year I started offering a free dance class once a week throughout the rehearsal process to give the students who wanted a little more training the chance to pick up a few new skills or refine the ones they already have. Sarah Grace came to almost every class I offered and has gone out of her way to help students who struggle with a step or remembering what order to put them in. She has been a joy to work with in the theatre and I am THRILLED that she is going to be a C2C Intern this fall!

Sarah Grace, a senior at Natick High School, has been dancing since the age of three, studying ballet and modern dance at the Walnut Hill School, as well as jazz and lyrical at Broadway Bound Dance Center. She also enjoys musical theater, where she has had a lot of great dance and choreography opportunities. When she’s not dancing or acting, Sarah sings in three choral groups, competes with the Natick Speech Team, and teaches swim lessons. She is very excited for this opportunity to work with Monkeyhouse!

Want to know a little more about Ryan, Sarah, Gaby, Sarah and Sabrina? Check out their bios on our website! Keep an eye out for more news from them soon as they start their posts next month!


Meet Sarah Friswell!

by Nicole Harris

Many of you know Sarah from the blog posts and interviews that she's already done. We are very excited to have her as one of our Bloggers In Residence this year. For those of you who don't know Sarah, here's a little information about her! Watch out for her first post soon!

Sarah Friswell is a recent graduate from the University of Tampa where she earned her BA in Sociology. She holds two minors in Applied Dance (teaching) and Dance Theater (performing). While at UT, she choreographed two integrated tap and lyrical pieces, an acapella duet performed outside on wooden boards and a piece set to live piano music with male vocals. Sarah also worked as the assistant tap choreographer for Professor Linda Lopez at the university. Aside from dance at UT, she was also a member of the casts of Candide and Sweet Charity. Starting this fall, Sarah will be teaching at Impulse Dance Center and she hopes to pursue her teaching and performing career in the Boston area.

Want to know a little more about Ryan, Sarah, Gaby, Sarah and Sabrina? Check out their bios on our website! Keep an eye out for more news from them soon as they start their posts next month!


Kendra Heithoff on Mentoring

As we continue our series about mentoring, I thought it would be helpful to talk to someone about being a mentee. Kendra Heithoff, Artistic Director of sixoneseven Dance Collective,  immediately sprang to mind because she has participated in several choreography programs in Boston.
Summer Street Photography 

by Kendra Heithoff

As a young choreographer, I've had my share of mentor relationships. I can honestly say that I would not be the artist I am without these relationships. I can also say that the concept of mentorship and 'young artist development' gets thrown around almost as much as trendy catch phrases like 'being green,' 'collaboration' and the use of the word 'natural' in the food supply. 

Obviously artists of all stages (mentors and mentees) need a solid community of artists whom they can turn to for support. It creates a vision beyond yourself and helps translate your ideas into tangible works of art that others can also appreciate. Here in our intimate Boston dance community, we need all the mentoring programs we can get. No one can argue with that. 

In my humble opinion, what often gets overlooked is the time it takes to develop these kinds of mentor relationships. Having participated in both the Dance Complex's Shared Choreographers Concert and Green Street Studios Emerging Artist Program, I learned much from the concert mentors designed to help in the fast and furious process in which the dances were created. The mentor's feedback was absolutely helpful towards the particular piece I was presenting, but that's where it - and ultimately the relationship with them - ended. Not that I wouldn't have wanted to foster that relationship further, but the simple facts remain that these short term programs are designed to get people in and out and on to the next concert. Perhaps we are shortchanging ourselves. 
Relationships take time, and the intimate experience of sharing the process of making art together takes just as much time as an old friendship. There is no easy answer since programs like the ones listed above do an excellent job of connecting as many people as possible to a larger community of dancers, as well as provide an excellent space for sharing work with real live audiences. 

I will be the first to say that I'm no better than anyone else, but, in the end, it all comes back to one thing: how willing we are to take the time to foster and maintain relationships. 


PSY Obsessed

by karen Krolak

When the lights popped on for intermission during PSY last night, I admitted to my mother, "It feels as if my spaceship has landed." Watching this stunning ensemble makes me dizzy with memories of the days I spent training with the Actors' Gymnasium in Evanston, IL. It is simply delicious.

From my interview yesterday, you may have gathered that I am especially fond of the Chinese Pole section performed by William Underwood and Héloïse Bourgeois. You also might have noticed that I had thought the character, Claire, suffered from narcolepsy before William reminded me that it was insomnia. I chose to leave my original perception in the earlier post because it opened up fabulous questions to ponder during the production: How could two opposite disorders could be confused? Does it matter if a viewer interprets things differently than that creators intended? What influences what we notice? Aren't choreographers, at least, supposed to get what dance means? (If anyone else wants to chime in wit some answers or observations, I would love it.)

