Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Traveling the many worlds of Sidra Bell Dance New York

Left to right:
Austin Diaz, Rebecca Margolick, Jonathan Campbell and Alexandra Johnson
of Sidra Bell Dance New York in Unidentifiable; Bodies
(photo: David Flores, 2015)

Three questions for...

Sidra Bell, Artistic Director of Sidra Bell Dance New York, presenting a new piece, Unidentifiable; Bodies, for the troupe's fifth season at Baruch Performing Arts Center, June 4-7.

Dance artist Sidra Bell
(photo: David Flores, 2015)

Sidra, what draws you to a particular tone for your movement and the landscape of your work?

In this work I have been attracted to rich and directionally challenging material that asks the dancers to chart and navigate extreme points in their bodies. I wanted to create a body of material that would give the dancers enough freedom to indulge in various worlds and physical identities.  In this rehearsal process I have been very active in facilitating lengthy durational improvisational periods where I take them through multiple realms of experience.  We have worked with images related to human development, universal and architectural systems, relativity, and dynamic energy. My intention is to give the dancers a world of multiplicity that they can create and destroy from performance to performance.

(photos: David Flores, 2015)

How do chaos and control play out in your dancemaking? 

We have been working with the idea of internal and external notions of danger in the piece.  I am interested in the tipping point between stasis and rupturing chaos.  The most provocative space in the movement is the quiet before the storm.

This is a dense, complex, demanding and, in many ways, disturbing 90-minute work. Your dancers tackle it all without much let up and relief. What qualities do you look for or work to develop in your dancers?

One of the things I love about this group is that we challenge each other but we are also compassionate. The most important quality I look for in dancers is empathy.  We really listen to each other and ask questions that are important to facilitating the world we are creating on stage. Additionally it is important that we have a durable and sustainable technical foundation that can support performance that asks us to hit physical and emotional extremes.

SIDRA BELL (Artistic Director), is currently a Master Lecturer at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, and was an Adjunct Professor at Barnard College in New York City. She will begin an adjunct position at Ball State University in Illinois in 2015.  She has a degree in History from Yale University and an MFA in Choreography from Purchase College Conservatory of Dance. Ms. Bell has won several awards, notably a prestigious 1st Prize for Choreography at the International Solo Tanz Theater Festival in Stuttgart, Germany. Her critically acclaimed work has been seen throughout the United States and in Denmark, France, Austria, Bulgaria, Turkey, Germany, China, Canada, Aruba, Korea, Brazil, and Greece. Bell has received many commissions from institutions internationally and created over 100 new works. She had the privilege of being on the international jury for the Stuttgart Solo Tanz Theater Festival in 2014. Bell was commissioned as the choreographer for the feature film “TEST” set in San Francisco during the height of the AIDS crisis in 1985. “TEST” was awarded two grand jury prizes from Outfest and was a New York Times Critic’s Pick. It is nominated for a 2015 Independent Spirit Award. The film has had many screenings at festivals worldwide, notably The Seattle Film Festival, Frameline37 (San Francisco), Outfest (L.A.), Berlinale, and Lincoln Center's NewFest (NYC). It enjoyed an international theatrical run in 2014 and is currently available on Netflix, VoD, and iTunes. She was recently named one of 50 outstanding artists living or working in Westchester County as part of ArtsWestchester’s 50th Anniversary.

See Sidra Bell Dance New York in Unidentifiable; Bodies:

Thursday-Friday, June 4-5 at 8pm
Saturday-Sunday, June 6-7 at 2pm and 8pm.

Tickets are available here or at the door. Box office: 646-312-5073

Baruch Performing Arts Center (Nagelberg Theater)
55 Lexington Avenue (entrance East 25th Street between Lexington and Third Avenues), Manhattan

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Paloma McGregor builds her net...for us

Yesterday, I started thinking about how dance artists should market their genius for adaptability, for doing more with less. I've also been watching dance in fairly small spaces lately--not always a bad thing. Then Paloma McGregor brought Building A Better Fishtrap/Part 1 to BAAD!, premiering an evening-length version of work explored, over the last four years, in various venues. At BAAD!, this beautiful and moving ensemble piece is danced across a shallow strip of floor. It's a big burst of heart, and the dancers dance the hell out of it. If you sit in the front row, as I did, watch that your feet don't get trapped like fish.

McGregor, a native of St. Croix, draws spirit and imagery from, as she writes, "the vanishing fishing tradition of [her] 89-year old father." The work feels like a danced bedtime tale with dreamy happenings and archetypal, beloved characters who shapeshift form with ease. Indeed, like a cozy bedtime tale, it works best by leaving ample room for your own imaginings and feelings.

Empty chairs speak of separated or departed loved ones, the ever-present past. A "road" materializes when a young lady--bearing a modest, old-fashioned suitcase and a vision--strides forth while others hustle to pave the air with a row of chair seats continuously arranged below her advancing feet. As our loving storyteller, McGregor proffers not too much information, just enough--articles and spare gestures that suggest spearing, sorting, stirring; a wheel gently held aloft like a mystical symbol or used in the clever pantomiming of a family excursion; long spliced and braided cords that, when swept across the breadth of the space, evoke both the act of fishing and the foamy rush of Caribbean tide.

Now and again, a voice floats into the space, words suggesting identity and deep nourishment from which one can never be entirely separated. (I have been here before, maybe as a tree...The water is the Grand Queen of us all.) Still, dancers like Christine King and Audrey Hailes don't need words to connect when playful, girlish body language spins clear, universal "conversation" and inclusion.

That inclusion includes us, too, in a literal, ingenious and necessary way that I will not reveal here. Building A Better Fishtrap prepares and invites its audience, casting a spell that inspires trust. Last night, we fell into McGregor's welcome with gratitude.

Performances by Christine King, Audrey Hailes, Stephanie Mas, Erica Saucedo, Ricarrdo Valentine
Scenic Design: Paloma McGregor
Costumes: Kym Chambers
Lighting: Susan Hamburger
Soundscore: Everett Saunders
Text: Ebony Noelle Golden

Building A Better Fishtrap/Part 1 continues tonight at 8pm and Sunday at 3pm. For information, click here, and for tickets, click here.

McGregor continues to build her fishtrap. Over the next two years, her Building A Better Fishtrap project moves on to BAX/Brooklyn Arts Exchange and to sites in Red Hook and along the Bronx River. "With each iteration," McGregor writes, "the hope is to deepen the connections collaborators and audiences have with one another's legacies and the future of our embattled water spaces." Keep up with McGregor's progress at Angela's Pulse.

2474 Westchester Avenue, Bronx

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