Getting to Know Ninette Paloma

I am fascinated by aerial dance so I was thrilled to interview Ninette Paloma of La Petite Chouette aerial dance company.  They are coming to the CoolNY 2014 Dance Festival from Santa Barbara for performances on Friday, February 7th at 7:00pm & Saturday, February 8th at 9:00pm.  All performances are held at the WHITE WAVE John Ryan Theatre, 25 Jay St., Brooklyn, NY and are FREE! -Nicole

photo by Onno Sweep
N:  As a tap dancer I find myself constantly facing the challenge of venues who do not want us to use their floors with tap shoes on.  I can only imagine finding venues open to aerial dance is infinitely harder.  How do you work around those issues in applying to festivals and creating your season?
NP:  Ah yes, working in the genre of aerial dance means the first thing you will always do when walking into a room is look up. We’re constantly suffering from height and structural beam envy. Having a solid working knowledge of your rigging needs and an extensive back of house vocabulary is key when taking your work outside of your studio walls. There’s nothing a Tech Director loves more than to work with an artist who knows her way around a grid and stage battens, rolling up her tights to secure span sets when other artists might be powdering their noses. As a director, I make it a point to visit every stage before signing a contract and establish a very quick relationship with all of the stage hands. Back of house techies have a special place in my heart, they geek out as much as we do.

photo by Onno Sweep
N:  The mainstream popularity of any art form can both help and hinder the growth of that art form.  How do you think the world of aerial dance has changed with the popularity of circus shows like Cirque du Soleil in recent years?NP:  I believe Cirque du Soleil played a fundamental role in ensuring that the tradition of circus arts lived on for a new generation to experience. Although their focus on musicality and physical theatre may have echoed the work already being created by smaller companies throughout the world, their popularity encouraged artists to explore even broader ways of re-defining this ancient art form. Our aerial dance company focuses specifically on the relationship between floor and aerial movement, whereas another company might blend commedia dell’ arte with acrobatics. Like Ballet is to Modern Dance, so too are our fundamental roots firmly recognized. Our roots just happen to be steeped in red noses and pachyderm poop. This is not necessarily a bad thing. 

N:  It sounds like the circus arts have been in your life since you were a teenager.  What got you started?  What do you recommend for people interested in the circus arts but who aren't lucky enough to live near a school like yours in Santa Barbara?
photo by Onno Sweep
NP:  Come now, who wouldn’t want to learn the intoxicating art of aerial dance in 75 degree weather against a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Ynez mountains? We’re hosting the 2014 Santa Barbara Contemporary Floor to Air Festival next month, where eight international  aerial dance companies will join us for a week of workshops and performances. The disproportionate number of snowbirds heading to our Santa Barbara shores is both charming and telling, and I don’t blame them one bit, it’s freezing everywhere else! 
As for how I got started, picture a whisper of a girl, barely eighteen, disenchanted with competitive gymnastics, and bored as rocks. I walked into an open audition for a local Midwestern circus and everything shifted for me in that moment. Fast forward to 2014 and- what’s the opposite of bored as rocks- because that’s what I am today. Everything about this art form speaks to my well-being, even the painful, trying, tedious moments. That’s when you know you’re leaning into the right thing.
photo by Onno Sweep
N:  People in the arts often develop strong mentor/mentee relationships.  Did/do you have a mentor throughout your career?  Do you have a person or people that you have taken the mentorship role for now that you're a more established artist?  How do you feel those relationships change your work? NP:  I’ve been turning this subject over in my head for the past few months as I prepare one of my longest standing students for a major audition. Eight years ago, she walked into my studio without a dance, gymnastics, or athletic background, only a fierce determination that today, seems to burn brighter than ever before. If I step back to take in the role I’ve played in her development, observing her evolution from a shy and careful girl to the bold and confident performer that she is today, I am filled with more joy than I could possibly ever contain within the span of a sentence. Throughout my career, I’ve had the privilege of working with innovative pioneers of the aerial dance movement, and though my time with them was invaluable, it was also short-lived because during those days, aerial studios and companies were spread out thinly all over the world. To be able to work one on one with a student, observe their strengths and challenges, and tailor your approach to their evolving needs is both hard work and wholly rewarding. In a sense it’s a consistent reclamation of passion, as I am reminded every day how invaluable this developmental process is.


Getting to Know Laura Neese!

I have met some incredibly interesting people in the process of these interviews and Laura Neese doesn't disappoint!  You can catch her work at the CoolNY 2014 Dance Festival on Friday, February 7th at 9:00pm & Sunday, February 9th at 6:00pm.  All performances are held at the WHITE WAVE John Ryan Theatre, 25 Jay St., Brooklyn, NY and are FREE! -Nicole

KitchenSink Collective-
L to R Caroline Martin, Laura Neese, Claire Baum, Katie Vason
photo by Bryan Winter
N:  The piece you'll be performing at the CoolNY Dance Festival involves "shoe-less" tap dancing combined with modern vocabulary. As both a modern and tap dancer myself I am always excited to see work that combines the two! I also saw that you have a background in Irish dance. Can you talk a little about ways you work to combine these backgrounds as you create new pieces?

