Enough Said, our new film short, has reached its completion! Paulo Gutierrez, my dancer extraordinaire, poured out his heart and soul into this work. The tattoo on his right arm caught my husband’s eye upon viewing the first draft. “We Can Be Heroes,” it says — a symbolic message dropped in my lap, exemplifying the emotion at the center of my heart. This project seeped out of me as I was editing. As mentioned in my last blog post, our day-shoot in February worked its magic with what seemed like a fairy dust sprinkling of creativity. Tareek Jones, a talented new editor that came on board with me at the end of last year, has been steady pulling levers and making my vision appear before my eyes. I was surprised at how quickly the process went, even with one of our sessions working remotely. I’ll allow you to interpret as you may, as to what the meaning is, but if you’ve followed my prior posts, I assure you, you’ll be on my same page. Enough said.
In February, when the ground is frozen, and the chill in the air makes a person want to stay inside, the seeds of something new seem to simmer within me. So, year after year, you’ll see that this is when I’ll typically skip into the studio, eager with inspiration.
Last month was no exception. Paulo Gutierrez, a strong, passionate dancer, happened to be free when I asked him if he wanted to do this project. I had worked with Paulo over the past five years, and knew I could trust his artistry to skillfully script our day together at 520 8th Avenue, (Ripley-Grier Studios) — one of my favorite haunts through the ages. I had in mind to book several studios that day within the building, all with a different color scheme, to add a little texture to our footage. With little material to go on ahead of time, we waltzed through the day, as if I had a great plan. Perhaps I was more reliant on my intuition and spontaneity, trusting that what would be, would be.
After sliding, falling, jumping and climbing upon a grande piano, and dancing through every inch of the spaces where we we visited, the day ended in a dismal back stairwell, where we got our final shots. It felt like we were on a wild ride, exposing the most vulnerable to the most brazen parts of ourselves. This was personal, yet somewhere within the fairy dust of what we created, was a deep message shared by humanity — I look forward to sharing this message soon, once our editing waltz reaches the last measure!
With many obstacles before me from last July til now, I finally was able to finish my film, “Something Fake.”Though we shot the footage last summer, my editor had moved from Connecticut to NYC, so finding the time to get together with her proved to be a challenge. In fact, the slow burn to the finish line probably got me a bit weary to create a shorter version, which I’m sure would’ve gone over better in the end than what I produced, but c’est la vie!
The symbolism of the piece unraveled in the editing sessions, where the emergence of the story occurred. The sections I choreographed were not purposely supposed to depict the Republicans and Democrats, but with the overt colors of red and blue from my film shoot, I couldn’t help but use that platform to construct ideas based upon the divisiveness of Congress; the red, hot topic of Russian collusion; and the inane ‘wall,’ depicted through the outdoor fence I found outside the theater. The flowing, red cloth in the film, seen in other works of mine, took on an entirely new meaning — Russian collusion. The staring eye through this thin red veil, reveals the evil eye of corruption.
Under my direction that day, the scenes I worked out were loosely inspired by the Helsinki Summit where President Trump ‘misspoke.’ Google it. At the time, it seemed to me that there was no other evidence needed to indict our President. Treason seemed palpable, but as the calendar pages turned, my coup de gras Helsinki Summit film theme, became lost in the shuffle of our 36-hour news cycle. More importantly, though, is the common thread of injustice in our government; and, as the bar for democracy is lowered, the level of farcical humor in our media is raised. As the children of our future will be learning about our current administration through social media, YouTube, and perhaps, artistic endeavors… keeping it all straight in the age of fake news will be their obstacle to sift through. If viewing this film can pair our day and age with a seed of truth, then I guess what I’ve done could be pivotal for future generations. And if not, art for art’s sake apparently is still in vogue!
2018 has been a year of feeling knee deep in the funk of our current political climate. Just when you thought nothing could get any worse, another story would unfold, making yet another stain in the fabric of our society. Out of this chaos always comes an artful depiction from artists all over the globe. February was when I felt the urge to go to my small corner of the universe, and create a piece for dancer, Heidi Sutherland. The solo we created, It’s Easy To Drown, was created and taped in Brooklyn at Triskelion Arts, then went on to be performed at the Ailey Citigroup Theater in KoDaFe in June. Heidi soared in her performance reaching new heights with her incredible technique and talent. See more of Heidi here.
