Meet Danny Foner!

by Marie Libbin 

You've already read some articles by Danny. Now I wanted to let you know a little more about him. So his fellow intern Marie sat down and had a little chat with Danny about how he came to be an intern and the projects he's working on. Enjoy! -Nicole 

by Joel Foner

ML: How did you hear about/get involved with Monkeyhouse?

DF: I'm not sure when I first heard about Monkeyhouse. My awareness of it just sort of seeped into my consciousness, probably from either working with Nicole in musicals or through friends who were involved.

ML: How has your participation in the arts positively impacted your life?

DF: The arts have had an incredible impact on my life. I consider music, theater, dance, drawing, and others to be core parts of my identity. Without them, I have no idea where (or who) I would be. I think the creative aspect of the arts has encouraged me to grow as an individual, and art continues to be a major source of inspiration, relaxation, and motivation in my life.

ML: I know that college applications are in full swing right now. What are some of your goals for the future?

DF: In college, I definitely want to continue my involvement and growth in theater. Depending on the school, I hope to be either majoring in musical theater or acting, although only time will tell. After that, my plans for the future are a little less defined - right now, I barely have enough time to think about the next weeks or months, let alone the next years!

ML: You're currently involved in Natick High School's Fall musical production. Can you talk a little about the show and your role in it?

DF: Well, I'm currently in Natick High School Drama's production of Once Upon a Mattress. The show is a hilarious musical comedy based on the story of the princess and the pea. So far, I'm really enjoying it - the script is witty and surprising, the music is excellent, and Nicole's choreography is, as always, quite challenging, yet extremely rewarding to learn. I play Prince Dauntless, the hapless hero of the story, who yearns to find love. However, he is thwarted by his controlling mother, played by the excellent Katelyn Sweeney, who refuses every princess who arrives at the castle gates. I won't say much more, since I wouldn't want to spoil the rest, but all signs suggest that this show is not going to be one to miss!

ML: Thanks for your time, Danny! Danny is a senior at Natick High School and is a very talented musician, actor, and dancer. He's such a blast to watch perform onstage. His involvement and passion for the arts is admirable, and his sense of humor is undeniable. We're so lucky to have Danny on the Monkeyhouse team!


What's Wrong if You Don't Have Music Rights?

by karen Krolak

You may have noticed that Monkeyhouse does not use pop music in our concerts. Contrary to popular belief this is not because we lack an appreciation for Imagine Dragrons, FUN, or Macklemore. We just could not afford the rights to their music on our budget. (And, to be fair, we also a huge fans of more independent musicians.) Usually, when I explain this to people, I get this really strange look and occasionally someone will say rather too politely, "You know you can buy those songs on iTunes for less than $2." Now I will admit that back when I started at LeeAnn's School of Dance in the 70's, the teacher actually used a record player but that doesn't mean that I am ignorant about mp3's and digital downloads. However, few people realize that purchasing a recording of a song does not give you permission to perform to it. If this is news to you, you might be relieved to know that many of the choreographers we have mentored at Monkeyhouse were also startled to discover this fact.

This is a thorny topic that has become even more complicated in the age of Youtube and other online video sharing sites. So we have planned a couple of articles talking to people in the music industry to try to clarify things for people. To get the ball rolling, I highly recommend this well written piece on the DANCE/USA website.


THANKS Giving Week 2!

Here's the summary of THANKS Giving Week 2!  Send these amazing folks your love and be sure to say hi next time you see them!  (If you want to keep up every day, take a minute to "like" us on Facebook for regular shows of gratitude!)

Denise Sao Pedro
- When Denise loves you, you are always aware of it.  Her giant heart and bounding enthusiasm are a constant source of encouragement to all of us.  Since Nikki worked on her first project with Monkeyhouse over six years ago we have loved having her mom as part of the Monkeyhouse family.  She is an eager and articulate participant at SKORTs, an engaged audience member, and fabulous volunteer. Thank you for being such a rockstar, Denise!
Susan Warnick - I’m guessing Susan is asked to host or emcee more events than any one person could ever do, so Monkeyhouse was thrilled and honored when she agreed to be a judge for the Your Just Desserts Bake Off last year.  Hailing from Natick herself, Susan is constantly giving her support to causes, groups and organizations that are doing good in the Natick area.  She has a giant heart and we thank her for sharing some of it with Monkeyhouse!  Next time you see her around town send her some love from Monkeyhouse!

