Archive for September, 2009

Remember when… it was MAYBE FOREVER

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Photo Credit: Chis Van de Burght

Remember when… it was MAYBE FOREVER

By Rosie Trump

Meg Stuart & Philipp Gehmacher MAYBE FOREVER at REDCAT Sept. 25, 2009

MAYBE FOREVER  begins with two figures, barely visible in the dimmest of glows, low and leaning so close and not yet touching.  The opening duet  writhes, entwines, and recoils– unfolding either deep in the embryonic embrace of a womb or restlessly atop a lover’s lumpy mattress.  Co-choreographed by Stuart and Gehmacher with tender serenades by live accompanist Niko Hafkenscheidmy, MAYBE FOREVER is a haunting and pale poem of awkward confession and romantic loss.

The evening is thick with spurts, then hollows of  memory and gesture.  With an unusual soft floor, the stage is covered in grey velvet and arched in black curtains creating a crisp sonic envelope.  Episodes of movement sketch an unsettled still life layered with melancholy and anxiety.  Cutting to the quick, Stuart’s sentimental recitations ask “remember when…I sent you that postcard… when I said I wish you were here…” and then coldly reports “I take it back.”  A wrenching proclamation for a lover’s revenge.  The most satisfying dancing emerges as aggressive physical partnering, choreographically representing the raw assault and ache which resounds in the aftermath of intimacy.

By the end of the work, I felt fatigued- not purged.  The unrequited wins out and the desperation of loss is left stumbling around searching for his next step.   Leaving the theater, I was reminded of personal maybes and remember whens,  as my own ghosts tugged at my heart and escorted me to my car.

Talk Back with Peter Kalivas and The PGK Project Part II

“Talk Back” is a new interview series with dancers and choreographers.  Part II of our first interview is with Peter Kalivas, the Artistic Director of The PGK Project a contemporary dance company based in San Diego California.

Peter Kalivas in "Only" Photo by: Keith Wang

Peter Kalivas in "Only" Photo by: Keith Wang

Talk Back with Peter Kalivas and The PGK Project Part II

by Rosie Trump

Discuss an influential teacher or mentor.

Unfortunately I have several people I have to acknowledge and then hopefully discuss one or two influential people.  Wendy Perron (Formerly of The Cunningham Dance Company School and now Editor in Chief of DANCE MAGAZINE) was the strongest advocate of me leaving Bennington and pursuing conservatory training which prompted my transition.  This was during a time when she was a guest artist in residence at Bennington.  Mr. Alvin Ailey whom I auditioned for to attend The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre School and who rejected me only to insist I return later to attend the school where I then entered The Second Ailey Company.  Donald Byrd for the ridiculously challenging choreography and equally challenging atmosphere he creates which helps dancers to learn self-worth.  Donald Byrd, Pat Thomas, Carol Sklaroff and Andrew Papp are my most influential teachers at The University of the Arts who taught me that I wasn’t too late, too small, or any of those other things people tell you if I was willing to work really, really hard and catch up and be what I already was; just a little more efficient, organized, clarified.

I think however still to this day my two most influential mentors; now colleagues are John Malashock and Sean Curran.  John taught me how to trust my technique and my acquired skills and explore another way of moving.  One way was full of breath and that installed a whole other kind of power, presence and understanding of what dance does.  Sean Curran for being his tenacious, zany, and crazy self.  Joining his company at the time that I did, at the time when his company was gaining tremendous exposure and opportunity allowed me to really exercise my presence in the world in a way that I hadn’t necessarily done before.  To have someone wanting you to join them for these kinds of opportunities and to trust you with presenting their work in these kinds of times is inspiring.  His highly skilled, quirky collection of dancers created the best, most exciting, enthralling creative process both off and on stage and it was there I became most aware of the improvisational, spontaneous qualities of performance.

Name a few of your favorites: dance movies, youtube clips, books and dance songs.

Movies/Videos: Anything Gene Kelly is in, choreographing, performing.  Almost any old Hollywood Musical.  The dance sequences in the movie “Hairspray” were fresh and inventive.  Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” choreography is ridiculously fantastic (the first time).  The style totally reminds me of the dance wars I used to attend at Columbia University in NYC in the early 90’s.  All about “trumping”; when people first said “fierce”.

