Observations on Dance Massive, by Andrea Snyder

28 Mar

DanceMassiveSiteDance Massive is the biennial Australian dance festival held in Melbourne over the course of two weeks in March. It is a massive celebration of contemporary dance, including well-established choreographers, indigenous contemporary voices, and emerging artists. Organized by three presenting venues (Dancehouse, Arts House, and Malthouse), it is easy enough to move among the three sites and walk the city.

One of its purposes is to showcase the works of selected choreographers/companies to Australian and international dance presenters. Dance Massive is geared towards interested presenters; being an official presenter delegate has its benefits. Each week contains a AngelaConquet_ClaudiaLaRocca_Andrea.JPGcombination of essential events (“must go to” or participation in) and a dense schedule of performances. International delegates came and went throughout the two weeks, some for several days, and a few for the entire stretch of time.

My purpose in attending was to scope out the gathering in order to advise U.S. dance artists about the possibilities for relationship-building, and to continue to build awareness of international programmers who might appreciate the opportunity to attend a future American Dance Recon (ADR). I JarmoPentilla_LindaYip_AnnaChanwas delighted to have reunions with ADR international “graduates” during the five days I attended (Cathy Levy, Jarmo Pentilla, Angela Conquet, Anna Chan, György Szabó, Jerry Remkes, Tay Tong, Josh Wright). I was also thrilled to spend some time with the few U.S. delegates attending during the time I was there (Paul King, Walter Jaffe, Ben Pryor) and to cross paths with Claudia LaRocca (teaching a workshop) and artist Emily Johnson (involved in a collaboration).

I arrived on Sunday, March 19, and departed Friday, March 24. Over those five days, I saw seven performances, presented a 3-minute Pecha Kucha Pecha-Kuchaabout American Dance Abroad, listened to a panel discussion about dance curation, participated in a series of Roundtable discussions with choreographers, visited a former Temperance Hall now being re-established and renovated as a performance space, and with Paul and Wally met with the Public Affairs Officer at the U.S. Consulate to share what we are doing as well as learn about the Consulate’s interests and priorities. Nothing definitive to report here, since the State Department is in transition, staff is on the move, and budgets are in flux.

PaulKing_WalterJaffe_BillFurnish_largerAs opposed to the current state of unknown about the NEA, the day before I arrived the Australian Arts Council received news that over half of the $100m funding that was siphoned off by the Minister of Culture several years ago (for his own determination) was being restored. There was plenty of sympathy and understanding from the internationals for what the U.S. is facing with the new administration.

I was struck by the similarities between U.S. and Australian dance. Much of what I saw came from a very strong physical base, the dancers were highly skilled, and the content was, for the most part, abstract. There were several outstanding productions. I wondered if the European presenters thought the same about U.S. and Australian dance (“lights and tights”, too physical, and not context-driven enough)?

In conclusion, Dance Massive seemed primarily geared towards making connections between Australian artists and interested national and international presenters.  I did, however, have conversations with several Australian colleagues who were impressed and intrigued with what American Dance Abroad does for U.S. dance.

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#Cleveland Havana Ballet

5 Apr

Guest Blog by Kate Webb, Verb Ballets Dancer

What do pointe shoes, dirt, and cafecitos have in common? They’re all integral parts of The Cleveland Havana Ballet, which just successfully completed its first edition of international performances in Cuba. The fusion company is comprised of young, passionate artists from Havana-based ProDanza and Cleveland-based Verb Ballets.

After only dancing together for four days, The Cleveland Havana Ballet premiered Yarini, a full-length ballet based on a well-loved Cuban legend, in front of thousands of people. The two-country company followed up four shows of Yarini with three mixed-bill performances featuring repertory highlighting each of the dance troupes’ strengths. Despite the varying styles of the two companies (Verb Ballets is a contemporary ballet company, while ProDanza considers itself strictly classical), it was hard to tell which company the dancers worked for by the end of the packed two-week residency. They wore each other’s ballet skirts, company t-shirts, and began to emulate each other’s dance style. 