Seven's Not Enough - Nicole has been working for Natick High School almost as long as she has been part of Monkeyhouse.  She has loved watching her students grow and take on new challenges over the years.  When they started a student run a capella group a few years back she was excited to find ways that Monkeyhouse could help the group find new opportunities.  In the past few years they have performed at events and even collaborated with another youth company in town (TAProject) to create a whole new piece for Against the Odds.  Seven’s Not Enough has allowed for a whole new generation of young artists to create and show work and they never shied away from cross disciplinary challenges.  This exceptional group of performers has been an inspiration to Monkeyhouse and the other groups they’ve worked with.  Thanks for sharing your art with us!

David Makransky - David joined NHS Drama his freshman year as an eager, excited young actor, ready to take on the world.  As he progressed through the program his enthusiasm only grew and he was always willing to take on any challenge Nicole threw his way.  When she came up with the idea of creating a work/study internship for young actors looking to expand their dance education, David was one of the first students she thought of.  During his time as an intern David was an active contributor to the newsletters and blog, volunteered at events and took the lead on collaborations with Seven’s Not Enough, the student run a cappella group at his school, and TAProject for Against the Odds.  Thank you, David, for being a part of Monkeyhouse!  We love you!

Gail Fine (by JK Photo)
Gail Fine - Better known as “Auntie Gail”, Gail has been a cheerleader for the members of Monkeyhouse (and her favorite niece (Don’t tell my cousins!), Nicole) since the early days.  She has shared her Thanksgiving table with Amelia, was on the committee for Your Just Desserts both years and helped arrange the reception after services for the Krolak family last summer.  She’s a great example of how Monkeyhouse helps to build community.  Her investment goes beyond the organization to support the individual members she has gotten to know over the past decade.  Thank you, Gail!  Monkeyhouse Loves You!

Mara Blumenfeld - Mara once transformed Karen into a killer chicken using only a few silk rags, a sports bra, and a kickass mask. (Oh, yes, somewhere there are incriminating photos.) Admit it, that alone is a great reason for Monkeyhouse to love her. As it turns out, though, she is also the reason that Karen purchased the iconic Princess Pamplemousse hat. It was originally intended for a Lookingglass Production called The Zoo King when Karen was Mara’s assistant costume designer. Oddly enough, Mara is also responsible for getting Karen hired at Impulse Dance Center. When LuAnn Pagella noticed a crushed lilac chapeau meandering around in the hallway, she stepped out of class and introduced herself to Karen. Without that birthday gift from Mara, LuAnn would never have offered the crazy lady a job. Mara is a member of the Tony Award winning Lookingglass Theater Company and somehow still finds time to bounce around designing for productions in Chicago, Portland, Boston, Princeton, Berkeley, New York, Italy, England, and Japan (I think that is just where she is going this year!).  We  love you Mara,  wherever you are!

Courtney Wagner (by Al Cripps)
Courtney WagnerI first saw Courtney at the Boston Dance Alliance’s Open Call Auditions but I didn’t know she belonged at Monkeyhouse until 86 seconds in to her first Musing with the company in the courtyard outside the Multicultural Arts Center. That is when the convicts in the Cambridge jail started shouting colorful advice about how she could make the improvisation more exciting for them. (Ask Nikki Sao Pedro for some of the specific suggestions those men shouted.) Even though Courtney could have dropped that bottle off of her head, easily darted over to Lechmere station, and avoided ever seeing us again, she did not break her concentration. She didn’t start laughing or dissolve into a puddle of tears. She just kept dancing. In that moment, I realized that she was uniquely qualified to pick up glass shards with tweezers while being tied to Nikki for the inaugural Dance in the Fells festival. Witnessing her resolve under pressure, I know she will be a fabulous Physician’s Assistant when she finishes her degree this spring. We are so fortunate that she is part of Monkeyhouse and our lives! Thanks, Courtney!


