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Beyond the Steps: Reflections of Bliss Kohlmyer & Kara Davis

By | 2015 Works-in-Progress | No Comments

Well, we’re in the last week of our residency at BDF and both Kara and I can’t even believe how much we’ve experienced. You don’t even know you’re stuck in a certain state until you’re out of that place, you know?

Life at BDF has been full of new ideas, new mentors, new friends, and a re-imagining of everything we thought that we knew. As professors, we rarely get the chance to be students. These two weeks have been a reminder that there is always a different way to look at an old idea and new ideas are just around the corner from where you’re at.

These are some of the things that we’ve learned and/or have been reminded of:

Meaning making through movement is hard and it needs time and attention to blossom.

I will forever be a mover and learner.

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Live accompaniment (especially at this beyond unbelievable level of expertise) is a blessing and one that should not be taken for granted.

The floor is my friend even though at times it can feel like my enemy.

“Failing successfully” (thanks Nancy) involves disrupting the binary between failure and success.

The body is a full system not just pieces and parts.

Everyone is dancing all the time.

Be open and responsive, aware and curious.

Be generous without expectation of response.

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The thinking body is as or more intelligent than the thinking mind.

The first site of democracy can always begin with class.

Physical listening is a political act.

The studio can be the site where your hope for the world can manifest in performance.

What is beyond the steps? That is where the art and heart lies.

How does virtuosity manifest through skills taught in dance class?

We are just humans who’ve decided to build a life around moving.

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You must take responsibility for your own learning.

I actually think that I’m getting better with age.

You’ll never know everything. That’s why you keep dancing.

Thank you Laura Faure for making this experience possible!

 


 

Bliss Kohlmyer & Kara Davis are visiting artists who will be presenting their work at Different Voices on August 6th and 7th at Bates Dance Festival. 

Photo Credit: Andy Mogg

 

BDF Intern Profiles

By | 2015 BDF Internships | No Comments

The success of the Festival relies on the hard work of the staff, and a cadre of talented interns. Hailing from across the country, each of the interns brought different skills and insight to their assigned responsibilities, helping make the 2015 Festival a great success!



ADMINISTRATION

Photo by Lori Teague

Photo by Lori Teague

Georgia native and hair twirler, Sarah Freeman just graduated from Emory University with a double major in Dance and Movement Studies and English. She earned highest honors on her senior thesis project, All Being Displaced: Movement Translations of Flannery O’Connor, and received the Louis B. Sudler Award for the Arts. She has performed for local artists including Emily Cargill and Dancers and Catellier Dance Projects. Through internships in the Atlanta dance community, Sarah has become increasingly invested in its success.

“Through my experiences with different arts organizations, I’ve seen and become fascinated by the challenges and diverse requirements for logistically supporting different kinds of structures and missions,” Sarah said.

This passion for creating and sustaining artistic communities led her to apply for the Administrative Internship position. She was the first intern to arrive and quickly took on the role managing access to college facilities for visiting artists, faculty, and company members.

Sarah also managed scheduling for the body-workers, regularly updated the student database, sorted festival mail, proofread programs and coordinated special events. “I’ve been able to see how Meredith and Laura balance the rules of the Festival and the College with the well-being of each student, faculty and artist individually. With so many people constantly coming and going in a very intimate and intense creative environment, I have seen how important it is to have a calm, attentive and organized central point,” she said.

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Sarah doesn’t know exactly how the combination of artist and administrator will manifest in her, but she has seen that the most efficient and motivating leaders are vigilant about cultivating their physical or creative practice and employing it to augment their business persona. “I believes it is necessary and exciting to carry over the trust and curiosity that is built in the studio to all communities, including an office,” she said, “Working at an organization like BDF, which focuses on creating an all encompassing environment of support, has helped me hone in on the interactions between artistic and business worlds.”

After Bates, Sarah will be taking a new position as a Development Associate at Moving in the Spirit, an Atlanta non-profit that uses dance as a tool for youth outreach and community engagement. She has also been offered an artist fellowship at a brand new dance space, The Lucky Penny’s Work Room, where she will have 6 hours(!!!) of studio time each week to explore. In the fall Sarah’s choreography will be presented by Art on the Beltline, a City of Atlanta public art project, and the Emory Manuscript Archive and Rare Book Library.


Photo by Phyllis Jensen Graber

Photo by Phyllis Jensen Graber

Regan Radulski is a competitive ballroom dancer who just graduated from Bates College with a B.S. in Dance and a concentration in Chemistry. She grew up in Topsham, ME where she danced at a local ballet studio, before branching out into other forms during high school and college. Her dance studies at Bates culminated with her thesis performance micro:MACRO and the dance-Isadora technology collaboration Transparency with Lucas Wilson-Spiro. In addition to her dance studies, Regan also led the Bates Ballroom Team as president and captain.

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Regan has worked as an administrative assistant with BDF since her first semester at Bates. One of her favorite parts of her work with BDF is the summer when the campus come alive with dancers, meeting everyone, and interacting with people face-to-face. Coincidentally, Regan says that is the biggest lesson she has learned during her time here: amidst all of the creativity and joy that is dance, it is a business.

Regan has also learned that she enjoys supporting the arts community through administration. At the end of this year’s Festival, she will be moving to Boston to pursue an MS in Arts Administration at Boston University. She plans on dancing in the Boston area with a focus on the international ballroom styles.


Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Fernando Chonqui was born and raised in Ecuador and moved to Florida five years ago to pursue an undergraduate degree in math. Early on in his studies he took a dance elective, and decided to change course and immerse himself in the world of dance. Now he is pursuing his dance major at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “It’s the best decision I have ever made in my life,” he said.

Fernando also has a growing interest in arts administration. Here at BDF, he managed the festival’s store, selling BDF apparel and water bottles, CDs of the musicians, dance apparel made by Melody Eggen, knee pads, and recommended reading from the faculty. Fernando could be found selling items during the lunch break, checking inventory, tidying up the store after a rush, or carting the mobile store to and from performances.

Photo by Fernando Chonqui

Photo by Fernando Chonqui

The biggest thing Fernando  learned is how easy it is to connect other interests to dance. “I never thought my five years of retail experience, working at clothing stores, would be the reason why I am here today,” he said.

Fernando has become a well-known face at the Festival, meeting almost every participant as they came through the store to check out this year’s fare. “Retail therapy is a great way to get to know people,” he said, “I see how easy it is for people to open up to me when they just came in to the store to buy a long sleeve for class.”

After BDF, Fernando will begin his second year at USF. He wants to start expanding his involvement in dance into the Tampa community.


Photo by _________

Photo by George Richardson

Ryan McMullen is from Philadelphia and recently graduated from Slippery Rock University with a B.A. in Dance. Here at BDF, Ryan is referred to as the “Boy Friday,” because his arts administration internship position is to work with the director to manage and implement the myriad of behind-the-scenes details, both mundane and challenging, that keep the Festival running smoothly.

The arts administration internship challenges all of the interns, and for Ryan the greatest take away has been the experience of working well with others. This skill was used during registration, when the arts administration interns welcomed over 160 people in less than two days. “I believe the interns and the faculty are teammates working together to make the Festival the best place it can be,” he said.

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

With this position, Ryan feels he has been given the opportunity to connect with multiple artists on a new spectrum, especially artistically. The best part of the position was working with Laura Faure, Ryan said. “This woman is amazing at her job, and I have enjoyed every moment working with her as I learn more about arts administration. Bates Dance Festival feeds a dancer’s soul, and is the place to be if you want to become a stronger artist, dancer, and well-balanced human being,” he said.

In the fall, Ryan will be attending Florida State University as a graduate student to earn his MFA in Performance and Choreography. He will also be a graduate assistant in production management and will utilize the skills he acquires during this internship. “The new organizational, communicative, and social skills I have acquired will be imperative during my time as a graduate student,” he said.