LN:  I find something inherently individually expressive about tap/percussive improvisation. If you ask me to just dance, I’ll spiral my torso and explore spine articulation like a good modern dancer, but my feet will probably start a nonmetred, illegitimate, un-time step… (something to do with the mixed up tap and Irish dance history in my training, and the natural inclination of people to tap their feet to music..)

photo by David Cruse
I’ve noticed in processes and improvisations, (& on the ferry) that my feet really want to speak up. For this new work, I wanted to listen and explore this impulse as a part of my creative work.

Though it reads differently than the emotionality of shape, audio imagery – the mathematical logic or illogic of rhythm, spontaneity, and the way that reverberates in the body – I think can create an experience just as rich with feeling. Right now I’m experimenting to see how I can incorporate this part of me into my work.

My work with Darrah Carr Dance, and guest choreographer Sean Curran, has also been influential in opening me up to the possibility of combining elements of dance forms. Darrah’s work combines traditional Irish and contemporary modern dance, and Curran’s work for the company is always imbued with strong rhythmic sensibility.

N:  You are a founding member of KitchenSink Collective. When I was reading your website I notices that each of the co-founders has a title (mathematician, wordsmith, body whisperer, master schedule machine). Can you tell me a bit about the collective, its founders, and their titles?

 Darrah Carr Dance Company-
Laura Neese, Timmy Kochka
photo by Erin Baiano
LN:  KitchenSink Collective is a creative experiment that keeps the members grounded in the process of creating and performing contemporary/modern dance while we each attempt to navigate our individual artist & human lives. In an environment in which our artistic work -unpaid, as a general rule- is usually project-based, inconsistent, competitive, and of course expensive to make if you want to do it yourself, we have found a means of working together to help keep us all engaged and motivated to dance, despite chaos of our “other lives.”

We met at Dance New Amsterdam, actually. Without having previously known each other well, we started to make a dance -just to make one- which led to more dances, which snowballed into a regularly meeting company or “collective,” and bringing other dancers in along the way. It has been a remarkable baptism by fire.

We all contribute our resources and talents to make it possible to offer each other not only consistent involvement in a rehearsal process as a performer, but also the opportunity to explore choreographic ideas with a company of supportive bodies. We pass the choreographic baton in rotation, and capitalize on our individual skills to keep the organization going- hence our nifty titles… though we each may do a little bit of everything.

Claire (our “master schedule machine,” and an arts administrator in her other life) is one of the most detail-oriented people I’ve ever met; Joanna (“mathematician,” our financial manager) has a gift for data and numbers – and a math degree. Katie (“body whisperer”) is a Pilates instructor with remarkable knowledge of the body and intelligent recommendations for various dancerly ailments- a gem in rehearsal. As “wordsmith” I write and edit text for company use… I’m somewhat fastidious about apostrophes.

I’m very grateful for the opportunity to work with these remarkable women and for their having fallen into my life, (or I into theirs?)

photo by Laura Neese
N:  We had a very brief conversation about the insular-ness of many dance communities. While struggling to acquire very limited resources it's easy to take on a "me against the world" attitude. What are some ways that you have tried to fight against that mentality for yourself and those around you? What do you see as the benefits of creating a broader, more communicative and sharing dance community?

LN:  KitchenSink definitely helps ameliorate some of the “me against the world” feelings… though as an outer borough dwelling artist (of that obscure, “pretentious,” modern dance kind of art) the issue can become quite pernicious. However even in Staten Island, the borough most underserved in arts education and venues, I have found a resilient though somewhat fragmented arts community. Knocking on doors, finding out about and participating in creative events (especially those that bleed outside of your own discipline) I have found to be invaluable in a) meeting new, interesting people, with new, interesting perspectives, b) leading to new opportunities, c) finding people really do appreciate your strange art form if they have a reason and chance to see it. d) new reasons to share what you do with other people and to help people share what they do…. And it keeps going.

Diving into explorations of other arts- taking workshops in different things- helps me to recognize the continuity of the creative process across mediums, recognize strengths and weaknesses of different modes of working, and to remember to not take myself too seriously (though to take the craft seriously).

Some of my most interesting dance related experiences as a performer, choreographer, and otherwise creative conspirator have occurred in non-traditional dance settings: collaborating with musicians, filmmakers, theatre practitioners, photographers, and “normal” community members.

I believe it is important to not only keep dialogues going within the dance community, but also to extend the invitation beyond the dance regulars. Face it, we get esoteric, we get stuffy, we get into patterns of what is “in” and “isn’t.” We get stuck in ruts. And we get frustrated when no one shows up.

If we individually want to improve our art making – and stay interested & interesting - I believe it is vital to experience many other kinds of art as a spectator or participant. (Maybe art is painting, or storytelling, or a craft, or acting, teaching, computer programming?)

If we, individually, invite other people who would or could be interested in dance -if they were exposed to it- into the conversation, would the field not be richer indeed?

photo by Eric Bandiero
N:  People in the arts often develop strong mentor/mentee relationships. Did/do you have a mentor throughout your career? Do you have a person or people that you have taken the mentorship role for now that you're a more established artist? How do you feel those relationships change your work?