By Rights

by David Parker 

In 2006, I arranged a song-and-dance number for Jeffrey Kazin and myself to perform at my parents' 50th wedding anniversary celebration held at the Taj Hotel Rooftop in Boston. For me, the Taj will always remain the Ritz as it was for most of my life and, for this occasion, I would be puttin' it on. I chose Irving Berlin's intricate and witty contrapuntal duet called "Old Fashioned Wedding" written for the 1966 revival of "Annie Get Your Gun." Jeff and I sang it and then did a tap routine in which we portrayed a pair pledged and promised but ambivalent about the nature of our nuptials. In 2006, Massachusetts was the only state in god's country to have achieved marriage equality. This gave our performance a certain piquancy as well as a measure of poignancy. We seemed to have skidded on our taps into a zeitgeist moment. This was the beginning of the marriage equality tsunami which has since swept through the entire northeast and beyond. Catching the wave, Jeff and I performed this again at my company's benefit in New York the following winter and, in a twist worthy of a musical, Robin Staff, the visionary producer of the series of dance-cabaret-musicals which began with Doug Elkins' "Fraulein Maria" was there as a guest. She was searching for a second show to follow Fraulein at Joe's Pub at the Public Theater. I had been dancing in Fraulein Maria as Liesl and I leapt at the idea of making a show of my own. The kind of electricity that I felt performing a legitimate dance show in a cabaret was less easy to find in the soberer spaces of the avant-garde where I often toiled and spun. Thus was "ShowDown" conceived. I began with alacrity. I made a tantalizing distillation for Groundworks Dance Theater of Cleveland called "Annie Redux" which seemed to land in just the right way and then I transferred and expanded that into a somewhat too--loose version that I did in Boston as part of First Night 2008. At this point, the whole thing hit a snag.

I did an interview with The Boston Globe about it. I was immediately contacted by the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization because I had failed to ask their permission. They owned the rights to the show and, of course, to the Sound of Music, so they had actually seen me as Liesl when seeing the show in order to extend their permission to Doug Elkins. I was really quite stupid not to have sought performance rights. The Rodgers and Hammerstein organization handled this issue with extraordinary grace and generosity and, as it became clear that I was making this show out of my love for the material, granted their permission for me to continue. This was an enormous relief, because I was passionate about this project.

I saw in "Annie Get Your Gun" a classic show in which gender roles were still available for examination. A show in which the collision between romance and ambition was articulated against a background of the ramshackle allure of show business. As a middle-aged artist, I felt at one with these themes. The score is full of famous highlights-"There's No Business Like Show Business", "Anything You Can Do", "They Say It's Wonderful", "Doin' What Comes Naturally" and so forth, but their original context is less well-known. I had therefore, great freedom.

I would have been devastated if I'd not been permitted to work with this score and I've learned to be very scrupulous about the matter of rights and permission. My own ignorance brought me close to losing this opportunity. It is thus without the slightest hesitation, that we pay a modest fee for the right and privilege to perform this work each time we do it. My position was not common among people petitioning to use the score. I was not, per se, doing a production of "Annie Get Your Gun" (like a regional theater or Broadway revival) but was doing a kind of parallel work in another medium. I didn't use the whole score and we sang but one song. I used the music as a platform for choreography, as a point of departure. Although I worked with its rhythms and images very deliberately, I was, at first, confused about which version to use. I chose the unused recordings of the score made for the 1949 MGM movie by Judy Garland and Howard Keel because they are so beautiful and because neither Ethel Merman nor Betty Hutton is easy to listen to while watching dancing. Judy Garland's limpid renditions of the songs opened up possibilities and spaces in the score that I was able to negotiate and which were genial to my purposes. I felt that Judy became my friend during this process and, it must be said, I was already a good friend of Dorothy's.

"ShowDown" opened at Joe's Pub in 2008 to considerable enthusiasm and did an encore season the following year, it has been touring ever since and is one of my most beloved works even returning again to Joe's Pub last season. I followed up with two more cabaret oriented shows commissioned by DanceNow/NYC through Robin Staff. The second of which will premiere in February 2014. Having been involved in Fraulein as well as my own three shows (I also did a cameo in the first run of Nicholas Leichter's The Whiz which was third in this series) I came to see these modern-dance-musicals as an aesthetic movement which has astonishing implications for us all. We're not making commercial work, but we are making work which openly accepts the responsibility of communication. We perform in a celebratory environment. There is no dissonance or ambivalence about our purpose which is to work vividly with dance as a way to get to the heart of the kind of transcendence that musicals have, at their best, offered. For me, this is a return to my essence. As a youth, I watched musicals with the devotion of a seminary student pouring over the gospels. The truths contained therein may be ethereal but they are no less potent for it. They have to do with the sudden projection of imagination, through song and dance, into an otherwise quotidian environment thereby endowing it with splendor.