Photo by Erin Laskin

Photo by Erin Laskin

Minnesota native, Sarah Ellen Miller, just graduated from Beloit College with a B.A. in Dance and Creative Writing. During her time with the Beloit College dance program, Sarah performed at the Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival, the New Prague Dance Festival, and the World Dance Alliance Global Summit in Angers, France, as well as many college performances.

Sarah’s other creative outlet is writing. She has worked for the student newspaper, The Round Table, for the past 3 years, and served as a Reporter Intern for the Twin Cities Daily Planet in the fall of 2015. She focuses on non-fiction personal essays and poetry about her experiences. “I strongly believe in the power of personal narrative as a form of rebellion and activism,” Sarah said, “What I write, while it might seem strikingly personal, is a commentary on the world around me.”

Photo by Regan Radulski

Here at BDF Sarah combined her interests working as a Social Media Intern, managing the festival’s social media accounts and writing for the blog. During the Young Dancers Workshop, Sarah posted all the photos to the Instagram and Facebook page. “I felt my role was really important to parents of the teens participating in the festival,” she said. “I could tell I was helping them get a glimpse into the experiences their children were having away from home.”

During Professional Training Program she balanced her blog posts with the task of organizing the New Works/Young Choreographers Showcase, which took place on the final afternoon of the festival.

This fall, Sarah will be returning to Beloit College to accomplish an Honors Term project, Recovering Here: Supplementing the Sexual Assault Conversation Through Dance. She will be interviewing survivors of sexual assault about their experience recovering while at Beloit College and the ways in which the institution, the faculty and staff, and the students either helped or hindered their recovery. During the spring semester, she will choreograph a dance-theater performance inspired by the interviews, which will be presented in April, 2016. Sarah will be using many of the skills she acquired this summer to aid her in the project. “I feel especially thankful I was here at the same time as Sean Dorsey,” Sarah said, “The method he used to create The Missing Generation is a larger-scale version of mine and he offered to give advice as the year progresses. His mentorship will be essential to the success of my project.”


Photo by _______

Photo by _______

Originally from Sandwich, MA, Meghan Carmichael is a graduate from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts with a B.F.A. in Contemporary Dance (2012). Now based in Providence, RI, she dances for choreographers Jessica Howard, Betsy Miller, and ali kenner brodsky & co. (for whom she is the marketing director).

She is now teaching modern/contemporary technique for the Providence Ballet Theater and Festival Ballet Providence training programs and is helping build a community dance outreach program collaborating through the Moses Brown School and RHD – Rhode Island. Meghan has also launched a blog for the Providence dance community called DancePVD.

Here at BDF, Meghan worked as a Social Media Intern, writing for the blog and managing the Festival’s social media accounts. She feels this internship has given her the opportunity to understand and appreciate the power of social media in the dance community.

Photo by Fernando Chonqui

Photo by Fernando Chonqui

“As technology becomes a more integrated part of our society, I’m curious about the ways it affects the dance community,” Meghan said. “What connects us? Why do we choose to share in the ways that we do? How can we use this technology that is changing society, culture, and this art form, to lift up this profession? How can we share our stories in order to give others an honest taste of the meaningful parts of what we do?”

Meghan has been developing and practicing how to better share the stories about dance throughout her internship. “The immersive and supportive nature of this festival has made devoting my time and energies to sharing the BDF story through social media, utterly fulfilling,” she said.”

She has also learned a lot about her own strengths and weaknesses during the internship, and has had the opportunity to address and delve into them to learn how to change.

This experience will help Meghan as she continues her work in the community of Providence, Rhode Island, and helps dance companies and choreographers with their social media presence such as akb & co and Doppelgänger Dance Collective. Meghan will be joining Prometheus Dance Company in Boston as a company member this upcoming fall. Check out Meghan’s website here.


DANCE EDUCATION

Photo by Zenderam Photography

Photo by Zenderam Photography

Timna Naim moved to California after living in Israel and New York, and currently attends UCLA. He is working to achieve a Dance Major with minors in LGBT Studies, Visual and Performing Arts Education, and Global Studies. Timna’s dance background includes studio Hip-Hop and Jazz, formal Ballet school, a Hip Hop Team, and several international culturally specific forms offered by the World Arts and Culture Department. His larger focus as an artist is his fascination with improvised movement and music, as well as his six years of creating ceramics and sculptural works.

“I was one of the many awesome interns working at the Bates Dance Festival this summer,” Timna said, “but I was also part of a smaller group of interns for the Youth Arts Program.”

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Each morning Timna works in the Modern and Hip Hop classes with youth from the Lewiston-Auburn community. He will also present a new work for the New Works/Young Choreographers Showcase at the end of the Festival.

This year at UCLA, Timna will be working closely with one of his professors on a grant project about art in communities of trauma. “Beyond that, my future is going to be full of art, learning, teaching and discovering, the details of which are yet to be known,” he said.


Photo by John Evans

Photo by John Evans

Madeline Warriner happily returned to BDF for a second year as a Dance Education intern with the Youth Arts Program. Maddie just received her Ed.M. in Dance Education and has a B.F.A. in Dance, both from Rutgers University in New Jersey. She is certified to teach in K-12 public schools and loves working with children and adolescents. She also recently became certified to teach yoga (RYT 200).

Maddie worked as part of the YAP team, to encourage the students (ages 7-16) to feel  supported and inspired enough to explore their own ideas and expressions of creativity. “The team bends over backwards to make sure the program is beneficial for every single child,” Maddie said.

The YAP participants take dance, music, theater, and art from a variety of teachers and also generate their own work. This year Maddie helped teach choreography, and was amazed by what the kids came up with.

Because students from a multitude of places, with a range of levels of dance experience all interact in the same space, the job can be a challenge. At the same time, however, Maddie said it’s the best part. “All of the kids learn to work together, learning from each other about dance and each others’ cultures as well as from the teachers and interns,” she said.

Maddie has learned a lot from the staff and the kids at YAP, from classroom management skills and collaborative and co-teaching skills, to facts about chickadees and the workings of an atom (from 8-year olds of course). “The staff really wants to make the experience beneficial for interns as well, providing us with opportunities to lead parts of class, and have some freedom and creativity with designing our own activities,” Maddie said.

In addition to the people involved with YAP, Maddie says she has met lots of inspiring and wonderful people throughout the rest of the Festival. “Everyone works so hard,” Maddie said, “and I met so many people that I want to stay connected with as I move into the next phases of my life.”

After the Festival, Maddie heads to New York to continue trying to teach, learn, create and perform. “BDF helps prepare me in all of those ways,” Maddie said, “I’m always sad to go, but I’m happy to have met all the people that I have and am excited to see a lot of them in New York!”


Photo by Miguel Salcedo

Photo by Miguel Salcedo

Meg Robbins just graduated from Connecticut College with a B.A. in Dance and Environmental Studies, earning a certificate in Community Action and Public Policy. She is working with the Youth Arts Program as an Education Intern in the Art and Storytelling.

Meg grew up taking dance classes and participating in summer arts programs, including BDF’s Young Dancers Workshop, and pursued the internship to become more involved the community surrounding the Festival. “These creative communities have stuck with me as ways to meet fantastic friends and mentors while growing tremendously,” Meg said, “I wanted to gain experience working with kids in and out of the classroom in an artistic realm.”

Meg worked with the youngest group of Yappers at the end of the day, and was impressed by their level of excitement and energy. In storytelling, she learned how to create a comfortable, home environment in a classroom, as well as encourage confidence in the kids sharing their voices, and in the art classroom, she practiced ways to support dialogue between children regarding the artistic choices they are making.

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

“I have learned this from the wonderful teachers, Annalyn and Priscilla, who have given me freedom in the classroom to introduce projects and ask questions,” Meg said.

After Bates, Meg is moving to Santa Cruz, California, to work as an Assistant Canvassing Director for the Fund for the Public Interest’s environmental campaigns.  She hopes to continue to pursue work in arts and dance education, as well as connect with the community artistically.