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As a dancer, the exchange was both eye-opening and rewarding. The Verb Ballets company members were amazed by how the Cuban dancers could flourish in spite of countless daily obstacles. To make Cuban tap water drinkable it requires iodine tablets, something that makes even drinking water a commodity. Most of the Cuban dancers would go without water for a full day of rehearsals in the non-air conditioned studios so they wouldn’t have to use up more tablets than absolutely necessary. I have never felt so thankful to have an otherwise mundane plastic water bottle. They managed to perform jaw-dropping balances on pointe shoes that looked so mushy and worn that they didn’t provide an ounce of support. Yet they were able to execute endless turns on uneven, tattered, and dust-covered floors. None of these trying conditions stopped them from dancing with vitality and spirit.

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The non-dancing locals we met also showed us a lot about the ever-vibrant Cuban culture. Complete strangers would strike up conversations on the street and were delighted to converse about dance and art. The government subsidizes tickets to the ballet, just as it does tickets to the baseball game, so dance is something for everyone to engage in. It was surreal to be in a country where it was more likely that a person would understand a reference to Maurice Ravel’s “Bolero” over Jeff Bezo’s “Amazon”. 

The Cuban people have built a beautiful island where the classics are revered and the present moment enjoyed to the fullest. With very limited internet access, Cubans understand the profound gratification that comes with slow, meticulous work. They take the time to appreciate attention to detail, and translate that appreciation to artists. Although we toured to a country with limited resources, every person with whom we interacted with gave us unending admiration. I think it is safe to say that half of my heart remains in Havana!

Read more about our adventures in Cuba, at www.verbballets.org/cubatour.

The Shed Open Call: A Showcase for Local Emerging Artists

4 Apr

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Type of Opportunity: Call for NYC-based artists

Deadline: May 4, 2018

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La MaMa Umbria: International Symposium for Directors

4 Apr

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Type of Opportunity: Call for Applications

Deadline: May 1, 2018

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SPOTLIGHT on Education

3 Apr

A Recap of the Educational Programming at SPOTLIGHT: USA
By Isabel (“Izzi”) Wayner, festival intern for American Dance Abroad

In addition to the 11 performances that took place over the course of the festival, “SPOTLIGHT: USA” organizers planned a variety of educational events to facilitate connections between the American artists and their international audiences. This programming included film screenings, movement workshops, and panel discussions.

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Sally Sommer’s Check Your Body at the Door and Ron Honsa’s Never Stand Still were screened at the ONE Dance Week storefront site on Saturday and Sunday evenings, respectively. With the goal of showcasing major aspects of American dance history, we were pleased to have over 30 guests gather for each film showing.

Jonah Bokaer kicked off the festival’s workshop series on Friday with a repertory master class at DNK Theater in Sofia, in the National Palace of Culture. On Sunday, the local Plovdiv community had the opportunity to engage with Tahni Holt and Kate Wallich in their consecutive workshops held at Dance Station in the House of Culture.

Tahni’s class created a welcoming environment for all, bringing together 22 participants from both Bulgaria and the United States over the course of two hours. Holt’s class cultivated a wonderful collective trust and unity amongst the group through “Touch Therapy” and “Constant Contact” exercises, in which individuals developed strong physical connections with one another that far surpassed any existing language barriers. During a closing reflection circle, one Bulgarian participant commented that she never felt freedom in a dance studio until now; before Tahni’s workshop, she always felt a great deal of pressure and judgement in trying to appear “beautiful” in the mirror. She enjoyed every moment of the liberating class.

