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.

No comments:


Related Posts with Thumbnails