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


1 Response to “Talk Back with Peter Kalivas and The PGK Project Part I”

  1. 1 Talk Back with Peter Kalivas and The PGK Project Part II « Reading the Dance Trackback on September 18, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: