12/31/14

Meet Emma Foley

by Isabella Carmenate

Emma and Isabella are our newest interns. Their first task this fall was to interview each other!

I had the chance to interview Emma Foley, a current sophomore at Natick High school about drama, dance and writing. What I found out about her was super interesting!

IC: Did anyone push you into the arts as a small child or was that something you decided on your own?
EF: I had played sports for a while, just because that’s what everyone else was doing, but my parents and I both knew I was not gonna be a sporty kid up into high school! My mom was the first to prod me into theater, and I went from there.

IC: What roles have you played, and what are some of your favorite shows that you have been in?
EF: My favorite show I’ve been in was when I was in an acting troupe at Wheelock Theater—the director put together a collection of monologues and short plays around a central theme, then we spent two weeks in the summer rehearsing, and two weeks performing for various summer camps, etc. We changed a bunch of the content based on whatever age group we were performing for that day—it was a really unique experience! Aside from that, doing Once Upon a Mattress was such a blast. Nicole came up with some crazy fun choreography.

IC: If you had to pick one thing that was your favorite part of the process (of putting on a show), what would it be?
EF: I love doing read-throughs with the entire cast for the first time. Everyone’s really energetic and excited to start rehearsing the show, and its neat to see how people portray their character when they haven’t seen the entire script before.
What have you found through the opportunities high school has given you?
It’s been really cool just to meet a ton of new people, through theater or otherwise.

IC: What has been different (or the same) about theater at the high school?
EF: I feel like high school theater is a little more of a tight-knit community than anywhere else, because we all go to school together, in addition to seeing each other for hours after school every day, for four years in a row.

IC: Does your love for writing and theater ever meet, and if so, how does that happen for you?
EF: Definitely! In a creative writing class I took, we were asked to try writing a short play, so I felt like I had the advantage of having experience in exactly what that’s supposed to look like. Even when the two don’t meet, I feel like they connect in a lot of ways—they’re both about a very introspective point of view.

IC: Why do you like dance?
EF: This may sound super cliché, but I like how dance is really energetic yet controlled and disciplined at the same time.

11/17/14

Meet our new intern, Isabella!

Monkeyhouse is pleased to introduce you to our new Photography Intern, Isabella Carmenate. She recently helped out during the Fleur d'Orange residency, including taking some excellent photos at workshops, musing, and performance at the Somerville Armory.  To help you get to know her better, Monkeyhouse dancer Aisha Cruse asked her a few questions via email. Keep an eye out for Isabella and her camera at future Monkeyhouse events!

AC: How did you first get involved with or hear of Monkeyhouse? What's your favorite aspect of the organization?
IC: I first heard about Monkeyhouse from other interns, around the time when Nicole was co-directing our fall show. Nicole reached out to me in the summer to see if I wanted to intern and I was really excited. I'm still finding new things out about the organization all the time, but I really liked when I got to watch musings last week. It really showed me how well everyone works together and collaborates, which I think translates over to all the great things the organization does.

AC: Your bio says that you have been taking art classes for seven years, and you're currently Monkeyhouse's photography intern; do you work exclusively in photography? Do you have other mediums you enjoy or frequently work in?
IC: I actually don't have any formal training in photography, I've just been learning from friends, reading books, and the internet. However, I have been practicing the whole traditional art thing since I was in elementary school. I really love sketching and doing oil paintings, especially when the subject is people. They're most interesting for me because every person is different. Yes, there are proportions that most of the time are similar, but everyone's features are different. I think that's kind of why I like photography too because in an instant, you can take a photo and see all these interesting things like movement, or an expression, or even just how someone's features make up what they look like.

AC: Your bio mentions you've recently become involved in theater and dance, and you also sing in your church's youth choir. What drew you to performance?
IC: I actually really hated performing up until about two years ago. My friends sort of pushed me into the whole theater and singing thing because they thought that I would like it. I was very reluctant at first to even get up on stage or sing in front of anybody, but I guess in that first year I got more comfortable with it. Performance has taught me to be comfortable with myself and making mistakes, and I'm definitely different now because of it.

AC: If you could meet and/or take class with any dancer/choreographer (living or dead) who would it be and why?
IC: I would want to meet the dancers who were in the paintings of Degas because I would definitely want to see how those paintings were made.

11/13/14

Get to Know Mohcine Imrharn

photo by JK Photo
Recently, Aisha was lucky enough to do a few quick interviews with the artists of Fleur d'Orange. Today we bring you an interview with the incredibly talented Mohcine Imrharn, who created and performed the music and soundscape for Identity/Identité.  He also provided music at many of the dance workshops during the Fleur d'Orange residency, and led a music workshop at the Pingree School in South Hamilton. He was kind enough to share a bit about his musical career and his work on Identity/Identité.

AC: Mohcine, what drew you to music? How did you become a musician?

MI: From a young age, I learned to play mandolin and the Guembri, a traditional Moroccan instrument. With time I began to discover other instruments (guitar, flute, piano, drums and percussion), as well as other international styles of music. After my baccalaureate (the French version of senior year of high school and college entry examinations), I worked as a professional musician in the hotels of Marrakech, a tourist city and my hometown. When I finished my studies and found myself in the world of professional music, I began to compose my own pieces, a few of which were very successful. It was then that I decided to become a performer and composer, when I discovered my love of the process of artistic creation.

AC: Have you encountered resistance to your work, both together and separately?
MI: For me the biggest problem was to find a place where I could rehearse.

AC: How has your attitude toward dance and performance changed over time?
MI: Musical ideas tend to multiply when combined with dance, because you have more inspiration to work with. For me, music and dance together creates a more complete environment.

