James in a Jiffy

Another Jiffy Mix dance was made in our series of short-time frame works. This one was set on James A. Pierce,III, at the Baryshnikov Arts Center just last month. Behind the lens was film maker, Amelia Golden, capturing the the 2 hours and 20 minutes worth of on-the-spot choreography. We had only the music, a hat, and a few costume pieces to go on. The theme was left up to interpretation, although somehow, with composer Nicole Renaud’s music as part of our collage, we knew there’d be a “French flavor” to it.

James gets me. That’s why it went so well. He understands what I give him, and knows what I want to see. His sensitivity to the movement and quick assessment of emotional content, exemplifies his level of excellence. Thanks to photographer, Cathryn Lynne, for adding to our rich, artistic experience. I always love when she’s in the room snapping away. Both she and Amelia have dance backgrounds… could I ask for more?

With a handful of films under her belt with ACD, Amelia set out to make Jeu d’ Esprit just as special as her prior works. We worked at my table for hours looking at footage and editing down to a few distilled minutes. Amelia knows how to tweak, and create quality within the context of a short project, never compromising her vision. Cathryn is much the same way with her photography, and James is that way with his dancing! Three great masters at work! I am so blessed to have a team of pros to join me on this universal path! See both the archive solo, Avec Moi, and the piece about the process of our solo, Jeu d’ Esprit.

Photos below by Cathryn Lynne.

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Another Jiffy Mix

It’s not too often that you get a chance to focus on making a solo on a world class dancer at Baryshnikov Arts Center in NYC. James A. Pierce, III, a seasoned dancer with Adams Company Dance, as well as a cast member in The  Lion King on Broadway, and former Graham and Ailey II dancer, will fulfill another quest for a Jiffy Mix dance this Tuesday, October 9th. I have from 3:00-6:00 to create a new solo, during which time filmmaker, Amelia Golden, will shoot a new short film based on the solo entitled “Avec Moi,” with her own twist on the event.

Time constraints have everything to do with getting things done. I know it’s twisted, but Jiffy Mix dances, with all the pressure to get things done fast, are exciting to work on. James will be adding his own flair and flourishes to the day, I’m sure. He is the consummate professional, and no matter what, we will have fun! We are looking forward to Cathryn Lundgren joining in for a photo shoot. Avec moi, you never know what you are getting!

More Miles to Go

This Friday, September 21st, two very talented artists will perform my duet, Miles, at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn. Perceptions Dance Festival unites choreographers from around the globe for a three day extravaganza. Chris Jackson, former Ailey dancer, and cast member of The Lion King, comes back to ACD once again to share his bravado! His lovely leading lady, Deidre Halley, sister of my former dancer, Robert Halley, came as complete synchronicity. When I knew Ryan Schmidt, (who danced this duet twice before) was out of town, I thought about Deidrea. The next thing I know, her new dance reel was in my stack of emails. This was no coincidence, it was meant to be. Formerly of The Lion King in London, Deidrea answered my call, and we were all in the studio before I knew it.

Miles, with music by my dear friend, Maria Schneider, is being performed at the perfect time, as  Maria will receive The Honorary Degree, Doctor of Humane Letters, at the University of Minnesota on Monday, September 24th. Perfect timing to honor her music through dance! You go girl!

With a few more “miles” to go in rehearsal, the dancers should be ready to go the distance by showtime. I am excited to see their interpretation of this emotionally charged duet!

Time for “Reel” Preservation

I was recently looking at a vintage video reel of my husband’s ancestry, featuring  a remote Danish village in McCabe,  Montana. I was impressed that someone took the time to set up a screen, run a 16mm film of  rare footage of community life of a rural town and its people, while at the same time videotaping the screen with their digital camera. You could hear the sounds of rat-at-tatting of the old Kodak in the film, as it led you through crop picking, parades, church picnics, and the town’s later desolation. It was a bitter sweet scene to see the town that was once so vital with character, charm, and wealth, left as a mere  shadow of itself.

Watching that old footage prompted me to think about the idea of preservation–“I should make a reel featuring my choreography before it’s too late,”  I thought.  Afterall, some day some archeologist might need my reel to carbon date choreography. The Mayans were wrong, btw. The new cave findings show us here for another 3,000 years at least, so I’m sure you see my point!  So using vintage video, as well as recent work, my editor Amelia Golden and I, knit together Kodak moments of Adams Company Dance. You won’t hear the 16mm ticking of the film on this one, but you might enjoy our Garage Band arrangement we created just for this. I hope it reels you in!  Click here to see our reel.

A Picture Tells a Thousand Words

Every now and then, I organize my files and sometimes I find things I hadn’t remembered. In this case, it was a picture taken from our Ailey concert, now three years ago. It’s amazing how much one picture can tell so much. Dance looks so easy sometimes, but in this dance, there were at least 2-3 hours of warm-up and preparation that went into performing Cheap Seats, as well as years of dance training. Do people remember that when they go to a dance performance? The toil, sweat, and rummaging for props that went into that one dance, I am sure went unnoticed. How many times have you walked away from a full-length ballet or modern work and wondered what went on behind the scenes? We just see what our eye wants us to see at that very moment, forgetting what prepared all the elements prior to the finished product. Just as in a photo, we see only what we see, not knowing that a thousand things went on to make up that one great shot. A picture tells a thousand words, and I for one, can list them all in this case!! See more pics here!