“In addition to this classroom experience, I have gained skills in communication and collaboration that will assist me in any field,” Meg said, “I’m extremely thankful for the Bates Dance Festival Internship Program, as well as the YAP staff for being incredible mentors and teachers.”


Photo by Kylie Wright

Photo by Matthew Wright

Kylie Sickler just finished her undergraduate degree in dance at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, where she will be returning this fall to complete an elementary education certification. After hearing many wonderful things about the festival from others, Kylie felt grateful to be immersed in the beauty of BDF’s special community for the first time this summer.

As a dance education intern for the Youth Arts Program, Kylie combines her passions for dance and education, while working with incredible youth from the surrounding area. “One of my favorite things about teaching is that in the process of imparting knowledge to others, I learn just as much, if not more, from the kids. These kids continually expand and reshape my understanding of dance, art, creativity, and the power of each to transform on an individual and communal level,” she said.

Working with the kids has reminded Kylie to not overlook the simple things. “Sometimes in the process of tirelessly striving to create something new and complex we lose sight of all of the possibilities right in front of us or at the forefront of our minds. These young artists reinforce for me why art is not only important, but necessary,” she said.

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Kylie says her work this summer has deepened her determination to integrate movement and art-making into her future classrooms as a means of teaching, rather than as isolated and occasional activities. She is inspired by the way the kids bring uninhibited creativity and a rejuvenating energy everyday to the program’s activities. “It was amazing to witness their growth as individuals and artists over the course of the program,” she said.

In addition, Kylie says, it has been a privilege to be able to work with the YAP faculty, who have become role models of teaching from the heart with devotion to the enrichment of the lives of youth. “I couldn’t wish for a better group of mentors as I prepare to enter the professional world and pursue a teaching career in an urban setting with a focus on arts integration while also seeking out opportunities to dance,” she said.


Photo by _______

Photo by Becca Maher

Allie Freed is a rising senior at Bates from Magnolia, MA. She is a Theater and English major, and identifies herself primarily as a theater artist (and dance enthusiast).

This summer, Allie was a Dance Education intern with the Youth Arts Program. She assisted in theater and art classes and, loved every minute. Both personally and professionally, Allie has felt the benefits of her internship.

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

“I have met wonderful theater and dance artists and am learning so much about the dance world,” Allie said, “I hope to take this new found knowledge and apply it to my theatrical practice as I seek to create meaningful work that can be translated into a variety of mediums.”

Allie said she has also learned a great deal about arts education. When she was not working with the kids, Allie was taking a modern class with Mary Carbonara and yoga with Robbie Cook.

“I look forward to taking this experience with me as I travel into my senior year at Bates and into my post-grad life as a theater maker,” Allie said.


TECHNICAL PRODUCTION

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Evan Carlson is a B.F.A. Theatre Design Major with an emphasis in Lighting Design for Dance at Western Michigan University. Here at Bates Dance Festival, he works as a Production Intern and will be designing lights for Kathleen Hermesdorf and Autumn Eckman for Different Voices. Evan has worked as a production intern at ADF, and will be the lighting designer for the WMU Winter Dance Concert this year.

Evan thinks working here at BDF has been one of his best production experiences. “What sets BDF apart from all other internships is that interns are given the ability to propose solutions to problems, the opportunity to work closely with the companies and their personnel, and space to express our creativity by designing lights for Different Voices concert at the end,” Evan said.

The small size of the production staff allows Evan and the other interns a lot of face time with their supervisors to build connections. Evan’s biggest challenge has been adapting to a new theater and learning about protocol and where the inventory is kept.

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Evan has also expanded his perception of dance. He has noticed its ability to successfully communicate ideas without overuse of theatrics or large group pieces. “This internship has once again reminded me of why I am in this career path,” Evan said, “It has renewed and enhanced my passion for dance.”

After BDF, Evan will return to Kalamazoo, Michigan to continue his studies at Western Michigan University. He will be the lighting designer for the first main stage performance, as well as the Dance Department’s Winter Dance Concert, and he will be the lighting supervisor for the East-Central American College Dance Association Conference in Early March.


Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Evee Helman is currently studying technical theater production Colorado State University. At BDF she is a technical production intern. At the beginning of the Festival she helped set up each studio space with marley, and to prepare Schaeffer Theatre for  weekly performances. She also designed lights for Different Voices, and worked as part of the production team to  complete a myriad of tasks.

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

“It has been such a joy to work here at Bates Dance Festival and to fall in love with dance all over again,” Evee said.

Evee feels she has learned a lot of valuable lessons as a designer and electrician, as well as met some of the greatest people. After each show, during strike, Evee could be found happily perched delicately at the top of a ladder, skillfully detaching lights and handing them down to her fellow interns.

“To think that I will be able to do this the rest of my life and continue meeting awesome people makes me happy,” she said, “I know I am in the right profession.”

After she finishes up at Colorado State University, Evee hopes to move to the East Coast and continue her theater and dance production journey.      


Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Guenevere Figueroa just graduated from Bates College with a degree in Theater Design, and also stage managed for the Dance Program. She works at BDF under Greg Catallier and Carrie Cox as a production intern.

Guen has noticed that the internship is designed to allow participants to challenge themselves and contribute collaboratively to each production, while still creating a comfortable environment. “My internship has really allowed me to enhance my technical and lighting skills which was a strong goal of mine. The mutual respect I feel as an intern here is my favorite part of the Festival and I don’t discount that as a large factor for the growth I am experiencing.”

She also said the connections she has made at BDF have been invaluable. Her interest in management has been fortified by the opportunity to meet each visiting company’s production staff and seeing the job from a multitude of perspectives.

This fall, Guen will be the Company Manager at The Public Theater in Lewiston, and she is excited to use the skills she has gained at BDF. “The job requires knowledge of multiple aspects of the theater and I’m sure my experience at the Festival will transfer over in a positive way,” she said.        


Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Sam Wheeler is a Theater and Sociology double major here at Bates College entering his third year this fall. He has done lighting and sound design for the College’s Dance Program during his time at Bates and has also taken a few dance classes.

As a production intern at the festival, Sam  worked closely with the visiting companies performing at the Festival. He made great connections with his supervisors, Greg Catellier and Carrie Cox, as well as with the stage managers who came to run the productions. “Each person I met and worked with gave me such great insight about what the ‘real world’ has in store for me when I graduate in a couple of years, which leads to a lot of exciting conversations and moments in the theater.”

Sam said the greatest take-away he gained during the internship was to not be afraid to take leaps in this business.  “Sometimes you are not going to land on your feet, but you will get up from the fall no matter how bad it may seem,” he said.

He has also learned how important it is to talk to people, get to know their stories, and learn about different ways of life, because it can change the way you think about the rest of the world. Sam picked up skills that will better his designing and decision-making process during the second half of his time at Bates College. “Each time I focused a light, pressed the ‘go’ button, brought in the curtain, set a sound level, or had a conversation, I learned something new that I can take with me as I go along.  The amount of hands-on experience I am getting here is bettering my future in the arts,” he said.


VIDEOGRAPHY/MEDIA

Photo by CLiK Studios

Photo by CLiK Studios

Chalice Streitman will be heading into her final year at Slippery Rock University after she leaves BDF, where she is working on degrees in Dance and Exercise Science. In addition to performing, choreographing, and improvising, Chalice is the student video archivist for the Department of Dance at Slippery Rock. I have studied video and dance in a multitude of ways including traveling to Seattle last summer to participate in a three-week dance film festival. During that festival I produced a short dance film. For my Senior Synthesis project, I wrote and received a grant to enable my attendance of Dance on Camera in NYC last January. This grant also funded the creation of my latest dance film.

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Photo by Sarah Ellen Miller

Chalice worked as a Videography Intern here at BDF. She helped the video team film performances and events, aided in video editing, and participated in brainstorming sessions for the best ways to connect the Festival to the rest of the world.