LN:  My first, and perhaps most influential mentor in dance was my first teacher Rosemary Cappozalo. She was passionate about clean, healthy, refined technique, but also about the idea of generosity in performance. Performance without love behind it didn’t mean anything.

I didn’t know at the time, but she instilled in me a subconscious understanding of this at an early age. She trained me in basics of teaching, and inspired me to take the art form seriously, and notice the positive impact arts can have in communities if allowed to thrive. Although she’s no longer here, I often think of her when I’m stuck, or frustrated, or need guidance.

Now as an educator myself I function as a mentor at times for specific dance students, (and academic tutees). For these individuals, I usually find myself acting as a confidence coach. Whether they are performing on stage or on an exam I recognize that students need to find the desire and determination within themselves to put in the necessary work, and then trust their own abilities to do it. This sort of consistent engagement with students is a reminder to appreciate process in general.


Getting to Know Kora Radella

Kora Radella of boomerang recently answered some questions about her work and their upcoming performances in Brooklyn!  They'll be at the CoolNY 2014 Dance Festival on 
Friday 2/7 at 7 p.m. & Saturday 2/8 at 9 p.m.  All performances are held at the WHITE WAVE John Ryan Theatre, 25 Jay St., Brooklyn, NY and are FREE! -Nicole
photo by Mark Davis
N:  It appears that boomerang is a company of three with vastly different backgrounds. How do you create work together? Is your process collaborative? If so, what are some of the processes you've found to work well? What perhaps didn't work so well?
KR:  boomerang is comprised of myself, Kora Radella, Matty Davis, and Adrian Galvin. My work with them together started after casting them in a quintet that eventually was performed at Kennedy Center. They both had taken beginning modern dance technique class with me at Kenyon College for their first dance classes ever. Davis worked with me his junior year and Galvin joined when they were both seniors. After the quintet, we really wanted to continue working together more intensely via duets. They both had full and eclectic movement histories including a common link of aggressive roller-blading and an inherent love of motion. What I value most about them is how vulnerable they allow themselves to be in the work. That openness within our creative research offers depth and dialogue that keeps us engaged. We all contribute to the movement language for each piece. I am the choreographer of the work with input from them. I’ve also choreographed solo work in collaboration with Davis. We’re currently working on a solo that we are really excited about sharing. The three of us work well together with some adjustments of how to share feedback within the rehearsal process. The biggest challenge is that Davis and I are more enthusiastic about boomerang and making time for it to thrive. Davis does much of the administration and writing to get our work out. We are all juggling passions, schedules, locations, and responsibilities. Davis is a visual artist and Galvin is a musician with Poor Remy and Yellerkin.

photo by Mark Davis
N:  You're presenting a duet called Boomerang at the CoolNY 2014 Dance Festival. Can you tell me a bit about the piece and where it came from?
KR:  We are presenting the first duet we made together, Boomerang, like our company but with a capital B at CoolNY 2014. For that duet, one of the things I had been thinking about was putting what one would normally be at the end of the piece, right at the beginning instead. Thus, they start out thrashing and shaking, which is reminiscent of Davis on the dance floor at a party! This compact duet shows the breadth of their abilities as movers in exciting ways while allowing an empathetic relationship to develop in front of the viewers’ eyes.

We are also super excited about premiering our first evening length performance entitled Shred January 31st at 7:30 p.m. at the beautiful IrondaleCenter (85 S Oxford St., Fort Greene, Brooklyn) as part of the dance festival FLICfest 2014.

N:  You are also part of a company called Double-Edge Dance. I love the idea of a company formed by a choreographer and musician equally. Can you tell me a little about how you guys work together? How did you meet?
KR:  Double-Edge Dance was co-founded by myself and composer/saxophonist, Ross Feller. During the process of the first piece we made together, he noted that I was having much more influence on the music than he was on the dancing. He had come into the studio and recorded the dancers rhythms and all sorts of things. After that observation, I had him come into the studio and fall all different ways via his own methods. I then learned his falls, made a phrase of them and taught them to the cast. He hasn’t really complained about that imbalance of influence anymore, perhaps because he doesn’t want to be asked to fall over and over again anymore! We work all different ways depending on the project but most often I work without music during at least the first third of my rehearsal process. We both are also improvisers within our own art forms so we often have set works juxtaposed with improvised pieces in our programs. We enjoyed that most recently in our October ’13 show at Roulette in Brooklyn.
photo by Mark Davis

N:  People in the arts often develop strong mentor/mentee relationships. Did/do you have a mentor throughout your career? Do you have a person or people that you have taken the mentorship role for now that you're a more established artist? How do you feel those relationships change your work?KR:  I have moved around too much to have a really strong mentor. I was fortunate to study with Bessie Schoenberg one summer. She saw a private showing of my solo work and was surprised at how it contrasted with how fun loving she observed me to be in my social interactions. She surmised that I was afraid showing my humor in my choreography would make me lose powerful performances. She locked eyes with me and said, “It is impossible for you to lose your edge.” I’ll never forget that, though I don’t tend to do lighthearted fun pieces still! I was lucky to go to SNDO (School for New Dance Development) in Amsterdam and create work in that city for four years. That was a big growth time for me as was when I lived in Brussels and Basel. I think the influence of those places and the fact that art is like food there versus something extra, was really helpful (though frustrating in that art is not treated the same way in America usually). There are a few dance artists who ask me to give them feedback and keep in close contact with me. I enjoy that process. One of the ways mentoring changes my work is that through offering feedback, I articulate ideas I often find problematic in my own work and art form. Such dialogue helps me examine and deconstruct underlying assumptions to get more breadth of choice and clarity.