Music: Right now I am completely in love with anything produced by Hypnotic Brass Ensemble (a music group based in Chicago which is only horns).  I am choreographing a new piece to their “War” at the moment.  They perform in public spaces (subways, bus stops, street corners, etc.) around the US and the UK.

What advice can you offer to inspiring dancers and choreographers?

The best advice I give dancers specifically is to seek non-conventional ways to get jobs.  DON’T GO TO AUDITIONS if you can avoid them.  Take company class with a company you want to dance with.  Many companies will let you in especially if you present/introduce yourself as a professional.  Don’t say the word student, recently graduated, or um..sort of…and kind a….EVER AGAIN!

Many people can dance but most of those people cannot present or represent themselves properly to the rest of the world.  It all goes back to “knowing your audience”.  The ones who can represent or that have someone who can for them are the people who work.

For choreographers, I advise the exact same and then more.  At the beginning (only for a little while) sure you can pay an application fee, even a small production fee to have your work presented at a festival.  It takes money to make money right BUT…if you don’t go the next step and have influential people (Presenters of dance, other directors seeking choreographers to make work for their company, Directors of Festivals that pay fees for companies to perform) come to see your performance via your invitation, arranging press kits and tickets for them to see you then you have pretty much wasted your time and money.  Maybe you got a review but if you don’t have anyone to send your press kit to then what good is the review?  Every time you do ANYTHING it needs to produce your next thing.

Dancing, choreographing, teaching are part of a service industry that is called the performing arts.  If you “give” your stuff away then you take its value away.  If you don’t say it is valuable first then know one else will.   The next step while waiting and researching opportunities is to create them.  Start your own festival, create situations for yourself that did not exist before.  Lastly, you should be cooperating with other dance companies, theatre, music and businesses that support the arts all year long. Developing relationships creates a non-competitive, non-challenging support system built on trust, mutual understanding and constant exchange.  Talk yourself up, make yourself visible, available and willing and able to be a part of and support your community.   How can your dancing, choreographing, teaching produce income for you and your company?

Tell us about your newest projects.

Well, I have come to realize my obsession with audiences and their engagement.  I am deeply interested in convincing artists to consider audiences more in the ways they make and present work and working on ways to make dance.   We have recently developed “San Diego Dances” which is a bi-annual “roving” festival happening in unexpected spaces throughout San Diego County.  Currently, my company produces “4 x 4 x Floor” which happens at Bluefoot Bar & Lounge the 2nd Tuesday of every month and “The Movement” which happens at 8Teen Arts & Cultural Center the 1st Tuesday of every month; happening in a bar and a gallery space immediately changes the atmosphere, place and association of performance.

Our newest project, “San Diego Dances” works to fulfill a similar yet different mission.  This roving dance festival will be carefully curated to include only professional artists and companies but still will not happen in a conventional theatre space.  The first of these will be on November 6th and 7th at DK Hair (a premiere urban salon).  Titled “San Diego Dances in Hillcrest” the festival takes the name of the neighborhood where it happens acknowledging what part of the county it has “roved” to.  This first program features six different artists and companies of various sizes.  The hair salon loses its hair cutting stations temporarily making way for a performance space that is similar to a runway at a fashion show.  The audience sits in two rows on both sides of this performance space.  Each company visits the space in advance to prepare the work they are either creating or re-setting and later each gets time to space on site.  There is a catered intermission hosted by one of our sponsors.  After the show, the audience walks beyond the performance space, past the hair washing stations towards the back of the salon, up three steps to the second level color stations where they can purchase a glass of wine and edibles inexpensively.  At this point the audience has experienced these dances in an unexpected way, in an unexpected site and had an altogether different experience and association with dance.  They have also visited a premiere salon and become familiar with it as well as our other partners.   So, we the producer create for the audience new ways to experience and engage with dance, opportunities for the audience to engage with the artists, challenges for the artists to re-negotiate ways in which the artists’ work is experienced and presented and build visibility to all of our multiple community partnerships.

In addition to the monthly events “4 x 4 x Floor”, “The Movement” and our new festival “San Diego Dances” we have been commissioned by The San Diego Asian Film Foundation to create a work to accompany a film they are premiering during the San Diego Asian Film Festival happening October 19th -29th.  The film “Concrete Jungle” is looking at urban energy and qualities found in the city and I am making a work that is working to do the same to music by Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

To read Part I of this interview please click here.