AC: What have you enjoyed most about working on Identity/Identite? What were your expectations verses outcomes?
MI: Identity/Identité is my identity, my self, my country and my culture. For that reason when I started composing music for this piece, knowing it would be contemporary, I wanted to introduce traditional Moroccan styles, although I was somewhat spoiled for choice. Morocco is very rich in folklore and diverse musical styles. Eventually I acted with my feeling toward the piece and used four major styles, Gharnati from the northeast, Zayane from the central Atlass mountains, and Gnaoui which is more internationally known. The words I sing at the beginning of the show is from the Jewish-Moroccan tradition.

11/11/14

November Birthdays


HAPPY BIRTHDAY NOVEMBER BIRTHDAYS!

Eva Dean, Mia Paschal, Brian Eastman, Chuck Green, Donna Rosenberg, Jon Taft, Aaron Copland, Nick Boraine, Ryan P. Casey, Courtney Wagner, Rick Frank, Remy Marin, Savion Glover, Aaron Ximm, Kyla Barkin, Susie Telsey, Eleanor Powell, Benjamin Britten, Laura Scanlon, Kora Radella, Alexander Godunov, Busby Berkeley, Michelle Schlief, Mandy Patinkin, Isabella Carmenate, and Connor Shea.             

11/7/14

Get to Know Samantha Mullen

Samantha Mullen, Monkeyhouse member and Endicott graduate, has been absolutely invaluable throughout the last few months at Monkeyhouse, from facilitating dance workshops with Fleur d'Orange at Endicott, to her work on the upcoming Project 7.19.  Following the recent Fleur d'Orange residency, I had the pleasure of speaking with Sam about her experience with the Endicott Dance program. I also got to pick her brains about the importance of diversity and community as a dancer.  


AC: How important is dance and performance to a well rounded interdisciplinary education at Endicott?
SM: As an undergraduate business student at Endicott College, I believe dance and performance were and integral part of becoming a better student. For my major, concentration, and one of my minors (all of which did not have any direct connection to dance), I sat in classes that taught students the information needed to obtain concepts and how to accurately research topics to gather useful information. Although there were structured presentations, none of these classes prepared me to be able to present myself with whole-hearted confidence or to be able to learn using different techniques with my body. Dance significantly improved my ability to connect concepts to movement to reality in a sense of immersing my being into an idea. With both dance classes and being on the dance team, I became comfortable with my own style of movement, which also gave me the ability to become comfortable with my own style of learning or processing information. In a recent job interview, it was pointed out by the interviewer that dancers have this incredible ability to look at a situation, in this case a business situation, in ways that many others cannot. It teaches you to think outside of the box, look for different angles that may not be the most apparent, and find ways of moving through the problem solving process that would not be either visible to others nor easy enough to dive into. This is extremely accurate. Dance and performance has created the ability to be quirky and unique while maintaining confidence in presenting my abilities, even if they are not the most common or well understood.

AC: How does Endicott help foster the on-campus artistic community? Does it support local artists in the larger community?
SM: During my time at Endicott, the arts were highly promoted. There were constant opportunities to watch performing arts shows, both drama productions and dance performances, as well as student art on display in the VPAC. I distinctly remember students in the art program creating installations in public areas on campus, which sparked interest in what they were actually doing as I did not know the concepts behind it. There are other campus events that incorporate dance and arts that I am not sure of the name of anymore but one in particular involved dance on the beach and sand art. The school is also really good about connecting alumni and the community to on-campus artistic events with mailings. I have received calendars of all of the art events and post cards about specific ones, which is really nice to be reminded of the shows going on. Endicott also does a very good job about supporting artists by bringing different forms of art to campus. There is a gallery located on the first floor of the VPAC that is always filled with different exhibits from various artists. It is also refreshing because it is not always the same types of art in the gallery, so you are able to experience various things. And the dance program is very good at bringing choreographers from all over the world to the campus for students to learn different styles or watch unique shows. I distinctly remember an African group who sang a song from the Lion King and taught us how to dance as their tribe does. Those who participated in the workshop actually got to perform with them later on during their open show for the campus. Choreographers are also brought in to set work on dance students, and many of them have had local connections. I have been lucky enough to work with many of them and still have connections to a few, which I would not have had if Endicott and Nikki did not work so hard to coordinate their visits to the school. I am not sure about the other forms of art at the school, but alumni dancers are always invited to perform choreographed work in the Student Choreographer Showcase held each December, which is also a great way of seeing where performing artists have gone after school and if they were able to carry on a performing arts career. 

ACDo you feel it's important to showcase racially and culturally diverse artists?
SM: I think it is extremely important to showcase all types of artists to expose how each is different yet similar all at the same time. Art is beautiful whether it is from a white, Hispanic, black, Muslim, christian, puritan, American, African, Asian, any sort of background a person could possibly have. Showcasing diverse artists fosters the notion that all people can have intricate thoughts, innovative ideas, and create beautifully, sometimes misunderstood artwork that has a message of some sort. There is a big issue of generalization or categorization that has been occurring for countless years. It causes problems in group dynamics and the acceptance of different types of people. This is also true for the acceptance of their art forms or artwork. It would be like saying it is okay to perform contemporary dance pieces because that is what is accepted on national television every Thursday night, but any other form is not real dance. That is false. A dancer could sit in one place on stage taking a moment to make eye contact with each individual in the audience or bark like a dog, and it would still be real dance. Showcasing racially and culturally diverse artists at such a crucial time when there are influences all around students will, hopefully, prevent these generalizations from occurring in the future. 

AC: What role does diversity play in building a strong dance program?
SM: Diversity is important in a strong dance program because many students come from a studio setting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any sort of dance studio setting for learning how to dance, but it is not enough to carry on dancing after school. Skills and technique are important in being a good dancer, but it is the concept of diversity that makes a dancer well rounded. Being able to understand the different textures of dance, how to dance as an individual, and how to be part of a group are significant as well. At Endicott, I was able to learn from dancers from different areas of the country and the world as well as from different cultural backgrounds and dance styles. It has improved my concepts of movement and helped me find my niche. It also helped me be more open minded to accepting/pushing myself into various types of dance forms instead of sticking to what is main stream or believed to be "popular" at any given time.