Getting to Know Jordan Rosin

The choreographer, Jordan Rosin, performing in The Ume Group's
"Facet" at the 2013 WAVE RISING SERIES at WHITE WAVE;
photo by Anton Martynov.
Our next interview in the CoolNY 21014 Dance Festival series is with Jordan Rosin of The Ume Group.  You can see his work on Friday, February 7 at 9:00pm & Sunday, February 9 at 6:00pm.  All performances are held at the WHITE WAVE John Ryan Theatre, 25 Jay St., Brooklyn, NY and are FREE! -Nicole.

Rehearsals for "Isis Variations aka Of Love /
Of Silence" (set to premiere at
CoolNY 2014), featuring Marie Putko
& Dave Herigstad, photo by Jordan Rosin

N:  Butoh is such a distinct movement style. How do you find it blends with the other movement styles you experiment with? Are there things that you struggle to meld due to the nature of Butoh?
JR:  While from the outside eye it may appear that there is not much in common between butoh and some of the other physical disciplines we practice (like gymnastics or kung fu), there hasn't yet been a movement style we've hands-down failed to meld with Butoh. Mostly, I think this is because of the fact that we view Butoh more as a philosophy and as a physical / spiritual discipline than as a movement style in and of itself. There are certain characters and situations in drama where our most self-sacrificial Butoh practices may seem out of place in performance, but things like embracing the physical hardship of a choreography or offering our dance to the benefit of others can really only deepen the resonance of a given performance (in any style).

N:  Your company, The Ume Group, is called a physical theatre company. Can you talk a bit about what that means and how it differs from dance or dance theatre?
JR:  Primarily, our core ensemble has come from the world of theatre. All of us have trained in method-based acting and a realistic approach to telling stories onstage. The word "physical" comes in because we aim to train our bodies and to practice our art with the self-discipline and dedication characteristic of athletes or dancers. Every 2nd & 4th Tuesday for example, our core ensemble and community of followers join together in a free & open-to-the-public event known as "Open Training" where 3 teachers share 3 radically different approaches to training the physical body of a performer. I'm excited that in February we'll also begin our first weekly "Company Classes" which will focus (at least initially) on tightly goal-oriented training in gymnastics, yoga, and butoh for our most frequent performers. Many would say that the work we do is like dance, but not coming from that world myself, I wouldn't really know.

N:  It looks like your work is a very intense and hands on. How do you find the people you work with? How much say do they have in the creation process?
JR:  In the last year or so we instituted a physical training program known as the Training Ensemble, where for three months at a time one day each week a group of 6 artists gather to learn a variety of physical disciplines, create new work together, and practice their own skill as teachers. From this program - now in its third quarter - most of our principle dancers have emerged, including Marie Putko and Dave Herigstad whom you will see perform when you join us at the CoolNY Festival on Feb. 7 and 9. In our first two years as a company, membership was all about participation in our flagship martial-arts / butoh-dance epic, BUTOH ELECTRA which we produced at numerous venues and for which casts of actors and actor/dancers selected from extensive rounds of auditioning trained and rehearsed for months at a time. That's how we met Yokko and Hannah Scott, who still teach and dance with us on a regular basis. Now we've begun - through the Training Ensemble - to develop a more formal, but still remarkably organic way of initiating new artists into our creative process. As far as that creative process is concerned, it is always truly varied and highly ensemble-based. As a "choreographer", I pick a few of the landmarks (sometimes themes, music, words; occasionally the body positions) which I think will render the most interesting or resonant journey for the artists to undergo in front of an audience and then I ask the artists to practice that journey, discovering their own landmarks with sometimes similar, sometimes different destinations. Their commitment to moment-to-moment honesty with themselves and with the universe around them is more important than any combination of poses or words, which I think of as part of that final destination.

N:  People in the arts often develop strong mentor/mentee relationships. Did/do you have a mentor throughout your career? Do you have a person or people that you have taken the mentorship role for now that you're a more established artist? How do you feel those relationships change your work?
JR:  Awesome question. I believe that mentor-ship is fantastically important. I was lucky enough when I was in acting school to have a teacher by the name of Steven Cross who truly pushed me to explore alternate ideas of what "theatre" could mean. As one of the school's two "movement" teachers in the acting program, he not only advised all of my directing work, but was also the first one to introduce me to the tools-of-the-body I use on a regular basis today... yogic asanas, whole-body listening, handstands (which are a fabulously useful trick for anyone to explore), and centering myself with breath. From these seeds I developed a whole variety of interests in disciplines as diverse as butoh and competition-style gymnastics, but perhaps more importantly, he helped me develop an awareness of my body as a playground and a temple, across which my spirit is thrilled to dance and play in new ways every day. That's what I aim to cultivate in the artists I mentor when I am blessed to teach in The Ume Group's workshops and Open Training sessions.