Throughout my career I've made a series of a capella dances in which the dancing itself makes the score. I've done this through body percussion, singing, speaking, vocalese, barefoot hoofing, actual tapping, percussive pointe work and even through the ripping and smacking of Velcro. That means, of course, that I compose the scores. These are largely metrical/percussive scores but I have also been exploring the use of a non-metrical form by tap dancing in Morse Code. In "ShowDown", Jeff and I tap out wedding vows in Morse Code. I've made a entire footwork equivalent of the Morse Code alphabet which is highly rhythmic but, of course, based in language and not music. When I work with music, though I may know it somewhat as I did with Irving Berlin's score, I still do not use it in rehearsal until I've established-composed, really-a strong rhythmic character in the choreography. Therefore I work with the dancers for a long time in silence until our rhythms are strong enough to stand up to the score. "ShowDown" is primarily about partnering both in the actual physical sense of people lifting and holding each other and in the temporal sense of contrapuntal sharing of rhythm. I take this to the level of the relationship between dance and music as well. They banter and spar, neither yielding all the way to the other. No quarter is given but the weight is shared.

I have been inspired and delighted by the works made by several New York artists for the DanceNow/NYC series and I want to bring this phenomenon to the Boston area. Therefore, in partnership with DanceNow/NYC, I am presenting a cabaret/dance series at Oberon in Harvard Square during the month of March which will culminate in commissions by three Boston choreographers. This happens on three consecutive Friday nights. The first two will feature The Bang Group's newest dance/cabaret and the third week will feature "ShowDown" along with commissioned work by three Boston choreographers: Lorraine Chapman, Kelli Edwards and Nicole Pierce. These ladies are ideal choices for this endeavor as they have all shown their savvy with regard to musicals and they are all fine artists whom I respect and admire. They have also all been guest artists in "Nut/Cracked", but that's a story for some snowy night by the fire. Until then, I look forward to seeing you, constant reader, in March at Oberon.


THANKS Giving Week 1!

Have you been keeping up with Monkeyhouse's THANKS Giving on Facebook?  Every day from November 1st through the end of the year Monkeyhouse is thanking one person (or group!) who has helped through our first thirteen years.  There are a wide variety of people who have intentionally or inadvertently pushed, lifted, poked or gently nudged us into the organization you see today.   Here's your chance to meet just a few of those folks!  If you come across someone you know, be sure so say thanks!  And keep an eye out for them at the next Monkeyhouse event!  Here is a summary of week one!  (If you want to keep up every day, take a minute to "like" us on Facebook for regular shows of gratitude!)

Jon Keith (self portrait)
JK Photo - Jon has been capturing choreography for Monkeyhouse for the past few years. It’s been great fun to watch his non-Monkeyhouse photographs begin to capture choreography too! JK Photo has a shiny new website that includes info on how you can hire him to capture your next big event! Thank you, Jon, for all that you do for Monkeyhouse!

LuAnn Pagella - Where to begin? LuAnn opened her doors to Monkeyhouse on day one when we were rehearsing for the Philadelphia Fringe Festival and has been a rock for many of us personally and professionally ever since. LuAnn is the director of Impulse Dance Center in Natick where Karen and Nicole first met seventeen years ago, where Sarah Friswell, Sarah Feinberg, Nicole and many of our interns over the years (including Rosie, Laila, Elyssa, Ashley, Leah, Gaby and Remy) were once students and where Karen, Nicole and Sarah Friswell were/are members of the faculty. Without the support of this amazing woman many of us never would have had the chance to work together at all. From the bottom of our hearts, Monkeyhouse Loves You, Lu!

Joan Panek - Without Joan it would not have been possible to create Monkeyhouse. Long before there were any dancers in the studio, Joan enthusiastically brainstormed ways to build this organization with Rita and Karen Krolak. She was the very first donor and on our initial Board of Directors. Drawing from her experiences developing programs at the Dover Public Library and teaching in the Ashland school system, Joan guided us through our first outreach programs and helped us to establish a genuine community at Monkeyhouse. She is an outstanding ambassador for Monkeyhouse who has introduced friends to our projects, coaxed her son into videotaping early First Night shows, travelled hundreds of miles to see performances, and devoted thousands of hours volunteering. Monkeyhouse loves you dearly, Joan.

