Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Art That Moves: Take a Deep Breath / Jane Franklin Dance

By Helen Gineris

“It was never about the classes for me, it was always about the choreography. Much more than working on precise technical detail, it’s that whole process of making something that’s appealing to me,” says Jane Franklin, Artistic Director of Jane Franklin Dance, a company well-known for performing in non-traditional spaces including galleries and the outdoors.

Franklin welcomes Dance Is The Answer participants to experience part of that creative process even before venturing out to the Torpedo Factory Art Center for tonight's free 7 pm performance of Take a Deep Breath.
The company's latest cross-disciplinary choreographic adventure is a “dance event” consisting of two works, A Vivid Sense of Place and Double Take, which address our connection to place using the built-in space, video projection, music, dance, and visual art inspiration. The project embodies this year's Dance Is The Answer Art That Moves theme of which Dance/Metro DC Director Peter DiMuro emphasizes, "Art galleries will come alive with movement.”
In Double Take, “our project is really about the space itself,” explains Franklin. Prior to this evening's performance, the company spent time becoming intimately familiar with the Torpedo Factory space, twisting along a staircase, seeping into the floor, and weaving through arms and legs while balanced on chairs. Tonight, this exploratory "pre-performance" will be video-projected into the space while the audience simultaneously views a live performance of the same movement. Afterward, dancers will lead the audience to the original location of the video shoot where they can experience the movement again - as projected on screen and identically within the space itself. How will you identify with these visual experiences and spatial continuums?


Jane Franklin Dance performs Take a Deep Breath on Wednesday, April 27 at 7 pm at the Torpedo Factory located at 105 N. Union Street, Alexandria, VA 22314. Performance is free. 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Highlight: Dance Box Theater, Inc. with Laura Schandelmeier and Stephen Clapp