11/5/14

Connecting to the Fleur d'Orange Residency

by Ruth Faris
Ruth (right) at the Opening Reception by JK Photo

When Karen invited me over to Ruth's house last weekend for a party to paint a shingle on her new Little Library (which was great fun, by the way.  If you don't know anything about these little libraries, you should check it out!) I immediately thought, oh wouldn't it be great if she could share with us some of her thoughts on the residency!  Ruth is such a beautiful, vibrant, enthusiastic person.  I am so glad Karen introduced me to her!  -Nicole

When Nicole asked me yesterday to write something for the blog about my experiences last week during the Fleur D'Orange residency, and Karen added 'yes you were one of our main supporters,' I felt like 'what, who, ME?....how can I have been seen as being out-front in any way, and what can I possibly say about DANCE?' So, my train of thought developed from that powerful initial response, and I decided I could write on identity (fittingly enough) and community.

When I met Hind at the opening reception at Brickbottom, she asked me something like ‘what kind of dance do you do?’ to which I quickly replied ‘oh no, I am not a “dancer”!’ Similarly, the following night when I went to sign in to the dance workshop at the Armory, the young woman at the door asked something along the same lines, and again I gasped ‘no, not a “dancer.”’ At a party or a club or a wedding, I am the last one up dancing, for the most part, unless I am muscled or guilted on to the floor by a friend. So, clearly, being A Dancer has never been part of my Identity. Ever.

So, why was I even at these events? Well, I was there because I know Karen, and because she had sent some information way back a few months ago about her intention to bring this Moroccan troupe to town. I generally will make an effort to go to something that a friend promotes, where I would be unlikely to go if it’s a ‘cold call.’ Also, I happen to be on the Board of the Center for Arabic Culture, and I help set up a collaboration between CAC and Monkeyhouse…..so, I was thrilled that this was coming about, and had written the dates into my schedule as soon as Karen mentioned them at our first meeting about it. All of this then made it very likely for me to participate….which I think is a truism for organizers of any sort, that the personal connection with someone is the biggest motivator toward attendance/participation.

I step back a bit further; why do I even know Karen, and thereby get this email from her about a Moroccan dance event? Well, I know Karen because we went to Morocco together, twice in fact, as part of a Sister Cities exchange between Somerville and Tiznit. And I grew to love and value her so much over those shared experiences.  And how had I come to be part of those delegations, considering that it was mostly teachers and artists, of which I am neither? …Well, that was because I am a longtime resident of my neighborhood, and had witnessed the Armory over many years….seen it as a wretched mess of a building, serving as an RMV outpost, an occasional bingo hall, and even an actual armory when Reserves units came to muster….then, totally empty and abandoned and looking worse than ever. So, when the Armory was renovated, I was excited to check it out, and went over when I saw some balloons outside in some version of a community open house. Wandering through the building, I saw to my amazement that there was something called ‘the University of the Middle East’ (UME) there, and I introduced myself to the staff member who was there….and probably a year or so later he thought to email to me to let me know about the upcoming Sister Cities project.

All this to say….what, exactly? I’m not sure what I can say that will be of any use or generalizability to others. But being asked to do this did force this train of thought and taught me some things about myself: for me, community is a powerful draw. Left to my own devices, I am happier to stay home and read a book, but if you invite me to something that’s meaningful to you, I might venture out. Also, though I don’t seem it as much these days, I am a shy person, who has only belatedly and even reluctantly learned that putting out a bit of social energy might actually be okay, and even GREAT.

And, that I have a certain fixed idea of my identity, and it takes a whole lot of extenuating circumstances to find myself being a Monkeyhouse cheerleader! When I am around Karen, its possible to feel that I am A Dancer, though don’t say that too loudly.

11/4/14

Fleur d'Orange Residency Wrap Up (pt 1)

by Isabella Carmenate
by Karen Krolak

Several years ago the Boston Dance Alliance asked me to be a panelist for an event about touring dance. One of the questions that arose during this conversation was, "how do you define success?" Another panelist measured success in the number of people in attendance, the number of shows performed, and the number of cities visited, etc. As I listened to his answer and watched as choreographers and presenters in the audience nodded in response, I felt hesitant to share my own thoughts on the question. When the microphone was passed to me, I almost chickened out of an honest response.

You see, while I do understand the economic reality of touring and of presenting dance in general, the finances are unrelated to my sense of success. I want engagement...genuine connection that sparks curiosity and creativity. My metrics are harder to track and I think that they often frustrate grant makers. My metrics range from stories from participants to new projects that evolve or doors that open in people's minds or careers. They require time to develop and often tenacity to track down.

It has only been two weeks since Monkeyhouse's Fleur D'Orange residency ended but each day I get more evidence of how deeply it has affected our community. There is no question that it has surpassed my dreams for how it could be successful. To illustrate the impact of the residency, I would like to share some stats and stories.

To create this residency, Monkeyhouse began by brainstorming with our long term partners, Luminarium, Impulse Dance Center, Endicott College, the University of the Middle East Project, JK Photo and J.P. Licks. Based on the encouragement of those supporters, we reached out to seven new collaborating organizations: Center Stage, Brickbottom Artists Association, the Center for Arabic Culture, the Arts at the Armory, the Pingree School, BJ's and Not Your Average Joe's. These 13 partners helped us gather together diverse groups of people for all the events that week; more than 50% of whom were totally new to Monkeyhouse. While that is an impressive statistic for a presenter, it does not reveal the depths of our relationships with these partners. so I would like to offer just a few stories to exemplify their dedication to this project:

1. Both Impulse Dance Center and the Center for Arabic Culture, were so inspired by the Hind and Soufiane's workshops that they actually offered to contribute more funding to the residency than we had initially agreed upon.

