Artists Talking to Artists: Eva Dean & Audra Carabetta

We have loved reading all of these conversations between artists!  Here is Audra Carabetta and Eva Dean in our latest installment of Artists Talking to Artists!

AC:  You mentioned in your bio that "EDD thrives in unusual settings". Over the years what would you say qualifies as the most unusual?

ED:  My answer may differ depending on how I feel on any particular day as there are a number of unusual site specific locations at which EDD has performed. Today, I feel like the most unusual site specific location was an empty swimming pool in a production presented by DanceNow NYC at the Carmine Street Recreation Center in the West Village in Manhattan (2000). Contenders are the Rock Garden in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden and a turn of the century barn in Sheffield, MA.

AC:  Were there any mentors from your past that inspired the work you do today? 
ED:  Honestly, there is no one person that I would list as a primary mentor, but there are many, many people who have inspired me. My short list that could easily grow into a long list is: Simone Forti, Nancy Stark Smith, Julie Rochlin, Joan Duddy, Laura Torbet, Donald Knaack (The Junkman), Dan Froot, Susan Rethorst and last but first, my lifetime love Stephen Doody. Please Google these extraordinary people! They all have great artistic histories.

And even though a place is not a person/mentor I would be remiss if I did not give a SHOUT OUT to my Alma Mater Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. Hampshire College gave me the opportunity to do be who I was at the time, honor my creativity and experiment. I love having experimentation as a fundamental part of my creative process, and I am grateful that this part of me was allowed to grow and thrive at Hampshire College.

AC:  What is one of the most challenging obstacles you face as a choreographer? 
ED:  Gender bias

AC:  How would you describe your creative process? Has it changed over the years? 
ED:  My earliest and most extensive and influential dance training was contact improvisation at Hampshire College. Along the way, I filled my movement “tool chest” with a number of other dance techniques (i.e. Flamenco, Ballet, Alexander Technique, Feldenkrais Technique, and more). Choreographically, I broke away from the Post Modern genre, while maintaining movement and conceptual experimentation as a foundation of my work. My BOUNCE choreography, which is viewed by some as my signature work, is highly influenced by my early Contact Improvisation training and my love of going into uncharted movement territory. With that said, I have made well over 40 dances over the past 27 years and some of my repertory is quite different both in form and content. I think the “connecting” elements of my lifetime body of work is a willingness to explore creative territory that I know nothing about, respect and honor of my internal muse despite current trends, staying as open as I possibly can to the collective unconscious which is a limitless source of creative energy, and struggling to keep joy in my heart even if the content and underbelly of the dance I create is dark and unyielding. 

Do you have a question for Eva that Audra didn't ask?  Well then, why don't you ask her here!?  All of the Against the Odds artists and everyone at Monkeyhouse wants to know what YOU are thinking, so let's keep the conversation going!

Do You Know Sarah Friswell?

by Nicole Harris & Caitlin Meehan 

Photo Credit Meagan Tucker
Sarah has been a part of my life for almost as long as I can remember.  First as my little sisters best friend's little sister, then as a student at Impulse Dance Center and a founding member of TAProject.  Now I am honored to call her one of my dear friends and I am glad I get to dance with her every week.  On top of her dancing, Sarah has been a C2C Intern and recently an invaluable assistant in getting these newsletters together every month.  While many of you have met Sarah in her various capacities over the years, Caitlin Meehan sat down and asked Sarah a few questions you might not already know the answer to.  Enjoy! 

C: How long have you been dancing with the company?
S: I have been dancing with the company consistently since the fall of 2011, however I went to some of the first ever musings when Karen was working on a project at Green Street Studios.

C: Musing since the beginning! How did you meet Karen?
S: I met Karen when I began taking modern at Impulse Dance Center. I think I fell in love with her passion and spirit and really looked to her as a role model for how I hoped to live my life with dance in it.

C: How long have you been dancing in general?
S: I have been dancing since I was six years old. So 24-6 is 18 years! Hard to believe.

C: Most of your life! Have you always wanted to work with a company?
S: I have always loved performing dance and performing in general, so I don't know that I needed a company or just the opportunity to share my love of dance. I am so happy to be working with Monkeyhouse though because I feel like I have so much artistic freedom and I love spending my Saturdays dancing and laughing with everyone.

C: I have to agree with you about Monkeyhouse! What other jobs have you experienced in addition to teaching and running TAProject?
S: In addition to teaching dance and working with TAProject, I work in Natick as an aid in the fifth grade while I get my Masters of Education. I think my favorite past job was working at Crazy Jayne's Ice Cream though as an expert scooper/birthday party rockstar/assistant store manager.

C: Wow! Do you have a favorite style of dance? 
I think my favorite style is tap. 
C: Why is that?
S: I have always been really fascinated by rhythms and working with sounds. But then again, modern and lyrical are some of my favorites to just let loose on days when you just need a release. And I love ballet and jazz. I'm not great at hip hop but I like doing it and pretending to be gangster. So I guess I really don't have a favorite!