By Helen Gineris
In the Gateway Arts District of Mount Rainier, MD, Dance/Metro DC met up with contributing sponsors Laura Schandelmeier and Stephen Clapp in their thoughtfully decorated and spacious artist loft. Founders and Co-Artistic Directors of Dance Box Theater, Schandelmeier and Clapp delivered a warm welcome, an inviting loft tour, and a cup of tea before telling Dance/Metro DC all about their latest and sixth full-length work Affectations, described by Schandelmeier as the most abstract piece Dance Box Theater has ever done.
The absence of both characters and plot marks a departure from the issue-driven work emblematic of the duo. Clapp references The Loving Project: E-Race that addresses historical and present-day issues surrounding interracial marriages and nontraditional partnerships. However, Schandelmeier emphasizes, “All of our work has a social justice aspect to it and with Affectations we’re looking at the body as a metaphor for contemporary culture… and from an abstract point of view it’s a trio of two women and Stephen [Clapp], and we lift him as much as he lifts us. On a very basic level we try to keep things equitable. You won’t see a man throwing around a woman in one of our pieces [or vice versa].”
Affectations is an “interactive installation” of technological prowess. Markers or reflective tape are embedded into the costumes and, while technology floods the stage with infrared light, the light bounces off of the markers, is picked up by an infrared camera, recorded in real time, and processed to a computer triggering visuals and sound – all this before a live audience. The work, which includes 120 cues, is the result of an intricate collaboration between Schandelmeier, Clapp, dance artist Ilana Faye Silverstein, New York-based Installation Artist Lorne Covington, and China-based Composer James Harkins. In this geographically diverse group, the collaborative process involves Skype, email, and video postings. Moreover, Clapp divulges that communication can be challenging between art forms where the language a dancer speaks, the language a lighting designer speaks, that in which the composer writes, or the technology language of a visual artist’s interface means constantly “mak[ing] sure we’re all on the same page and not assuming that we are.”
Although frustrating at times, the company embraces such collaboration honoring "a value for making work on the cutting edge that's experimental," asserts Schandelmeier. Dance Box Theater's works have included spoken word, text, original compositions, sign language interpretation, and dancing with a life-size male sculpture named Giovanni who now playfully decorates the corner of their loft. "We're constantly trying to push ourselves to do new things," Schandelmeier puts forth. The dance company, for instance, has broken out of the status quo performance model of a one-weekend or two-weekend showing, which, Clapp articulates, "doesn't really serve the creative process, the artists, or the venues."
“Or the work,” adds Schandelmeier.
Instead, Dance Box Theater has adopted a one-year production model followed by several local and regional performances of the same piece for an entire season. Affectations, for example, premiered at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of the 2010 Local Dance Commissioning Project, has recently enjoyed a two-week run in partnership with Joe’s Movement Emporium supported in part by the Maryland State Arts Council and Prince George’s County Arts Council, and will appear next at Dance Place followed by showings at the Baltimore Theatre Project and the Irondale Center in Brooklyn, NY. All performances include a post-performance discussion and stage-invitation for audience members to interact with the technology creating “another level of participation that isn’t just about ‘let’s go watch a show’,” voices Clapp.
The duo has experienced a string of successes and funding support in the last couple of years and express gratitude for residing within a block of Joe’s Movement Emporium, where they are artists in residence, coupled with the ability to use space at Dance Place, where Clapp also works as a Grants Manager. The company attributes its success to perseverance and hard work and their belief in sharing information [and] resources, which Schandelmeier believes as “essential to furthering the art form in our community.” Clapp adds, “The one thing that we realize more and more is that the success of another dance company doesn’t impede our success at all. The more work that’s out there and successful, the better the field is and the better we can each individually survive.”
He perceives what he calls a “real, actual, tangible, cultural shift” in the DC-area dance community from a sense of provincialism and fractured sentiment as “‘I’m going to do my thing… and you can do your thing, but that’s my grant application, I’m not going to tell you about it,” to “Hey, did you hear about this application that’s due in a week?’ People aren’t trying to hoard things anymore because that practice just wasn’t serving anybody.” Schandelmeier agrees, “It’s the only way we can survive. We have to share resources…or else it’s going to be harder to continue to make the work.”
In addition, conveys Clapp, “being connected with regional and national networks of artists… and finding out what’s been happening in other communities has been extremely beneficial,” recommending that emerging artists use these networks as resources and to develop connections. For example, as board members of Atlanta, GA-based Alternate ROOTs, Clapp and Schandelmeier have been able to showcase work all over the Southeast United States while membership in a theater-based network enabled them to connect with the Brooklyn presenter showcasing Affectations this fall. Schandelmeier suggests artists look into The Field, a national organization with a local satellite component The Field/DC. The Field offers access to free summer retreats with room and board.
“There are resources out there especially for new, young artists,” affirms Clapp, whose advice is to keep making work, “Just keep making work. If you need to sell used cars, work in a restaurant, you can do that for a little while, but just keep making work, get back to the studio, that’s where the work happens.” Schandelmeier, also a master teaching artist and trainer for Wolf Trap’s Institute for Early Learning Through the Arts reveals, “In our experience, it’s not a financially rewarding life and it can be difficult, but," she assures, "it’s a very good and a very rich life in other ways. I support myself 100% as a dancer, as a dance artist. It can be done. Stephen supports himself through all dance-related and dance work. So you can do it. And you can do it here [in DC].” Clapp concludes, “That’s what’s exciting… DC is really becoming a place where dance artists can exist and succeed as dance artists.”
Observe and take part in Affectations in Washington, DC at Dance Place on May 21 or 22; in Baltimore, MD at the Theatre Project on September 12 – 18; or in Brooklyn, NY at the Irondale Center on September 28 – October 2.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Highlight: Dance Place and Founder/Director Carla Perlo

