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Monthly Archives: November 2017

Nov
20

Q&A with choreographer KATIE ROSE MCLAUGHLIN

Katie Rose McLaughlin grew up in Minneapolis, MN and studied ballet under the direction of Bonnie Mathis. She then attended the Joffrey/New School BFA program on full scholarship before falling in love with contemporary dance, theater and going to clown school in Switzerland. As a performer she starred as Esmeralda in Redmoon Theater’s HUNCHBACK (New Victory Theater), with Tony-awarding winning Theatre de la Jeune Lune, as well as in Anna Marie Shogren’s post-post-modern exploration of death (Walker Arts Center/Southern Theater). In addition to her extensive work in both theater and musical theater, her own choreography has been presented by the Chocolate Factory, Catch, the Invisible Dog, Dixon Place, Little Theater, AUNTS, HERE Arts Center, Movement Research at Judson Church, Center for Performance Research, Dance New Amsterdam, Triskelion, 9×22 DanceLab, Links Hall, Red Eye Theater, newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival, Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the International Festival of Art & Ideas. She was an artist-in-residence as part of LMCC’s Process Space (2017), Kaatsbaan International Dance Center’s UpStream (2017), Barn Arts Collective (2015 & 2016), a 2013 LMCC’s SPARC program (2013), and a Chashama artist-in-residence (2012). She was recently associate choreographer to David Neumann on HADESTOWN at New York Theater Workshop & Citadel Theater directed by Rachel Chavkin. Katie Rose is the Artistic Director of Designated Movement Company. designatedmovement.org

We recently sat down with Katie Rose, to discuss her process and the ideas she brought with her to BDL. Read a transcript of that conversation below.

BDL: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you became interested in choreography?

KRM: Looking back on it, I think my interest in choreography came from my ballet teacher Bonnie Mathis. She was a principal dancer with ABT, but also danced with Paul Taylor, Netherlands Dance Theater,  The Lar Lubovich Company, as well as performing with the Met Opera Ballet and in Hello Dolly on Broadway.  She was always hiring interesting choreographers to come in and work with us – trying to get us all out of our bunhead mentalities. I was always the dancer who knew all the counts and picked up the steps quickly, and would always be looking at the whole picture that was being created, not just the steps.

I decided to move out of ballet and into modern dance because I wanted to have real relationships with audiences. Not many people have the ability to see ballet and when they do it doesn’t always make sense. I wanted to do something a little more pedestrian and “of the people.” That’s when I discovered Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer and Pina Bausch, and their work made me feel less alone in the universe. For the first time I was like, “someone else sees movement and bodies like I do!”

Around this time, I was also performing as an actor with Tony-award winning Theatre de la Jeune Lune, and studying Lecoq-style physical theater. It was from them that I learned how to truly tell a story with the body. After going to clown-school in Switzerland, I started to get asked to choreograph more and more (being the only actor in many productions who also knew how to dance). The rest is history!

BDL: What three words would you use to describe your choreographic style?

KRM: “Common-place virtuosity,” “inquisitive,” and “layered.”

BDL: You’ve described yourself as working in the world of “physical theatre” – how do you define that and what does it mean to you?

KRM: I come from the world of physical theater, though I don’t work in it as often now. Physical theater requires the body to become another tool in telling a story, so it’s not just the words or the songs that allow a character to tell their story but also the way they move across the stage, the way they sit, the way they fold their arms. I use these tools in all the movement work I do, from concert dance to musical theater to straight plays. I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s unconscious idiosyncrasies of movement – how they navigate through life. Using the tools I’ve collected from all the various training I’ve had allows me to help shape the physical world of the shows I work on. I feel like movement opens people’s hearts, whether they like it or not. I try to use movement as a way to connect with audiences – to draw them in.

BDL: What is your favorite part of the artistic process?

KRM: I could create movement all day every day and be a very happy lady. Being in a studio with a group of openminded dancers, taking risks, doing experiments – that’s pretty wonderful. I also love the editing process, when you have many pieces of material and start trying to fit them together, allowing the piece to dictate the order of everything, and the movement qualities that need to be tweaked to get a cohesive idea across. Also coaching – I love that step – once everything is together and you just talk to the dancers, getting them all to live in the same world and to try and tell the same story, That is always thrilling.

BDL: What have you been working on in the Lab? Did you bring any specific goals with you?

KRM: For BDL, I brought in my frequent collaborator Dan O’Neil, and we’ve been working on ideas for this new dance-musical called Oblivion Falls. It centers around the idea that Oblivion is a place – a physical landscape – that you can go to where you will forget everything. It is not a happy place. You forget all your sorrows, but you also forget all your joys. So people can choose to go, but they can rarely return. Our show centers around a woman who needs to go to Oblivion Falls to try to bring her mother back – something that’s never been done before.

My goal for the Lab was to do something I would never dream of doing on the job: walk into the studio without a single step written down on a piece of paper. It was completely terrifying, but also surprisingly liberating. Josh hired such incredible dancers who were open-minded and open-hearted. It was so fun to just be in the moment and explore.

We also brought in text, although we’re not going to use it in performance as of yet. There is a mother and a daughter, but everyone else in the text could be played by a person of any gender. This aligns with our recent company work within Designated Movement, in which we are exploring what it means to use the words “radical inclusivity,” both with regard to our collaborators background, age, identity, and race, but also looking forward to what that means for an audience. It’s a new way of saying what I used to say in a lot of grant applications – that I make work capable of being watched with “no dance vocabulary required.”