If you would like to be featured in an interview by Reading the Dance, please send us an email at readingthedance@gmail.com

Don’t Worry, Just Look Around

Photo Credits: Left, Merce Cunningham's eyeSpace, photo by Anna Finke, Right, casebolt and smith’s Having Words, photo by Shelby Duncan

Photo Credits: Left, Merce Cunningham's eyeSpace, photo by Anna Finke. Right, casebolt and smith’s Having Words, photo by Shelby Duncan

This post is in response to Michael Kaiser’s

“Why I Worry About Modern Dance” Huffington Post 8/17/2009

by Alexis Weisbrod

In a recent Huffington Post article Michael Kaiser, president of the JFK Center for Performing Arts, expressed his concerns for the future of modern dance.  Among many questions he asked, “Where are the young companies that are gathering strength and are prepared to accept the mantle from the Twylas, Pauls, Merces and Marthas?” (He had already situated these four choreographers as “the great modern dancers and choreographers [that] pay tribute to American creativity.”)  I’d like to take a brief look back into modern before returning to the present to consider what is out there.

First, I’d like to remind everyone that modern dance is now a full century old.  Since Duncan first began developing her dance form the world has seen two World Wars, the Korean & Vietnam Wars, two Gulf Wars, the War on Drugs, the War on terror, the assassination an American president, the impeachment of another, the invention of television, computers, MTV, reality shows… the list goes on.  Though Graham and Ailey lived well past Duncan, cell phones, iPods, and even the internet were beyond the scope of their lives.  As a dancer born in the ‘80s (yes I just did the unspeakable and dated myself…) Cunningham is the only one that I think begins to represent me, and only because of his use of the iPod Shuffle in his 2006 piece eyeSpace.  As an intelligent and well-read dancer I appreciate these four choreographers for their historical purpose in the field in which I am pursuing my career.  I recognize all the innovations they established and the work they did to create such a rich field of dance.  I would never consider teaching a dance history, modern technique, or even jazz for that matter, without discussing these choreographers.  But in terms of constructing new dance work, these choreographers are out of date.

A mentor of mine, Ananya Chatterjea, in a dance history class, after a discussion of post-modern dance no longer being the current wave of work, suggested that it was my generation’s responsibility to name the current era of modern dance.  I often think this was a driving force in my desire to pursue a PhD in Dance.  However, I’ll admit, I have yet to name this era, but I do know why current work will never look like the old stuff.

The four “greats” all established their companies well before the NEA 4.  That fact alone illuminates the difficulties for choreographers to take the reigns and shape dance in the US. The dance, at least what I think is the good––read: innovative––dance, that is being made these days shifts the high art stage that the “greats” worked on.  The American dance audience, now receiving a notable education through vehicles such as music videos, commercials and reality dance shows, are also different.  Maybe, Mr. Kaiser, you’re worried because you’re still looking for “modern” dance.  Choreographers trying to execute that work will always fall short because in their attempt to replicate they are neglectful of the changes in the world around them.

I had the pleasure of seeing the Paul Taylor Company perform not too long ago.  I was impressed and appreciated the pleasure of viewing such historically significant repertoire.  However, I was much more moved by Melissa Hudson Bell’s Cake In My Face: New Dances with Betty Crocker and Misbehavior, which used traditional “modern dance” movement, text and humor to look at Betty Crocker in the American woman’s kitchen over the years.  Then, of course, there is the witty and political work of casebolt & smith, whose virtuosic movement never overshadows the content of the work, whether it is autobiographical tales or social commentaries or something else entirely, their insightful choreographic structures and methods always have me both entertained and thoughtfully engaged.

These are just a few of the choreographers who have recently engaged me as an audience member and left me feeling excited about dance, eager to dance and, most importantly, thinking about dance and topics beyond.  These are artists whose innovative work should be the next face of concert dance in America as they all successfully bridge from post/modern dance into something more complex and more relevant.  These artists are out there and ready to take the reigns.  But these artists are not “large role model organizations” and, even if they wished to be, may never achieve such status in a post NEA 4 America.  Choreographers such as these take risks that could be read in a highly political manner.  This is not what gets funded because its not safe or established.

