Monday, April 12, 2010

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Program Notes for Performance Garage shows

(Photo by Michael Biello of the spray painted objects we use in "unpacking".)

RED THREAD is a term Dutch and German speakers use to describe the line of continuity that runs through a novel or an experience. The Chinese use the term to denote the continuity through successive generations.

The performance Red Thread started with a desire to bring longtime colleagues - Eva Karczag, Lisa Kraus and Vicky Shick – into a dance-making process. All are in their late fifties and danced together in the Trisha Brown Dance Company beginning over thirty years ago. How would such longstanding friendships and professional relationships affect dancing and dance-making? What might each learn from the others’ decades of dance research and experience? We found inspiration in the model of women’s quilting circles where art is made in community, patterns are shared, and conversation and togetherness are part of the experience of making something of utility and beauty. Art-making happens as a matter of course, integrated in daily life. The intergenerational aspect of quilting where aesthetics and traditions pass from one generation to another was part of what inspired us to invite our three younger colleagues to join Red Thread. Meg Foley, Gabrielle Revlock and Michele Tantoco are all about the age that the older dancers were when we first met.

The piece has been built through five intensive residencies in Arnhem, the Netherlands, New York, and Philadelphia, the cities where Karczag, Shick and Kraus live. Between intensives, Lisa Kraus and Meg Foley kept the thread of Red Thread going with choreographic research. In December 2009 the full cast met to stitch together the whole piece. We were interested in seeing patterns replicated (as they are in quilts) at different times, with different casting. The work is a patchwork of structures and movement sequences developed in the intensives by Karczag, Kraus and Shick and later the full cast, and in the in-betweens by Foley and Kraus, mixed with “scraps” cannibalized from other dances. Those include (but are not limited to) Meg Foley’s Natural and Cookie, Eva Karczag’s work with visual artist Chris Crickmay, Glimpse by Shick and Shift by Kraus. Meg has been especially generous in sharing not only her own dancing ideas and material but also musical selections.

It has turned out that Red Thread’s recurring motifs often feel more like ‘behavior’ than ‘dance.’ Some are physically on a much smaller scale than what we often associate with concert dance. Our task in making the piece was to be open to whatever arose, and that generated scenes that echo events in our lives, some extraordinary, but many more utterly everyday. This ‘ordinariness’ may reflect something in our shared history - the 1970’s pre-occupation with pedestrian and task-based activity.
We hope the work conveys something of the gratitude we all have for being able to dance in each others’ company, then and now.

Performances of Red Thread are made possible by a grant from the Pew Center for Art & Heritage through Dance Advance. Additional support has been provided by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, the Independence Foundation, and the Leeway Foundation. Creative residency support was provided by ArtEz Dansacademie in Arnhem, the Netherlands, The Swarthmore Project, Bryn Mawr College, Philadelphia Dance Projects Studio Access program, Jonathan and Judith Stein, Thomas Berthoff, Richard Kerry and Alan Mandell.

The Red Thread team extends warm thanks to Terry Fox, Carmella Vassor-Johnson, Bill Bissell, Sharon Friedler, Jon Sherman, Anna Drozdowski, Christina Zani, Dan Martin, Joan Myers-Brown, Mimi Gross-Grooms, Susan Brooks, the department of the Arts at Bryn Mawr College, KHDT studios, and the audiences in Arnhem, New York, and Philadelphia who generously provided feedback after our showings. These performances of Red Thread are dedicated to our mothers.

Choreography and Performance: Eva Karczag, Lisa Kraus, Vicky Shick, Meg Foley, Gabrielle Revlock, Michele Tantoco Set design: Michael Biello Costumes: the Red Thread team Lighting design: Matt Sharp Sound selections by: Michael Gordon, Missy Elliott, Asa Chang and Jun-Ray, David Lang, J.S. Bach, Mouse on Mars

