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.


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