Although I was too mesmerized up until the standing ovation, I mulled over my enigmas afterwards. Claire begins the section by carrying her pillow around trying to find a suitable spot to rest her head. At the first viewing I thought she was always armed with a soft cushion in case she nodded off unexpectly.Though I clearly understood her insomnia this time, each dramatic catch as she drowsily dropped from the pole still seemed narcoleptic. Was it because I could not see whether her eyes were open or closed?  Perhaps my own exhaustion from an extra long journey to Brooklyn had colored my first impression. Or maybe I focused in on the husband's extraordinary tenderness and reliability and lost sight of key details about the wife. His eloquent devotion during this sequence does conjure up images from my marriage which could easily muddy my mental associations.

Whatever the reason, my internal debate made me so thankful that ArtsEmerson had brought the company back for a repeat engagement. All too often we only get a brief window in which to see each dance work and then it vanishes into the ether. Just like a treasured book or favorite movie, well crafted choreography is chock full of nuance that can only be noticed through multiple viewings. Knowing how it unfolds allows you to builds anticipation much like the chorus of beloved song and allows you to savor the nuggets of individual performances. I wish audiences had a chance to take advantage of this more frequently. Since PSY is here for a two week run, it could be possible for people to get there twice and Bostix does have half price tickets. Be on the lookout for me if you do go as I may well be developing a little addiction myself.


PSY's Multiple Personality Interview

photo by David Poulin
by karen Krolak

PSY's performers embody mental maladies through circus arts and it is a rollicking ride inside the minds of others. When I emailed out my questions about the process of creating the show, I was very amused that Le 7 doigts de la main sent back answers from two people, Olaf Triebel and William Underwood. How appropriate for PSY to create a multiple personality interview!

karen Krolak: There are a number of lush moments of individual virtuosity in PSY, but I was even more impressed by the ensemble work. Obviously, you must all cross train in several different circus techniques regularly. Can you describe your training process?

Olaf Triebel:We train for the group numbers as part of our warm up for the show. It helps to get everybody together and do some little adjustments for each show. In between cities we do have some rehearsal depending on the time we have off between the shows. That time is used to work on new technical elements or to clean up the existing acts.

kK: So what is the most challenging circus art for you personally?

Olaf: Uff, tough one! For me, the challenge is as much about truly connecting with the audience as it is about the actual technical skills. Of course, you have to reach a certain technical level first but then your job is far from being over. Trying to grab the audience and pull them into the performance is the goal of a show like PSY...trying to let them be part of the group for the duration of the show and giving them the impression (in about 2h you can't really give them more then an impression) to know you.
If an act or a show somehow manages to touch me personally, make me laugh or think, that's where I feel that the most important/challenging part of the work has been accomplished.

kK: How long did it take to create PSY?

William Underwood: The creation process for PSY took place over approximately six months.

kK: Wow, that seems fast for such a complicated production. Knowing that the company's name refers to the seven founding directors, I am curious about the rehearsal process. Do seven fingers generate work quicker than one artistic director or do all those influences slow the process down?

WU: The rehearsal and creation process in the seven fingers differs depending on the project or show. The creation process for PSY started with the influence of all the fingers. We worked with different fingers, for different parts of the show. For example, we worked on our pole number with Shana Carrol. Samuel Tetrault was in charge of the Handstand number. Sebastien Soldevilla was the acrobatic coach. Patrick Léonard handled the development of acrobatic apparatus and worked with us on research with the stairs. Sometimes we would have multiple people working with us at the same time as a team, and sometimes they would work with one at a time. This can be very stimulating and efficient, but it can also become messy. When you have seven different people with 7 different sets of ideas, styles and ways of working, it takes patience and good communication to stay on the same page and advance in the same direction. If this communication is lost, the influence of so many people can slow down and hinder the creation process. However, when it works it is magic. The show takes on layers and colors that it could not achieve under the direction of one person.