Eva Karczag is an independent dance artist who, for the past three decades has practiced, taught, and advocated explorative methods of dance making. She has been a member of leading groups in the field of experimental dance, including the Trisha Brown Dance Company (NY), Richard Alston's group, Strider (UK), and was a founding member of Dance Exchange (Australia). She has taught dance at major colleges and studios internationally, including a sustained period of teaching on the faculty of the European Dance Development Center, Arnhem, The Netherlands, is a certified teacher of the Alexander Technique, and has an MFA degree (Dance Research Fellow) from Bennington College. She has received Choreographic Research Grants from the Australia Council; and Travel Grants from the Australia Council, the Netherlands Theater Institute and the Arts Council of Great Britain. She performs solo and collaborative work in the U.S., and throughout Europe and Australia, in locations as diverse as Dance Theater Workshop, Judson Church, Danspace and PS 122, New York; Dance Umbrella, London, England; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia; Glashuset, Stockholm, Sweden, and Mu Theater, Budapest, Hungary. Many of her collaborations involve links across the arts, most recently in durational performance/installations, with visual artist Chris Crickmay and composer Sylvia Hallett, at the Laban Institute, London, and the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry, England.

Lisa Kraus is a Philadelphia-based dance artist whose career has included performing in the Trisha Brown Dance Company, choreographing and performing extensively with her own company and as an independent, teaching at universities, arts centers and the Paris Opera Ballet, presenting the work of other artists through the Bryn Mawr College Performing Arts Series, and writing reviews, features and essays on dance for internet and print publication. She has created over 35 performance works presented by venues across the U.S., Europe and Australia including Dance Theater Workshop, the Kitchen, Danspace and PS 122 in New York, the Painted Bride and the Philadelphia Museum of Art in Philadelphia, LACE in Los Angeles, Sushi in San Diego, the Place in London, La Fabricca in Barcelona and the Dance Exchange in Sydney. Awarded Choreographer’s Fellowships by the National Endowment for the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, the Independence Foundation and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, she has also received support from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage through Dance Advance, the Jerome Foundation, the Leeway Foundation, the 5-County Arts Fund, Meet-the-Composer and the Swarthmore Project. Since 2003 Ms. Kraus has developed projects over multi-year timeframes, morphing dances into lectures or video projects and placing them in a variety of distinctive venues for diverse audiences.

Vicky Shick has been involved in the New York City dance community since the late 1970’s as a performer, choreographer and teacher. Shick was a member of the Trisha Brown Company for 6 years, during which time she received a New York Dance and Performance Award, a “Bessie” for performance. She has also performed and collaborated with many other choreographers and dancers including Yoshiko Chuma, Deborah Hay, Juliette Mapp, Wendy Perron, Stephen Petronio, Susan Rethorst, Sally Silvers, and Sara Rudner. Shick regularly teaches in New York at Movement Research, Hunter College, and for the Trisha Brown Company. She also teaches and has created dances in festivals, workshops, and at universities in the United States and Europe, including her hometown, Budapest. For the past twenty-five years, Shick has been showing her own work. Since 1994, she has worked with visual artist Barbara Kilpatrick, and since 2003 with composer Elise Kermani. Their collaborative pieces have been presented by Dance Theater Workshop (DTW), Danspace Project at St. Mark’s Church, Movement Research at Judson Church, P.S. 122, The Brooklyn Museum, The Kitchen, and in Grenoble, France. “Undoing,” Shick and Kilpatrick’s seventh project together received a New York Dance and Performance Award (a “Bessie”) for “outstanding creative achievement. Vicky Shick is a 2006 grant recipient from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts and a 2008-2009 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow.

Meg Foley has been making dances and performing in Philadelphia since 2005. She directs Moving Parts, a company through which she aims to create elusive yet emotionally evocative performance experiences that straddle the fine line between focus and freedom. Her work has been presented at Susan Hess Modern Dance Studio (SHMD), Mascher Space Cooperative, Vox Populi, the Community Education Center, and by Bowerbird. She is a second year Choreographer's Project Resident at SHMD. In addition to dancing for Lisa Kraus, she works with Nichole Canuso Dance Company and danced with Devynn Emory from 2005-2009. Meg was educated and influenced by the good people at Scripps College and Laban Centre London. She loves to teach both technique and critical theory and has led workshops on whether authentic movement really exists and on locating meaning within and constructing self-referential movement. Some of her favorite dances that she has recently seen are Bird Song by Siobhan Davies, Rammed Earth by Tere O’Connor, Keely Garfield’s Limerance, and Jen Rosenblit’s greatest hits duets.