C: Choosing a favorite style is a lot of pressure... Do you have any favorite choreographers?
S: I don't think I have any specific favorites. I like choreographers who try new things but don't try too hard. Just do what you love and others will love it too.
C: Might be tough to choose, but what has been your favorite piece to work on with Monkeyhouse?
S: I think my favorite piece to work on was Pygalgia, the hand to head piece with Sarah Feinberg. I have always enjoyed watching that piece and it's been so much fun to learn and rehearse it with Sarah. We move really well together and the rehearsals have been really productive and usually end with us on the floor laughing.

C: What else should the world know about Sarah Friswell? 
S: If my dreams of teaching someday go awry, then I want to work in the education program at an aquarium. Also, I'm lactose intolerant, but I still love dairy! 
And there you have it, folks. Monkeyhouse company member Sarah Friswell in a nutshell!


Meet Against the Odds Artist, Cynthia Roberts!

Cynthia Roberts is a visual artist based whose primary interests are painting and drawing, as well as extended painting in the form of performance and video projection. Roberts is a 2012 laureate of the program Le Havre – New York // Regards Croisés, supported by the French Institute and the city of Le Havre. The award included a production grant, studio, and 3-month residency in the city of Le Havre, France. In December of 2012, Roberts' work from the residency including The Diver, a performance featuring live painting and dance by the French company La BaZooKa was premiered at the André Malraux Museum of Modern Art. Roberts holds an MFA in Painting from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Her website is: www.cynthiaroberts.us.


Dance'n Feet

by Nicole Sao Pedro-Welch, Dance Company Member and Coordinator of Dance at Endicott College.

Dance’n Feet is a dance company comprised of women between the ages of 60 and 70 years of age. Their mission is to, “Have fun, learn new dances and tricks, and show that it’s never too late to enjoy dancing.” I had the pleasure of seeing Dance’n Feet perform “A Road to Nowhere” at Endicott College in 2011 during the “Guest Choreographer Showcse.” With Karen Krolak being the choreographer of both their piece and a piece featured in the Guest Choreography Showcase, I thought it would be a great idea to have them perform! I have to say I was utterly impressed by the partner work and energy each woman had during their dance. It was extremely inspiring because I hope to still be dancing at their age!

As stated on their facebook page, the company “practices and performs short, energetic jazz and acrobatic dance numbers” and I saw just that! One specific moment of the dance I remember was when one dancer flipped over a bar that two other women held and somehow ended up in a full split over their heads. Not only was she flexible, but she was extremely strong holding herself up on the bar she flipped over! The college students that performed in this show applauded and exclaimed, “I couldn’t even do that now!” “She is so flexible!”

Their performance from beginning to end was enjoyable and left the audience with smiles on their faces.

Even though Dance’n Feet is usually remembered for their acrobatic dance numbers, I also feel they are known for their dedication to the arts in Massachusetts, especially Monkeyhouse. Every time Monkeyhouse has an event or there is a dance event in the Greater Boston area, I always see a Dance’n Feet company member there. It is nice to see how supportive they are to other dance companies and events while staying active in their own company, families, and jobs.  (They have 40 grand children between the company which I am sure keeps them busy!)  Dance'n Feet company members are all wonderful, and inspiring women. I am looking forward to seeing them perform again in the near future.

Artists Talking to Artists: Nikki Sao Pedro Welch & Merli Guerra

Welcome to the third installment of Artists Talking to Artists!  Once again Monkeyhouse's Nikki Sao Pedro Welch will be asking the questions, this time to Luminarium choreographer Merli Guerra.

NSPW:  I saw on your bio that you have training in classical Odissi technique. Can you explain this dance form?
MG:  Great question. Frequently, when I mention my Classical Indian Dance background, I hear "Ohhh, like Bhangra or Bollywood!" It's a perfectly reasonable connection, but Classical Indian Dance forms such as Odissi are actually rooted in traditional Indian temple dances, and take many years to master. I often ask people if they're familiar with images of the figures carved into the pillars and entrances of Hindu temples for reference. Many of the same positions and mudras I practice through Odissi can be seen in these very statues...it's beautiful to see in person! Here in Boston, Bharatanatyam seems to be a much more practiced style than Odissi, which I've studied and performed with Nataraj Dancers in Western Mass under Guru Ranjanaa Devi. Now, whether intentional or not, I find that most of my work has a much greater focus on gestures, facial expressions, and the hands. It's hard not to incorporate it into my modern dance, after breathing it all those years!

NSPW:  I also noticed that you toured India in 2012 with Deborah Abel Dance Company. Can you tell us about this experience?
MG:  Well, now, that's a question I've been grappling with ever since coming home! I anticipated this tour for over a year, and could not believe my luck in falling into it. I had toured India in 2007 to study Indian dance, and was dying to go back. Luckily for me, one of the leads dropped out of Deborah's production, prompting her to ask a friend of mine if he knew of a dancer in the area who "had an interest in Indian culture, was small and good at lifts, and preferably had long dark hair." Best typecasting that ever happened to me, and returning to India was as excellent as it was the first time.
I will say that performing in India (rather than other countries I've performed in) was quite the experience. From live wires dangling backstage to working with a crew that didn't speak English, it was a strange reality to feel both at home and foreign in these Western-style theaters. One minute we'd be given delicious meals in a luxury hotel, compliments of the Government; the next we'd be chatting with dusty children living on the streets. There was beauty and chaos in every moment, and each audience differed from one to the next. I don't believe I've ever performed for an audience as verbally enthusiastic as the one we received in Jaipur. Their constant chatting, shouting, and impromptu applauding distracted many members of our group (understandably!), but I have truly never before felt so much energy from a crowd--it fueled me throughout the night, and was (for me) the single best performance of the tour.