2. In addition to proposing our residency idea to the Arts at the Armory, inviting their supporters to all the residency events, and helping to guide our post-show discussion, Luminarium's Kim and Russell Holman stayed until the bitter end of the Sunday night strike. They even volunteered to help get our extremely heavy genie back onto the U-haul.

3. Two members of Endicott's dance faculty, Nikki Sao Pedro-Welch and Mariah Steele, did a phenomenal job promoting their campus workshops to Endicott students and people at other local dance studios. When we realized during tech set up that our projector was not working well enough for Fleur D'Orange's performance, Nikki immediately loaned us one from her department. Nikki even drove one of the campus vans down to the performance to help more of her students attend the show in Somerville.

4. Center Stage and the New England Foundation for the Arts were so excited by the artist presenting artists aspect of our residency that they have asked me to be a panelist on the subject at APAP, the world's largest networking forum and marketplace for performing arts professionals, on January 12th!

Check back in a day or so and I will have some more stories on audience reactions and how the residency inspired at least one new project.

10/31/14

Get to Know Alma Richeh

Our recent residency with the Moroccan based Fleur d'Orange wouldn't have been such a success without the support of those at the Center for Arabic Culture (CAC), especially Alma Richeh! Not only did she help provide wonderful spaces for our workshops and the performance of "Identite," she even took some time to speak to Aisha about how important it is to connect culturally diverse communities together. See what she strives to accomplish in her work with the CAC and what there is to gain through promoting Arabic artists.


AC: What are some of the resources you provide (or hope to provide) to the greater New England community?AL: The CAC's goal is to become the main resource on Arabic and Arab-American culture in New England for educational institutions, nonprofit and governmental agencies, and the community at large.
We can provide the New England Community with information about Arabic history, literature, music, arts and Language.
The CAC has a pioneering Arabic school that can help the community not only learn the language but also know about the richness and beauty of the culture through various workshops, concerts, documentaries, literary evens and galleries.
In addition, we have a growing library that can provide valuable information about Arabic history and Arab- American rich experience.

AC: Do you feel it's important to showcase racially and culturally diverse artists? Why?AL: Yes, it is very important. It does not only introduce the New England community to new experiences and arts but also it allows the people to learn about other cultures and nations in an open, peaceful and humanistic way.
Introducing culturally and racially diverse artists is a great way to build bridges and understanding between communities and nations. Such a matter is really needed and necessary those days.

AC: How does promoting Arabic artists empower Arab-American youth?AL: Promoting Arab Artists empowers Arab-American youths on various levels.
First, promoting Arab Artists will provide Arab-American youth with self confidence and give them a sense of pride in their Arabic heritage.
Second, they will have role models to relate to and be proud of.
Third, they will have stronger position in their communities when they realize that their heritage encompasses a beautiful culture and is a source of unique and peaceful art, music, language and literature.
As a result, they will turn to be stronger and more effective and positive community members.
The Arabic Culture is beautiful and we only need to present it to our community so they we can all share this beauty and grow in it. 

10/29/14

Get to Know Kimberleigh A. Holman

Recently, the amazingly talented Kimberleigh A.
Holman took some time to talk to us about cultural connections and inspirations that have influenced her work. Kimberleigh is not only a beloved Monkeyhouse supporter, she is one of the founding Artistic Directors of a fellow Boston based company, Luminarium Dance Company. Get a glimpse of the inner workings of her mind here and don't forget to check out some of the  beautiful work she has created with Luminarium! 


AC: How did you get involved with the Armory? 
KH: I officially became a board member at the Armory after helping with a fundraiser and deciding it was an organization I supported, and one that I cared to see succeed in the Greater Boston community.  Before that point in time, Luminarium had produced a few of our shows there and I just loved the space.  It's a great-big open-canvas of a purple-ceilinged venue!

AC: Why do you feel it's important to showcase racially and culturally diverse artists?
KH: Oh goodness, I could write and write on the importance of sharing art across cultures.  For the sake of brevity, I find immense value in exchanging ideas, history and culture.  By sharing in this sense we can learn and gain understanding about fellow inhabitants of this planet.  Many art forms don't rely on words and language, so it's thrilling to have a communicative experience where literally speaking the same language isn't necessary to emote and express.  At bare minimum, having access to a performance from another part of the world is fantastic just to get a chance to see the global spectrum of creativity!

AC: As a choreographer/ designer/ artist-at-large, do you find inspiration in seeing other performers? 
KH: Of course!  I think as a creator of performance, going to see as many performances and performers in action as possible isn't just entertainment, it's a learning tool.  Also, the exceptionally good performances have something magic in the air, a special something beyond content, that leaves me with a bit of a glow. If I'm feeling stumped or stuck or stale I'll go see a great show just to get a touch of that excitement brewing inside of me.

AC: Any upcoming Luminarium projects you're excited about?
KH: Luminarium projects are synonymous with excitement, in my eyes!  I'm especially excited about our huge feature production for 2014, The Sleeprunner.  It will run December 5, 6, 12 and 13 at the Multicultural Arts Center (Cambridge), 8pm each night.  The Sleeprunner is a show about dreams- think of it as what your brain might experience during one particularly vivid night's sleep.  Merli (my co-director) and I are hard at work with our dancers creating pieces based on a variety of ideas involving dreams and dreaming,  experimenting with lighting and scenic elements and collaborating with costume designer Sueann Leung for some one-of-a-kind wearable pieces.  Tickets are available on the venue's website, http://www.multiculturalartscenter.org/, and more information can be found through Luminarium's social media stream and our own website, www.luminariumdance.org.  

