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

By | 2015 Designing Dance | No Comments

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

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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.

BDF Young Dancer Profiles: Meet Emma

By | 2015 Young Dancers in Motion | No Comments

Name: Emma

Hometown: Manhattan

Studying: Jazz with Courtney Jones, Hip Hop with Shakia Johnson, Modern with Karl Rogers, and Ballet with Shonach Mirk-Robles

What brought you here?

I came last year. I attended a workshop at Martha Tornay’s studio with Karl Rogers and I really enjoyed, so I applied and got in. After attending, I fell further in love with dance and with the program, so I came back again after taking a workshop at Martha’s with Quimah (one of this year’s YDW counselors).

What are you learning so far?

I’m learning that dance is a real thing and more than this small group of people can love it and appreciate it, and that you can make dance a lifestyle and continue it and be alive doing it. It’s really amazing.

What has surprised you about BDF?

I think I’m most surprised with how comfortable everyone is. It’s always surprising when you meet people for one week and you’re already feel like a family, and you can try new things through dance. The sense of community that exists here is really great.

What is one thing that you will bring home?

I will bring home the lessons Shonach  is teaching me about standing, and focusing more on my body than on huge movements and trying to understand why something happens.

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

I make a lot of dance back home and I just made a piece about reluctance, and wanting to do something and doing it and over doing it. At my age, I think frustration, assimilation, and relationships are things I would like to explore through dance. Using theater in dance is one thing I would like to incorporate.

What advice do you have for other dancers?

If you love it, you should just push through and do it. You will find that other people love it too, and that is just the most amazing feeling—realizing what you love to do can be done. Continue to dance if you can and try to find new ways to dance. Stay curious! Dance all the time!

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

I would like to take class and perform phrases outside of myself a bit more. I think we tend to fall into the pattern of “I have to get this right,” but we’re learning a lot in Karl’s class about performing and being present. If you are enjoying what you do, it will come out more, and people will see that as you dance. That is something I would love to practice more in class.

What are your future plans in dance?

I would love to dance in college, but I would love to do other things in college too. I would love to be a well-rounded student, but keep dancing. I really enjoy choreographing, so I would love to see if I can continue to do that. There are some companies that I love, and I would love to see if I could do that. I would really like to dance professionally and I would also like to explore other things, so bridging my academic and intellectual career with dance would be so cool.

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

Creating Collaborative Sound

By | 2015 Young Dancers in Motion | No Comments

Upon walking into the sunny studio for their placement class, the Young Dancers Workshop participants were greeted by not one, but four world-class dance accompanists prepared to play for them.

Albert Mathias, Shamou, Peter Jones, and Carl Landa have been regular members of the BDF staff over many years and are each considered experts in their fields. The quartet spent their day improvising as a group to create music for the ballet, modern, and jazz combinations that comprised the placement classes. These classes are the first time the young dancers experienced all the musicians playing together during the three-week program.

Albert Mathias, Shamou, and Carl Landa accompany a ballet combination.

I sat down with multi-disciplinary musician, Albert Mathias to talk about the experience of improvising with his long-time colleagues and friends.

Mathias began by saying, “I know them very well,” before continuing on to explain that both the familiarity with his fellow musicians and level of expertise shared by the group made improvising together very easy.

“The musicians here are some of the best in the world at what they do. They all have something to bring, and each person led a little bit,” he said.

Drawing upon similarities between dance and music, Mathias said he mostly thinks about listening and being in a collective environment when he is improvising with multiple musicians.

“It is just like dancing with other people. Music and dance are very similar, especially when you are doing it with other people. […] It’s also about having a good time.”

During their placement classes, the dancers demonstrated this similarity by navigating a smaller space with lots of other dancers.

For this particular round of improvisation the musicians prepared by talking a little bit beforehand. Mathias said each member shared which instruments they thought they might bring to the studio, but not much else. The musicians did the rest of the work on the spot.

The musicians took turns leading the group.

The musicians took turns leading the group throughout the class

“You never know what someone is going to play, really,” said Mathias, “There is such a vast variety of stuff.”

Mathias said there is also simplicity to the work. “In that vast variety of stuff, there are actually very few things. There are low sounds, high sounds, mid sounds, and there’s rhythm,” Mathias said, “but you’re always finding this little stuff in between.”

Mathias said this year he has the same goals as when he has attended BDF in the past, to produce clear, fitting music for the classes he accompanies, and contribute to the encouraging, daring, and sincere class environment we strive to cultivate here at BDF.