And, as always, I am dying to go back to India again.

NSPW:  I also saw on your bio that you are a filmmaker and use film with dance. Can you give us some information on any new projects that are in the works involving dance and film?
MG:  Yes! Perfect timing. For several years, I've been hoping to find a way to merge dance with textiles in a new and unique way. I recently received a grant from the Lowell Cultural Council to fund a collaboration between Luminarium Dance Company and the New England Quilt Museum (in Lowell) to combine two of the city's largest focuses: Quilting and Dance. It might sound like an odd coupling, but the results of this "Threading Motion Project" so far are beautiful. I've chosen six quilts from the museum's upcoming exhibit "Silk!" and am projecting them onto my dancers, while exploring the moods and movements each quilt evokes in our bodies. In two weeks I'll film these to create six Quilt Vignettes that will be played on loop as part of the museum's exhibit April 18 through July 7. Luminarium will also be presenting a 15-minute live piece in the museum, based on the concept of "threading motion," during the exhibit's opening and symposium (April 20 at 2pm & 3pm, and April 27 at 4pm).

NSPW:  Lastly, I noticed that you have a degree from Mount Holyoke in Dance and Studio Art. This is quite impressive! Can you tell us the most important part of your college experience/process that you still use in creating your work today?
MG:  While I was at Mount Holyoke, I found myself straddling the two seemingly separate worlds of Dance and Studio Art, and it wasn't until my Senior year that I finally found the bridge linking the two through my first film class. I got it into my head that I wanted to toy with one's perception of the "canvas," so rather than creating a film and simply showing it to the class on the screen, I decided to try my hand at creating a film, projecting it onto various surfaces, and creating a film out of that.
One thing led to another, and my Intro to Film "exercise" suddenly had me standing outside in a cold, concrete amphitheater, as images of me dancing through fields projected across the theater and my body. (My co-director of Luminarium, Kim Holman, actually helped me with this project. Why she didn't run after that crazy experimental night, I just don't know! Too late to turn back now, Kim.) My little film Synchronic soon went on to win Best of Mount Holyoke, Best Dance on Camera, and Best of Festival at the Five College Film Festival in 2009, and while winning these awards was (of course!) hugely affirming for my new artistic path, the creation of this single film served a far greater purpose.

Synchronic taught me to challenge what we use as canvas; it taught me how light interacts with the body as it dances across one's skin; it helped me recognize that I am fascinated with the concepts of space, time, and connecting with one's "past self," and it gave me a new medium through which to work. So while my choreography now varies from dance to film, and from video projection to nontraditional lighting, I do find that these same themes still play an active and exciting role in my work. In fact, the piece I'm showing in this year's Against the Odds Festival (Andromeda) touches on several of these themes as well: from "past-self" to the way my soloist interacts with the lights around her. If you haven't seen it yet, you'll understand me (and my work as an artist) much better once you have! 

Do you have a question for Merli that Nikki didn't ask?  Well then, why don't you ask her here!?  All of the Against the Odds artists and everyone at Monkeyhouse wants to know what YOU are thinking, so let's keep the conversation going!


Meet Against the Odds Artist, TAProject!

The TAProject, a group of high school tap performers through Impulse Dance Center, was founded by Monkeyhouse's Nicole Harris. After five years, the company was handed off to Shannon Sullivan, and is currently co-directed by Shannon and Sarah Friswell, a founding member of the company. They are currently in their eleventh season and have performed at such events as Relay for Life in Natick, the New England Flower Expo, Chelsea High School's Winter Dance Recital, and numerous Monkeyhouse events. They have performed works by Derek Grant, Lynn Schwab and have participated in master classes from Dianne Walker.


Meet Against the Odds Artist, Josh Hilberman!

Photo Credit Liza Voll

Tap dance artist Joshua Hilberman has been creating and performing original theatrical

productions in New England and around the world for over 20 years. A unique solo performer
groomed by tap and vaudeville stars of the 1930's, his touring experience includes sharing the stage with Gregory Hines, Savion Glover, Jimmy Slyde, Brenda Bufalino, and most every tap dancer of note; three seasons with Manhattan Tap; national touring with Tap City on Tour; three seasons in Germany with Thomas Marek's "About Tap"; a decade as co-creator, choreographer, and performer in Mad Theatrical's "Clara's Dream: a Jazz Nutcracker"; and two full-evening collaborations with the noted Canadian company Decidedly Jazz Danceworks.

