Archive for the 'Interviews' Category

Talk Back with Leslie Scates

Talk Back with Leslie Scates

Interview by Rosie Trump

Talk Back is  interview series with dancers and choreographers.  Leslie Scates is the reining queen of Houston’s improvisational dance scene.  She is an independent dance artist and presenting BY A COMMITTEE OF STYLE, an evening of improvisational dance in Houston Oct. 27-29, 2011.

Tell us a bit about yourself, location, and company. 

 I have made dance works in Houston since 1989 but I have been focusing my work on improvisational dance performance since 2002.  I am an independent dance artist, work with artists from the US and Germany, and am constantly sourcing new information each season to stay engaged.   I have worked with Sarah Irwin Physical Theatre, Hope Stone inc, Chrysalis Dance Company, CORE Performance Company, Dominic Walsh Dance Theatre, Sandra Organ Dance Company and many independent dance artists.

Describe your approach to movement and your creative process. 

I approach movement from a personal, intimate and small human scale.  I am most interested in what people do to each other and respond to each other.  And I love flying around with other bodies.  I create by starting with a minimal idea, movement score or nothing at all.

What informs your dance making?  

Experiencing the world.  Physics and gravity. Culture.  Emotional and physical intimacy.

What made you decide you wanted to be a dancer?  

Two movies….  Flashdance and Footloose.  My hyperactivity and a deep love of performance space/time.

Discuss an influential teacher or mentor.

Nina Martin has been a true mentor to me since 2004.  I have studied improvisational performance and dancemaking with Nina at the March 2 Marfa lab, and by stalking her and Lower Left Performance Collective.  She is honest, strident about clean clear improvisational dance and is a brilliant teacher.  She has changed my dancing the most in my career and taught me to share the work with out being stingy with information.  Bravery and thinking on my feet….making deliberate choices in improvisation…not just being “free”.  Meticulous detail to experiencing and choosing.

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

The Moment of Movement by Lynne Anne Blom.   Motown songs and zydeco music.  Break dance and hip hop movies are my favorite.  And foreign/art films my son shows me that he says look like a dance.

What advice can you offer to inspiring dancers and choreographers?

Be in other people’s works to discover lots of ways of making dances, and MAKE YOUR OWN WORK!  Don’t try to do everything in one dance, focus and go deep.  Make work that pleases you deeply…and if it does that, then your rehearsal process will be rewarding.  That is the biggest part of work, not the performance.  If we aren’t having fun in process, and if no one wants to come back and work in my process, then I might as well stay home.

Tell us about your newest projects.

Next weekend in Houston, I am presenting BY A COMMITTEE OF STYLE at Barnavelder featuring  nine artists from my national network.   Choreography and Performance at the highest level of expertise and experience by Lower Left Performance Collective with members- Rebecca Bryant (MO), Nina Martin (TX) and Margaret Paek (NY); Sandra Mathern (OH); Jordan Fuchs (TX); collaborators, Bethany Nelson (MS), and Lily Sloan (TX); and Sarah Gamblin (TX).  October 27, 28, 29 at 8pm Tickets: barnevelder.org or 713-529-1819. Deep smart dance. Come see the show!!

Talk Back with Lydia Hance of Frame Dance

“Talk Back” is  interview series with dancers and choreographers. Lydia Hance is the artistic vision behind Frame Dance Production in Houston, TX.   She is premiering her new film Satin Stich on March 12 at Spacetaker ARC.

Satin Stitch credit: Lorie Garcia

Talk Back with Lydia Hance

Interview by Rosie Trump

Tell us a bit about yourself, location, and company.

I’ve lived in Houston for about four years now.  I grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, moved to Dallas to get my BFA in Dance Performance and BA and English Literature from SMU, and then moved down to Houston.  I started my time here dancing in several companies, teaching, and choreographing independently.  In May 2010, I launched Frame Dance Productions, a contemporary dance company to connect dance to the Web 2.0 social networking infrastructure, an emerging, media-rich forum for new creative expression.  We create dances-for-camera, dances-with-camera, and strive to collaborate with artists outside of the dance genre.

Describe your approach to movement and your creative process.

Something triggers my entry into a new work.  Sometimes it’s dance, but more often it’s art I’ve experienced that is not necessarily dance—a painting, a poem, a photograph, a conversation.  I internalize that experience and find out what it means in my body.  I journal quite a bit.  Then I drop it and create a choreographic score that intrigues me intellectually, develop movement (usually in the form of a dance phrase) and play with those ingredients.  The dancers I work with are smart and generous in their offerings of ideas and possibilities.  There’s usually a lot of dialogue and giving of self on everyone’s part in my rehearsals.

What informs your dance making?

I’m very drawn to visual compositions of things, color, texture, and shape as well as connectedness (or lack of connectedness) between people.  I feel compelled to explore the delicate parts of human relationships.

What made you decide you wanted to be a dancer?

Foolish or not, I’ve never really considered anything else.

Discuss an influential teacher or mentor.

One who entered my life somewhat recently is Nancy Saylor of the Community Dance Connection Theatre in Lexington, VA.  She is brilliant in the way that she creates dances for people, for her dancers. Her work comes from a personal space; I’ve learned so much about how deeply to search self to make vulnerable and true work. She deeply trusts the people she works with, and I see that risk reap so much richness in her dance community and in the product of her work.

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

Recently, I’ve been watching every clip of Robert Moses’ work that I can find and currently I’m reading Critical Gestures: Writings of Dance and Culture by Ann Daly.