Putting one foot in front of the other, I imagined how I might allow for a catharsis of the angst I was feeling about the Trump Administration. The collective sludge that started a mud slide of turmoil was gradually pushing me toward making a short film. My ideas came together in an array of scenes crafted for four dancers on a oven-hot day in July, back again at Triskelion Arts. Lights, camera, action and with no time to polish, the footage we got that day went in the can, as the guts to my new film entitled, “Something Fake.” With fits and starts to schedules and then my editor moving, the process of editing was as slow as molasses. Being a Jiffy Mix choreographer, it took all the patience I could muster to work on this project only here and there; however, I’m happy to announce that the premiere will be very soon!
My catharsis continued into late summer when I created a site specific work at the Halibut State Park in Rockport, MA. This time, my dancer-self came out to play, as serendipity met nature in three hours of improvisation, in the most beautiful place in New England. Footage from this day is on the back-burner, but the cooling effect of finding my peace is seen in these stills.
Fall went a little weirder and far from nature as I went into the studio again, making a piece that should’ve been premiered on Halloween, but ended up making its debut in November — again back in Brooklyn at Triskelion Arts. That theater has my footprints all over it, and I’m grateful for the tab not being too steep. Somewhere amidst the #MeToo Movement and the tumult of our times, came a dance trilogy hinting at a darker shade of pale. Coaching the dancers to find their own meaning within the work paid off, as each of them told their own inner story. In fact, I titled the piece, “Short Story.” It begins with a duet, goes into a solo, then ends with a trio– all of which were performed with fierce commitment to the movement. They sweat through several rehearsals before knowing what it all meant, but in the long-run, it’s up for interpretation — the ending, however, leaves no doubt about man’s evil spirit.
So, as the political scene continues to shred all sense of balance, and 2018 comes to a close, I find my strength in dance and the dancers that makes it all happen. It’s in their fluidity, their power, and their artistry that allows me to go knee deep into the magic of dance — and at least for the moment, helps me to rise above it all!
My featured image is of my post-production mess from our film project on July 20th in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at Triskelion Arts — a three hour project to channel my pent-up emotions regarding the Trump administration. In my Jiffy-Mix style, we whipped up a menu of choreography, images, acting, and site specific Godspell-ish meanderings. Satirically driven, the footage we shot will be made into a film short that at the very least, will let out a little steam that’s been building within. It won’t be Michael Moore in its breadth and scope, but will hint at the very things he and everyone else has been vocalizing about regarding the inane events of our day. We’re in a freefall, so while falling, I thought I’d take an afternoon to catch up with my artist-side. Four dancers came together, along with Joel Stephen, our camerman/filmmaker, and Don Adams, our line producer, to make a hot day a littler cooler! More on this project soon!
My messy notes
Dancers: Annie Heinemann, Paulo Gutierrez, Jeremy Neal, Heidi Sutherland
There’s a fine veil between our physical and spiritual lives. Much of what is created in the studio is a product of what, I believe, is being downloaded from a higher source. From the rough, scrappy Jiffy-Mixes I create, to the finer works that have had time to age a bit, the process of allowing movement to come through me without too much deliberation has been my joy as a choreographer. 2017’s political climate wrestled with my spirit– I know I’m not alone here! As with most artists, I took to the studio and used the deep feelings from within to mix-up a variety of movement, inspired by our country’s state of conflict.
The timing of the year was filled with fits and starts. With many obstacles hitting me outside of my dance life, it was a slow start to organize events. Honoring my qualitative time with dance has become more important than quantity, so taking my time was part of the rhythm. The quality of dancers I used this year, some new and some veterans, sparked new frequencies of energy that started after my June Master Class. Not only did I love the experience teaching at Ripley Grier Studios, but I was so thrilled to have had a live accompanist, William Ruiz, to lead us through the hot, sweaty, rhythmic class — a high time for me, and per the feedback, a high time for the dancers, too!