She was excited about all she learned. “The cameras and editing programs that I used  at BDF are more advanced than what I have had available to me in the past,” Chalice said, “I also have been fortunate to work with a wonderfully supportive video team.”

Chalice is looking forward to utilizing these new skills when she returns to Slippery Rock, and in the pursuit of her goals in the future.


Photo by Chelsea Rowe

Photo by Chelsea Rowe

Benjamin Mielke currently serves as a Videography/Media Intern here at BDF.  He received his B.F.A. in Modern Dance from the University of Illinois (2006) and his M.F.A. in Modern Dance from the University of Utah (2013) with a Certification in Screen Dance (Dance for Camera.)  From 2005-2014, Ben served as Technical Director, Aerial Rigger, and a Performer with Robert Wood Dance New York.  He currently reside in St. Louis, Missouri, where he has several ongoing creative projects (choreographic, dance photography, dance for camera, mixed media installation, and template drawings) as he applies for university teaching positions for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Ben’s internship included interviewing visiting artists and students, documenting performances and classes, assembling and editing video footage, and posting finished short-form documentaries to the BDF Vimeo and Youtube accounts. In his spare time, Ben has also provided photo shoots for visiting artists and students.  “I have gotten loads of practice shooting video on the department’s Canon XF100 and editing video with Final Cut Pro X,” Ben said, “My hour-long interview with Rennie Harris, who visited the University of Illinois as a guest artist in 2005, has been the highlight of the Festival for me.”

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Photo by Meghan Carmichael

Throughout his time here, Ben’s social network, which was already filled with Illinois and Utah alumni, has grown immensely. “This Festival has been wonderful for making new connections,” Ben said “The dance world is a tightly interconnected animal; it always surprises me how many of my former classmates and instructors are already notorious among my new friends.”

As Ben returns from BDF, he hopes to continue working on his creative projects as he applies for teaching positions. His template drawings and dance photography have garnered a lot of attention, and he is considering putting together a local installation. “I am also truly hopeful to find a space in which I can continue my exploration of the aerial harness rig,” he said. “It is something that allows me to interact with gravity in a completely different and amazingly awkward way.” Check out Ben’s website here.

Ima Iduozee 2

Researching Evolutions With Visiting Artist Ima Iduozee

By | 2015 Professional Program in Motion, 2015 Works-in-Progress | No Comments

Each year, the Bates Dance Festival hosts a handful of artists from abroad through its’ International Visiting Artists Program offering a three week creative residency in which to research and develop new work, advance their studies, network with peers from around the U.S., and showcase their talent on the “Different Voices” concert.

We saw these guest artists improvise together in the “Moving in the Moment” performance on July 29th. This was the first time the BDF participants saw these visitors move outside of the classroom setting. It was a fascinating introduction to see the visiting artists, faculty and staff  in this raw way as dancers and creators.

This year, one of those artists is Finnish choreographer, Ima Iduozee. During “Moving in the Moment,” we were introduced to his mythic, yet approachable presence. Long-limbed, towering over many in the room, he danced with an organic balance of power and grace. I was struck by his openness to drastic and dramatic emotional shifts as well as his availability to play with more subtle movement qualities.

Ima Iduozee 3

At the “Different Voices” performances on August 6th and 7th, Ima will be presenting an excerpt from his solo work, This is the title, which he has been touring since 2012. In July of this year, he received the annual honorary prize of the Finnish Critics’ Association, Critics’ Spurs, an “acknowledgment of the best artistic breakthrough for a young artist during the year.”

I sat down with Ima for lunch last week to talk about his background, creative process, and experiences at BDF.

“I’m from Helsinki, the capital city of Finland, that’s where I’m based. I started dancing when I was ten years old, breaking, break-dancing. I was fascinated by the whole culture and scene inspired by some of those early New York b-boys back then. I was very intensely involved with the b-boy community and breaking, we traveled across Europe doing exhibition battles, competitions and shows.”

“At some point, I felt like there was more out there as far as physical expression, and movement in general, so I stumbled upon contemporary dance, modern dance, and started working in musicals. So I was put into a position where I had to learn other ways of expressing through movement, not only through breaking.”

Iduozee studied contemporary dance at the University of the Arts Helsinki where they integrated many different techniques for him to put in his toolbox, including somatics, composition, and voice coaching. “After 2009, I started working for a few different directors and contemporary choreographers in Helsinki, doing physical theater, contemporary dance and modern dance.” He has worked with choreographers Arja Tiili, Sebastien Ramirez, Sonya Lindfors, and Tero Saarinen, to name a few. “I’ve been working as a freelancer, both as a choreographer and as a performer.”

I wondered if his transition from the break dance/street dance world to musicals and contemporary dance was a natural progression. He told me that the shift was “very organic… It was actually a soft landing, already I saw myself going a different path.”

Those influences have carried into his work now, however, he is hyper-aware of the cultural context of these styles of movement. He is mindful of how people label recognizable styles of dance, and does not want those labels to be a defining factor of how he creates. “I am interested in the human body, the corpse, and all that information that we carry with us in our DNA from long ago, from our ancestors. I use the tools that I have. I’m not interested in any certain style or genre of dance, I’m interested in movement and physical expression – physical gestures and that age of wisdom that we have with us in our bodies. So I will use and study whatever other style or convention is necessary. And I use all of that, I don’t separate or segregate them from each other.”

He took a breath and continued, “I have to emphasize that in order for one to fuse different styles or genres together, one must first learn the tradition and the history. It’s an ethical responsibility. You can’t just copy and paste without actually paying respect to the tradition of each genre. I just wanted to say that… I think it’s important. It’s a responsibility for artists to do so.”

We then moved on to his introduction to Bates Dance Festival, and how he came to Maine after only having visited the US one other time.

“I’ve been touring my debut solo around Europe for a few years, since 2012, and Laura [Faure] saw my piece at the Nordic Platform: ICE HOT  Festival  in Oslo, Norway last December. It was a contemporary dance festival, where they invited international curators, buyers, and organizers from all over the world to see what is happening in the Nordic contemporary dance scene.  Laura saw my work there, This is the title…” He chuckled, “that is the title of my work.” He could sense that I had missed that indication in the flow of the conversation. “Yeah, and she invited me here to perform an excerpt from that piece, to participate in some workshops if I wanted to, and to concentrate on my artistic work in residency.”

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“So I’ve been working on my next creation here, doing some research and trying to gather some material.” His next production is a commissioned work from the Stockholm City Theater, it will premier on October 31st. “I have three incredible performers dancing for me in that piece, so I’m moving to Stockholm next month to start working and start rehearsals. This is preparation, preliminary research, generating some material and ideas.”

“I’ve been working on the opening scene or last scene, but I’m not sure yet. I’m trying to figure out some movement motifs that I can then recycle, reconstruct, play around with, and later compose something concrete when I start working with the dancers in the studio.”

Before the showing, he shared with me about the genesis of that material. “I’ll be showing a short, very raw sequence I have gathered.” One of the scores in his new piece, Purple Nights, is “a metamorphosis from contemporary man, to neanderthal, to ape, to fish, to the single cell and maybe a reverse evolution.” He has been exploring the essence of the primal man from pre-verbal conditions, as impetus for the material he shared with the BDF community on Sunday.

The title, Purple Nights is a provocative image, a dreamy landscape. “It was from Herman Hesse, his novel called ystävykset… [translation: Pictor’s metamorphoses and other fantasies] is about a student who studies poetic literature. The name of one of the books he was reading was Purple Nights. I was trying to figure out what that would actually be. For me, it’s a surrealistic landscape, a poetic state of mind, which I was very fascinated by. And I thought that it suits the work I will be presenting in Stockholm.”

On August 2nd, there was an informal showing for the visiting artists to share what they have been working on while at the Festival.  At the showing, Ima shared what he had developed so far for this project, as a work in progress. Even in this preliminary draft form, his porous state of being and creature-like physicality was mesmerizing, mysterious, and utterly captivating.