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Immediately following Tahni’s class, Kate Wallich’s “Dance Church” session only heightened the sense of community and positive energy that permeated the dance studio. 27 participants committed themselves to a 90-minute class described by Kate herself as “the dance party you wish you had last night.” Set to a high-energy playlist with an infectious rhythm, a series of challenging aerobic/conditioning exercises were disguised by the urge to dance out of joyful self-expression. Wallich created a therapeutic, judgement-free environment that even used Whitney Houston’s I Wanna Dance With Somebody to unite otherwise separated communities from Seattle and Plovdiv. Kate Wallich offered a second chance for festival delegates to participate in her “Dance Church” class on Wednesday afternoon.

As a part of Tuesday’s festival schedule, Ana María Alvarez and her CONTRA-TIEMPO company members led an energizing, unifying Salsa Rueda class. 21 participants, including visiting international programmers and “SPOTLIGHT: USA” performers, came together to learn the basics of this lively Cuban social dance form and movement celebration. CONTRA-TIEMPO spread their contagious positive energy to everyone in the room as they invited the participants to partner while also revolving in a large circular formation (particularly fitting for rueda’s direct translation to “wheel”).

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Just as these classes provided a means of physically understanding the artists’ fundamental ideas and aesthetic styles, a series of talks and discussions were held to further this educational exchange. On Tuesday morning, the visiting international programmers were invited to attend two presentations aimed at sharing important background information on American dance, both historically and in the 21st century. Douglas Sonntag (former director of Dance at the National Endowment for the Arts) began the morning with “American Dance – The Big Picture,” in which he followed dance’s place within the culture of the United States from the time of European settlement in the 18th century through generations of modern and post-modern dance pioneers. His mapping of American dance history included valuable acknowledgements of “immigration making dance encyclopedic in scope” and the categories of commercial and concert dance within America’s perception of the art form. His talk stimulated eye-opening conversation amongst the attendees about what makes something “contemporary dance,” as well as how dance communities across the world continue to navigate and appeal to generations whose worlds are becoming more and more centered around technology.

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Carolelinda Dickey (co-founder/co-director of American Dance Abroad) then led a panel discussion on “Residencies, Education, and Exchange.” She facilitated conversation among Megan Bridge (director of <fidget>), Adrienne Bryant (executive director of Dance Heginbotham), Carla Mann (dance professor at Reed College and performer with Tahni Holt Dance), and Sara Procopio (performer/educational programming coordinator with Jonah Bokaer Choreography). This group of women shared their experiences in dance education, production, and presentation from both across the United States and internationally, providing important insight for their international counterparts. They highlighted the supportive role that American universities play in the development and presentation of the performing arts, and stressed the importance of framing and contextualizing work for audiences that otherwise may be unable to see it through its appropriate cultural lens. The opportunity for these American artists and arts administrators to share their personal perspectives on these three topics with an international audience was beneficial in improving the understanding between American companies and potential collaborators overseas.

The choreographers showcased during the festival engaged in a panel discussion led by Andrea Snyder (co-founder/co-director of American Dance Abroad) on the final day of “SPOTLIGHT: USA”. The creators each described the genesis of their works and revealed some of the challenges they faced during their creation periods and since premiering them. After introducing what future projects they are now working on, a lively dialogue ensued between the artists and programmers addressing pre-conceived beliefs of what “American concert dance” is, in comparison to what actually motivates the “SPOTLIGHT: USA” artists. Regardless of the programmers’ expectations and opinions of the work they witnessed, there was a resounding growth in curiosity for American dance inspired by the live performances and the chance to hear directly from the artists.

This conversation was followed by “Funding American Arts Projects,” led by Carolelinda Dickey, Doug Sonntag, Ana Maria Alvarez (artistic director/founder of CONTRA-TIEMPO), and Alex Hyman (executive director of Kate Wallich + The YC). Together, this panel explained the “American model” of how artistic endeavors are financially supported. They discussed its basic structural elements, removed from the cushion of extensive government support, and offered examples of how companies uniquely balance earned and contributed income. Ana Maria and Alex compared the primary funding sources of CONTRA-TIEMPO and Kate Wallich + The YC, respectively explaining their prioritized relationships with foundation grants and individual giving. Providing our international audience with a fundamental understanding of how complex it is to navigate arts funding in the United States heightened their awareness of the monetary restrictions that often frame and impact American artists’ work. As a major challenge faced by everyone making a career out of creative expression in the United States, this conversation was necessary in order to lay the groundwork for future negotiations between international programmers and American artists.

