Jillian Grunnah on Mentoring

As August winds down, local choreographers who had flocked to summer workshops, residencies, and performances in cooler climates begin to migrate back to Boston. For example, Jillian Grunnah recently returned from in Italy and is already preparing for the launch of her newest creation, SpunkandCOmpany. Her company is composed of six dancer/choreographers who lend, not only their technical skill, but also their creative input and energy to every dance. 

Since Jillian participated in the winter Emerging Artists Program at Green Street Studios, I decided to pick up the thread of our series on mentoring with her. I asked her to ruminate on her experience as a mentee and to riff off of  Kendra Heithoff 's request for more in-depth mentoring relationships.   

By Jillian Grunnah

The most valuable part of the GSS Emerging Artist Concert was the factor of accountability to yourself as an artist and to the work you are creating. Having a mentor keeps you focused and constantly pushes you to think outside of your own creativity and values. Knowing that someone is there to see your work through to the next place keeps the wheels turning. I was not allowed to become complacent or satisfied too quickly with my work. I think having that outside set of caring and knowing eyes allows a choreographer to feel supported yet challenged.

I think that it was difficult having two mentors. Although I appreciated the diversity of opinion, I think that it would be more beneficial to have a longer, closer process with one person. Maybe instead of a two-month process, it becomes half a year or even an entire year. My only fear is being solely influenced by that mentor, but I would hope to have someone who has similar aesthetic and conceptual values as I do, or at least is open to approaching different types of work and to really becoming invested in the development of my work. I felt like I experienced something like this in graduate school at Smith College in western Mass; although even there, it felt sometimes scattered and not as focused as I'd hoped. The mentor/mentee relationship is difficult in an artistic process because while it is important to be pushed, held accountable, and given new perspectives from which to work, the creative process for me has always been very individual and isolated. I guess that I sometimes fear that I will attempt to please the mentor instead of working from an authentic place.

Mark your calendars:

Friday / Saturday
September 16 & 17, 2011
8:00 pm

choreography by
audra carabetta
jillian grunnah
eileen kielty
miriam lundgren
tara mccrystal

Julie Ince Thompson Theatre at the
Dance Complex
536 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 

Tickets / $10 / can be reserved by email: 
spunkandcodancecollective@gmail.com, or by calling 312.315.4181


Arthur Fink said...

I appreciate Jillian's reference to the mentor as a source of outer accountability, whose very presence enforces the intensity of the artistic endeavor.

But how did the mentor(s) interact with Jillian's artistic project, with any intention or message, with her fascination with any kinds of movement or presence? Is the mentor a critic, or something else? Does the mentor become a collaborator, or just (not just) another source of light and enlightenment?

I'd like to know how Jillian's piece is different than it might have been because of the mentor relationship(s).

No criticism intended here . . . I'm taking this blog entry as the start of a conversation, and voicing my hope that it can continue even more deeply.

I've enjoyed watching Jillian's work, and look forward to seeing it later this month. (Anybody going to Cambridge from Portland please contact me.)

k said...

Thanks for the thoughtful comments Arthur! I think your questions are fantastic and I am going to pass them on to Jillian to hear her thoughts on them. This is exactly the type of dialogue we were hoping to spark.


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