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“I have to say that I feel quite fortunate to be here,” he said on his experience here at BDF. “To get the chance to work in residency without in residency without having to come up with any specific product at the end of the three weeks. I can work as much or as little as I want to, I’m only responsible to myself and that gives me a lot of free creative space to work with.”

“I also have the chance to participate in other workshops with incredible teachers who are here.” Ima emphasized on the importance of  having discussions with the other choreographers and artists in residency, “I get to feed my own thoughts as well. For me, that’s what residency is all about. It’s about you diving in to the choreographic practice with a bunch of people who are interested in creating work and proposing something worth while.”

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“And also the weather’s been great, the food is great, I can’t complain, I’ve had a blast!”

In addition to Ima Iduozee there is a diverse and exciting group of guest artists who are in residency at BDF this summer who will be performing in the concert “Different Voices” August 6th and 7th.

All of these artists have been teaching, taking class,  exchanging thoughts, creating new work, and are woven into the fabric of the festival. This creates a diverse environment of creators, students, and practitioners alike, all of whom exemplify BDF’s cooperative and supportive environment.

Photo Credit from “This is the title”: Lorenzo Passoni

This post was written by Meghan Carmichael.  Meghan is the BDF Social Media Intern for the 2015 summer.

A Cyber Primal: Process Conversations with Scotty Hardwig & Keanu Brady

By | 2015 Works-in-Progress | No Comments

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Scotty: We’ve begun to find a flow with the piece now, where a lot of the technological elements we’re working with in the Blackbox are aligning in a way that’s starting to facilitate a tone, a mood, and everything’s starting to synthesize with the bodies in space. There are a lot of moving parts in this installation: four projectors, two computers, a soundscore, two bodies in space being tracked by two Kinect cameras… there’s just a lot.

Keanu: And also the ideas we’re working with in the movement are fairly complex as well – this deep kind of vessel breathing that creates this strange kind of slow improvisational vocabulary, and an ongoing awareness of touch between us, a lot of sensation. And underneath all of that is this focus on the digestive tract, the complete tract from end to end – there’s really a lot of complex movement ideas going into this process.

Scotty: Absolutely! But those are also in a way really basic ideas, right? Like, there’s nothing more simple than the respiratory system and the alimentary canal, right? Which are  systems that informed the digital projection designs. So, here’s the thing, people are always like “oh, you know, tech, artwork and digital arts, it’s so new wave, alternative, and cutting edge… but I always feel when I do this kind of work like I’m grappling with the primal forces of nature. Things like light, eclipse, shadow, statistical formulas that mirror patterns found in nature, the subtle systems of our world broken down into numbers, and these cyber elements actually help to reveal something more primal than I can feel when I’m dancing in the studio. And when those two things come together, it’s like a cyber primal.

Keanu : A cyber primal! Totally…

Scotty: I don’t know how else to describe it.

Keanu: Yeah, I have no words — I’m still digesting what just happened in there. It’s amazing the conversation that the technology and the movement have together; what combining those two things unlocks and where it will take you. It’s the lighting design, there’s something about how the light reveals the body, or the body reveals the light. And having the light reveal the body and erase the body, and in the darkness the body reconfigures and has found a new shape, and the light has found a new random direction – it’s like, what is happening!

Scotty: It’s weird, it’s like a responsive light source with the Kinect cameras — they are tracking our movement, and responding to our movement using infrared sensors, which then is translated by the software in the computer and projected back onto our body, revealing our bodies, which then inform the light; it’s all very cyclical. It’s phototropic. And what’s interesting about that is that you feel that kind of primitive texture, a primal texture of light and growth response.

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Keanu: It informs the movement, I feel like I’m no longer being inside of it trying to situate this thing, but I’ve found the place in which there’s no more thought, it’s not run by the brain, or just by the body, or just by our relationship to the light, but all of those things tied together to become a cohesive whole.

Scotty: That’s why I say, whenever I’m building a new piece I feel like I’m building a Zen garden – in this case it’s a highly corrupted garden. It’s very cracked and imperfect in the design of the projections, that sort of coral shape which is the white, and the blood vessel design in red. I feel like through the projections that we create with the movement I’m seeing synapses, and internal processes of the body made external, and that those internal processes of the body are being made external in a way that reveals the body. In that way it’s kind of an inside out feeling and it’s very… weird… I don’t know how to describe it really.

Keanu: Indescribable?

Scotty: Haha, yeah, it’s tapping into something… we just had a very rich rehearsal by the way, we reoriented the projections. Again. And it’s going much better now, everything is falling into place, and now all four of the projectors are aimed in the same location on our bodies where the duet is happening. What we’re working on now is the movement vocabulary and how this duet is taking shape within this swirling world of light designs painting our bodies, and how that’s going to translate with two bodies together instead of one.

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Keanu: But that’s all in the improvisation of it – we work, and test, and experiment, see what’s feeling right and what isn’t feeling right, and how we’re both constantly reacting to one another and to the space around us. It’s like life in a way.

Scotty: Definitely, and as we go into this week of shows for the Different Voices concert and for the Bates Dance Festival community, we’ll have to try to maintain that sensitive space where the whole organism is still in a state of organic experimentation — it’s a hard thing to maintain going into performance.

Keanu: Performance! It’s coming so soon!

Scotty: Yep, and in the meanwhile, folks can check out the promo video which will be online soon up on Vimeo! Stay posted!

Check out the promo video here.

 

Delfos Danza

Global Connection: A Chat with Claudia Lavista

By | 2015 Professional Program in Motion | No Comments

It’s been bustling here at Bates Dance Festival. Not only has the first week of classes flown by, but there have also been workshops, performances, talks, and rehearsals throughout the week. Delfos Danza Contemporanea was in residence at the festival for their performances on July 24th and 25th, joining the vibrant Professional Program students in their classes, all sharing their energy together. They had a Show and Tell lecture demonstration, to discuss their creative process, and they performed low-tech excerpts from their piece Cuando los Disfraces se Cuelgan (When the Disguises are Hung Up).

Amidst all of the hubbub, I managed to sit down with Delfos’ co-artistic director, Claudia Lavista, for a moment to speak with her about her experiences here at Bates Dance Festival. I was curious about why she and her husband, Omar Carrum, have returned to BDF year after year to teach and share their work during the Professional Training Program and why they specifically chose to perform Cuando los Disfraces se Cuelgan at the festival this year.

I first asked her about what initially brought she and her husband to BDF.

“In 2007, I was able to come to Bates. It was my 10 year anniversary with my husband. We were supposed to have a big celebration and Laura [Faure] suggested, Why don’t both of you come?” She thought this would be “super cool,” so we came.

“We were very fortunate to come to the artist roundtable talks.” These are weekly meetings throughout the festival where the faculty and visiting artists sit together to discuss topics relating to the global dance community. After engaging in that dialogue and finding connection within the festival community, they “fell in love with BDF.”

“For the company and the school too, this has been a very important place to find ideas, different ways to see things, to find a lot of colleagues who are very interesting.” Lavista and Carrum co-founded the Mazatlán Professional School of Dance (EPDM) when the company relocated from Mexico City to Mazatlán. Lavista’s husband, Omar Carrum, is the Academic Director of the BFA program at EPDM.

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Their program has become a place of intersecting ideas, movements, and questions. “We are questioning ourselves all the time,” she said during the Show and Tell. For them, this program has become an integrative way for a dedicated faculty of working artists to cultivate the next generation of colleagues. She explained how Bates offers opportunities for community building outside the festival.

“Whenever we meet someone that we really like, as a human being, and we like the project, we look for ways to expand the relationship. It’s not just us going there to make work, it’s about bringing them back to Mazatlán as well. This is how we want to work all of the time. . . We have been bringing people back to Mazatlán from BDF, like Chris Aiken and Angie Hauser. Kathleen Hermesdorf and Albert Mathias, Shamou, and Laura Faure too!”