10/16/14

Getting to Know Soufiane Karim


Aisha was lucky enough to do a few quick interviews with the artists of Fleur d'Orange.  In celebration of their arrival today, here's an interview with hip-hop artist Soufiane Karim!  You can catch Soufiene teaching workshops at Impulse Dance Center on 10/17 and Endicott College on 10/18.  He will also be performing in Identity/Identite at Arts at the Armory on Sunday, 10/19.  For more information or to purchase tickets, click here!

AC:  
What first drew you to dance? What was your path to becoming a professional dancer?
SK:  My mum is a dance teacher, and I always followed her in her class when I was young.  I really started dance when I met Hip Hop culture in Paris.  The music, the movements the style and energy inspired me from the beginning.

AC:  How did you and Hind begin working together?
SK:  Hind invited me to participate in the creative project Identity and we started to work from 22000km apart.  I'm living in New Caledonia, so we started to create the collaboration by internet relations and work in different ways.  Personally, I've created with my own company another work linked to calligraphy (what i was already working on) and this was my way to participate and add my brick to the wall.  Then I invited Hind to New Caledonia and kept working and exchanging together.  We kept the link and talking by Skype almost everyday and intensive working and documents sharing and writing.

AC:  Have you encountered resistance to your work?SK:  The distance was my most important resistance/difficulty during this process...and the short time I had for the creative process due to my other company schedule and projects already.

AC:  How has your attitude toward dance and performance changed over time?SK:  I was very anxious about my first work in Morocco.  Representing my culture was a pleasure but at the same time brought back to me memories and struggle that I had had in the past, like [the idea that] dance is not a job.  In our culture it is important to have a "real job".  So [my attitude] slowly changed by accepting my own culture inside this way.  Creating this work with Hind and Mohcine as my friends and family more than just random artists.  This piece is a real part me, of my struggle, of my memory, my village in casablanca and all the ceremonies and weddings, all the music songs and songs that I've been hearing during all my childhood.  I'm now fully accepting all this past as a present and as my present lifetime dancing and performing this piece and dancing with my heart, giving all who I am.

AC:  Have you found your style or process influenced by those you work with?SK:  Yes, I am always influenced by the person who I'm collaborating with.  As artists we are working with our souls and heart.  We are sharing pieces of cultures, arts, way of thinking, living.  So I feel like I've taken a small part from every artists I have collaborated with, every culture, every art form, universe.

AC:  As primarily solo artists, what kinds of challenges do you face in creating and performing? Do you find that collaborative work erases some of those challenges, or provide new ones?SK:  I think solo is a really difficult way to work and to process because you are deeply facing yourself and this is the most difficult thing for me. I'm now also artistic director and choreographer of my own company, dancing in every piece I'm making, and this is truly bringing difficulty and at same erasing some.

Performing solo is sometimes sad because you're not sharing the pleasure to have been performing, and being on stage, or sharing the hard moments with someone.  Collaborating with other artists you have to face their own personality and character, desires and anxiousness, strength and sometimes everything doesn't go in the way you would like to or expect to, if you have expectations.  But sometimes it brings more than you could ever expect.

AC:  What have you enjoyed most about working on Identity/Identite?  What were your expectations verses outcomes?SK:  Discovering my culture through the artistic universe of Hind and Mohcine, their stories, and sharing the beauty, good things and also the struggles with people.  Second, creating a new work being pushed again till the limit, and push myself to accept the challenge and discover their artistic world and stories.

AC:  In the states, we often talk about the dance community and connecting performers with the audience. Can you talk about experiences you've had trying to engage with your audience, and with connecting dancers and performers to each other?
SK:  We had such beautiful experiences sharing our work by Q&A, and sharing people's thoughts about what they felt by watch us performing. It's a such great opportunity to be able to receive the audience's feeling and understand the impact your work has had on them, and feeling how powerful art can impact people's life.  To be honest, to be able to feel how much some simple things like a one hour art piece can change the perception of hundred of people, and open their minds.  Just have to be responsible about what you are sharing with them.

Thank you for listening some bits of my story!

10/10/14

Meet Soufiane Karim

Photo by Aude-Emilie Dorion

Soufiane Karim is a native Moroccan who started dancing at an early age, and turned to Hip Hop in his teens. He is a cultural traveler who studies arts traditions from all over the world. His creative and spiritual journeys and collaborations took him to New Caledonia, where he established the Posuë Dance School-Company. From that Pacific island nation, he researched and collaborated with artists from neighboring Vanuatu, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. Recently, Karim has turned his attentions back to Morocco and created ‘Kaly-Graffyk‘ – an exploration of the tactile representations of Arabic calligraphy and the culture around it, and the kinetic movement of the body.

10/8/14

Meet Hind Benali

photo by Alice Defour-Feronce
Choreographer and dancer Hind Benali is a native of Oujda on Morocco’s Algerian border. Like many Moroccans, her hometown roots are strong; Benali creates cultural programs and opportunities for professionals and students there as well as in Marrakech and Casablanca. As platforms for her work and collaborations, she founded Association Fleur d’Orange in 2006. In 2008, she produced the first ACTION DANSE, a festival and workshop intended to contribute to the development of dance in Morocco and to foster collaborations between artists across borders. She also teaches and provides a creative home for many of Morocco’s contemporary, beat, and hip-hop dancers and musicians.

“I made a decision,” states Benali. “I had to dance and that meant I had to fight.” This determination, coming from within a culture where women do not dance publicly, took her south to sub-Saharan Africa, rather than the more typical path to France and Europe, for inspiration on how to become a contemporary dancer. Using her African experiences as a springboard, she has taken modern dance to public spaces in Morocco—historic sites, city parks, and theaters – and abroad.