Dream Spell was a highlight for me in August, when in just two-hours-plus, we created another one for the archives in our Jiffy-Mix series. The dancers (several chosen from the Master Class), were so inspiring, and that process of higher- source downloading, definitely assisted me through the day! New artists also appeared that day with our videographer and filmmaker, juicing-up the energy in the room even more! Joel Stephens created a film about the process of our day, entitled, “Ebb and Flow.” With music by collaborating artist, Nicole Renaud, it was pure energy in motion, filmed with an eye for innovation. Our day together also raised $750 for Peace Community Chapel’s SummerStock Fund, where donations went to: Bridgeport Rescue Mission (Bridgeport); Beth-El Center (Milford); New Covenant Center (Stamford); and Food Bank For NYC. Thank you to all our donors!
“Willing to Catch” was a special time for me in the Fall, working with four amazing artists: Claire Hancock, Paulo Gutierrez, James A. Pierce, III, and Heidi Sutherland. The two couples, dancing the same duet, embodied the movement with their own distinct styles, delivering a story from the heart each time they took the stage. From our NYC CBG Fall Dance Festival performance, to the Temple University Alumni Dance Concert, the grace and strength these dancers conveyed, superseded my expectations! I was so proud of them, and so honored to have had amazing photographers involved with our events, who captured the essence of my work, and the deep level of the conviction and passion of the dancers. Thanks to Christian, Noel Valero, and Bill H, for their time and talents! It was a joy to be back on the old stomping grounds of Temple during my residency this Fall, teaching to a new crop of fresh and eager dancers, who seemed happy to spend time with an old vet!
The best thing about the picture of Claire looking through the veil in the picture at the top of this blog (taken during the making of Dream Spell), is that that veil was from my Masters’ Dance Concert, roughly thirty years ago. It was then that I knew about the process of creating coming from a higher source. That veil was used in a solo I choreographed about a woman looking back at her life, and seeing how she triumphed over adversity — the great story of our time, and the irony of this year. An insider’s view from behind the veil will tell you that it’s all just an illusion — nothing remains the same, and everything is always changing. 2017 was on its way to breaking our spirit, but somehow we triumphed, yet again… we kept the issues of the day at bay, and let the spirit pour through us, washing away all that tainted the American landscape, and all the muck that got caught in our spiritual veils. Alas, we put the year to rest, and allow for 2018 to download all the goodness it has to offer! Happy New Year! And thanks to all the artists who contributed this year, and to all the ACD supporters!
Autumn started on a busy note as two back-to-back weekends of dance loaded my schedule, but lightened my heart! With 26 years under my belt with Adams Company Dance, I still approach each project with the eagerness of a kid learning to ride a bike for the first time. Nothing ever feels mundane once I enter the studio and see the essence of beauty before me in each dancer.
Two teams of dancers made it possible to perform “Willing to Catch,” a new work which began in August, for both the CBG Fall Dance Festival in Soho, September 30th and October 1st, followed by the Temple University Alumni Dance Concert on October 6th and 7th. Dancers Claire Hancock, (a dancer whom I’ve known since she was seven!!) who coupled with Paulo Gutierrez ( a dancer who attended my Master Class in June); and James A. Pierce, III (longtime dancer with ACD), who coupled with Heidi Sutherland (another dancer who attended my Master Class)– took on the new piece with vim and vigor!
Talent pushed the boundaries with these duets, and with James also dancing the solo “Avec Moi,” at Temple– I think we hit a flush! The concerts gave a platform for the dancers to rise to new levels of grace, beauty and strength, and I am so happy to be able to have those qualities in perpetuity, with the wonderful images from each of the shows! See our albums below here:
A new duet takes to the stage today and tomorrow with the CBG Dance festival.“Willing to Catch,”features Claire Hancock and Paulo Gutierrez in tonight’s performance at 8:00p and tomorrow’s matinee at 2:30p. This premiere is dedicated to the 2017 hurricane victims.