JP Licks - For more the later ¾ of Monkeyhouse’s existence we’ve had the great fortune of having a relationship with JP Licks. They have been our longest corporate sponsor and we are forever indebted to them. Whether donating ice cream for a closing night party, cross promoting events through their FB page or sending their head ice cream maker to judge the Your Just Desserts Bake Off, JP Licks has always been there for us. You’ve had the chance to grab a sundae at many Monkeyhouse events over the years. Take some time today to say a quick THANK YOU on their Facebook page for all that they do for arts in the greater Boston area today! Monkeyhouse Loves You!

Isabel Fine- Have you ever wondering how Monkeyhouse became an organization in residence at Springstep? It was all Isabel’s brilliant idea. She recognized that Springstep had some underused resources and approached us about how to combine forces. Thanks to her, Monkeyhouse was able to have regular rehearsal times, which expanded the number of dancers and choreographers presented in our concerts. We were able to develop pieces with prop elements and costume designs that would have been unwieldy if we had had to transport them each week. Our artists were inspired by the remarkable architecture of the building and have found bold ways to incorporate this into their creations. In addition, she is also the person who encouraged us to apply for the first Dance in the Fells concert. Best of all, she has gone on to join our Board of Directors where she shares her expertise on everything from administration management to curating concerts. Did you know that she currently curates the performances series for the Music Department at Wellesley College and that she use to be the Artistic Director of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival? We are so honored by her support.

Zach Galvin - I’m not sure it possible to count the number of ways Zach has ties into
Zach Galvin (by JK Photo)
Monkeyhouse. He is a former classmate of Karen’s. Nicole was a student his first year as an English teacher at Natick High School, where he is now Vice Principal to many of our recent interns… The list goes on and on. And on top of that, Zach has been an active cheerleader for Monkeyhouse since day one. His encouragement and support are overwhelmingly appreciated! If you’re looking for another reason to love Zach, check out all the work he’s doing for the Jimmy Fund! Thank you, Zach!

Kelly Long - For close to the first decade of the 21st century Karen was choreographing musicals for Dover-Sherborn High School. It was there that she first met Kelly, a perky and outspoken young dancer. Kelly quickly began studying with Karen and Nicole at Impulse Dance Center and became a regular at Monkeyhouse company class. She volunteered at Monkeyhouse events (I have a vivid memory of Kelly, Ashley Chandler and Joanna Macone getting themselves horribly lost on their way to a fundraiser in JP then eagerly donning wigs and talking to donors without blinking an eye) and was always eager to engage in conversation about all sorts of big ideas. Since leaving high school Kelly has gone on to study dance therapy and is helping people find the very important meaning in their own movement. She has always been a huge ambassador for Monkeyhouse and because of her word of mouth we were given over $500 in donations last spring! Thank you, Kelly, for always having Monkeyhouse in your heart! We love you dearly!Pam & Steve Harris - Monkeyhouse is an all encompassing lifestyle for those of us at its heart. Many of our families and close friends have taken up the torch too, each in their own way. Nicole’s parents, Pam & Steve, are no exception. You may remember them from their gracious hosting of both Your Just Desserts and the ATO Thank You Luncheon at their beautiful home. (Did you know that Steve completely renovated that lovely house himself?) Pam’s homemade apple pie has been an often fought over auction item at fundraisers and they are both always on hand to lend us anything from a lemonade dispenser for post show events to drop cloths for a site specific performance. A heartfelt thank you to both of you from your daughter and all her Monkeyhouse friends.


Dance in the Fells

by Samantha Mullens

The piece that Monkeyhouse created for Dance in the Fells consisted of five sections, each with a different choreographer(s). Nikki's section was performed by Aisha and two recent Endicott College graduates Brianna Unsworth and Samantha Mullen. They each shared their thoughts with us on the experience. Here's what Samantha had to say. - Nicole