Getting to Know Micheline Heal!

I also quite enjoyed talking with Micheline Heal about being a young choreographer in New York City.  You can see her work on Friday, January 31 at 7:00pm, Saturday, February 1 at 9:00pm, Friday, February 7 at 9:00pm & Sunday, February 9 at 6:00pm at the CoolNY 2014 Dance FestivalAll performances are held at the WHITE WAVE John Ryan Theatre, 25 Jay St., Brooklyn, NY and are FREE! -Nicole

N:  You participated in something called the "Stages of Healing" program.  Can you tell me a bit more about it?
MH:  Yes! “Stages of Healing” is a wonderful presentation series at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center that is curated by Dr. Micah Sickel. He brings artists and companies into the hospital to do programming with current patients (active duty, retiree and dependents), patient families and hospital staff. Sourcing artists from grantees of National Endowment for the Arts and the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities (I was a grantee in 2011), they have curated artists such as Dance Exchange, Michael Rohd of Sojourn Theater, Grammy-nominee Christylez Bacon, and Poet Laureates Linda Pastan and Joseph Bathanti, amongst others.

N:  You used to be here in Boston.  Can you talk a bit about your work with the American Chinese Arts Society's Traditional ChineseDance Troupe?  How does that work translate to what you're doing today? 
MH:  I grew up in Boston and danced with the American Chinese Arts Society’s Traditional Chinese Dance Troupe for ten years. My introduction to the troupe happened when I was seven years old; my grandmother saw an ad in the Chinese newspaper for the audition and being the dutiful granddaughter I auditioned, got in, and wound up staying until I left Boston for college. It was an incredible link to my Chinese heritage that I am profoundly grateful for and most certainly influences my choreography & movement vocabulary. My use of props (especially fabric), fluid & spiraling phrase work, acrobatics, and thematic focus on spiritual and metaphysical subject matter are each direct but subtle displays of my training in Chinese dance. The dances I grew up performing filled the stage with lush costumes, dramatic sets and backdrops, and movement that explored props such as fans, ribbons, drums, and the iconic long water sleeves. My goal is to integrate these influences seamlessly, interpreting them in a western context so that they come through in their essence and not as cultural appropriation. Of course I do, on occasion, dip directly into my wealth of training and make a dance that is recognizably Chinese but I only do so to draw the audience’s eye very intentionally through an Eastern cultural lens.
N:  Your company, Mich-Mash, relocated from the DC area to Brooklyn, NY in 2012.  How did that move work?  Did you have dancers who moved with you or did you begin working with new collaborators once you moved?MH:  When I relocated Mich-Mash from the DC area to Brooklyn it was because I, for personal reasons, had to make the move. The dancers with whom I was working with in DC did not come with me; my company still works on a pick-up basis and though I have dancers who have worked with me on many different projects, the core group of dancers who I was working with at the time also had other commitments to other companies and were not in a position to move with me. Over the past year and a half I have gathered (through a myriad of avenues) a group of dancers in New York who I collaborate with on an increasingly regular basis.
N:  People in the arts often develop strong mentor/mentee relationships.  Did/do you have a mentor throughout your career?  Do you have a person or people that you have taken the mentorship role for now that you're a more established artist?  How do you feel those relationships change your work?
MH:  I don’t have a single mentor but I would say that I have several in a kind of mentorship circle. Ironically none of them are choreographers – I wish I had a strong artistic mentor who could give me concrete and specific feedback on my work. Calling all mid-career/established choreographers: I would LOVE to speak with you about mentorship! Marcus Kyd, Artistic Director of the Taffety Punk Theatre Company in DC, took me under his wing shortly after I landed in DC and has provided invaluable advice & counsel to me over the years. Laura Colby, Founder & Director of Elsie Management, who I have assisted in various administrative capacities, has taught me more about the business of the dance field than I think I could have learned in an MBA course comprised exclusively of case studies in dance. John Gingrich, of John Gingrich Management, has generously shared with me a lifetime of experience as a dance audience member, classical music manager, and is a dear friend.

I really do wish I had a mentor who was a more established choreographer. Because I started choreographing professionally at such a young age, I never joined a company where traditionally dancers establish that kind of relationship. I also never did the summer programs, the other place where such a relationship would have naturally emerged.

To learn about good choreography, I watch dances. I’ve spent hours watching videos, and regularly attend live performances, trying to sponge up as much as I possibly can. In my book the mark of a good performance is when I stop doing my homework and just get swept up in the work.

To critique my work, I turn first to my dancers & collaborators, then to my audience. I very intentionally maintain a relaxed rehearsal environment and urge anyone that I’m working with to feel comfortable giving feedback on both the work itself as well as my methodologies. Collaborative dance-making is all about listening throughout your leadership without losing sight of the vision. It’s a delicate balancing act, one that I think I’ll spend a lifetime striving to perfect.

Once the dance has been performed, it doesn’t mean that it stops evolving. Little things change and morph over time, new dancers bring new ideas or a fresh insight to the material, feedback from audience members can lead to subtle shifts or entire re-workings of sections. I become more like a playwright watching my ideas be interpreted and reinterpreted – a process that is truly beautiful to witness.