Whether in solos for herself or in works created with others including non-dance members of the community, Benali takes life’s everyday texture and transforms it. She chases the inaccessible – a creative space that both honors and challenges society’s paradigms.

Benali’s works include HER OTHER SIDE (2012), a piece made and performed in collaboration with Esther Baker (Ohio State, Highways Performance Space, etc.). In 2010 and 2011, she created with Thabiso Pule the duets MIRAGE and EXPO (Dance Umbrella in South Africa, French Institute of Dakar, French Institute of Meknes, Oujda and Rabat, Cultural Center of Nador, Festival Action Danse in Oujda). VOI (2006) was performed in collaboration with non-dancers in local communities (French institutes of Morocco, jeux de la Francophonie in Lebanon, Le Lavoir Moderne de Paris). In 2003 Benali created the piece SEG SEGBO with Auguste Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso (danced in Dialogue de Corps in Burkina Faso, French institute of Bamako, Bobo Dioulasso, Zinder, Niamey, Casablanca, Marrakech, Abok I Ngoma in Cameroun, Printemps de la Danse of Tunisia).


October Birthdays


TAPPY OCTOBER BIRTHDAYS!

Jason Samuels Smith, Najeeb Terazzi, Tina Fratello, Meera Jo Smith, Max Stone, LuAnn Pagella, Parker Hall, Edward Villella, Julie Andrews, Jimmy Slyde, Mahatma Gandhi, Chubby Checker, Eric BruhnJean-François Millet, Kathryn Dunkel, Merli Guerra, Giuseppe Verdi, Ben Vereen, Jerome Robbins, Nicole Harris, Michael Cox, Joan Green, Doris Humphrey, Rita Hayworth, Michael Sao Pedro, Fayard Nicholas, Karen Krolak, Celia Cruz, Sarah Bernhardt, and Peter Martins 

10/7/14

Upcoming Dance Events Around Boston!

by Aisha Cruse

Wed, October 8 - Sat, October 11 @ 7:30pm
Sun, October 12 @ 2:30pm
Traces
Presented by Les 7 Doigts de la Main and ArtsEmerson
At the Cutler Majestic Theater, Boston
Les 7 Doigts de la Main are one of my favorite circus groups. I had the pleasure of seeing them perform a few years ago, and their work is absolutely breathtaking. Directed and choreographed by Gypsy Snider, who constructed the circus work for Pippin, and Shana Carroll, Traces promises to be a delight for all ages.

Fri, October 10 & Sat, October 11 @ 7:30
BB@home: Swan Lake
Boston Ballet
At the Clarendon Street Studio, South End, Boston
The Boston Ballet studio talk and performance series is offering a sneak peak performance and discussion of their new production of Swan Lake. A unique chance to engage with the performers ahead of the production; I highly recommend attending if you can.

Fri & Sat, October 10-11 @ 8pm
Sun, October 12 @ 3pm
Abraham.In.Motion
Presented by World Music: Crash Arts
At the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
"2013 MacArthur Fellow Kyle Abraham's incredible company Abraham.In.Motion performs the Boston premiere of When the Wolves Came In, a repertory program comprising several new works inspired by We Insist! Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, includingHallowed, a new solo work set to a series of moving spiritual hymns, and The Gettin', a new ensemble work created in collaboration with Grammy Award–winning jazz musician Robert Glasper and world-renowned visual artist Glenn Ligon." The best part of ICA performances are the free pre and post show discussions, so be sure to arrive early. If you're coming on Friday, clear your schedule and stay after the show!

Sat & Sun, October 18,19, 25 & 26 @ 4pm
Fri, October 24 @ 8pm
Between the Lines
Presented by Anna Myer and Dancers
In association with Youth Link initiative of the North American Family Institute
At Hibernian Hall, Roxbury
Anna Myer choreographs this mixed-genre collaboration featuring artists from all over Boston and a script by Jay Paris of Youth Link. The program will also include a brief performance by young artists from The Lenox Street Project, and will be followed by an open, facilitated conversation about race and identity among producers, cast, and audience. This unique performance of blended communities should not be missed.

Fri - Sun, October 24-26
PILOBOLUS
Presented by Celebrity Series of Boston
At the Citi Schubert Theater, Boston
Pilobolus has performed at the Oscars, the Olympics, and all over the world. I was lucky enough to see them off-Broadway when I was in high school, and I was completely entranced. The program for this visit to Boston includes their 20th anniversary commission from 1991 Sweet Purgatory, their death-defying team up with Penn & Teller[esc], and a beautiful new piece On the Nature of Things, performed by three dancers balanced on a column. Their stay is short, but it's more than enough time to capture your imagination.


Thurs, Oct 30 - Sun, Nov 16 @ 1pm &7:30pm
Swan Lake
Presented by Boston Ballet
At the Boston Opera House
Swan Lake might be my favorite classical ballet. The Boston Ballet is bringing the sinister magic of this doomed love story to the stage just in time for Halloween. I suggest the pre-curtain talk on November 1st or the Post-performance chat on November 7th for a chance to learn more about the production and hear from Mikko Nissinen about the show.


Fri & Sat, October 23, 24, 30 & 31 @ 7pm &10:30pm
Cirque of the Dead
Presented by the Boston Circus Guild
At the Oberon, Harvard Square, Cambridge
It's fitting that the one time of year that the members of the Boston Circus Guild really cut loose is Halloween. While the show is 18+ for admittance, if you want to see skilled aerialists and acrobats at their weirdest, wildest and creepiest, this is the show to see. With live musical performances and a costume contest each weekend, this is a party to die for.

10/6/14

Fleur d'Orange Residency Events!