Dance at the Fells ended up being much more than just a performance; it was an eye opening experience. When I agreed to be a part of Nikki's piece, I thought it would just be learning her set choreography and rehearsing it. I had a perception that the performance would be just like the ensemble class at Endicott College. Prior to beginning the piece, I also hated improvisation, as I believed I wasn't good enough for it. The way that Nikki introduced the improvisation that would be used in her piece made me nervous; being water was difficult. My idea of stormy water is different from Bri's idea whose is different from Nikki's. I realized through the processes of putting the piece together that having my own style of improvisation is a good thing. In fact, it is what makes dance interesting. The first time we rehearsed at the performance site, I became more comfortable, and excited to be doing site-specific work. The evolution of the piece was also inspiring. It was the first time I had ever been a part of a company performance where it was out-of-the-box, strange, and beautiful. Painting the unitards helped me get into the mindset of being part of nature, not to mention that it was extremely fun to get painted. Working with other members of the company helped strengthen my commitment to my movement and really embrace whatever my body was doing. By the date of the performance, I had a better grasp on the dynamics of my movement, committing to the moment, and submerging myself into my character. Although it would have been much more enjoyable dancing in warm weather, the changing scenery made for a perfect placement for the story that was told. Looking back, it was a learning experience to find out what I truly like about dance, what I'm good at, and why it's okay to be quirky. It was a breath of fresh air to have viewers appreciate the art that was created instead of students who don't like what they don't understand instantly. I am extremely appreciative to be included in Monkeyhouse's performance.


Thank you, Thank you, THANK YOU!

Dear Friends:

We have reached November which means the trees are getting naked, there is pumpkin flavored EVERYTHING and my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, is rapidly approaching. My love for Thanksgiving isn't just because my mother makes the world's best apple pie or even because every year the day after Thanksgiving is opening night for the musical at Natick High School (which I've spent the previous three months working with thirty amazing high school students on.) Thanksgiving is an entire holiday based around being grateful. And food. (And football, but I ignore that part.) No matter how ugly any given day or week or year may be, I am constantly aware of how incredibly lucky I am. My life is filled with some of the greatest people on earth (the aforementioned high school students included), I survived a health crisis and have been dancing again for an entire year (!), and I get to list "choreographer" next to the question "occupation." I know that none of these things would be true if not for Monkeyhouse and all the amazing people affiliated with it. To each of you reading this (and to my mentor/inspiration/partner in crime, Karen, this goes double): Thank you for allowing this organization to continue for another year and giving me a place to call home. Your continued support and encouragement mean more to me than you'll ever know.

Monkeyhouse is feeling especially grateful this year, too, so we've decided to celebrate our own THANKS Giving. Every day from November 1st through the end of the year, we will be thanking one of the countless people who have gotten us to where we are. Take some time to visit our Facebook page to get to know more about these incredible people. Some you have met at Monkeyhouse events, some you've heard stories about, and some might be entirely new to you. Now is your chance to learn more about this wonderful community and maybe even strike up a conversation!

Don't forget, in this time of gratitude that: 

Without U We'd Just Be Monkeyhose.

Love - 
Nicole and All Your Friends at Monkeyhouse


Happy Birthday Aaron Ximm!

by Caitlin Meehan

I was able to do a small interview with sound artist Aaron Ximm, who provided part of the soundscape for DisArmed, which I choreographed in 2011. He had quite a lot to say about his work! He has a website called the Quiet American where you can listen to some of his recordings from his travels and read about what he does.  Also, he has a birthday later this month, so wishing him a Happy Birthday too!

C: First of all, the concept of the Quiet American is fascinating! What made you first want to record sounds on your travels, instead of (or in addition to) taking photographs?

AX: Despite our visual fixation documentary sound is a extremely powerful medium -- the challenge is just to get people to engage it in these breathless, multi-tasking days.

Temporal media generally have the capacity to engage us in a deeper way than static ones; it is easy to let ourselves believe that by glancing quickly (and most likely superficially) at at an image or even sculpture or installation, that we have 'seen' it. Temporal media -- and that includes dance and drama of course -- afford no such opportunity. They demand an investment of time, the construction of a mental space and its inhabitation. They generally operate not in what they are but in how they change; this dynamism is also engaging to our questing minds.

Sound without image has the opportunity -- if only people are willing to accept it on its terms, without distraciton -- to be more powerful still, because sound without imagery inevitably engages the confabulatory mind. Absent imagery to account for what we are hearing, our minds will *make* imagery for us, abstract, coherent, narrative, or otherwise.

This participation as a function of our own attention to this 'second sense' is why I find sound so powerful a mechanism.