As the creation advanced, we worked primarily with Shana Carrol, who was the mastermind and director of the the show as a whole. It was good to have one person working to smooth the show out, creating a final product with continuity.

kK: While some of the pairings of psychological disorder and movement vocabulary were intuitive, I was thrilled by the more unusual combinations such as narcolepsy and the Chinese pole. How did those pairings evolve? Did you try multiple ways of illustrating disorders and select the most satisfying?

photo by David Poulin
WU: Our psychological disorders were chosen based on our personalities in real life, as well as for our qualities of movement and our disciplines.
The Chinese Pole number is based around the insomniac and husband. Insomnia and Pole climbing may seem like an unusual choice, but it allows for a research and development that breaks away from the conventional approach to Pole climbing.

Heloise (the insomniac) naturally has a very fluid, graceful quality of movement. She is able to keep this quality, and bring it onto the pole, breaking away from the convention of dynamic moves and brute force that is usually associated with Chinese Pole. The theme of Insomnia also opens the door for a relationship and complicity with her partner William. He can climb with her, supporting his drowsy wife, catching her as she teeters off balance in a sleep deprived state.

In the rehearsal process, we went through stages of development with our characters. We had to find that part of ourselves, understand it, exaggerate it, and make it physical. We did a lot of improvisations and trial and error as individuals and as a group to get where we are now. The best part is that the research is not over. There is always a new way to approach our inner 'folie", interpret it and share it with the audience!

We as artists and PSY are in constant development.

kK: Thanks to both of you for finding time to answer all my questions. I truly loved the show.


2 weeks only!

July 12 to July 24
Cutler Majestic Theatre


Psyched for PSY

by karen Krolak

When PSY blew into Boston the first time this year, we nearly missed it. Jason had purchased tickets way in advance but snowstorms and tech rehearsals tried to thwart us. We knew our timeline would be  tight when White Wave announced the schedule for the Cool New York Dance Festival. Our tech was at 11AM in the morning and due to a few other conflicts, we had planned to drive down to Brooklyn at 5AM.

Unfortunately, this was the view from our porch at 4:30AM. As you can see, our canine choreographer was a wee bit concerned.

As we headed towards Caitlin's house to gather up the dancers, the situation did not improve. In fact, her street was impassable in our lightweight FIT. Suitcases sledded over the snow and our intrepid crew persisted towards the turnpike.

Hours later as we were slogging through Connecticut, cars began making u-turns on the highway and nervous giggles erupted in our vehicle. Then we saw the clusterfork

and decided that driving the wrong way back to an on ramp made sense after all. Thanks to my G2, we were able to navigate on the fly and scoot pass the mess on alternate roads.

By the time we arrived in Brooklyn, major streets were actually plowed but we still had to push through a few intersections in DUMBO. Can you believe that we had three minutes to spare, er warm up, before the tech started?

Our return trip that afternoon was far less eventful but drug on for so many hours that we just barely hustled ourselves back to Beantown in time catch the start of PSY. Having been crammed in our tiny car for the bulk of 14 hours, I was crabby as we crawled into our snug balcony seats. In fact, I may have been muttering about how being in the audience felt like its own contortion act when the action began.

What unfolded on, around, and above the stage, however, was so worth every ounce of our earlier adventure. Floating into the surreal ambiance created by this stellar ensemble reminded me why I fell in love with the performing arts.

PSY digs into physical metaphors for neuroses that plague people using a broad spectrum of circus arts and movement styles. Although some aspects of it have dark edges is woven together with compassion and humor. Tomorrow's multiple personality interview with folks from Montreal's Les 7 Doigts de la Main will give you a fuller sense of the show but please don't wait til then to get your tickets. Seriously, run, hop, somersault, (just be glad you aren't driving through a Nor'easter) over to the ArtsEmerson website or box office now. You will love how the 7 fingers tickle your mirror neurons.


2 weeks only!

July 12 to July 24
Cutler Majestic Theatre

Getting to Know Max Pollak -- Part II

by Nicole Harris

In this next segment of my conversation with Max Pollak, he talks about the importance of all of his dance training from tap to ballet to theatre as he creates work.  Thanks again to Melissa Dollman for her help in this process!