Hilberman learned jazz improvisation in performance with all-star musicians, including the
late great drummer Alan Dawson and noted pianist and composer Paul Arslanian. His "Best of
Boston" shows at Ryles and Scullers launched a decade of improvising adventures that included performances at the Boston Globe Jazz Festival, the Discover Jazz Festival (Burlington, VT) the Portsmouth Jazz and Blues Fest, Jazz Tarrassa (Barcelona), and Jazz is Toulon (France).

Recognized with the 2005 National Endowment for the Arts/Dance USA National College
Choreography Initiative Award; the 2006 Premi Claqueta from the dancers of Barcelona,
Spain for significant contributions to the tap community; and with the 2009 Presidential
Scholars Teachers Recognition Award, Hilberman is a sought-after and highly regarded teacher internationally.

Further propaganda can be found on his website: www.Hilbermania.com.

"…after modest opening remarks, he became the zany tap wizard he really is, dancing in
half a dozen styles with costumes of ever-escalating weirdness…With the inventive pleasure of all great tappers, he can throw a complex tornado of steps into the ground, but he can also fling a leg out in space to suspend the beat, or skim bodily across distances without suppressing the rhythmic storm that’s going on in his feet."
The Boston Phoenix, March 4, 2008

“An avant-garde tap dancer challenging conventional performance ideas while wearing
very little in Dusseldorf. A new-vaudevillian in a bright pink tuxedo, jumping around on small
drums. An award-winning choreographer working with dancers at Wayne State University in
Detroit. And the traditional ukulele-strumming, kazoo-playing, tap-dancing one-man band. All are incarnations of Chapel Hill native and current Boston resident Josh Hilberman, who, said the late great Gregory Hines, is “one of the best of the new generations of tap dancers.”
The Chapel Hill Herald, June 10, 2005

"A pianist embellishing finger and wrist action"
The Washington Post, Oct. 10, 1993

"That was far and away the best use of shading I've heard from a tap dancer in 50 years.
Ask a musician, they'll know what I mean."
Showbiz legend Fred Kelly (Gene's brother), Chicago 1999


Artists Talking to Artists: Nikki Sao Pedro Welch & Janelle Gilchrist

Here is the second installment of Artists Talking to Artists! We are excited to share a chat with Monkeyhouse's Nikki Sao Pedro Welch and Against the Odds Artist Janelle Gilchrist!

NSPW: I noticed in your bio that you have a BFA in dance, which is wonderful! Do you feel it is important for dancers to continue their training in higher education?

Yes, I think it is important for dancers to continue their training in higher education. We can not dance forever and it is important to have an education to fall back on. When the dance gigs are not coming in, or when it is time to retire from performing, having an education can help you land decent dance teaching jobs, or arts related jobs.
NSPW:You have such an extensive background with choreography working with Flash Mobs, dance studios, and companies. How do you stay inspired?
JG: I stay inspired by attending various dance performances throughout the year. I also see plays and go to art museums when I have time. I try to stay up to date on dance and music trends in pop culture as well.
NSPW: In speaking of Flash Mobs, can you elaborate on your experience with casting and choreographing for Flash Mobs?
JG: I choreographed 2 flash mobs. The first one I did was in Boston. I was asked to organize a flash mob in 4 days. The production manager told me that at the last minute, her choreographer bailed out on her and she needed me to find 30 dancers, choreograph, and teach them a 3 minute dance. She asked me could I do it. I said yes I could. So through my network of dancers, and dance action network, I found 30 dancers. I had 2 rehearsals that were each 2 hours long to teach the material. The dancers were allowed to come to the first rehearsal, the second rehearsal, or both. Then all the dancers arrived on the day of the performance. It was a success. Because the Boston flash mob went so well, I was asked by the same production company to do it again. This time it was at the Bellagio hotel in Vegas for the Jim Beam liquor company. I was given a lot more time. I had about 2 months to prepare. A friend of mine who was a dance colleague when we worked on a cruise ship together, was living in Vegas at the time. I asked him if he had any dancers out there who would do the show with me. Also another friend who used to dance in Vegas, gave me some names of some dancers out there. So without posting on any dance audition website, I was able to get 30 dancers. I had each person send me a résumé and a video of them dancing so I could see their dancing ability. The production company flew me out to Vegas and put me up at the Bellagio. I had one 2 hour rehearsal with the dancers and then the following day we performed. It went extremely well. One of the dancers told me it was the most organized flash mob they had ever been apart of. I was glad I had the opportunity to work on that project.

Do you have a question for Janelle that Nikki didn't ask?  Well then, why don't you ask her here!?  All of the Against the Odds artists and everyone at Monkeyhouse wants to know what YOU are thinking, so let's keep the conversation going!

Meet Against the Odds Artist, Dance'n Feet!

Dance'n Feet is a senior women's dance group (are range 62-74), average age about  65, who learn and perform short jazz/modern/acrobatic dance numbers to keep fit (mentally AND physically), have fun, entertain and inspire audiences. 

Karen Krolak, our new choreographer, founder and artistic director of Monkeyhouse, is a true dance innovator. Karen is dedicated to making dance accessible to all, both as spectators and participants.