Fleur d'Orange Artist Reception
Come meet Hind, Soufiene and Mohcine!
Thursday, October 16th @ 6:30pm-8pm
Brickbottom Gallery, 1 Fitchburg St, Somerville, MA

What's in a Name?
Workshop with Karen Krolak & Hind Benali, Ages 8-14
Friday, October 17th @ 5:30pm-7pm
Center for Arabic Culture, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville

Workshop with Soufiene Karim
Hip-Hop Workshop, Ages 11+
Friday, October 17th @ 6:30pm
Impulse Dance Center, 5 Summer St, Natick, MA

Workshop with Hind Benali
Contemporary Workshop at CAC
Friday, October 17th @ 7pm
Center for Arabic Culture, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville

Workshop with Hind Benali
Contemporary Workshop at Endicott College
Saturday, October 18th @ 2pm
Endicott College, 376 Hale Street, Beverly, MA

Workshop with Soufiene Karim
Hip-Hop Workshop at Endicott College
Saturday, October 18th @ 3:30pm
Endicott College, 376 Hale Street, Beverly, MA

Identity/IDENTITE
An Evening Length Performance
Sunday, October 19th @ 5pm
Arts At the Armory, 191 Highland Ave, Somerville

10/3/14

Not Your Average Birthday


HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MONKEYHOUSE!

We are stunned that we will be turning 14 next month. Where did the time go!? To celebrate we will be holding a MONTH LONG party over at Not Your Average Joe's in Medford. Come in on ANY TUESDAY in October, have dinner, and Joe's will donate a percentage of your purchase to Monkeyhouse! Easy as that!

We'd also like to invite you to our Birthday KickOff Bash on Tuesday, October 7th from 5-8pm. You can find members of the company, friends and some great food! While you're there, check out the live feed of Identity/IDENTITE from the Kennedy Center!

We can't wait to see you there!

Much Love -
All Your Friends At Monkeyhouse

10/2/14

Inside the Fleur D'Orange Residency

by karen Krolak


Have you ever started on a walk or a journey and been surprised by where you ended up?  

Oddly enough, our Fleur D'Orange residency began with a series of walks. As you may remember, I ended my sabbatical in 2008 by attending the choreographers' workshop at Jacob's Pillow. I felt so emboldened by my experiences there and during my year off that I applied for a fellowship through the Somerville Arts Council. (Psst, if you are interesting in applying for this grant, the deadline is October 15. More info, here) My proposal was to explore how walking through Somerville with various people and by myself might inspire new directions for my work. I was delighted and a tiny bit surprised that I was subsequently awarded a fellowship from the SAC in 2009. 

At the time, Jason was working for Actors' Shakespeare Project in the Armory building. During Open Studios, we walked up to the Armory and Jason introduced me to the staff at the University of the Middle East who suggested that we apply to be part of a delegation to Tiznit, Morocco as part of a Sister Cities project. The idea of walking around Morocco with representatives from Somerville, including Mayor Joe, was a little intimidating but seemed to be a fabulous way to culminate my year of investigation. My parents and Jason encouraged my to push beyond my insecurities and fill out the application. Once again, I was startled to be accepted into the delegation. Then the concern was how I was going to find funding to cover the transportation costs of getting to Morocco (the rest of the trip was covered through funds from the State Department and the City of Tiznit). Before I could even begin the fundraising process, my parents called to offer to pay the entire amount. because they were so proud that I was extending my creative focus to a project focused on person to person diplomacy. 

Our trip exceeded my wildest dreams. We were treated like visiting royalty and our tour buses were frequently surrounded by photographers and local media. We met with several visual artists and musicians but in spite of my best efforts, we could not seem to find any dance companies or choreographers. Don't worry, though, there was plenty of dancing at the dinners and galas. There is also a pretty wonderful story about buying a necklace and realizing that I am not as trusting or as open minded as I had previously thought...but I digress.

Our delegation included a group of Somerville public school teachers. One of them, Karen Comeau, approached me after we returned home about collaborating with her then 4th grade classroom to find a way to keep the Tiznit-Somerville connection active. Karen and I created an after school program called Moving for Meaning that utilized choreographic exercises to help the students learn to express themselves better and then generated videos to exchange with a school in Morocco. It was a magnificent project but I still yearned to find a Moroccan choreographer when I was invited to participate in my second delegation to Tiznit in 2011. 

I will spare you the hilarious story of my 54 hour adventure of flying to Tiznit by myself just hours after we loaded out from the first Against the Odds festival (but do ask about it when you have an hour to spare...my students at Impulse say it is one of my best stories.). The ridiculous travel mishaps were well worth the experience of meeting Mina, a teacher who has created one of the first all deaf classrooms in Morocco. The other big highlight was getting to lead a group of 60 people ranging from age 6 to adult through some choreographic exercises in a library. It was cramped and chaotic at times but I was stunned by everyone's willingness to improvise and play. The only downside to the trip was that I still could not find a dance artist in Morocco.

So let's fast forward to this last winter. During one of the gigantic snowstorms, I was stuck at home checking my emails. It was a dreary afternoon and my heart ached from the desire to just be able to sit and share hot chocolate with my mom and dad. I was feeling rather adrift as i clicked open the email from the New England Foundation for the Arts about the Center Stage program. As soon as I saw that Morocco was one of the countries touring the US, I immediately checked to see if they had found a dance company. It is possible that I actually shouted when I saw, Fleur D'Orange listed. 

Once I began researching Hind Benali, the Artistic Director of Fleur D'Orange, I was fascinated. Her artistic statement began, “I made a decision. I had to dance and that meant I had to fight.” It continued, "This determination, coming from within a culture where women do not dance publicly, took her south to sub-Saharan Africa, rather than the more typical path to France and Europe, for inspiration on how to become a contemporary dancer. Using her African experiences as a springboard, she has taken modern dance to public spaces in Morocco—historic sites, city parks, and theaters -- has founded and produces an international dance festival (one of the very few in her homeland), and teaches and provides a creative home for many of Morocco’s contemporary, beat and hip-hop dancers and musicians."