All the dance styles that I studied sit in my body, so they inform my decisions. Even my ballet background, which is not huge, but it’s there. And I’m really happy it’s there, because it gives me an edge to other people who only tap dance, or only do Cuban music. So I always try to look at everything I do from several vantage points—from the vantage point of the musician, the oral side, from the vantage point of a tap dancer, the tap technique and the movement, from the point of the ballet dance as far as spatially, and arrangement-wise, as far as who goes where, from the modern dancer as far as background and thought, like what am I trying to say here? From the acting point of view, how are we expressing ourselves, what is our motive, where are we going, where are we coming from, how are we getting there, what are we feeling in the moment? Are all the dancers expressing that while they’re dancing? Because, to me, the most important thing in dancing are your eyes. If your eyes don’t dance, you are not dancing. If there’s anything I’ve learned, especially in Cuba or in Brazil, it’s that dancing is not physical. Dancing is metaphysical.  So if somebody doesn’t dance with their face or their eyes, they’re not dancing. And I don’t care how much they jump up and down, and how many… that’s not what dancing is about. It’s the translating of your thought through your aura I even want to say. If your aura doesn’t dance, your body doesn’t dance.  It’s not sport. It’s a HUGE beef I have with competitions, and the whole competitive tap jam session thing, where everybody has to out-do each other. Where a lot of times, I just have to say, well, these guys or these girls are really amazing technically, and they’re out-doing each other, but they’re not speaking to me at all. They’re not speaking to anybody in the room except for themselves. And soliloquy is not what dancing is about to me.  It’s a communal experience. So I try to look at everything from all these vantage points and get a rounded product that will satisfy all my prerequisites—that needs to be done, that needs to be there…


Rozann Kraus on Mentoring

My fellow mentor on the 2011 Winter Emerging Artist Program at Green Street Studios was Rozann Kraus. In addition to working as published author and poet, Rozann is the founder and President of the Dance Complex where she created the landmark Shared Choreographers Concert series. She has served on the faculties of the Yale School of Drama, New England Conservatory of Music and Boston University. Winner of an Artists Foundation Choreography Fellowship, a Choreography Fellowship from the State of Ohio, the Paul Robeson Award and Arts Lottery Grants from five cities, her work has been commissioned by a wide range of sponsors, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, The Yale Art Gallery, Composers in Red Sneakers and (for nine consecutive years) Boston's First Night. Touring throughout the country as teacher, choreographer and performer, Ms. Kraus has been a guest choreographer at MIT, the Cambridge School and Tufts University and was an Artist in Residence at Clark University's Center for Contemporary Performance and many other institutions. As mentors, Rozann and I really clicked in ways I was not expecting and I was curious to hear her philosophy on the process.

by Rozann Kraus

I think of mentoring like tending a seedling.  The roots are there and the core is emerging. What's needed is the right amount of water, nutrients and sunshine. Too much or too little, the right or wrong timing can be painful and harmful; understanding the nature and having the experience to modulate the support is crucial to a viable outcome.  With dance, where the medium is the message, gentle teaching is needed because the seedling is the artist's ego.

Mentoring is a deeper partnership than the one that comes from teaching because, at its best, it is sensitive to and responsive to the unique needs of someone. As a mentor, the challenge is to be able to offer insights from your own gleanings, without smothering the others' vision or confidence.

I began the Shared Choreographers' Concert series to provide choreographers  crucial feedback and support that only exists in a conservatory setting. But dancers, too, gain insight into their roles by being privy to the discourse and getting additional information about their choreographer's motivations and goals.

Applications are now being accepted for the next Shared Choreographers' Concert which will occur on October 21 & 22 and will be part of the Dance Complex's 20th Anniversary Celebration


Echoes: Emerging Artist Concert

by karen Krolak

Yesterday's David Parker post mentioned the Emerging Artist Concert at Green Street Studios this weekend. This session was mentored by David and Lorraine Chapman, one of my favorite local choreographers. (If you attend the Mass Dance Festival in August, you can check out one of her zany creations. I am quite certain that you will be instantly smitten.)

I am most excited to see Josh Hilberman's quartet. Shannon Sullivan, who teaches with me at both Impulse Dance Center and Springstep, is performing in it. She  filled me in on Josh's process for building a tap piece in a space that normally does not allow style that might harm the stage. Also, after each mentoring session, she shared insights on the different ways that modern and tap choreographers think. Keep your fingers crossed and maybe I will coerce her into sharing these observations on the blog.

Jason and I are really curious and have made our reservations for the show tomorrow night. Perhaps we will see you there?

features the work by Jennifer Hardy, Josh Hilberman, Jessica Howard, and Rebecca Midler
Mentored by
David Parker and Lorraine Chapman 
Each performance will be followed by a Q&A session moderated by the mentors.