“We want to feed this connection, to feed this friendship more and more. We want to build a strong bridge between Mazatlán and BDF.”

“Little by little we’ve become very close friends” with the BDF community. “I feel now that this is my family. Every time I come here, I feel that I’ve come home with my friends. This is a paradise. . . We are in love with this community, so we’ll always want to come back.”

During the Show and Tell talk Claudia explained, “to create a piece is a way to understand the world. That’s pretty much what we are trying to do every time we create. It’s not that we want to do pretty things, it’s just that we really want to know more about the world, and I think one way to learn more about the world is to learn more about yourself. Every time you do research,  you are now discovering the world, and you are discovering yourself in it, and that’s wonderful. This piece helped us to learn new things.”  I believe these thoughts reflect on the Festival as a whole. By supporting artists who create in this way, BDF cultivates an environment where new research and expansive dialogue can take place.

When I spoke to her at lunch, I wondered why they chose this piece specifically to perform at BDF this year.

“This is a piece that we really love, and is a piece that has a lot of meaning to us. It’s easy to travel, because the other pieces have a lot of production and other things. This piece seems like it has a lot of production, but it doesn’t. We travel with two suitcases. Although, there is a lot of multimedia involved, and we wanted to share what we are doing with multimedia, the piece is layered in many different ways.”

“But also it speaks about us in a very deep way. It allows you to see many different faces of the company. This piece is shaped in a way that allows us to share who we are, and also our culture, Mexican culture. It’s a very personal piece. We want to share that.”

I wanted to know more about how the company works in relation to their cultural heritage. During the Show and Tell, in one particular section of the piece that they shared, I was struck by the specificity of hand gestures in relation to one reactive dancer. To me their movements seemed to reflect their cultural heritage, by creating living, breathing alebrijes. Lavista explained further in the talk that they pulled inspiration from visual artists such as surrealist painter Leonora Carrington and Remedios Varo as well as magical realism author Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

“It’s hard because when you are born in a certain culture, you are brought up with certain things in your subconscious. It just came out.”  In response to my comment about the alebrijes, she said, “we didn’t create that piece specifically about those, but you’re right, they are totally connected. The color of the piece is very related and connected to our culture, but in a more global way.”

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“We come from a culture that is very rich in the past, and has many centuries of history, but it is also rich in the present. Contemporary art in Mexico is very strong. It is actually stronger than our ancient culture. It’s hard to travel as a Mexican company because when you say you are Mexican, everyone expects you to be a folkloric company. There is not much information about contemporary art in Mexico in most of the world. But we are very connected with the world, and we are very connected to contemporary thinking.”

This conversation was enlightening on many levels. As a dancer in the US, I desire to expose myself to a more global understanding of the world of contemporary dance. Claudia is one of many of this summer’s BDF faculty who comes from abroad, have a wide breadth of experience, and are very much connected to that global conversation. Speaking with her reminded me that through dance we always have the opportunity to express and share on a universal human level while thoroughly embracing our cultural lense. Her insights, both spoken and danced with the company, exude this passionately.

One of the last comments she made at the Show and Tell, I feel speaks directly to the depth, connection, and collective urgency of creating work in this art form at this time:

“At the end of the piece, we realized that the whole process led us to embrace the idea that what is really important is to live with integrity. Without false disguises. Valuing who you are, valuing others and nature, and celebrating life.”

Photo Credits: Arthur Fink Photography

This post was written by Meghan Carmichael.  Meghan is the BDF Social Media Intern for the 2015 summer.

Initial Conversations for Performance Installation

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Emerging choreographer Scotty Hardwig, with long time collaborator and performer Keanu Forrest Brady, talk about the process of building a new installation performance project for the Different Voices concert at Bates Dance Festival, 2015.

[Transcript 7/27/15]

 

Scotty:   So, Keanu and I are down here in the Blackbox Theatre underneath Schaeffer working on this new installation performance project (title TBA!), which involves a multi-projector installation with costumes designed by Trinidadian visual artist Kern Samuel. It’s a process that involves heavy computer coding and Kinect infrared motion tracking, when we first got here to the space we had been rehearsing the piece two weeks prior to getting here, and we finally got to the space and then we had to kind of re-orient the vision of what the space was going to look like with this installation because it’s a different kind of space than the one we were rehearsing in. And when we’re dealing with lots of projectors and lots of designs, there’s so many things to consider like angle of light, the content of the projection, how’s it going to affect the movement vocabulary, are the walls flat or not flat, all these sort of textural and design element.

Keanu: So much going on!

Scotty: Yeah, it’s all been really crucial in this first week of just sort of designing, playing around, seeing what works, hanging things up, taking things down, hanging them back up again.

Keanu: And it’s finally getting really close to a final skeleton to build off of, it’s getting really exciting every idea that gets developed, then we switch gears, and then we get a better idea, and so we have to redo everything and it’s a struggle but it’s great, it’s part of the process – all an experiment.

Scotty: In the end I just went with my original idea for the projections which was to have the projections against the walls, which was my original idea – we tried it on the floor – the thing is we’re dealing with four different projectors with four computers, so there’s kind of this massive technological element to what’s happening.

Keanu: I’m getting the chance to learn a lot about what’s going on behind the scenes, I’m learning all the cable names, all these new handy dandy slang terms.

Scotty: That’s right! HDMI, DVI, VGA, Thunderbolt, all of those 80s rock bands.

Keanu: Yes!

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Scotty: It’s going really well, but it’s always like this at the beginning of an installation, you’re sort of like “Ok, well how are these things all going to function logistically” – and so on the first level I have to think practically as a digital artist, like where are the cables going to go, where is my power source, where is the computers going to be, where is the audience going to be, and Shawn Hove has been really helpful in assisting us.

Keanu: Oh, he’s been amazing! Shawn’s been amazing, thank you Shawn!

Scotty: Shawn is helping us figure out how the audience flow is going to be, when it’s going to be shown because it’s not a proscenium piece and how that functions with the Different Voices concert that’s happening at the end of the festival on the last Thursday and Friday. The concert starts at 7:30pm, but we’re going to be running the installation 45 minutes prior to the start of each show, so we’ll be performing from about 6:45pm to 7:25pm on August 6 & 7 in the Blackbox under Schaeffer.

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Scotty: So, it’s been a lot of work just coming in after classes, feeling our bodies aching and having to lift heavy projectors…

Keanu: and ladders…

Scotty: and ladders…

Keanu: and building things, breaking things down… we built housings for all these projectors because we didn’t know we had the housings for them, and then Shawn came in and brought us some housing units, had to take those apart, it’s just been a blast, holy cow!

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Scotty: So we’ve kind of arrived at a place where we think the design elements are functioning well and the projectors are hung, so we can actually start building the movement, which for me is always one of the first things I think about when I’m working with technology and how the software and the coding can interact with the movement in an organic way, so that it’s an evolving dialogue between the human body and the technical elements involved – flesh and technos merging together to create a overarching image. So the designs for this piece that I programmed are based on algorithmic fractals from a statistical formula that mimics the controlled random appearance of textures in nature (called Perlin Noise), creating patterns that look almost like vines or smoke, blood vessels or tree branches, in this technologically mediated organic space where the human body becomes an outgrowth of the cyberplay.

Scotty: So, we’re looking forward to the piece, it’s going to be a lot of work, but we’re on the trail. We’re on the journey. Scotty and Keanu out.

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Delfos Visits Tree Street Youth

By | 2015 Professional Program in Motion | No Comments

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This week, members of Delfos Danza Contemporanea traveled from Mazatlán, Mexico to join BDF. They will be performing tonight and tomorrow in Schaeffer Theatre at 7:30pm. Despite hours of rehearsal for “When the Disguises are Hung Up,” they have been able to participate in the Festival by taking class, hanging out in the dining hall, and activating the BDF mission to share the dancing magic we create here with the greater community.