N:  Monkeyhouse is really big on celebrating a birthday.  When is your birthday?  (Don't worry, you don't have to share the year!)
MH:  My birthday is June 14, 1987. And you can put that wherever you want! I’m young by some people’s standards, old by other's – so in turn you could say that I make very good dances for a young person or very bad dances for someone my age.


Remembering Dance in the Fells

by Brianna Unsworth

A few months ago you heard about Sam's experience dancing in Nikki's section of our piece at Dance in the Fells.   Here's another one of Nikki's dancer's, Bri, telling her side of the experience.  Enjoy!  -Nicole.

As a play on the environment of which a performance was set, the choreographers developed a sequence of interferences, or rather an implied universal interruption. The choreographers known as Monkeyhouse, utilized their roles as creative human beings to piece together individual moments in time where they found connection to the earth. Much like the ever seizing flow of natural disasters, they found themselves shifting the earth, or exchanging motion with it. This interruption of movement in nature is what I found to drive the creative performance at Dance in the Fells.

From the beautiful natural environment, equipped with changing leaves, wild winds, silky water, bugs, and wildlife, to the materialized, metallic, and inflated balloon fish the creators utilized the most obvious forms  to make this simple opposition clear to viewers. The floating fish tempted to manipulate the natural flow of the water’s ripples, while the lone dancer manipulated the earthly water sisters. This interaction between human and nature occurred in stages of the piece, building and building as time elapsed – only right in time for the audience to be left making their own interpretations – to manipulate, or to become one with the natural environment that encircled them.

As a dancer, or rather a water sister, I felt in tune with my natural surroundings; feeling the wind down my spine, the spider crawl over my legs, and the spritz of rain touching down on my face. Not only did I find the creation of this piece interesting and ever-evolving, but it inspired me to view the natural environment as a more prominent “being” in my life. Monkey House was a blessing to work with not only as they allowed me to further my dance career, but also in helping to develop a deeper understanding of movement, nature, and my inner self.


Getting to Know Kristin Sudeikis!

I have thoroughly enjoyed chatting with Kristin Sudeikis as we get ready for the CoolNY 2014 Dance Festival.  The festival has two weekends of performances and you can catch Kristin's work on Thursday, February 6 at 7:00pm & Saturday, February 8 at 7:00pm.  If you make it to see her work please let me know since I will only be in town the first weekend!  -Nicole

photo by Lindsay Linton
N:  You have done a lot of work in recent years with organizations that promote health, safety and empowerment for women and girls.  Can you talk a bit about what got you started with that particular community and how you feel that work has changed you/your work?
KS:  Dance, in my opinion, is one of, if not, the most healing art form on the planet.   

When I first heard about the human trafficking epidemic (as I was standing in the hallway at Peridance Capezio Center in NYC about to rehearse)  I felt completely paralyzed, top to bottom.  Next question I asked myself -what can I do? And I began.

N:  Your work has varied greatly over the years, from the stage to tv and film to the classroom.  If given a choice, would you stick with one venue?  What do the different venues bring to your work that the others can't?
photo by Lauren Volo
KS:  I am absolutely into presenting and creating in each of these venues time and time again.  No preferences here.  Communicating via dance in any and every realm.....all of it feels right and necessary.  Dance has a way of communicating that words will never do justice to.  Whether you are the one dancing (the one speaking) or the one observing (the one listening) dance takes humanity to a completely alternate and unique space. One that words alone are incapable of reaching. I am so very into that. Always have been, always will be.

N:  Many people talk about your passion and positive energy.  Is presenting those things something you actively work towards or is that just your underlying personality shining through?  It's easy to become discouraged as a choreographer these days, with minimal funding and less and less support for the art form.  Why do you think what we do is important?
KS:  Well, it is kind to hear that people talk about my passion, positive energy, etc.  Do I work on that? Yes, every day I just imagine butterflies and unicorns and puppies...nah, I'm kidding. 
Here's the deal--
photo by Lauren Volo
Dance is analogous to life and to love. I could go on about this for days on end.  And I know I will be talking and dancing about it for decades.  I am in awe of the way dance changes humanity inside and out. It is its own very special and effortless and instinctual language.  To then add an infinite vocabulary to said language....there is no discouragement, only more discovery.
N:  People in the arts often develop strong mentor/mentee relationships.  Did/do you have a mentor throughout your career?  Do you have a person or people that you have taken the mentorship role for now that you're a more established artist?  How do you feel those relationships change your work?
KS:  Yes, I have mentored artists, dancers, choreographers and artistic directors.  I am down to pass on every tidbit of my experiences with them all the while learning countless amounts form them.
photo by Lauren Volo
I believe that listening and learning from those we are drawn to or intrigued by is one of the greatest forms of learning. Read "Letters to a Young Poet" by Rilke.  That will mentor you. I also feel strongly that one must throw away what they have learned and go into the unknown, into the imagination, into the unspoken....and create from there.  However, for advice on booking theaters, dancers, lighting, etc - yes, hit up a mentor.   And prepare to allow the gratitude to overflow in you as you learn. I think it is such a cool process to be mentored by another whether it is in one encounter or as an ongoing process. 
I continue to learn immeasurable amounts simply by observing those I adore and by those that provoke me artistically.