The educational events integrated into “SPOTLIGHT: USA” were crucial to contextualizing the American dance works being performed over the course of the three-day festival. The combination of film screenings, workshops, and panel discussions helped support the performances in guiding everyone toward a more comprehensive and inclusive definition of “American dance.”

Thank you to everyone who participated in this eye-opening experience!


A Special Thanks to Jody and John Arnhold for Supporting the
Community Classes and Humanities Program of SPOTLIGHT: USA!

The Copenhagen International Choreography Competition (CICC)

26 Feb

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Type of Opportunity: Open call

Deadline: May 6, 2018

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Reflections on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, by Andrea Snyder

26 Dec

I can’t believe I waited this long in my life to experience Israel! What an amazing and thrilling trip to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. A week is clearly not enough time.

Atanas Marc, Mary-Louise Albert and me outside the Old City

Andrea Snyder, Atanas Maev and Mary-Louise Albert outside the Old City

I was invited to attend the Jerusalem International Dance Week presented by MASH (Machol Shalom Dance House) from December 2-6, 2017, which lines up conveniently in advance of International Exposure at the Suzanne Dellal Centre in Tel Aviv. The convening in Jerusalem is a fairly intimate gathering (approximately 60 international presenters and guests, only three of which hailed from the U.S.) focused on independent dance artists. Exposure is in its 23rd year of showcasing a range of Israeli companies and artists, some with international recognition, for several hundred international presenters and guests (including a larger group of Americans).

First, a few impressions about the cities themselves. Jerusalem is magical for its centuries-old history, the dynamics of four cultures (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Armenian) functioning in close quarters within the Old City, the light, sounds, smells, food, marketplace… every sight and moment is thrilling. Tel Aviv has a different feel, for sure, but still interesting. The city is more laid back than Jerusalem, and the beach/sea dominate the environment and focus. I was only there for a very short time, and spent 99% gravitating to the Dellal Centre, so my appreciation of the city was limited.

A participatory performance in the David Tower Museum

Participatory performance in the Tower of David Museum, Jerusalem

Although I saw more dance work in Jerusalem than in Tel Aviv, overall the choreography reflected the general environment and current climate – themes generated around aggression, relationship struggles, and gender politics. One or two works focused on healing, sharing, and trust. The dancing was rich with passion, intensity, honesty, humor, and great skill. Both festivals were lively with interaction, hospitality, and friendliness.

My purposes in attending both festivals were several-fold. First, I was able to inform international colleagues about American Dance Abroad’s upcoming projects, SPOTLIGHT: USA and American Dance Recon, both of which were met with great enthusiasm.

Presenting info to colleagues in Jerusalem

Andrea Snyder presenting information about SPOTLIGHT to colleagues in Jerusalem

Second, I had the chance to talk with MASH’s leadership about future efforts for international residency exchanges, a focus that American Dance Abroad has on its radar.

Third, it was a terrific opportunity to meet new international colleagues and introduce them to American Dance Abroad’s efforts on behalf of U.S. dance artists and companies, as well as to learn about and be inspired by their own initiatives. There were ample opportunities for striking up conversations – at the sumptuous hotel breakfasts, on buses to the various venues in Jerusalem, at receptions, or sitting next to someone new in a theatre, to name a few.

It was a great, intense, valuable and positive trip!

“Choreography 32” International Competition

4 Dec

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Type of Opportunity: Call for competition applications

Deadline: May 5, 2018

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