We are sponsored by Newton Parks and Recreation and have been in existence for about ten years.  Our mission is to reach a wide audience and show them that dance is great fun for people of all ages and backgrounds.  We have performed regularly on the dance stage at Harvard Square's May fair, at the Charles River Dance festivals and at the Dance for World Community Festival (2010, 2011).  In May, 2008, we performed at the Cambridge Mayor's Senior "picnic" for about 1000 Cambridge seniors and their teenaged servers at the MIT ice arena.


FInd Against the Odds on Facebook!

Looking for a quick an easy way to spread the news about Against the Odds?  Head over to everyone's favorite social media website and invite your friends to our Against the Odds Event!  

It will only take a minute, but think how many people we will reach!  If each of you invite ten people that will increase our audience by hundreds in an instant.  And if you invite all your friends?  Well then the numbers are off the charts!

Take a minute and spread the word today!

Meet Against the Odds Artist, Eva Dean!

Eva Dean founded Eva Dean Dance (EDD) in 1985. Throughout the years her choreography has received critical acclaim and accolades from audiences, presenters and students. Dean is recognized as a consummate professional who creates work that uses multiple elements to bring her choreographic vision to life. Choreographic intent that embraces intuition is the spring- board for Dean's creative process, and her unique movement is honed and crafted while working with her dance company. The dancers’ artistry and improvisational skills are an integral part of the work. Boots, balls, recycled materials and architectural design are specifically selected to enhance Dean's artistic vision. Dean works closely with guest artists such as musicians, puppet masters, lighting, set and costume designers to create a visually rich body of work. As a result her lifetime body of work is diverse in scope, giving its audiences enduring memories.

Locally grown in Brooklyn, Ms. Dean’s company has performed in many of New York City's finest venues including City Center, Dance Theater Workshop, Fringe/NYC, and the Brooklyn Museum. EDD has also performed nationally and internationally in such venues as Carol Autorino Center, Harford, CT, First Night Boston, and in Dubai United Arab Emeritus. Known for its innovation and vibrancy, EDD thrives in unusual settings and working with varied props. Atypical dance elements such as stilts, balls, and rollerblades are used to explore new movement possibilities.

Dean has set EDD repertoire on college and conservatory students, created new dances for Brooklyn Public school students, and taught master choreography workshops as a guest artist at many schools, including Hampshire College in Massachusetts, Bennington College in Vermont, Hartford Conservatory Dance in Connecticut, Brooklyn Public schools I.S. 259 (Bensonhurst) and P. S. 56 (Forte Green) and Alice Teirstein's "Young Dancemakers" in New York City.

Dean is the Director and founder of Union Street Dance located in Park Slope Brooklyn. Union Street Dance provides subsidized rehearsal space rental to over 120 dance companies annually and serves as the company's home. USD also provides a Work-Study program, and a Guest Artist USD LAB, and BOUNCE Dance Technique classes.

Dean is a dance advocate and has served on numerous dance panels. In past years, Dean was a member of the Dance Committee of the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center and The Brooklyn Dance Consortium. Currently, Ms. Dean is advocating that the New York City dance community and City-wide presenters become more aware of what the needs are in family audiences dance programming. Dean is an Hampshire College Alum and her choreographic approach still embodies the experimental approach instilled in her formative years.


Good Things Abound!

by Nicole Harris
Despite the unpleasant winter-ness going on outside, we have had MANY good things happen in January! 
  • Former Monkeyhouse dancer and wonderful friend Julia Marx is a mommy once again!  We can't wait to meet the newest member of the Marx family!
  • Courtney Wagner and Sarah Friswell both started grad school this month.  Such busy little bees we are over here!
  • Long time supporter and friend Marty Allen has written a BOOK!  About SOCK PUPPETS!  How cool is that?!  And YOU can buy it on Amazon, which means by using GoodShop you'll not only get this AMAZING puppety book, but you'll donate to Monkeyhouse too! 
  • Tickets are on sale for Against the Odds!  Okay, so we already mentioned that.  But after everything that has gone on in the past few months, we are REALLY excited that this festival is up and running!   
What are your good things this month?  Share with us HERE! 


February Birthdays!

by Katelyn Alcott
This February Monkeyhouse would like to wish a very happy birthday to Sarah Feinberg and Caitlin Meehan!

These two birthday ladies are currently working on a piece together for Monkeyhouse's Against the Odds festival. The duet features the two in a tango with their feet tied together. Caitlin says that "it has been an interesting and hilarious rehearsal process". Sarah is also working on a similar duet with Nikki Sao Pedro Welch which stemmed from the same series of Musings (improvisational exercises at the start of every rehearsal) that worked with attaching dancers together by different body parts to see where that took them.

In addition to the duet Caitlin is working on a solo piece, Disarmed, as well as many others, some including giant yoga balls! Outside of Monkeyhouse Caitlin is currently working on a piece with Falling Flight project in collaboration with Kieran Jordan and Dancers. The group is incorporating Irish Step Dance and Modern dance. Caitlin works at the Boston Ballet box office.

Sarah is a graduate from Ithaca College where she got a Bachelor of Science in Speech Language Pathology and Audiology with a minor in Deaf Studies. She is currently working at the New England Center for Children as a teacher of children with autism while applying to graduate programs to get her masters in occupational therapy.