For a few minutes, I was frozen. My mind was racing through ideas of how we might be able to craft a residency for this visionary woman that would focus less on a performance and more on sharing her ideas with large communities of people. I ran through all the times that Monkeyhouse brainstormed about how to improve the touring process when we were on the road. Before I knew it, I was on the phone with Kim Holman from Luminarium to see if my idea sounded crazy. She loved it and suggested that I propose the project to the Arts at the Armory. As I hung up the phone, I felt the presence of my family alive in me; sort of like how you can sometimes feel that you are making a facial expression that you have seen on a loved one's face. My parents relished bringing together a diverse spectrum of people to debate and exchange ideas. They regularly hosted visiting intellectuals and scientists at our family dinners. As overwhelming as it seemed to curate a residency for Fleur D'Orange in between their appearances at the Kennedy Center in D.C. and the Baryshnikov Center in New York, it would be worthwhile on a personal level to feel I was honoring the legacy of my family.

I still can't quite believe that this project is about to come to fruition or that we have such a phenomenal group of partners who have collaborated with us. My birthday will be on the last day of the residency and frankly, I can not imagine a better gift than this for me. Please come share in as many of these events you possibly can. Make the trip because you never know where it may lead you. 

The presentation of Fleur D'Orange is part of Center Stage, an initiative of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, produced by the New England Foundation for the Arts in cooperation with the U.S. Regional Arts Organizations, with additional support from the Robert Sterling Clark Foundation and the Asian Cultural Council. General Management for Center Stage is provided by Lisa Booth Management, Inc.


9/17/14

DUMBO Dance Festival

Nicole and Nikki will be heading down to Brooklyn next week for the DUMBO Dance Festival.  They will be performing Connexa, a piece choreographed by Sarah Feinberg and Nikki Sao Pedro Welch.  All DUMBO Dance Festival performances are FREE and filled with some incredible artists.  So come check it out!

You can find Monkeyhouse on Saturday, September 27th at 3pm and Sunday, September 28th at 4pm.  All performances are held at the WHITE WAVE John Ryan Theatre, 25 Jay St, Brooklyn, NY.

Did we mention they are FREE!?

9/15/14

Word of the Day: Choreography

by Nicole Harris

In the spring we talked a bit about Musings and where they came from.  Today I thought we'd back up a bit and talk about a word we use here at Monkeyhouse every day in everything we do:

Ululation tech
CHOREOGRAPHY - This may seem like a simple one but there are many ways to look at it.  According to the dictionary choreography can be defined as:  
  
n. the sequence of steps and movements in dance or figure skating, esp. in a ballet or other staged dance.

Recently I have had a number of conversations about Monkeyhouse's definition of this word that is the base of 
our entire organization.  We see choreography as:

Movement with meaning.

Our definition still covers choreography in the traditional sense, in dance concerts, movies, theatres, ice skating rinks and on Broadway.  However, it also covers a much wider range of ways that each of us move every day. Movement is everyone's first language and it helps us create a frame of reference for the verbal language we learn soon after. 

My favorite example of how you (yes, you) use choreography is to think back to your last job interview.  You put a lot of thought into how you dressed and putting your resume together.  Unconsciously, you also thought about sitting up straight, not fidgeting with your pen, making eye contact and the firmness of your handshake.  Each of these movements portrayed a specific message.  You are the right person for this job.  You are confident and self assured.  A people person.  That right there, folks, is choreography. 

9/11/14

Dance Around Boston: Monkey-narium Facebook Campaign

We're going to do something a little different with our Dance Around Boston section this month.  As you've probably noticed, Monkeyhouse and Luminarium are great friends.  We're constantly advocating for each other and working together towards our goal of a more united local dance community.  Both companies have a strong social media presence and we also share the goal of expanding that presence whenever possible.  Recently, Merli from Luminarium and Nicole from Monkeyhouse put their heads together and decided that there has to be a way to work together to increase both companies Facebook "likes" to 1000 each.  Kim (Luminarium) and Karen (Monkeyhouse) joined the conversation (both out of interest and a desire to stop listening to Nicole and Merli obsess about Facebook stats) and we brainstormed ways to push us both towards our goal.

It turns out, we are not the only people who think these two companies are a magical pair.  We were recently approached by an anonymous donor who wants to use our current social media campaign as a way to raise money for both organizations.  How amazing is that!?

Here's how it's going to work.  On January 1st our amazing donor will add up all the total Facebook likes from both companies and donate ONE DOLLAR (fifty cents for each organization) for every like.  So, if Monkeyhouse gets 1007 likes and Luminarium gets 1013, each company will get $1010.  


Here's how you can help!
1.  Take a moment to "Like" BOTH Monkeyhouse AND Luminarium on Facebook.  If you like both companies you'll raise $2 to our cause!
2.  Be an ambassador!  Tell your friends to like both Monkeyhouse and Luminarium to help us make the most of this campaign!
Why is this social media thing so important, you ask?  A fine question!
The easy answer is that the more outlets we can use to disperse our message the more people we can reach.  Facebook is a regular staple in most people's everyday lives in one manner or another.  The same as you use Facebook to share photos, stories and articles with your friends and family, organizations like Monkeyhouse and Luminarium use social media as a way to share what we're up to with you.  More than that, it allows YOU a view into the organization that is virtually impossible in other venues.  You can see what we're working on in real time, interact with company members, leave your insights and comments and ask questions at any time, not just the few times a year you're at an event.  Because of the social aspect of social media we can use it to make sure we are generating programing that you actually have an interest in.  And you can help us spread our mission with the simple click of a button.

Don't forget, we only have until the end of the year!
Get your "like" buttons going today!

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