The four musicians will come together once again next Friday, July 10th, to teach a master class for the young dancers.

Check out some of the class’s music:

Ballet combination

Modern combination

Jazz combination

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

Photo by Martin Gavica

2015 Spring Newsletter

By | BDF Newsletters | No Comments

2015 Season Preview

The Festival kicks off its 2015 Performance Series, July 10 & 11 with DanceNOW featuring fresh voices from a new generation of Festival faculty and alumni. Next up, Sean Dorsey Dance breaks ground with “The Missing Generation,” a dance-theater work exploring the impact of the 1980’s AIDS crisis.

Another season highlight is the New England debut of Delfos Danza Contemporanea Mexico’s leading contemporary company performing “When Disguises Are Hung Up,” a reflection on appearances and the loss and rediscovery of the self. Read More

ICEhot Nordic Dance Platform

By | 2014 Director's Notes | No Comments

The dance going began in earnest Wednesday night with the opening performance of ICEhot by Heine Avdal & Yukiko Shinozaki in the Dansens Hus conveniently located behind our hotel.  Artists and presenter from 28 countries are here to experience works from Iceland, Finland, Denmark. Norway and Sweden.  The bar was bustling before the show with a confab of international festival goers. This first work was elaborate with miles of silver fabric curtains suspended from giant helium physio ball type balloons. The curtains did much of the dancing throughout the 60+ minutes while creating a beautiful shimmering effect. There was much technical wizardry on display with self propelled balloons and curtains floating over our heads.

Dansens Hus

Dansens Hus

Each morning began with a info session, More More More, in which five choreographers talk about their work and showed video excerpts.  This was a valuable component of the festival for those of us looking to learn more about emerging artists. Along with several U.S. colleagues, I have invited here to identify a Nordic artist to bring to BDF for a creative residency.

Among our group are seven U.S. artists including Zoe Scofield who I got to catch up with over a splendid breakfast (included with our room at the hotel). Foodie that I am, I was in heaven with the delicious and plentiful spread of lox, smoked fish, cheeses, breads, fruit and on and on.  This is our real meal of the day since everything here is so wildly expensive — $40 for a hamburger and beer, $5 for coffee and so forth — and we are running from one performance to the next all day long.

Over the course of four days I have seen 16 shows. Its been a rapid fire education on the state of Nordic dance or at least those selected to present at this platform. Several elements seemed to recur… smoke is very popular, the use of a hip hop vocabulary either woven through a contemporary sensibility or straight up, durational work quite often too long, electronic scores (everyone is using them–what ever happened to natural sound?), a fascination with awkward, clumsy movement, and terrific dancers.

Oslo Opera House

Oslo Opera House

Among the many performances there were four that stood out for me (all art being subjective). Zero Visibility Corp from Norway presented “Terra O Motel”  a 90- minute extravaganza complete with a mini 40’s type motel and neon sign as well as a variety set pieces, from a makeshift kitchen to bowls of potatoes and sleeping pads and pillows. This piece created a world of distinct characters living out their peculiar lives and quite grew on me as it progressed.

Tentacle Tribe of Sweden & Canada offered “Nobody Likes A Pixelated Squid” a  beautifully executed, but too long duet a la Victor Quijada of Rubberbandance  with whom they both danced. Gorgeous, sinewy partner work in a smoothed out hip hop style.

Ima Iduozee from Finland presented “This is the Title” a stunning solo incorporating hip hop with really skillful floor work, fine precision and luscious flow that reminded me of Omar Carrum’s Mobile Floor class.

Aloun Marchal from Sweden performed “Gerro, Minos and Him” a trio I dubbed, The Three Stooges Without Pants. A comic journey into the absurd–these three nutcases had a boatload of  physical comedy skills and a go for broke daring. One dancer, in particular, had that rare gift of comic timing that kept many in the audience laughing throughout the 47 minute work. Whether this was one’s cup of tea or not, no one fell asleep during this show!

National Academy of the Arts

National Academy of the Arts

It has been a pleasure to be in attendance at ICEhot as it was so finely organized and we have been well taken care of. Buses carried us around to the distant venues but several were close enough to walk to. Many are in renovated industrial buildings like to National Academy of the Arts, a spectacular re-purposing. The neighborhood surrounding this building is charming and I enjoyed several lunches with colleagues from around the globe. Now its time to go home and ponder the experience!

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