Fun facts about our two birthday ladies:

Caitlin is she is the owner of the worlds tallest indoor cactus plant. The cactus lives in her kitchen. Construction crews have been contemplating how to elevate the ceiling in order to allow for the cactus to continue its growth through to the next floor.
Sarah is a former student of Nicole and Karen's at Impulse Dance Center where she and Sarah Friswell grew up dancing side by side. If you asked them at age 6, 12 or 17 they never would have guessed that they would be dancing side by side today too!

As always, a wonderfully happy birthday to anyone celebrating in February, especially:

Andew Palermo, Benjamin Rogers, Minna Scholten, Pam Harris, Shelia Friswell, Leah Jonhanson, Stephanie SuneSarah FeinbergJason (Mouse) VasquezCaitlin MeehanPeggy Wacks, Joanne Dougan, Deborah FriedesSteve Wightman, and Bill T. Jones

Meet Against the Odds Artist, Mariah Steele!

Mariah Steele graduated Magna Cum Laude from Princeton University with a major in Anthropology and minor in Dance, where she studied dance intensively with Ze’eva Cohen and Rebecca Lazier. She combined these two passions by studying traditional Kandyan dance in Sri Lanka for two months and then writing her anthropology thesis about the experience. She went on to perform professionally in New York City in the companies of James Martin, Beth Soll, and Kelley Donovan. In 2008, she moved to Boston, where she has danced for Sokolow Now!, the Anna Sokolow archival company, Nell Breyer, Sara Smith and currently performs with Rebecca Rice Dance. In December 2011, Mariah graduated with a Masters Degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she studied non-profit management and conflict resolution.  Her Masters thesis discusses how and why dance can be used in peacebuilding endeavors. Mariah has taught students of all ages, including international master classes and workshops in Sri Lanka, in Ghana and at the Asian University for Women in Bangladesh.  She currently teaches modern dance technique and dance history at Endicott College in Beverly, MA. 

Mariah Steele/Quicksilver Dance is a modern dance company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts with roots in New York City, directed by choreographer Mariah Steele. Using anthropological inquiry and artistic exploration, our dances delve into contemporary and timeless issues to inspire reflection and imagination and to spark new perspectives and cross-cultural dialogue.  The company, named Quicksilver Dance in 2010, grew out of Mariah’s work as an independent choreographer since 2006 and represents the next chapter of her continued journey.  Mariah’s choreography has been presented at numerous venues in both the New York and Boston metropolitan areas including: the Institute for Contemporary Art, MIT, Harvard University, the Boston Center for the Arts, Dance for World Community, The Massachusetts Dance Festival, Green Street Studios, The Dance in Education Foundation at SUNY Purchase, White Wave’s John Ryan Theater in Brooklyn, Dance Theater Workshop and Princeton University.  She has also self-produced three full-evening shows of choreography: one a benefit for the Central Asia Institute at City Center Studios in NYC, and two at MIT’s Simmons Hall.  Recent awards and grants include a Choreographer’s Project Fellowship from Summer Stages Dance at Concord Academy in July 2012 and a five-week residency at the Boston Center for the Arts in Fall 2012.  For more information: www.quicksilverdance.com.


Be a Monkeyhouse Ambassador!

Be A Monkeyhouse Ambassador!
We've been shouting about being a Monkeyhouse Ambassador for months now.  Just to prove that this idea works, I want to introduce you to long time Monkeyhouse supporter, Kelly Long.  Kelly has volunteered, come to shows and much much more over the years.  Last week Kelly took a minute to share our Facebook post about meeting our daily fundraising goal.  We were looking for 15 people to donate $7 each that day.  Thanks to that one post (that took Kelly less than a minute to share) we received $507 in donations.

So what are you waiting for!?  Share this post, "Like" us on Facebook then "Share" us with your friends, bring a new friend to each performance!  It only takes a minute and look at the difference you can make! 

Show Your Love This Valentine's Day!

by Nicole Harris
According to TIME, the average person spent $126.03 last Valentine's Day.  This year, while you're wining and dining your loved one, why not send 6% of the check to your favorite non-profit?  How?  Simply by using your credit card! 

GoodDining is a program created by the wonderful people over at GoodShop where a percentage of your dining purchases will be donated to the non-profit of your choice.  (Cough... cough...)  All you do is register your card and then eat at (or order in from) one (or all) of the tens of thousands of registered restaurants.  No really.  They are everywhere.

Whether you are taking your grandmother to Blue Fuji in Medford, your wife to
Piccola Venezia in the North End, or having pizza delivered to your sofa from Crazy Dough's, you can show your love for Monkeyhouse while you eat! 


Meet Against the Odds Artist, Jonathan Keith!

For as long as I can remember, I have been behind the camera, but only recently have I taken the leap into the world of professional photography. Although I am kept busy as a father, I am actively working on my photography business: “JK Photo”. I have passion for all aspects of the art so I do not limit myself to certain types of photography like many of my competitors. I am eager to work in both the commercial and fine art arenas of photography. Monkeyhouse has become a sort of second family to me and I feel a deep connection to the group. My cousin Nicole is one of the founders of Monkeyhouse, and I have been a member pretty much since the beginning. Over the years, I have had many opportunities to use my photographic skills with the company and I’ve enjoyed this experience immensely.