Big Ben

It has been two years since we gathered together at the Baryshnikov Arts Center for our “dance happening.” The night involved some bizarre sequences of dance, text, improv and prop utilization, all in the name of art. It was a wild night reminiscent of Godspell, but caught on tape by the inimitable Peter Richards, dance videographer extraordinaire. Filmmaker and editor, Ben Moss, took extra big steps in this techo-media process of making a film based on the concepts of the loss of spirituality and literature in our society, due to the interference of our technological age. “Find your friends of Facebook,” was one of the sections of our night at BAC that Ben morphed into a psychedelic, Alice-in-Wonderland-down-the-looking-glass-sequence on this film. I thought I was twisted! Ben takes the cake on that one.

After a move to California, Ben continued, in his spare time, to send me excerpts of his creations. He clued in on my love for dance pioneer Doris Humphrey, and included her book, “The Art of Making Dances,” to the final image of the piece. I thought it was brilliant!

After many years of working together, Ben has produced and edited a host of works for me, none the least of which was our documentary, “Except at Night: The Making of a Dance,” and his cutting edge  “As the Twig Bends,” which was included in “Pie, Picket Fences and Purgatory.”  I owe so much to Ben for the tireless hours of editing, and putting up with my, “can you make this change?” emails. Ben doesn’t stop in his pursuit of excellence. After three Masters degrees, and posts as university professor, Ben is in the hot-seat, honored as being an artist-in-residence in his new home community.

With his media techno-genius, some bizarre footage, and our dual concepts, Ben makes “Let’s Face It,” a film short that steers way left of center in my dance book. We can’t always be right!  Kudos, Ben!

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Please also see Amelia Golden’s version of that same night!

A Look Back at 2011

Except for the occasional pause for airing out, 2011 was busy and full of keepsake dances from the heart & mind: Heart Song; Pie, Picket Fences & Purgatory; Shelter; and Itty Bitty Nitty Gritty. Finishing the year with four new works and two new film shorts was probably enough material to warrant its own concert; but instead, the year was spread-out throughout the four seasons, ripening the fruits of our labor along the way.

From our film shoot at Baryshnikov Arts Center in 2010, shot by the inimitable Peter Richards, we finally produced a film short, edited by Amelia Golden, entitled, About Face; which followed her other film short, A Piece of Shelter, shot at The Secret Theater.  With one more to go from filmmaker Ben Moss, we are about to release, Let’s Face It,  on-line. This is yet another version of a film short from that austere night at BAC.

Starting off 2012, we will be doing an archival video shoot at the Ailey Citibank Theater this Tuesday. We will have the trio, Itty Bitty Nitty Gritty,” which premiered for Connecticut Ballet this past summer,  taped by a new video production team, graduates from the New School.  I am washing the costumes now!! Hope all goes down smoothly and we can revisit the little chair dance once more with renewed vim & vigor! And, of course, please revisit my dance about MLK, entitled, “Undisclosed Recipients: A Tribute to MLK,” as Monday the 16th is his day of honor.  Happy New Year!!

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“Heart Song” “Pie, Picket Fences & Purgatory” “Pie, Picket Fences & Purgatory”
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“Shelter” “Itty Bitty Nitty Gritty” “Let’s Face It”

A Piece of Shelter

On the night of July 10th, in a theater tucked away in Long Island City, Queens, a young filmmaker opened her lens to an evening of unknowns. The invitation I made to Amelia Golden was to come and shoot an evening of making a new dance.  That’s a wide-open opportunity to capture anything she wanted, and make her own story about her observances, from exiting the subway, to the final bow. It seemed that the task was not too tall an order for a creative mind like hers.

I met Amelia at the Mystic Independent Theater Film Festival, where we were co-winners, and I was convinced I met her at the right time, and that some synergy was about to take place.

Viewing Amelia’s works in progress, and editing on the spot while eating a few lunches and sharing a few laughs together, made the whole process so enjoyable. Her wizardry behind-the-scenes captured a very unusual night of dance and passion.

This Golden opportunity for Amelia on a hot, sultry night in July, is summed up in this unique film, meant to make you wonder “just what was inside that package of dance made in 2 hours and 9 minutes?”  

See Amelia’s film, A Piece of Shelter.”

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The entire dance we made that night, shot by Marie Le Claire, was made in 2 hrs and 9 minutes. It can be seen here: “Shelter.”

“Itty Bitty Nitty Gritty”

In the dog days of summer, there has to be a reason to want to be in the heat! Last Thursday night, August 4th, in New London, CT, was ACD’s reason to kick up their heels in the blazing sun and join the masses in their sweat and enthusiasm for dance! CT Ballet was celebrating their 30th year and we were invited to open the bill for them. With a cascading fountain and the downtown waterfront as a backdrop, the dancers turned up the heat with my new piece, “Itty Bitty Nitty Gritty,” a comedic trio inspired by three children’s chairs. The loud horns from the ships occasionally wafted by… a nice reminder of where we were!

James, Milan, and new to ACD, Catherine Borrone, used every trick in the book to get a chuckle and put a new twist on a“another chair piece.” Has modern dance seen the last of them? I think not!

I was so excited the night before at the Baryshnikov Arts Center when we finally finished the piece. My assistant and understudy, Sarah, came through for me, handling all the nitty grityy details, that I was too busy to take care of myself. Everyone needs a Sarah!!

As is typical with us, we made another Jiffy Mix-dance, “just add water,” and off we went. It was really great using a piece of music from my childhood from an obscure band, The Audience. It was dream come true, finally using this music that I longed to use for so many years! In a suite of three pieces of music, this was the one that was like a steam roller — get out of the way!! The dancers danced it with ease and commitment, which was no easy task!

The itty bitty things we often overlook are the smiles on the faces of children when they’re at play. This dance made my inner five-year-old smile with three children’s chairs in use in high style. I still hear the playground sounds and the bell ringing — it’s time for milk and cookies — thanks for the fantasy, dancers!

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