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One feature that I think is universally appealing to dancers is hardwood floors. Even though the studio is small, Curry seems to have left some empty floor space, just enough to do some stretching or practice in place.
One thing that’s frustrated me about being a renter in Northern Virginia is the severe shortage of housing with wood floors. If I have to live in another apartment with wall-to-wall carpeting I’ll go crazy.
What is a dance rockra, you ask? It is one part dance, one part opera, and all parts are totally rocked out. Here I am, in the swamps of Northern Virginia, wishing once again that I lived in Manhattan, our nation’s cultural capital. Luckily I have a consolation prize this year: I will be attending the inauguration without having to sublet out someone’s crappy studio apartment for two grand a night and could even bike down to the national mall if I wanted. Haha.
But I digress…
Later this week, Parsons Dance Company and the East Village Opera Company will debut their untitled collaboration, an evening-length work that strings together several of the EVOC’s re-imagined operatic works into a story line that will be danced out by the Parsons dancers. According to the press release, “untitled is a thoroughly modern re-telling of a classic story of a tragic love triangle. With contemporary dance, aerial dance, live and recorded music, video projections, complex digital lighting and visual effects, untitled is the most ambitious production created by Parsons Dance in its 22 year history.”
I discovered the East Village Opera Company about two years ago courtesy of Pandora. Their winning combination of opera greatest hits and Queen-esque power rock ballads (rockra, if you will) had me at hello. Be sure to check out the song that first captivated me, Au fond du temple saint, the well-loved Pearl Fishers duet, re-arranged into a power rock duet between a man and a woman. Here they are with their version of the Queen King of the Night aria from The Magic Flute.
And here is Parsons Dance, performing Nascimento Novo:
The Joyce Theater, 175 Eighth Avenue (at 19th Street), NYC
January 6-18, 2009
Tue, Wed and Sun at 7:30pm; Thu, Fri and Sat at 8pm; and Sat and Sun at 2pm. Family matinee performance on Saturday, January 10 at 2pm. Tickets: $59, $35, $19 (Joyce Members $44, $26). JoyceCharge: 212-242-0800
Program A: Thu 1/8, Fri 1/9 and Sat 1/10 at 8pm; Sun 1/11 at 2pm and 7:30pm; Wed 1/14 at 7:30pm; Thu 1/15, Fri 1/16 and Sat 1/17 at 8pm; Sun 1/18 at 7:30pm. World Premiere of untitled featuring the music of EVOC: Overture, La Danza, Maria, Mari!, Habanera, Che Gelida Manina, Flower Duet, La Donna E Mobile, Ave Maria, O Mio Babbino Caro, Una Furtiva Lagrima, Un Del Di, Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana, When I Am Laid in Earth, Butterfly Duet
Program B: Tue 1/6 and Wed 1/7 at 7:30pm; Tue 1/13 at 7:30pm; Sat 1/17 and Sun 1/18 at 2pm. Family Matinee: Sat 1/10 at 2pm. Swing Shift, Ebben (an excerpt from Program A), My Sweet Lord, Fill the Woods with Light, Caught, and Shining Star
Today’s All Things Considered on NPR had a wonderful story by Jacki Lyden on Parkinson’s and dance. Each week, the Mark Morris dance company holds a class for people suffering from Parkinson’s disease.
One thing that I learned from the story is that Parkinson’s affects one’s ability to initiate voluntary movement; while involuntary movement is largely unaffected. For example, you would be able to catch a ball because it is a reflexive action, but you might not be able to initiate the movement of your arm to throw it back.
Mark Morris thinks that dance tricks the mind and body into moving, as the repetitive movements in dance can eventually become involuntary, as are one’s mindless reactions to the beat of a familiar song, or copying the movement of an instructor or classmate. Although there is not any definitive scientific research yet to link dance to improvement in Parkinson’s symptoms, the anecdotal results of the class are so strong that Mark Morris was invited to speak at a neuroscientists’ convention.
You can listen to this excellent story (which has a lovely background audio of the class), read a summary, and see photos from the class here.
iGoogle, the personalized homepage version of Google, has rolled out a dizzying array of artist themes with which to customize your web searching experience. There is everything from Jeff Koons, to Diane von Furstenberg, to the Wiggles. Imagine my delight when I found Mark Morris — the only dance company for the time being– among the options. Now every time I go to Google, I am greeted with a different image of my favorite dance company.