Documentary sound like I work with is of course a small subsection of a medium that also incorporates music, its queen. I like documentary sound for several reasons. First, by removing agency, a field recording reminds us that the seat of the artistic experience is in the framing and perception of experience -- that what the artist does is offer objects or moments within a rich dialog of material that is not itself art, but only a vehicle for artistic experience. Remove the auteur as genius and you teach the capacity to appreciate the aesthetic wherever it is encountered. I think that's an important education in these late days.

Also, technically, there is a profound timbrel and spatial richness in every-day soundscape -- much more so than in almost all music, no matter how highly and carefully produced. Such richness affords fabulous material to manipulate and juxtapose.

And finally, speaking of juxtaposition, I am personally delighted in field recording by the experience of fabulous serendipity. Capturing or recapitulating chance juxtaposition which would seem -- seem -- to be the expression of capricious artist genius or humor is great fun and a great teacher. That notion -- of the accident as greatest inspiration -- has really come to pervade my relationship to almost everything.

C:  This is fascinating! Once you have made recordings, you layer and manipulate them to create the tracks that people can listen to. How do you decide what to change about a recording, what to add or subtract, lengthen or shorten?

Much of what I do these days is NOT make such editorial decisions. There are really two strands to my work: the highly and meticulously composed, like the track Malaria that Nicole used, and the un-composed or 'naked' re-presentation of soundscape.

Over the years I have never lost my love for making very musical work with a musician's sensibility and commitment to editorial if not performative wizardry -- and the satisfaction of that work, especially at a musical level, never dims -- but I think the most aesthetically interesting and serious work I do has left that essentially behind in favor of work that uses soundscape in very different ways. E.g. that allows chance and scale and context to encourage reflection on, appreciation of, or engagement with, the richness and quality of essentially unedited and often un-ending soundscape.

I've even gone beyond that in fact, to making work that is interested in the question of what happens when documentary work is itself no more intelligible or digestible than the moments it is understood to have captured. E.g. by making work with very very long recordings (8 hours or more, 24 hours or more...) and then presenting them in a way that poses the question: do you have the time to listen to this? To sit with this? What are you missing if not? What would you gain if so? And so on.

C: In some ways, I think this could be likened to modern dance. Some pieces don't have a narrative or anything "set" about them, while others do. So what is next for you? Is there a place you have always wanted to visit and record, but have not yet had the chance?

At the moment my ability to work is very sparse; I have two young children and the demands that places on me -- combined with the necessity of maintaining a full-time day-job -- prevent the kind of time-intensive studio work that I did ten years ago.

I hope and trust that will change, but in the meantime I take my aesthetic rewards in smaller ways, e.g. through my return to un-mediated music making through my obsession with a contemporary instrument form called the handpan -- melodic steel percussion that looks like a UFO held in the lap, but sings like an angelic harp made of ceramic.

My next large-scale sound project will most likely be a marrying of field recording with the (manipulated) sounds of those instruments.  You can read more about my fascination with such instruments here.

C: Fantastic! Thanks for giving us some insight into your work! Looking forward to what you do next.

Getting to Know Lisa La Touche

by Danny Foner

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Lisa La Touche, an internationally renowned tap dancer. Her career highlights, as she writes on her website, include "New York and North American touring casts of STOMP, the Sophisticated Ladies at Harlem's legendary Cotton Club with Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, A.C.G.I with Emmy Award winner Jason Samuels-Smith, Rumba Tap with Max Pollak, Co-Director and guest artist with the Chicago Human Rhythm Project, faculty member of the School at Jacob's Pillow, and guest artist at The American Tap Dance Foundation and The Vancouver Tap Dance Society." If you're interested in learning more, you can visit her website.

DF: How did you start learning tap? What about it made it so interesting to you?

LLT: I started taking tap lessons when I was 8 years old. I had amazing parents, dedicated to finding me a fun extra-curricular activity as a kid. After soccer and piano and gymnastics, which I didn't love, tap dance stuck. My mom also took lessons as a kid, and would sometimes show me steps and I always got a kick out of it. So upon my first class on my own, I was hooked immediately. The fact that I could make sounds and music with my feet thrilled me, while also being able to dance and express myself.

DF: Many dancers and other artists are inspired by their predecessors. Are there any tappers that inspired you to pursue your passion? What do you admire about them?