Artists Talking to Artists: Kendra & Ryan

This is the first of this year's Against the Odds: Artists Talking to Artists series.  We asked each of the choreographers participating in Against the Odds to both interview another artist and be interviewed themselves in an effort to build community, generate conversation and give you a sneak peek at what might be going on backstage at Against the Odds.  I am very excited to introduce you to Kendra Henseler of Six One Seven Dance Collective chatting with our own Blogger in Residence and tap dancer extraordinaire, Ryan Casey

Kendra: So I understand you were first introduced to tap dance as a small child via Savion Glover's involvement with Sesame Street. Were you musically inclined as a child? What drew you to tap dance? What was the turning point in your early training where you went from "yeah I like this" to "I've got to do this every single day of my life"?

Ryan:  I recently went to see a preview of Maurice Hines' (Gregory's brother) new show, and he talked about working with Ella Fitzgerald. She had no real musical training, it seems -- just a God-given gift, he said, to be so rhythmically talented. I would never put myself on par with her, of course -- not in a million years! -- but I feel the same way about my own development as a tap dancer. People always ask me if my parents are dancers are musicians; the answer is no. Nor did I grow up in a household where my parents were playing jazz music all the time or watching Hollywood movie musicals with me. I have a good ear for rhythm, but I admittedly don't understand music very well, or as well I probably should; I have trouble counting things out and discussing musical forms with band leaders. There's really no discernible reason why I should have become a professional tap dancer other than I was blessed with this ability, I guess.

I started my dance training with a tap/jazz combo class, and although I liked both styles -- and still do -- I was just naturally better at tap. I picked it up quickly and it stuck with me. When I got to high school, my teacher, Thelma Goldberg, sat me down and told me that if I wanted to have a career in this field -- and I could -- I needed to become a soloist. I think that's when I started getting really serious about my dancing and began to understand that this was something that could take me somewhere.

Kendra:  My sources tell me you're 6'8". Tap dancing involves a lot of weight shifting. Does your height influence your movement style?

Ryan:  This is a question that I address with my work in the festival. I get it a lot -- and I also hear from a lot of people who are shocked to see me dance because they thought it would be impossible for someone of my size to move with any grace at all.

I take a musical theater jazz class in NYC every week with the wonderful Stephen Reed, and sometimes I get to the studio and he warns me that the combo for the day is "short people dance" -- that is, choreography created for people of short stature. I got to thinking: What would "tall people dance" look like? Does it exist?

Tommy Tune is one answer, although I think he's regarded more as an all-around entertainer than specifically as a tap dancer. Michelle Dorrance, whose company I'm in, created a kind of tall people dance when she choreographed a duet, "The Rag," for me and Elena Steponaitis, another lanky dancer who I'm performing with in the festival. She opened up a new vocabulary for me and embraced my physicality rather than telling me it wasn't going to work.

With my height, it's not so much the weight shifting that's tricky as it is controlling my limbs and my entire body at once -- and I am definitely a full-body dancer. I look back at videos of myself even from high school and am embarrassed to see how much I was flailing around. I like to think that at some point, with a lot of work in other disciplines, I got myself together, but it's definitely something I have to keep working on. I'm in jazz classes every week so I can keep my lines straight and clean.

Kendra: Do you have a "lucky" pair of tap shoes?

Ryan:  Haha, no, I can't say that I do! I do reserve my white pair for certain performances, though. It was -- and still is, I think -- a big deal as a tap dancer to get a pair of white shoes. It's a kind of status symbol that you earn. I got them my senior year of high school and I love them; I can slip into them like a favorite pair of slippers and I love how they feel and how they sound. But they're scuffed up at this point, and I want to preserve them just a little longer, so I only dance in them every once in a while.

Kendra: Is your choreography influenced by improvisation or music? I'm not a tap dancer, but I'm so jealous of tap dancers that get to 'jam'. How much do you depend on sound exploration before settling into a choreographed piece?

Ryan:  I think that's the first step for a lot of tap choreographers, and certainly for myself: I always improvise to a tune before I really start choreographing, just to see what happens and what immediately inspires me. After I jam for a while to a song, I've locked into some ideas for rhythms or movement patterns that I can use later on. The music tells me, "This part is a time step" or "This should be a counterpoint," for example.

I work rhythmically, meaning that when I'm choreographing, I listen to the music and say, "What do I want to hear here?" And I play around with rhythms, scatting to myself, until I find the one that I think fits best. Then I come up with a step that best fits the rhythm -- playing around with tone, shading, speed, etc. It's like a musical puzzle.

Kendra:  Your choreography has such an amazing pulse to it. So many tap pieces become dominantly focused on the sound, but yours also has a large emphasis on the bodies as well. If you could give your audience members a 'take-away' when they watch your work, what would it be?