Sponsored by the Green Street Studios Emerging Artists Program:
Green Street Studios' Emerging Artists program is designed to provide infrastructure for choreographers to create new work, and to provide deep, ongoing mentorship between experienced and early-to-mid-career choreographers. For more information: GSSEmergingArtists.blogspot.com

Friday/ Saturday July 8/ 9th @ 8pm
Green Street Studios
185 Green St. Cambridge (Central Sqaure)
Tickets $20 and $15 for Students, Seniors, GSS and BDA Members.
For Reservations:
Email: info@greenstreetstudios.org
or call 617 864 3191

My Favorite Things -- OnTap

by Nicole Harris

Last night, after a day of wandering the city and a visit to Degas' dancers at the Met with longtime Monkeyhouse supporter and dear friend Laura Scanlan, we headed up to SummerStage in St. Mary's Park to see On Tap.  Created by Novisi Productions' artistic director Awoye Timpo, the show was a diverse collection of choreography from across the tap community.

The show opened with choreography by Michelle Dorrance, performed by our new Blogger in Residence Ryan Casey, Claudia Rahardjanoto, Carson Murphy, Tamii Sakurai and Elizabeth BurkeExtraordinary Machine showcased the dancers' ability to communicate with their bodies-- not just their feet and Michelle's skill at creating distinct characters within her choreography.

At Against the Odds this spring I premiered The Shed, which I had the pleasure of learning from Lynn Schwab.  As you might remember, it was an adaptation of an excerpt from a larger work she is creating with Chikako IwahoriProbably Maybe Know, is an excerpt from that larger work and was the second piece in On Tap.  These two amazing women have a true gift for combining the physical storytelling of dance theatre with beautifully complex tap rhythms.  I can't wait to see the rest of the piece!

You might remember Ray Hesselink from the interview he did with Kelsey Griffith a few years ago, or from his fabulous performance in Derick Grant's Imagine Tap!, or maybe from his work with those sensational young dancers in the Broadway hit Billy Elliot.  Last night he shared his tribute to "man's better half" with Red Hot, performed by five red hot tap dancers, Claudia Rahardjanoto, Carson Murphy, Lisa LaTouche, Pam Lenker and my good friend Megan Bartula.

The whole evening was hosted by Dewitt Flemming and he took a moment to share a few of his own thoughts with us.  Soon he was joined by Patrick Mangan on electric violin.  Talk about exciting!  I'm pretty sure I could have watched another hour or so of the two of them!

If you do not know who Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards is please drop whatever you are doing, go to YouTube and start watching.  Once you've collected your jaw from the floor, come on back and I'll tell you about her Michael Jackson tribute.  It started with a fierce version of Smooth Criminal performed by an outstanding group of dancers who managed to make Dormeshia's incredibly challenging footwork look like a walk in the park.  The second half was performed by Dormeshia herself to Gone to Soon, a song Michael Jackson originally dedicated to the young Ryan White.  Used now to remember her relationship with Michael Jackson, Dormeshia's dancing was as beautiful and awe inspiring as ever.

To close out the show Dormeshia, with her brand new baby on her hip, explains the history of The Track, a traditional number where each dancer gets a few bars to step out and say their thing, then hurry back into the line to keep time for the next.  As always, I am astounded by the diversity, talent and strength of the tap community.

For all of you that missed On Tap, don't you worry!  You'll have a chance to see most of these dancers and many more at  
Saturday, July 9th at  
Symphony Space.  See you there!


David Parker on Mentoring

This July,  David Parker will be influencing choreographers all over Boston. He's mentoring the Echoes, Emerging Artists Concert at Green Street Studios this weekend, and then he will scoot over to Concord to guide Summer Stages Choreographers' Project. He seemed like the perfect man to kick off our series on mentoring. Monkeyhouse's Nicole Harris shot off one tantalizing question. Just reading his well- crafted response reminds me why I emulate him so.

Nicole Harris: Unfortunately, it seems that lately so many programs like the Green Street Studios Emerging Artists Program are having to fold due to lack of funding, lack of resources or simply a lack of understanding as to why they are so important. As someone who has supported programs like this in the past I was wondering if you could take a minute and send me your thoughts on mentoring and why it is important to keep these programs alive. 

David Parker: I serve as mentor to dancers and choreographers on many levels.  Being a mentor, as I understand it, goes beyond teaching and extends to providing opportunities and strategies for success including more personal things like how one speaks, dresses and carries oneself and assessing what kinds of psychological barriers may be providing interference. It’s a much more intimate role.

I learned how to be a better person, a better man, from my mentors rather than just how to make my dances better.  I try to offer the same to those I mentor in my own company.   I want their presentation of self to reflect the best values we all share which is why we are a company and not a pick-up group.