LLT: Oh man... there are so many that it's hard to narrow down. I've been really blessed and honored to have many mentors and their inspiration and wisdom is timeless and endless. Some to mention: Jason Samuels Smith, Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards, Max Pollak, Barbara Duffy, Martin "Tre" Dumas III, Brenda Bufalino, Dianne "Lady Di" Walker... they are all such lions and lionesses in their craft. They all, to this day, dedicate themselves deeper daily in their contributions to the art form and the community. They teach me so much about what honoring your craft means and what transpires from staying focused and connected to your own passion. Jason Samuel Smiths inspires me always to see how the level of execution can always increase, and to never get comfortable. I'm always hearing "reach" when I think of him. Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards... I never have words... not only the execution but profound wisdom and grace in her dancing and teaching, and also a truly resilient woman and a divine lady always on and off stage. Max Pollak... a prime example of the possibilities of what one can achieve while branching out and simply staying true to investing in what inspires you. He's the pioneer in incorporating Afro-Cuban music and it's legacy as a tap dancer. He has created and mastered his own technique with his in-depth endeavors to study and hone the Afro-Cuban music and culture and earn respect from its homegrown artists.

DF: On your website, you write that you like to stay connected in the NYC jazz music scene. How does your experience with tap dancing influence your appreciation for jazz? Are the two connected in any way?

LLT: To me tap dance is another component of jazz. It's the same language, but different instrument. Tap is to dance as sound is to movement. It goes hand and hand to me. You have to learn how to dance and you have to learn how to play music. I've had the honor of working with some incredible musicians and they have influenced me deeply as much as my dance mentors have. Sometimes it can be a barrier to break through to have musicians be open enough to really work with a tap dancer and respect them on the same level as a musician. But upon meeting those that really do that, it's really fun from both parties to see that we really do walk the same walk... Jazz to me means a freedom to improvise and to push boundaries always in the "music," so to speak. We are composers as well - that would be the musician's term for us as "choreographers". One of the biggest highlights of my performing experiences: being on the band stand as a tap dancer with the Revive Da Live big band directed by Megan Stabile and Igmar Thomas. Having Igmar compose and arrange a song for us tap dancers with a 22-piece big band and then coming up with our own choreography composition within it was the best. And the reaction from the crowd felt like we were rock stars. This craft is truly so powerful and the advantage we have, so to speak, is the fact that we do get to dance while making our music, so music lovers always lose their minds.

DF: You belong to a tap group in New York called Tap Phonics. Can you tell me a little more about that? In other words, what does Tap Phonics do?

LLT: Tap Phonics started as my own "pick-up" company. Right now pick up companies are mostly how dancers function with their own groups. We get dancers together that we like working with on a project basis. This started for me with moving to New York in 2008. I met Brooklyn singer-songwriter Maya Azucena and she invited me to present my own group and open for one of her concerts. So I had to come up with a name, and [Tap Phonics] stuck. From then on, as different gigs came up, I pulled dancers together that I needed and it grew from there. Tap Phonics now, to me, is more of a project than a group.

I'm focusing on new arrangements and compositions and always collaborating with other artists or musicians. I think of it as "phonetically speaking." We are a group that can represent essences of the tradition and legacy of the tap dance art from, yet push past the "straight ahead" regime and find new ways to keep it contemporary. I've worked with spoken word artists, R&B musicians, MCs and electronic sounds in my projects. I'm currently working on curating a show while I'm here temporarily in Vancouver in support by the Vancouver Tap Dance Society. New works are being created as we speak which will funnel into the next Vancouver International Tap festival and I'm really excited about it!

DF: You've performed in dance festivals and on tours all across the world. What's next?

LLT: Next is working on my own conceptualized show as I mentioned before. Taking time to "be still and create." I'm very inspired lately and am composing more than I have in a while and it feels good. I've worked with so many amazing artists worldwide and only hope this will continue. In the meantime it really does feel good to take the time to work out my own ideas and build new platforms for myself and for others as well. I'm working more in Canada as of recently and am trying to bridge more of the gap between my home country, its dancers and the American tap dance scene. New York still resonates as home to me, and my roots ignited also in Chicago. It means more to me than I can express to be considered a contributor and to be respected by my American peers.

DF: And one just for fun: if you could do just one step for the rest of your life, which would you choose?

LLT: Funny as it sounds, you'll find cramp rolls and 5 count riffs in so many of my phrases. But all in all, I think in terms of musical patterns and then let that determine what vocabulary I should use.


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