Gabrielle Revlock is both a performer and creator. She is a company member of Jeanne Ruddy Dance performing the works of Mark Dendy, Robert Battle, and Jane Comfort. She has danced recently in the Local Dance History Project presented by Philadelphia Dance Projects and Cookie by Moving Parts/megfoley. Recently she returned from a tour in Holland with the Dutch duo, Isabelle Chaffaud and Jerome Meyer. Other international artists Gabrielle has had the pleasure of working with include Sean Feldman, Suzanna Linke, Willi Dorner and Katsura Kan. Philadelphia choreographers Gabrielle has worked with include Leah Stein, Myra Bazell, Jumatatu Poe, and Matthew Neenan for the Opera Company of Philadelphia. In 2006 she partnered with a violinist in a Pre-Concert Adventure for the Philadelphia Orchestra. Gabrielle's work has received support from PA Council on the Arts (2009), a New Edge Mix Grant (2006) and was selected as the Vassar College Alumnae Choreographer in 2005, where she holds a BA in Art History. She has created work for the Drexel Dance ensemble and will be premiering a work on Bryn Mawr College students in Spring 2010. In 2008-2009 she was a nEW Festival Resident Artist and was chosen to present at The A.W.A.R.D. Show! 2009: Philadelphia. Gabrielle has received two professional development awards from Dance Advance. In addition to performance, Gabrielle's films have been shown in 2007 & 2008 at Motion Pictures programmed by Philadelphia Dance Projects.

Michele Tantoco is a dancer and movement educator living in Philadelphia. Since 2002, Michele has been a member of the Leah Stein Dance Company. In 2006 she and three other Philadelphia dancers collaborated with London-based choreographer/teacher Sean Feldman in a new work Toward Within, which premiered at Swarthmore College. She has also had the honor of working with many Philadelphia-based choreographers such as Gabrielle Revlock, Meg Foley, Daniele Strawmyre, Nicole Canuso, Myra Bazell, Darla Stanley, Charles Anderson, and Kate Watson-Wallace. Most recently Michele performed in Kathryn TeBordo's YOU AIN’T GONNA GET GLORY IF THAT’S WHAT YOU CAME HERE FOR in the 2009 Live Arts A.W.A.R.D Show, and in Jumatatu Poe's Philadelphia premiere of FLATLAND. Michele also has a BA in Biology from Bryn Mawr College, and teaches dance, yoga, and pilates-based classes in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Moment of Truth

Red Thread needs work. And in just a few days we will roll up our sleeves and cut and reposition and shrink and intensify. Can’t wait!

When you leave a work suspended (in this case since December) and are seeing to the zillions of other things (is that your story too?) it can feel like the piece is a universe away. It’s almost like longing for a long-distance lover. There, I said it. It is being in love this wrestling we do with a piece.

Red Thread is particular because it is no one’s. Its genesis comes in the space between ALL of us, which makes it an unpredictable creature, like a child whose face is an amalgam of many parents. Can’t wait to see its final shape.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

These are "Color In" dresses by Berber Soepboer and Michiel Schuurman (who must be Dutch). They arrive black and white with pens. What I like is:
-The line, although for dance the opaque skirt is just plain tricky. You lose the individual lines of the legs, but get the movement of fabric. A perennial toss-up.
-The way gray scale darkens above the waist, creating a cinched look.
-The pattern which is all-over and busy but unified. I can imagine this kind of active visual overlaid on Michael's chair colors and concept.
-The fit - lean, clean.
Eva likes to wear loose things and Vicky has gradually been trying to get her to wear tops that hug her form. She might be allergic to this!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


Michael Biello came to the December showing and afterward came up with a bunch of ideas related to the visual world of the piece. He's designing the set elements and made this prototype for a chair. The covering is related to our manipulations of fabric and thread...How to make the costumes fit well with these? Maybe contrasting through using prints on costumes, solids on chairs?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

On Her Own Two Feet

For a long time, a forming dance feels like a collection of bits or textures that you can imagine coalesced in your head. Holding the imaginary dance is delicate - its shape might change if it has one at all. It might reveal itself to be a different creature than what initially appeared. Then there's the moment when the dance begins to feel like something you can better hold onto, with weight and its own personality, like your child on her own two feet who, though of you, has her own mind and is full of surprises. You wonder how she issued from you. You delight in conversation.