Choreographic mentorship like at Green Street Studios or at Juilliard where I serve as mentor to selected Senior choreographers is a bit more discreet. I try to uncover where their actual aesthetic values lie and to make them aware of what it is they’re really doing and what potential it has. I also try to evaluate how successfully they are doing what they do and provide them with a means to get closer to what they’re doing.

As a teacher of dance composition I do different things.  I try to give them choreographic strategies and structures that they would never normally use on their own.  I don’t need to know their actual aesthetic values, I only need to give them more.  I try to expand their range of choices available to them by giving them assignments which challenge and stretch their own preferences even to the point of contradicting them.  This is, in some ways, at odds with mentorship but there is some overlap.  In a mentor-mentee relationship the mentee is offering something of this own and the mentor is using it and extending it. My mentoring of my own dancers is good for my art and my company. In teaching, I’m at once more controlling and more at the student's service.


by karen Krolak

Happy New Year...sort of. Like many organizations, Monkeyhouse just launched into a fresh fiscal year. We are really jazzed about the 2011-2012 season because we will be exploring the impact of mentors through our programs and projects.

Do ever feel lost creatively and wish someone could advise you? Do you have a mentor? How does she influence your life? Are they important? Have you ever been a mentor? How do you find one? What is the difference in your mind between being a mentor and a teacher? Or are those words interchangeable in your mind?

As we participated in the Emerging Artists Program at Green Street Studios this winter, Nicole and I began peppering conversations with these questions. People's responses were remarkably eloquent and passionate. Often, they often touched on how difficult it is to sustain these vital relationships in the dance world outside of school.  Around Monkeyhouse, our chats catalyzed ideas for new programs and directions, such as our new Bloggers-in-residence to help nurture another generation of dance writers. I can't wait to see how this evolves.

Throughout the year, we will be digging in to this subject. We welcome your thoughts, comments or questions about it. If you have an idea of someone we should interview or want to share a story from your own experience, please contact us.


Getting to Know Max Pollak -- Part I

by Nicole Harris

I once had a lovely chat with Max Pollak that was intended for this blog.  Because Melissa Dollman is such an amazing Monkeyhouse supporter (and overall person) and took the time to type out the transcript of said chat for me, I am now (over a year later) happy to share some of the incredible things I learned with you.

Max Pollak is the creator of Rumba Tap, a style as well as a music/dance ensemble that encompasses his unique melding of body percussion, tap dance and intense rhythm making.  In his own words, Max talks a bit about his personal history and the creation of Rumba Tap.

OK, the idea of RumbaTap really started with me studying music at Mannes College.  (At that point, I was part of the jazz program at the New School, but we were taking classes at Mannes College.)  As such, I was studying drum set and composition and arrangement, but mainstream jazz from ’93 to ’95.  While I was in my first or second semester I heard people taking about the Afro-Cuban ensemble led by Bobby Sanabria. So I ended up taking that class, and that’s what really sort of changed my whole outlook. He’s a great teacher, an amazing musician, very well rounded, and really knowledgeable about Afro-Cuban and Latin music history, development, all that. He taught the class not only as an ensemble where we could play different styles of African music, but also as a history class. So, first of all, everybody, all the instrumentalists, had to learn percussion—even the saxophone players, the pianists, they all had the basic percussion patterns, because if you don’t know it, you can’t play the music. Because it’s all based on the drums. He also show us videos of the full court dancing and singing. The way it is practiced in Cuba, and that’s something that most jazz musicians have no idea about and no connection with. And that’s what really sort of changed my outlook on everything, because when I saw the way they move in Afro-Cuban folklore, it really struck a very deep chord in me that I had not really connected with in jazz. I had been dancing jazz dance and tap dance since I was eleven years old, and that had always interested me and attracted me a lot, but it never struck this deep spiritual chord. And that’s really the point, the root, off all this music, and the intensity, and that’s what I connected with I realize now. So I started studying the percussion, the songs, and the dancing over time. And I started transferring the drum patterns onto my feet, and eventually onto my body, because I wanted the polyrhythmic aspect of the music to come out sonically.  And when you’re only tap dancing, and you’re only using the sounds of your feet, you are using one, maybe two levels sonically, but when you start clapping on top of it, you’re opening up a whole new range of sound and feel. And then by adding this, you’re adding more melody instruments. And then by adding the voice, you’re adding a whole other dimension.  So all those other dimensions I could I hear in that music, and I wanted to translate, to essentially do that by myself without any instruments. So that’s the thought behind it, and I wanted to make sure that I move in an appropriate way that would look authentic with the music.


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