Getting to Know Angela Gallo!

We have loved getting to know so many artists from the CoolNY 2014 Dance Festival!  Today we'd like to introduce you to Angela Gallo of Sapphire Moon Dance.  You can catch her piece Friday, February 7th at 7:00pm & Saturday, February 8th at 9:00pm.  All performances are held at the WHITE WAVE John Ryan Theatre, 25 Jay St., Brooklyn, NY and are FREE!

Photo by Yi-Chun Wu
N:  It sounds like your work crosses a lot of genres.  Can you talk about specific ways you've integrated multimedia elements into your work?
AG:  I have done this in a number of ways. Some works use text either pre-recorded or with the dancers speaking as they dance. In terms of more multimedia effects, some of my work simply uses pre-recorded video projections but others use more interactive video work. I use the program Isadora, developed by Troika Ranch, to create effects in the video or the sound score that can be manipulated my my self or the dancers in real time during the performance. 

photo by Miguel Anaya
N:  This isn't your first time at the CoolNY Dance Festival.  Can you talk a bit about the piece you'll be performing this year?
AG:  This year I am performing a duet with a colleague that I have danced with for many years, Eric Blair. He and I attended graduate school together and have danced together numerous times since then but it has been a while since our last work and I am very happy to be in the studio creating and performing together again. The work itself deals with cycles and patterns that we get stuck in both individually and in relationships. 

N:  Festivals like this bring together a wide range of performers from across the globe and create opportunities for artists to expand their communities.  How is Sapphire Moon Dance developing the community in Columbia, SC? 
AG:  The arts community in Columbia is a pretty exciting one for such a small city. There are a number of really talented artists to work with here. The work that we do tries to expand what people in this area are comfortable with. It is a much more conservative city than where I am from so I am trying to expand the knowledge and comfort level with contemporary dance and dance installation type projects. 

photo by Yi-Chun Wu
N:  People in the arts often develop strong mentor/mentee relationships.  Did/do you have a mentor throughout your career? 
AG:  I am not sure if I have had a true mentor. I have people that have inspired me as an artist, educator, choreographer and dancer. Different people for those different roles. Some of my faculty from graduate school have been mentors for me and I still write then when I have questions or concerns. Some of my friends from when I lived and danced in NYC are definitely mentors/inspiration for me. There are a couple professional dancers and choreographers that I have worked with over the years that have continued to inspire me and also have great advice though some difficult times.

N:  Do you have a person or people that you have taken the mentorship role for now that you're a more established artist?  
AG:  I hope that I can be a mentor for my students. Many of then dance in my company after they graduate and its really nice to see how they continue to grow after college.


Getting to Know Kyla Barkin

Here's another interview from one of the many CoolNY 2014 Dance Festival Artists.  Kyla Barkin is the artistic director of BARKIN/SELISSEN PROJECT.  Since Monkeyhouse is performing the first weekend of the festival I'm sad I wont get to see her work, but you can find Kyla and her company on Friday, February 7th at 9:00pm & Sunday, February 9th at 6:00pm.  All performances are held at the WHITE WAVE John Ryan Theatre, 25 Jay St., Brooklyn, NY and are FREE!

N:  From reading descriptions of your work it sounds like you often deal with topics drawn from the sciences.  (You don't get the word neuroplasticity in the description of a dance piece very often!  I'm excited to see the piece!)  What is your non-dance background?  What draws you the partnering of dance and math/science?
photo by Sloane Timson
KB:  I have always been fascinated by the human body and its mechanics.  While studying anatomy, kinesiology, biomechanics, exercise science, yoga, and more, I developed a greater appreciation for science which expanded to physics and eventually beyond.  There is quite a bit of physics involved in dance therefore we are constantly considering scientific notions as well as applying the scientific method to almost everything we do in rehearsal.  I have also had many relationships with friends and family who are scientists and artists who are intrigued by and incorporating elements of science in their work.  These people have been tremendously influential in my interest and understanding, but what is more is that their passion for math and science is as strong as any artist's for their own form, and nothing less than inspiring.  Additionally, I believe that humans best absorb information when all senses are engaged and, by applying scientific theories or concepts within our process, we are able to deeply understand and communicate new information which is useful for all involved.  I also believe that there must be a balance of opposites to create a full spectrum of anything.  Merging the arts and sciences is an example of the beauty of that synergy.  There is science and math in the arts as much as there is passion and creativity in science and mathematics and we need not keep them completely separate, but rather bring them together to create a fuller experience. 