Here’s a screenshot of how it looks. Click for a larger version. There’s no mention on the Mark Morris dance company’s website about how this came to be, but what great exposure! I wonder if google plans to include more dancers in its artist lineup.
I’ve been hoping to get a little more insight on his work, so I was thrilled when Helanius Wilkins, Founder and Artistic Director of Edgeworks Dance Theater, the DC-based all male dance company, agreed to answer a few of my questions. He’s been busy preparing for this weekend’s performance at the American Dance Institute, so he took my questions via email.
Maria: Let’s get the cliched question out of the way: influences. In past conversation you’ve mentioned Horton, Ailey, Bill T Jones, and martial arts as either influences or training grounds. Have you been dancing all your life? What motivates and inspires you?
Helanius J. Wilkins: While I have not been dancing all of my life, dance has always been a part of me. I do not feel that I chose dance, it chose me. It is a calling – and my career is the result of something far deeper than simply making the choice to dance. Life motivates me to dance. What I do is about life experiences, observations, and a quest to know and understand more in order to contribute to the shaping of a more socially just world.
M: In Cold Case, you faced head-on some of the brutal realities of race and racism in America. Can we expect the same frank treatment of sexuality and spirituality in [your newest work,] the determining factor? Where does this honesty come from?
HJW: Absolutely, I have no issues with addressing some of today’s most difficult issues. I believe that we are in a national crisis on so many fronts. Unless we become proactive about confronting these issues, things will never change. … The honesty comes from not being afraid to take risks – not being afraid to ask questions.
M: Community involvement was part of the foundation for the determining factor. How did that part of the process go and did it take you in any unexpected places?
HJW: Yes, the determining factor is in part the result of community collaboration. This collaboration was very enlightening, humbling, and exciting all at the same time. I have walked away with so much…And the journey is just beginning. Yes, unexpected places were a constant in the process. This made for a truly moving and wisdom filled experience.
M: In addition to the acclaim you have received for your work as an artist, it seems that you have attracted recognition from funders as well (your website has a long list of funding, recognition, and honors), including your recent feature of the Catalog of Philanthropy. Nonprofit management skills are key to making the jump from artistic genius to recognition and success. How have you balanced your choreography, teaching, and management responsibilities? What advice would you give to nascent dance companies looking build themselves as an organization?
HJW: Keeping my art first, staying connected to my passion for what I do, and being strategic about everything has been/is the key to the balancing of my responsibilities. These very things are the things I would also share with an emerging organization/artist.
M: You’re about to make your NYC debut (as a headliner) and have already had success touring domestically and internationally. What do you feel sets EDT apart to garner the attention it has, and what do you want the world to know about your work and your dancing? What are your plans for the future?
HJW: There are many things that I believe sets EDT apart from other companies. From being DC’s 1st all male contemporary dance company of predominately Black men to being the second in the nation of its kind to being a company focused on the often misunderstood voice of the african-american male. As much as our work is serious and honest it is entertaining and it reflects the stories and feelings of real people – real lives. Plans for the future: One step at a time.
You can see Helanius Wilkins and Edgeworks Dance Theater in a preview performance of the determining factor this weekend, May 2-3 @ 8pm at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, MD.
For tickets, go to www.americandance.org
Do not miss the following performances by two wonderful DC-based companies.:
- EDGEWORKS Dance Theater at the American Dance Insitute, May 2-3 (tickets)
- El Teatro de Danza Contemporanea de El Salvador at the GALA Theater at Tivoli Square, May 3-4 (tickets)
Of course, I am a little biased. EDT’s artistic director is Hilanius Wilkins, and El Teatro’s is Miya Hisaka. Both of these individuals are my teachers and I have an enormous amount of respect for them and their work.
I haven’t seen El Teatro before, but we have had the privilege of learning some of the company’s repertory in class. Classical ballet and modern technique combine to form beautiful lines and emotional storytelling.
EDT will be premiering a preview of their new work, the determining factor. Wilkins is known for his use of multimedia, community collaboration, and unflinching confrontation of important peronal, social and political issues. Combined with the sensitive yet athletic dancing of this all-male troupe, watching EDT is an explosive and profound experience.
New Yorkers, save the date of June 17, when EDT will have their NYC premiere on a double bill with Ron Brown/EVIDENCE at the Thelma Hill Performing Arts Center.