Ryan:  I was trained to be a full-body rhythm-maker, so I'm glad you pointed that out. I think it's important that the physicality of the art form be prominent; indeed, one of the cool things about tap, as so many tappers like to point out, is that you can embody through both movement AND sound the music that you're dancing to. You can BE the blues; you can BE one of Brubeck's odd time signatures.

Honestly, I've been thinking a lot lately about the question of the take-away in dance. I think it's obvious in other forms of art: Novels and films make us identify with fictional characters and get caught up in long-form narratives; music is supposed to fill your heart with an emotional experience and your head with catchy lyrics; art has something you can literally take away, if you purchase it. What, then, are we supposed to take away from dance? What does it mean that some people are watching modern dance and saying "I don't get it" and potentially not taking away anything other than confusion and frustration?

I believe in dance that is rhythmic and engaging. I hope people come away from my work at "Against the Odds" enjoying themselves -- hopefully laughing a bit! -- but also thinking about the larger questions I'm asking about fitting in, judging appearances, and maintaining one's sense of self, for example. Hopefully they'll see that tap, as you said, is just as much about the body as it is about the sounds.

And, most importantly, I hope they leave wanting to learn how to tap dance!

Do you have a question for Ryan that Kendra didn't ask?  Well then, why don't you ask him here!?  All of the Against the Odds artists and everyone at Monkeyhouse wants to know what YOU are thinking, so let's keep the conversation going!


Meet Against the Odds Artist, Cynthia Roberts!

Cynthia Roberts is a visual artist based whose primary interests are painting and drawing, as well as extended painting in the form of performance and video projection. Roberts is a 2012 laureate of the program Le Havre – New York // Regards Croisés, supported by the French Institute and the city of Le Havre. The award included a production grant, studio, and 3-month residency in the city of Le Havre, France. In December of 2012, Roberts' work from the residency including The Diver, a performance featuring live painting and dance by the French company La BaZooKa was premiered at the André Malraux Museum of Modern Art. Roberts holds an MFA in Painting from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Her website is: www.cynthiaroberts.us.


Meet Against the Odds Artist, Lacey Sasso!

Lacey Sasso was raised in Kansas City, MO and has been dancing since the age of four. She attended Missouri State University where she earned a B.F.A. in dance performance with a minor in psychology. While attending MSU she was a member of Inertia Dance Company,which taught creative movement to elementary students while focusing on and promoting literacy. She had the privilege of working with guest artists such as Susan Dodge, Lisa Fusillo, and Shirley Ririe and also performed at American College Dance Festival. Lacey has performed internationally at the 19thCongress on Dance Research in Larnaka, Cyprus and at the first Congress on Dance Pedagogy in Bogota, Colombia. Since graduation, Lacey moved to New York City where she presented choreography and worked with Push 

Factor Dance Company. Lacey is entering her fourth season withUndertoe Dance Project (NYC) where she serves not only as the Jazz Captain, but she is also a featured choreographer and the resident Jazz teaching artist. When she is not in rehearsals, Lacey spends her time teaching at Broadway Bound Dance Studio and Walker's Dance and Gymnastics. Lacey currently splits her time between NYC and Boston, where she is in her second season with Six One Seven Dance Collective.


Upcoming Events!

by Aisha Cruise

Thursday, February 7th @ 7:30pm
Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge, MA
An evening of Classical Indian music and dance featuring Bharatanatyam dancer Mesma Belsare and Carnatic vocalist Deepti Navaratna.

February 8-10th
Boston Opera House
It's the Chinese New Year! To celebrate, consider seeing the awe-inspiring Shen Yun dancers when they come to Boston.

Friday, February 15th @ 8pm
Multicultural Arts Center, Cambridge, MA
Come early for appetizers and stay late to talk with the company!

Saturday, Feb 16 @ 7:30p
The Dance of Love
First Church Congregational - Lindsay Chapel
Cambridge, MA
More Music than dance, but promises to be sweet!  Also performing on Sunday Feb 10th at Cary Hall in Lexington.

Friday, Feb 22-23 @ 8:00p
Julie Ince Thompson Theatre, Dance Complex
Cambridge, MA
For an evening of beautiful modern dance, come and see this fledgling company's premier concert.  It promises to be quite the treat.  

Thursday, Feb 28 @ 7:30p
Schubert Theater
Combining Modern, ballet, and Latin dance, this troupe from Brazil is enchanting to watch.  I strongly recommend seeing this performance if you can.

March 21st-24th
98 George P. Hasset Dr, Medford
Monkeyhouse is excited to present this exciting weekend.  Four performances, 40 performers and YOU!

The Flamenco Festival 2013 is coming to Boston, and bringing with it some truly incredible performances. 

Sunday, February 03 @ 2:00 PM
Performing Flamenco Vivo
Berklee Performance Center

March 1-3rd
Performing the US premiere of Metáfora From Spain
Cutler Majestic Theater

Lots of swing dancing this month; here's a couple of my picks.  Lessons are included, and admission runs $10-$16 per guest.  All levels welcome!

Saturday, Feb 2 @ 8:00p
Swing City at West Cambridge Youth Center
Cambridge, MA

Saturday, Feb 9 @ 7:45p
Armenian Cultural Center
Watertown, MA


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