What advice can you offer to inspiring dancers and choreographers?

For dancers:  Get your butt kicked as early as possible.  Build a foundation, and then play.  Learn a modern technique, not just ballet, to find your balance, your core, and your confidence.  Limon, Hawkins, Horton, Graham, whatever it is, learn a codified modern technique as your native language.  Certainly stray far, far from it, but learn it deep in your body.

For choreographers: Dialogue, seek feedback, and show your work to artists of genres outside of dance for a healthy scope of information about your work.  Go back to your Comp I toolbox more often than you’d like to admit.  Find out what interests you and develop that area, make it your niche.

Tell us about your newest projects.

March 12 is the premiere of my new dance film, Satin Stitch.  It is a cast of five dressed in coats, hats, and scarves from sun up to sun down dancing and threading and connecting.  We shot this film on the Boliver Peninsula in Texas.

I am currently in rehearsal for our evening-length live work called Mortar, Sylphs Wrote.  I’m early in this process. We premiere this work April 16 and 17 as part of the Hope Werks residency.  I’m creating a new world.  It’s a little fantasy, and little animalistic, a little foreign and a little familiar.  I’m working with the music of Micah Clark who is the winner of the Frame Dance Productions Music Composition Competition.  His music has a story of its own.  I’m creating my story, sometimes surrendering to his, and will hopefully come out with something satisfying and bizarre.  I blog the process here: blog.framedance.org.  My website is framedance.org.

Talk Back with Arianne Hoffmann

“Talk Back” is  interview series with dancers and choreographers.   Arianne Hoffmann, an independent choreographer in the Los Angeles area.  She is presenting her new work “Bricklayer With a Sense of Humor” at Highways Performance Space March  5 & 6 At 8:30pm.

photo by Kevin Gralewski

Talk Back with Arianne Hoffmann

interview by Rosie Trump

Tell us a bit about yourself, location, and company.

I have been in the Los Angeles area for about 8 years now.  I still spend time in Berlin every year, where I used to live in a collective.  Mostly I have worked collectively or on solo pieces – until last when year I decided to work with an assembly of people whom I call A Group of Movers.  I am increasingly getting attached to that name: it implies a task-ness, suggest that any movement can be considered part of their dance, and has political connotations.

Describe your approach to movement and your creative process.

I am very focused on the structure of a piece and on the process that gets it to be a piece.  The movement generally arises from somatic information.  When I choreograph for myself, I like working with underlying principles that produce movements that are somewhat reproducible but still arise out of the moment of performance. At the moment I enjoy creating tasks for others and myself.  For the Bricklayers project, I am developing scores that consist of sets of rules.  I make the rules for an improvisation and the group tries them out. There are a lot of discussions about how they experience the score: how did they restrict the basic freedom of the movers? As a result, the various cores control, permit, rein in, enable, contain, or make space for individual decision-making.

What informs your dance making?

The way I experience my body. The way I experience life. My awareness of movement outside of myself, whether that is movement in other people or suggested by objects. Collectivity. A group of people entering in a creative process. Humor.

What made you decide you wanted to be a dancer?

I was sent to attend dance classes at the age of 8, because it was easier than getting physical therapy for my supposedly unhealthy posture. Dancing wasn’t much fun until I was 15 or 16: the small, provincial dance studio was the only place where I felt welcomed. At the time, the color of my hair was ever changing and my attitude towards life rather dark. Despite it, the owner Pia Schering gave me a special appearance in a recital (I believe I was a sea creature), and I was on fire.  Around the same time, I worked crew on a performance of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater when it came through nearby Frankfurt. I must have ironed about 40 costumes before I watched the performance from backstage, sewing kit in hand in case of emergency.  That was the first time I encountered people making a living of being a dancer. It was very persuasive.

Discuss an influential teacher or mentor.

As part of my MFA program, I am privileged to be working a lot with Victoria Marks. Apart from her being a brilliant choreographer, she has been a great mentor. I have been learning so much from watching her teach as well as when she prods me with questions about my work. Simone Forti has been another big influence on me. Our relationship has less to do with my “formal training” and more with improvising together, talking, or working for her. Her trajectory as an artist is immensely inspiring. But first and foremost, she inspires me as a human being.

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

The socialist youth musical “Hot Summer” (Jo Hasler, 1968) is a knockout. Excerpts of it are used in the documentary “East Side Stories” (Dana Ranga, 1997), a good overview of Soviet and eastern block communist musicals. Currently I am reading Carrie Noland’s “Agency and Embodiment: Performing Gestures / Producing Culture” (2009) while listening to Douglas Wadle’s scores.

What advice can you offer to inspiring dancers and choreographers?

Make it your own. Enjoy your body. Take pleasure in how you move. Everything else will follow. 

Tell us about your newest projects.

I have been working on “Bricklayer With a Sense of Humor” for a bit more than a year now.  The choreography of “Bricklayers…” functions as a metaphor for political processes, in which some lead and others follow.  The premise is simple:  We all maneuver the immediate challenges of our day-to-day lives while we negotiate our next moves.  These moves, strategic or spontaneous, appear to be self-determined, but are mostly reactions to the pushes and pulls that we experience.  Yet, we are rarely aware of the underlying politics of our day-to-day lives.  “Bricklayers…” provides a focused experience of collective negotiations – both on and off stage – and heightens our awareness of the powers at play.

For more information please visit www.ariannehoffmann.com

For ticket information please visit www.highwaysperfromance.org

Watch an excerpt of Bricklayers (at Movement Research at the Judson Church, 11/09)

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

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