This Wednesday afternoon I accompanied three members of the company, Rosi, Aura, and Johnny on a visit to Tree Street Youth in Lewiston, where they led a dance workshop. I got in the car not really knowing what to expect. I only knew that Tree Street is a community center where youth can participate in free activities after school and during the summer. Five minutes away from campus I pulled up in front of one-story building with windows painted with brightly colored designs and a high energy basketball game happening right next door.

Inside the doors sat three teens on a colorful couch laughing about something together. We walked past them and through the entryway, toward the happily shouting voices from an adjacent room. I wandered into the room, which was filled to the brim with teenagers, searching for an adult to tell us where to go. I found a woman wearing a purple Tree Street shirt and she helped me find Fabiola Navarrette, Tree Street’s Arts and Cultural Enrichment Coordinator and our host.

Fabi told us that glow-in-the-dark yoga was wrapping up in the space we were going to use, and offered to give us a tour while we waited. As we followed her through the winding hallways into brightly colored rooms, Fabi gave us a run-down of Tree Street’s mission: to provide a safe, enriching place for Lewiston-Auburn youth and provide support through academics, athletics and the arts. While she talked, we passed groups of teens playing board games, writing in notebooks in quieter rooms, and racing around to complete a scavenger hunt.

When our tour was over, we still had a little bit of time to wait in the entryway with the laughing teens on the couch. I wandered around examining the colorfully decorated walls, one of which displayed college acceptance letters and certificates for achieving honors in high school. As I looked at a collage of pictures of smiling kids, teens, and Tree Street staff, I overheard Aura and Rosi introducing themselves to the teenagers. They were impressed to learn that Aura and Rosi are professional dancers, and infinitely curious to hear about what exactly that meant. One girl shyly said she loves dance and art, and Aura encouraged her to join us.

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When glow-yoga wrapped up, about ten teens joined us in Tree Street’s designated room. Rosi, Aura, and Johnny wasted no time, briefly introducing themselves and Delfos before asking the teens to stand and face the front. Johnny put on an upbeat song and Rosi lead the room through a full-body warm up.

Afterward, Aura took over. She taught a short string of movements, each connected with a sound. The teens practiced the movements over and over with Aura, making the music themselves, until they could do it without her help. Then Johnny taught a new string of movements, this time connecting each one with a count. He led a call and response as they practiced, teaching the room how to count in Spanish. Rosi followed with her string of movements, and then they asked the teens to put them all together.

See Aura’s section here.

Once everyone felt comfortable with the phrase, Rosi divided them into groups to show off their new moves. As the music played, the teens cheered each other on and the support and trust they have between one another became evident. Everyone in the room was there because they really wanted to be. Dance was a common love for all of us, even though we came from all over the world.

Tired out from all the moving, everyone sat in a circle to wrap up our time together. Aura told the teens how lucky they are to have a place like Tree Street, explaining that there aren’t places quite like it in Mexico.

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Our hour together was coming to an end, and Rosi, Aura, and Johnny began to pack up their things. One of the teens asked if they could show off a dance they learned the day before. A student at Bowdoin College spends her time at Tree Street teaching Bollywood classes, one of which was the day before we arrived. She cued the music and off the teens went, stepping and hopping and hip shaking around the room with bright smiling faces. Rosi, Aura, Johnny, and I were smiling too, excited by the energy and promise these young dancers have.

My smile stayed in place on the drive back to the Bates College campus. What I had just experienced was very different from the rest of my festival experience, and it exemplified the Festival’s outreach into the local community as well as dance’s ability to bring people together. In just an hour, Rosi, Aura, and Johnny engaged in a cultural exchange with those teens. They provided the dance moves and the insight into the professional world, Tree Street provided a dose of un-adulterated happiness and excitement about art. To be able to witness it was a privilege I hope to have again soon, because who doesn’t want to watch dance magic happen before their eyes?

See their dancing here and here!

This post was written by Sarah Ellen Miller.  Sarah is the BDF Social Media Intern for the 2015 summer.

THE MISSING GENERATION: Beyond Visibility

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Photo Credit: Sean Dorsey Dance 2015 – The Missing Generation 1. Photo by: Kegan Marling

 

Sean Dorsey says THE MISSING GENERATION  was choreographed to give voice “to longtime survivors of the early AIDS epidemic; it is a love letter to a forgotten generation of survivors – those who witnessed and experienced the loss of part of an entire generation of gay/bi and transgender people to AIDS in the 1980s and 1990s. Our culture has largely turned its back on this generation of survivors. I want us to turn and look at you now” (2015 BDF program for Sean Dorsey Dance).

“I want us to turn and look at you now.” I cannot think of a medium more powerful than dance to do just that. This medium allows content to be shared between performers and audience in a dynamic way, full of life itself. THE MISSING GENERATION is a multidimensional experience. The arc of this work is defined by recorded oral histories, seamed together by a rich soundscape, eloquent costumes, and a lean light design offering striking images of individual and collective joy and pain. Central to this gift to AIDS survivors, and to those who did not survive, is a quartet of dancers lovingly bringing to life three decades of history, loss, and emotion. After the final downstage left toplight faded out, the audience sat silent, contemplating the full impact of this evening-length work.

Once the energy of the performance subsided, and the theater emptied, I sat with image after image going through my mind. What was it that made this dance so special? Certainly the immediacy of the Sean Dorsey Dancers presenting THE MISSING GENERATION was very powerful, but there was something much more. Through his research and choreographic process, Dorsey discovered narratives able to put in perspective the magnitude of what was the early AIDS crisis in America.

Back in my office I read through more research, including Lawrence K. Altman’s July 3, 1981 New York Times article, “Rare Cancer Seen in 41 Homosexuals.” It was chilling to read this article knowing what we know now. What was to follow was a very complex public health crisis that was visible and not visible. Beyond the headlines were thousands of individual stories of people left alone to wrestle with this devastating disease while the nation wrestled to understand the cause and the communities most affected by it early on.

Conceptually, this idea of ‘beyond visibility’ seemed to become clearer as I reviewed the performance elements of THE MISSING GENERATION. More specifically, as I thought about Clyde Sheets’  design, I began to truly appreciate his eloquent use of light to bring this dance, and larger story, to life. If Sean Dorsey’s mantra is “less is more,” and process words like distill, edit, rework, and reshape reflect work in the studio, then Sheets’ design offered a precise, minimal, and rhythmic world of light, dark, highlight, shadow, limited color, and pattern, where the themes of the dance could emerge uncluttered.

At the same time, Dorsey referred to what was lost and what was forgotten about the AIDS crisis and its victims. This vacuum is ever present on stage. It appears as the black negative space surrounding dancer Brian Fisher as he is etched by medium intensity sidelight. Or, it is apparent as the dance starts when Dorsey moves alone in a toplight pool amidst a stage enveloped in darkness. At this moment there is a sense of expectancy, a need to know what will fill the stage as the boundary of this light gives way to the unfolding dance. The unlit areas of the stage are ominous, waiting to be filled with movement, light, and life.

Yes, one of the aims of stage lighting is visibility—we need to see the body in time and space to understand choreographic expression. But we also know that light can be skillfully used to emphasize dimension (sidelight, toplight, backlight), sculpting the body with an interplay of light and shadow. In a dance like THE MISSING GENERATION theme is ever present; light elucidates inherent choreographic ideas through direction, angle, quality (pattern, color, distribution, intensity), and rhythm (cueing or the movement of light). The visual score emerges, and when coupled with all other elements, brings unity to the work.

Sheets punctuated the choreographic world with compositional variation through direction of light, color, and pattern. Direction of light either enhanced forward motion on stage, or intentionally added weight to the choreography through high contrast. Color, warm and cool tones, emerged as the dance progressed, only to be stripped away at the end as the reality of the entire work set in. Pattern was at times substantial and abstract, the large rectangular box stage right for example, or was more delicate and detailed, the Penn Station floor images for example. Thus light itself was beyond visibility as it underscored theme, emotion, and place. The light score became a breathing entity in the work, allowing Dorsey’s choreographic journey to unfold visually, always guided by the oral histories.

This is the magic and power of light. It allows us to see, then allows us to really see and understand, as we think about what motivates this light and why the designer shaped it the way she or he did. Beyond visibility means we can take in the images on stage, decipher thought behind them, and use this meaning for a far richer performance experience. THE MISSING GENERATION offers just this kind of opportunity. The dance ends similar to how it started, with a stark toplight pool stage left. This time however, the quartet embraces, implying that together, with compassion, we will turn and look at the missing generation.

This post was written by Jim Thurston. Jim is a professional designer and educator researching the relationship between choreography and design for the stage. He is the chair of the Department of Theater and Dance at Colby College and is delighted to collaborate with artists and scholars at the Bates Dance Festival.

More than Dance Camp: Young Dancers Engage in Big Topics

By | 2015 Young Dancers in Motion | No Comments

group dance photoWe say goodbye to our young dancers tomorrow and in just 48 hours, the atmosphere of BDF will completely change. Our 13-18 year olds will be replaced by college students and professional artists. It would be easy, and a little expected, for outsiders to think that we are moving on from a smaller, younger, less important version of the festival to the “real deal.” But, reflecting on all that these young dancers have absorbed and accomplished in the last 21 days, it’s far from the truth.

Within the field of dance, these teens were asked to step up, to challenge themselves, to try new things, to fail, to try again, to succeed.

In the mornings, Karl Rogers integrated character work into his phrases, asking his students to practice their ‘dacting,’ while Erika Pujic praised the transformation from dancer to monster, watching her dancers eat up space with force and grace. Shonach Mirk-Robles slowed her classes down to focus on alignment and form, while Martha Tornay ramped things up for “kick-butt Tuesday.”

In the afternoons, Shakia Johnson challenged her classes with multiple hip-hop styles, and had her students moving constantly for 75 minutes, while Courtney D. Jones engaged her students with challenges of coordination and focus. Sean Dorsey asked his repertory students to pour their hearts into the work, while Lida Winfield took her students on journeys and with each class they traveled a little closer to an answer to the question of who they really are.

Aside from all the classes, the students were also choreographing their own work, dancing in work made by their friends and counselors, and thinking about topics of social justice and activism.

On one of the free nights, Head Counselor Tristan Koepke screened “How to Survive a Plague,” a documentary about the AIDS epidemic in the 80’s and 90’s, and the efforts of activist group ACT UP. Due to the documentary’s link to Sean Dorsey’s upcoming show, “The Missing Generation,” Sean lead a discussion with the young dancers afterward. Despite the common response that they had not learned much about the epidemic in schools, the room pulsated with empathy and an understanding of injustice. Some people write teenagers off as self-absorbed and short-sighted, but there were over eighty young people in that room feeling the visceral grief for those lost generations ago, incredulous that anyone would think those individuals were less deserving of care and respect.

The day following the screening, Shonach had a class discussion, which moved from the AIDS epidemic, to LGBTQA+ rights, to institutional racism, and beyond, proving that these teens don’t just engage in topics brought to them by mentors; they have passions of their own.

sean quote1The students taking Sean’s repertory class had the opportunity to learn choreography from “The Missing Generation.” On the first day of his class, Sean asked his students what they were apprehensive about, and most responded that they were worried about not being able to do the work justice.

“I was so moved by that — they cared so much. They were approaching the work with respect and integrity,” Sean said. “My message to the students was that they could release that as a worry or a fear. By showing up that first day and being in the room, they had already succeeded in that. Just showing up and being present was a gift.”

Sean said that the individuals he interviewed for his project are thrilled to know that young dancers learned about the history and embodied their stories for 3 weeks.

“Again and again, I am so impressed and amazed, and moved and inspired, and quite blown away by this group of young people,” Sean said.

These dancers have a lot to offer, both as movers and as citizens of a very troubled world. While their youth may limit our expectations of them, it also offers them the opportunity to continually surprise and impress us with their engagement and automatic understanding of larger world issues.

 

Lida Winfield, who teaches Improvisation & Composition, has worked extensively with this age group in a variety of settings. She said she believes this generation, in particular, understands that the world is a mess.

“I think among young people there is an interest to know, and an interest to help,” she said, “It is a revolutionary statement to be an artist in this world, right now. So, even their interest in following dance as a path is an indicator of already pushing the bounds of what is traditional. “

Lida quoteAt a time of their lives when they could have spent an entire summer sitting by the public pool by day, and watching Netflix by night, the Young Dancers clocked in a serious number of hours actively participating in art.

Lida’s class, which incorporated improvisational exercises and offered the students tools for composition, focused on one’s self and the telling of true stories. Believing in the power of looking inward to then see outward, Lida asked her students who they were, who they wish to be, and what kind of artist they wish to be.

“We feel extremely lonely in this world, isolated, and there is such a belief that each of us is so different,” Lida said, “I think story telling and art making are among a few successful ways to link people and communities, and in turn shift and change culture at a core.”

Lida also commented on how many students, despite years and years of technical training, had never been asked how they preferred to move. This is a time for them to figure out who they are, through dance and through discussion of real world events, and the Young Dancers Workshop provides a place for both to happen at the same time.

Who knows exactly what the YDW participants and their parents were expecting, but they are returning home much changed from who they were three weeks ago. These dancers spent this time confirming that art is important, finding connections between movement and advocacy, and thinking critically about questions of who they are, who they wish to be, and what they wish to fight for. And that is what makes the Bates Dance Festival Young Dancers Workshop so much more than “dance camp.”

This post was written by Sarah Ellen Miller.  Sarah is the BDF Social Media Intern for the 2015 summer.

BDF Young Dancer Profiles: Meet Flannery

By | 2015 Young Dancers in Motion | No Comments

photo (5)

Name: Flannery

Hometown: Portland, Maine

Studying: Modern with Erika Pujic, Ballet with Shonach Mirk-Robles, Modern Repertory with Sean Dorsey, Jazz with Courtney Jones

What brought you here?

When I was 14, my mom kicked me out the door and said, “You’re going to the festival! It’s amazing.” I really didn’t want to be here and after the first week, I asked my mom to pick me up early. Then, by the end of it, I never wanted to go home. That was five summers ago. Last year I took the summer off, and now I am back for my fourth summer.

What are you learning so far?

I am learning about correct foot placement and port de bras in ballet class. In modern and jazz, [I’m learning] about being really present when I move, which I think is a really good practice. It’s also just such a joy to learn Sean Dorsey’s repertory.

What has surprised you about BDF?

I was really excited to come back and I knew I was going to learn a lot of new stuff. But I noticed how the festival continues to be wonderful. It has not exhausted its abilities. Also, even though I have taken Shonach’s class before, coming back and having her reiterate all the information is really important.

What is one thing that you will bring home?

Other than being really happy, probably a reinvigorated sense of why I dance and keep dancing.

What is a topic you would like to explore or story you would like to tell using dance?

I don’t know what story I want to tell, yet, but I am really interested in dance, dance-theater, and spoken word. When I worked with Kyle Abraham three years ago, it was such an amazing experience telling a story—his story—through movement. Also, in Sean’s work, the use of spoken word is such a powerful tool, and I want to learn how to integrate that.

What advice do you have for other dancers?

Don’t take any part of the festival for granted. I have gone away and been at other summer programs and it’s such a unique environment that is so hard to find anywhere else. I don’t even know if it exists anywhere else. I’ve met some of my best friends here. Just soak it all up and let it give you what it will give you.

What goals do you have for the rest of the festival?

Continue working really hard and try not to collapse from exhaustion. Also, take everything here and bring it back with me, because I go to college so soon.

What are your future plans in dance?

I will be attending the University of Iowa this fall in their BFA program. I don’t know what I am going to do after that, but I am excited.

This post was compiled by Sarah Ellen Miller.  Sarah is the BDF Social Media Intern for the 2015 summer.

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