In order for the next “golden age” to take place we have to broaden what we are willing to see (and fund).  It will be different from the Pioneers, something more representative of our current environment (from politics, to popular culture, to a globalized world).  And, most importantly, we must be ready to accept that change.  After all, isn’t innovation what the “Twylas, Pauls, Merces and Marthas” were all about, isn’t change what modern dance was founded on?

Talk Back with Peter Kalivas and The PGK Project Part I

“Talk Back” is a new interview series with dancers and choreographers.  Our first interview is with Peter Kalivas, the Artistic Director of The PGK Project a contemporary dance company based in San Diego California.

Peter Kalivas teaching in Kansas City   Photo By: Mike Strong

Peter Kalivas teaching in Kansas City Photo By: Mike Strong

Talk Back with Peter Kalivas and The PGK Project Part I

by Rosie Trump

Tell us a bit about yourself, location, training and affiliations.

I am originally from Long Island, New York.  A land of highway malls, big frizzy hair and very simply values.  My first formal dance training experience was while attending Bennington College on a full academic scholarship where my intention was to become an architect.  Although I was always selected to dance in musicals in high school and was in my church’s Greek folk dance troupe my parents didn’t allow me to study dance even though I asked.  It was at Bennington, far away from home that I took my first modern dance class.  To make a long story short later I was encouraged and decided to leave Bennington after one year and go to The University of the Arts in Philadelphia which had a conservatory type approach to dance training for performance.  It was there I began my ballet training at the age of 19.

Eventually, I moved to NYC , then to Europe where I joined the Bavarian State Opera Ballet and The Iwanson Dance Company in residence at The Gasteig in Munich, Germany. It was also at this time that I formed my company The PGK Project (sixteen years ago).  I presented my company at various festivals in Europe and taught master classes and did residencies at several academies, schools and conservatories.  Upon returning to the US, I joined Malashock Dance & Company and The San Diego Ballet in San Diego California.  While in NYC some point in this time period, I was teaching at Dance New Amsterdam where I met and took class with Sean Curran.  He invited me to join his company in the next few months for his first season at The Joyce Theatre.  I stayed with Sean’s company for six years.  During this entire time I maintained my company, whose membership changed of course but continued to receive invitations to have my work and my company presented.

I have since left New York almost eight years ago and now reside full time in San Diego however base my company between New York and San Diego with my dancer base in San Diego.  The PGK Project remains a contemporary dance company performing locally, nationally and internationally but over the last two years has grown into a dance producer and presenter as well which is something I have also been most interested in.

Describe your approach to movement and your creative process.

My movement and creative process often circulates around memory.  Many, many times I will hear a piece of music one time and wait a week or more to listen to it again.  Instead, I walk into a work space and begin to listen to it again and again in my head; remembering what I did, or think I heard and that is what I begin to move on.

Often times I can be somewhere; anywhere and a person performs a gesture which for them is common or every day but for me produces a particular meaning, quality or idea that suddenly I want to pursue.  That for me is very much enough to begin with.

I also really like to write my work that I am trying to dance.  Many times I will describe the quality or the notions, emotion, situation, spatial context, etc. into adjectives, verbs and then read, look and dance that.  I let what gets produced be produced and work really hard not to put other stuff onto it.  I do what I feel, see, and let that process reveal to me what the dance is about when it lands until of course it takes off again.

What informs your dance making?

My own successes and failures inform my dance making.  Trying something in rehearsal and then saying out loud “No, that is not the right choice for this…” and being confident to discard it.  I don’t want to make cool moves for the sake of being cool but instead say things that are open and relevant to others who eventually will observe and experience the work.  I pay a lot of attention to other people’s work and I don’t just mean dance only.  Everything that is part of public perception; I look at how a newspaper is organized and then how that organization directs an audience, commercial’s on television, marketing campaigns for refrigerator’s, new stores, and yes theatres.  I look at why I think something does, could, and  can work and why I am positive some other approach won’t

What made you decide you wanted to be a dancer?

I wanted to be a dancer because I had to be a dancer.  I realized this the very first time I went to a dance club, a social space and simply began to move to the music that was playing.  I wasn’t even dancing with anyone.  One minute I was sitting and the next I was too inspired not to move.

To Be Continued…

For Part II of this interview please click here.

If you would like to be featured in an interview by Reading the Dance, please send us an email at readingthedance@gmail.com