Photo by Tom Caravaglia
 N:  I am very curious about your piece "Differential Cohomology".  I read that it is based on a mathematical theory.  Can you tell me about where the idea for the piece came from and how it developed?KB:  Differential Cohomology is a mathematical theory developed by Jim Simons.  Early one fall morning, on a walk in central park, Jim was explaining the theory to me and we realized that it could make a great dance.  Jim commissioned the piece to be shown at the opening of the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics' International Workshop on Differential Cohomology at Stony Brook University. Differential Cohomology, dance of the diagram  was shown as part of an evening of BARKIN/SELISSEN PROJECT's work with the Sirius String Quartet and Ray Anderson and Band at the Staller Center for Performing Arts Main Stage in 2011.  As far as how the piece developed, Jim had defined 8 terms for us to be able to understand the diagram and theory.  I took those 8 terms and created one movement for each, then either accumulated or subtracted to create two phrases.  When executed simultaneously, there would be some perfect unison and some variation.  A duet was also created to represent the mysterious and all-knowing center couple who absorb and impart information.  This vocabulary became the seed for the movement and was further fleshed out by using other descriptive words that were used by Jim in his lecture.  We also created phrases and variations using the dancers' input and interpretation of some of the "rules of the road" for following the theory (topology, geometric shape, interactions, being "crushed to zero", etc.)  Sometimes problematic was the ability to stick strictly to the rules due to the fact that the moving parts of the diagram may only move from stage right to stage left, with the exception of the center duet couple, who have more freedom.  Jim recognized this as an issue for stage and we agreed that it would be ok to break the rules sometimes under the philosophy of all must be legit during the day however, "there's no accounting for what happens at night," which was helpful in building suspense, tension/release, etc…   

N:  This is fascinating!  I can't wait to watch the documentary on the making of the piece by Nel Shelby!
N:  I see that you danced for Doug Elkins.  (He is one of my favorite choreographers!)  Who are some of your favorite choreographers you've worked with?  What about choreographers you haven't had the chance to work with? 

photo by Hannah Schillinger
KB:  Yes, Doug is a great choreographer.  I worked with him when I was pretty young and new to New York City…  One of my favorite choreographers is actually Pina Bausch.  I feel the range of movement and theatrics is crafted and textured in such a way that I am often transported and inspired.  I generally find that I have fewer favorite choreographers and more favorite pieces or moments that I've seen and/or been a part of.  Having said that, another favorite is Janis Brenner with whom I've worked for many years.  I met Janis at UCLA when I was a freshman and joined her company shortly after moving to New York in the late 90's.  Janis continues to touch me with her work to this day and in different ways on different days.  It is multi-layered, intelligent, aesthetically interesting, and emotionally relevant to many. 
N:  People in the arts often develop strong mentor/mentee relationships.  Did/do you have a mentor throughout your career?  
KB:  I have always considered Janis to be a mentor.  There are other people I reflect upon and draw from; however, it's a little of this and a little of that.  Janis has been around and intentionally guided me for a very long time.  She is usually the first person I call when I am ready to reveal what I am working on and to receive trusted feedback. 
photo by Yi-Chun Wu
When creating work, different influences and people ring in my mind.  Sometimes it is about using tools or answering questions, sometimes about accessing or acquiring new ideas and/or skills, but mostly it is about finding your own way by using each experience as information to increase awareness as well as knowing when to let go, when to get out of the way, and how to cultivate art and relationships.

N:  Do you have a person or people that you have taken the mentorship role for now that you're a more established artist?  How do you feel those relationships change your work?
KB:  Hmmm.  That is a bit of a hard question, because one doesn't always know whether they have made or are making that type of impact on anyone specifically at the time.  The short answer is, yes.  I have had long-term students, interns, assistants, dancers, etc. and it is clear that we have wonderful relationships and they have learned a lot, as have I.  According to "neuroplasticity"  I guess we are all influencing one another.  It is just a matter of whether someone has been named "mentor" or has been making a lasting and/or visible impression over a steady period of time.  I do feel nurturing toward quite a few people with whom I work and love giving feedback and workshopping ideas to help in any way I can.  I also feel that we are relatively young as a company and we may be in the early stages of engaging in mentorships rather than looking back at a longer history of having done such a thing, officially.


Meet Jacob Rosen!

We are excited to introduce two new interns for 2014 and welcome back an old one!  First, meet Jacob Rosen.  Jacob has been a student of Nicole's at Natick High School for two years now.  He is a hard working, dedicated performer who is always thinking.  We're excited to have him around Monkeyhouse!

Jacob Rosen is a Sophomore in High School and an impulsive performer. In addition to theater he is involved with multiple choral ensambles, including the Natick High School Advanced Choir and the Natick High School Mens "Style" Ensamble. Jacob is also a member of the Natick High School Speech Team, where he has placed and thrived in events such as Humorous Interpretation, Play Reading and Dramatic Performance, also qualifying and competing in the National Catholic Forensic Leagues National Tournament of 2013. He is more than ecstatic about interning at Monkeyhouse. Jacob was privileged enough to be dancing and jiving with what appears to be grace in school productions under Nicole's wonderful and honest choreography for 2 years now. He is a true believer of the quote "A dream is only a dream until you make it real." It does not matter to him that the quote is spoken by Harry Styles of One Direction, it still rings true to him. Jacob loves Mokeyhouse and he doesn't care who knows. A child prodigy whom remains undiscovered, he would like to thank his Mother and Father for obvious reasons and others reasons that are not so clear. Also he would like to thank those who gave him this wonderful opportunity, Nicole and the wonderful company Monkeyhouse.


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