By Helen Gineris

Dance/Metro DC sat down with Carla Perlo Founder and Director of Dance Place, a community icon with 30 years of success as a nationally recognized dance presenter, professional school for dance, and center for innovative youth programs. In addition to a mix of modern and cultural dance offerings during Dance Is The Answer, Dance Place participates in the festival’s theme Art That Moves on Tuesday, April 19 when six chosen dancers and their six invited dance partners are challenged to create a site-specific improvisational dance piece based on unknown hidden treasures in a traveling Box O’Art. Perlo shares her excitement, calling the activity a “double entendre thinking out of the box and around the box,” which she points out as a strength of the dance community, describing dancers as creative, flexible, and determined to dance no matter what is thrown at them whether it be a national disaster, a tight budget, or inclement weather.

Dance/Metro DC asked Perlo what the phrase “Dance Is The Answer” means to her. “I think people tend to categorize dance,” as what they see on television or their perception of their own capacity for movement, but "Dance," Perlo says, “is really the answer to a lot of things that are troubling our society” that manifest as stress, a sense of isolation, poor body-image and poor health. Perlo sees dance as a way to solve these problems swearing dance is “the secret” that has kept her healthy, without the aches and pains of age, and much fitter than her counterparts equal in years. She matter-of-factly attributes her lack of depression, absence of medications and isolation to being involved in the dance community and Dance Place.

Continuing, Perlo adds dance is also the answer to education and socialization - a tool for teaching language arts, math, and life skills including collaboration, positive social interaction, self-confidence, discipline, problem-solving, and compromise. She states emphatically, “Show me a child who’s performed in front of a group and I’ll show you a kid who does better on a college interview... a job interview.” Lastly, she adds in response to Dance Place’s partnership with developer Artspace USA, that dance is the answer and a tool for attracting community and real estate development. The partnership will result in a much-anticipated July grand opening of the Brookland Artspace Lofts where Dance Place will occupy three of the 41 loft spaces and together the two organizations will collaborate on a joint plaza with Dance Place driving the programming. “[Dance is] an economic engine. Anywhere the arts are, eventually people follow.”

Dance Is The Answer enthusiasts can also look forward to weekend performances at Dance Place through May 2. Those unable to attend Deborah Riley Dance Projects’ reincarnation of Chew on This last weekend missed out on a delightful exploration of our relationship to food. Make sure to catch New York’s Wally Cardona’s Intervention #7: Silas Grant on April 23 and Lyena Strelkoff’s Caterpillar Soup from her Words That Move Us Series running April 20 – May 1. Perlo describes Strelkoff as an “amazing person with an amazing story,” a quadriplegic who recently gave birth to her first child who reveals her life before her spinal cord injury, after her injury, and the challenge in finding movement within.

Dance Place is located at 3225 8th St., NE, Washington, DC. The nearest Metro is Brookland-CUA (Red Line). For discounted rates on classes through May 2, mention Dance Is The Answer.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Dance Is The Answer 2011 Kicks Off!

Dance Is The Answer 2011 kicks off it's two week celebration with "Tango Your Taxes Off" an opening celebration of dance for the DC metro region. Dancers and enthusiasts took part in an evening of tango demonstrations and lessons by Sharna Fabiano & Isaac Oboka of Tango Mercurio, the unveiling of BOX O’ ART, a traveling visual art and movement installation and became acquainted with all the exciting events surrounding the Dance Is The Answer celebration this year.

What is
BOX O' ART will be created and curated by a team led by Bruce McKaig, a well known and respected DC-based artist and teacher. Each box contains items to become part of the installation from the everyday (yards of bubble wrap? Toilet paper roll innards? 100 empty cans of Campbell soup?) to the sublime (multi-colored light sources that causes miniature windmills to move seemingly without cause?) . Instructions for the installation at the host site - including time limits, what sound is heard at the site, how many participating installation artists should be present and how they should interact with their installation - will be included in the box.
To learn more about BOX O' ART and all the events for Dance Is The Answer 2011 go to