With "Red Thread," as soon as ideas began to be "sections," the way they were constructed - with lots layering, shifting of scale and abrupt transitions - was new for me. With three mothers, the piece's shape is unlike shapes I've had a hand in making before. Choppier, less predictable, but with resonances. By design, something you see early on echoes in another form. Like similar colors sprinkled through a quilt.

As of the showing in Philly, the six-woman version of "Red Thread" is tottering around, not steady on her feet just yet, but with strong bones poised for growth. She's asking for definition, for clarity, and for us to get deeper into what each of her parts are.

We've been pondering the question of durations. Vicky doesn't want to bore the watcher and likes having tastes, or concise episodes, then cutting away into something else. She often suggests interruptions. I keep thinking about how Lucy Guerin in "Corridor" has this "sick dance" duet where the actions are all gestures of physical discomfort with accompanying groans, moans and curses. As soon as you get what's happening, it's highly amusing. It sputters after not too long, but then starts back up with more outrageous behaviors. When it restarts a second time, you're totally hooked - its the merciless boring down into this material that makes it worth putting on tour all the way from Australia. These two poles, Vick's and Lucy's, are most like both/and rather than either/or.

The process of "Red Thread' being long distance and over a long time frame means that each of us will be "marinating" the dance for a few months before the final finish. I feel the ache now that you have in a long distance relationship - that longing to be with the person. In this case, absence is a good thing though. I trust that the time between putting it all together (December) and its consummating final work intensive and premiere (March) will bring the right view of what it is and wants to be.

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Birth

[This photo is of Bryn Mawr College's newly renovated Goodhart Hall where we rehearsed.]

As of yesterday, “Red Thread” has a whole fleshed-out form! Following the October work in New York, our strategy has been to take the 35-minute trio made for me, Eva, and Vicky and teach/transpose/re-interpret it in a new version for all six of us. Adding Michele, Meg and Gabi into the mix has had us looking at particular sections and thinking ‘no way’ for any kind of straight repeat. Instead some parts are represented with one fleeting image or layered now with something else or omitted altogether. A few are run with the older dancers doing the original and the younger ones having interconnected newly-built parts. The overall plan – to make a new dance out of our trio, like fashioning a second quilt with the same materials and basic pattern as the first- has held.

The three younger dancers, dubbed MGM, bring freshness. Their presence feels lighter, more playful. They have been game to try anything and we even asked them to keep in a little tossing-movement moment that arose when they were goofing around.

We asked Meg if she would be willing to throw in some scraps from her piece “Cookie” and there’s a great floor phrase of hers now. Her beginning for “Cookie” – having dancers appear and disappear from behind doors, partitions, etc. - is something we played with and it morphed into a “Line Up” homage. Just a simple way of introducing the new dancers within the piece. A fresh start.

In yesterday’s first run of the whole thing, Eva’s friends Susan and George watched and didn’t recognize the three solos that Eva, Vicky and I do as having been taught to the younger dancers. That’s great! Maybe it’s because they’re not ‘dance people’ and aren’t oriented to looking at movement so specifically. But maybe the energy and quality with which the material is done has individualized them enough now that they read as different. That’s a good thing. Clones are definitely not the idea.

Both George and Susan spoke about the essentialness of having each moment be alive, not as anything that could have been taken from another context, or from history. Risk, precariousness, and the emotional edge in relationships that aren’t stable or easy are things George wanted to see us move toward.

We drove over to show Vick and Eva the Performance Garage. They love it (with good reason) and we spoke about how the scale is perfect, how it’s both intimate and formal, and will focus the eye on the intricacies of the piece.

To cap off the day we watched the videotape of rehearsal and got into a heated debate about whether to make cuts in order not to have it be too draggy or long. The consensus is that in March we will trim any possible fat but for now we’ll just tighten transitions and feel what it is we’ve got: this newborn dance.