Jowitt is the critic I most enjoy reading. She is witty, observative of subtlety, and has a lovely way with the English language. One of my first posts on this blog was about her. As I develop in my own dance writing, I’ve been inspired by her very human and accessible approach to criticism, one that says it’s okay to be amused or confused sometimes.
I’m not sure what the Voice’s thinking was here. I know that the economy is tanking and all, but aren’t there other corners they could cut, other than one that brings joy to those of us who are passionate about dance?
Also a broader take on the Voice’s woes in general at Gawker. As one commenter points out, “Most Gawker peeps are probably too young to remember when the Voice was actually exciting, at least in terms of its book, film, and music reviews and other cultural stuff.” With the exception of Jowitt’s reviews, I have never been a reader of the Voice, but in the past had always heard of it as being the more cutting-edge, socially, culturally, and artistically relevant publication in New York. I guess now it has just become yet another money-grubbing and uninteresting rag.
I understand money is tight in the dance world, but this is insulting. I should mention that this position was posted in New York City, one of the most expensive places to live in the world. Also, calling the person who is tasked with doing all of the above an “Adminstrative Assistant” is demeaning.
I’ve read that non-profit management skills of dance companies leave much to be desired, and no wonder. You get what you pay for. I got a masters degree to become an expert at the above skills.
As Mr. P says, “if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”
Is this common practice? I don’t work in dance admin so maybe it’s not surprising for others, but as someone who has worked for non-profit and public institutions for years, I for one am surprised. You would not pay a grantwriter so little unless they were an intern.
Hey New Yorkers, go see this!
I have a bias because Helanius Wilkins is my teacher, but he is truly a heartbreakingly beautiful dancer. I saw Cold Case last year and was blown away by the athleticism, beauty and grace of the dancers (particularly Helanius) in this politically and emotionally charged piece. If anyone goes, please let me know about the determining factor. This has not yet been previewed here in DC.
January 12, 2008
New York, NY
Washington, DC — EDGEWORKS Dance Theater (EDT) Founder and Artistic Director Helanius J. Wilkins announces the Company’s participation in the Mason/Rhynes Productions showcase at the Alvin Ailey Studios on Saturday, January 12th from 8-10pm. The Company’s work will be performed between 8 and 8:30 pm, and will include excerpts from Helanius’s critically-acclaimed, award-winning Cold Case project. (Ailey Studios is located at 455 W. 55th St, New York, NY.) The presentation will also feature a preview of the Company’s newest work, the determining factor.
This performance is free and open to the public. No tickets are necessary.
For more information, please visitwww.mason-rhynes.org.
About Helanius J. Wilkins – EDGEWORKS Dance Theater
EDGEWORKS Dance Theater (EDT) is Washington DC’s first-ever all male contemporary dance ensemble of predominately African-American men. EDT aims to break down stereotypes through dance, utilizing a spectrum of performance, choreographic and teaching styles, reflecting the diversity of experiences and perspectives of both its members and guest artists. Through its mission, EDT provides a variety of arts education services and programming to the public. EDT’s current repertory includes the works of Artistic Director Helanius J. Wilkins as well as works by Earl Mosley, Kevin Wynn, Troy Powell, and Robert Moses among others. EDT has performed throughout the United States including venues in Arizona, Pennsylvania, New York, Washington DC, and in Massachusetts at Jacobs’ Pillow Dance Festival.
Encompassing physical extremes, EDT’s body of performance work is both dynamic and diverse. While pushing boundaries, it simultaneously challenges and affirms societal perceptions of male identity, revealing strength and vulnerability. For more information, visit EDT’s website at www.hjwEdgeworks.org.
This was the idyllic scene I breakfasted in the other morning at my Grandma’s house. She lives in Connecticut, close to NYC, and gets the Times. Never in a million years would I open the Washington Post and see a full-page, beautifully written article about dance such as this and other great coverage of the arts. Also, isn’t the coffee mug a perfect concidence?
This well-written article (by American Creative Dance’s Nancy Van Ness) presents the strikers’ perspective on the stagehands’ strike. The web of corporate interests on Broadway, which the author clearly did a lot of research about, is fascinating.
This New York Times article (by Campbell Robertson) explores the show biz alternatives that the sometimes bewildered audiences are turning to. Though the article provides an interesting slice of life, it hardly touches on why the stagehands are striking. I wish the author– who mentioned theater and opera– had thought to find out whether more audiences were turning out for dance performances.