So in line with all of this, another major goal of mine was to attempt to break down some of the most prevalent gender stereotypes in dance – that men lift women and that is the way it is. The dancers worked so hard to master some pretty intense partnering and everyone got a chance to lift someone, and also to be lifted themselves. The dancers dedication to breaking down these barriers made my heart sing – watching a 6’4” man being pressed over the head of a 5’4” woman was pretty thrilling!

BDL: What has this week taught you?

KRM: Oh my goodness, I learned so much. First, I feel like I learned more about creating a safe space for dancers to fail, which was huge. I expected them to really push themselves and in turn I had to create a space where they could talk to each other, to be encouraged to learn from each other, while always knowing that I had their backs. I also learned to trust myself a little more. I loved the movement that came out of my experiments with not preparing any choreography beforehand.  

Lastly, I feel like I learned that everyone is stronger than they give themselves credit for. It’s our job, as choreographers, to nurture our dancers to push themselves father than they think they can go without worrying about repercussions about being perfect every time. I can’t tell you how many mistakes in the studio this week led to major break-throughs. Without that space to fail we could have never learned to succeed. 

 


Nov
14

Q&A with choreographer BROOKE WENDLE

BROOKE WENDLE  is currently directing and choreographing a new show for Holland America Cruise Line entitled Love Opera. She returned to her home state of Texas this summer to choreograph Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson at Casa Mañana Theater. Brooke directed and choreographed Adam Lambert’s Original High World Tour, which kicked off New Years Eve 2016. She worked as the associate director and specialty act designer for Franco Dragone’s Taboo at the Hard Rock Hotel in Macau, China and was the supervising choreographer for America’s Got Talent for four seasons.

Brooke’s choreography has appeared on Orange Is the New Black, VH1’s Best in Music 2015, American Idol, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade 2015, I Am Cait, Best Time Ever with Neil Patrick Harris, East Bound and Down on HBO, Dancing with the Stars, and The Carrie Diaries. Other credits include RENT in Shanghai, China, Rebel Bingo (NY and London), NBA Brooklynettes, Adam Lambert’s Glamnation World Tour, Flashdance the Musical (Dance Associate and Coach). Her associate choreography credits include Cirque Du Soleil’s first Broadway venture Paramour, The Donna Summer Project 2016 (Signature Theater NYC),The Secret Life Of Walter Mitty starring Kristen Wiig and directed by Ben Stiller, Gossip Girl on the CW, Rescue Me on FX and Cirque Du Soleil’s Delirium (dance supervisor).

We recently sat down with Brooke, to discuss her process and the ideas she brought with her to BDL. Read a transcript of that conversation below.

BDL: Can you tell us a bit about your performing career and how you found your way into becoming a choreographer? 

BW: I knew as young as 7 years old that I wanted to choreograph. My parents made my room into a dance studio with a huge mirror, life size posters of Baryshnikov and Micheal Jackson plus a collection of 45’s. I can remember the first dance I ever made was to Jeffery Osbourne’s “On the Wings of Love”.  I was 8. It was emotional.

BDL: What are three words you would use to describe your choreographic style?

BW: Athletic. Stylized. Musical.

BDL: What is your favorite part of the artistic process? 

BW: For this process, it was getting to know the dancers and watching how they digested what I was asking them to do.

BDL: Did you bring any specific goals with you for your time with BDL? Any definite projects you wanted to work on or are you just experimenting?

BW: I chronicled the 4 years of fertility treatments that my husband and I are still currently experiencing.

BDL: What has this week taught you?

BW: I was honestly very scared to be so vulnerable and raw with the subject matter. I learned that when you lean into your fear it truly can heal and BDL was the perfect open, supportive environment to do it in. I am forever grateful.

 


Nov
13

Dancer’s Perspective with FRANCISCO GRACIANO


Francisco is a native of San Antonio, TX, and received a B.F.A. in dance from Stephens College for Women (male scholarship), and scholarships from the Alvin Ailey School and The Taylor School. He has been a member of TAKE Dance Company, Ben Munisteri Dance Company, Cortez & Co. Contemporary/Ballet, Pascal Rioult Dance Theater, and Dusan Tynek Dance Theater, among others. In 2009 he was featured in Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch”. From 2004 – 2017 he danced in the Paul Taylor Dance Company and is now on faculty at the Taylor School. He also continues to photograph dancers and his work can be seen at www.franciscograciano.com

BDL: Tell us a bit about how you got started dancing. What was your journey to Paul Taylor?

FG: I started dancing when I was nine. My family and I were watching a PBS special during Hispanic heritage month. Evelyn Cisneros was being partnered by someone and I was so impressed with the deft partnering skills of the man that I spontaneously blurted, “I wanna do that!”  My father who was Mexican said, You need ballet for that. Days later my mother had found a local ballet company with a school attached to it and enrolled me in classes. I studied there (in San Antonio) all the way through high school. I accepted a full scholarship to Stephens College for women and received a BFA in three years. I discovered Taylor there but never thought I’d have the chops for it. However, when I moved to NYC I worked hard to achieve something close to it. They say if you shoot for the moon you could land among the stars so I just followed my heart. I danced with several different dance companies and choreographers and studied on scholarships at the Ailey school and the Taylor School. While I was dancing for one of those companies Paul asked me to dance for his second company after observing me take class at the school. I enthusiastically accepted and two years later he moved me into the main company. His work always made sense on my body and my sensitivities as an artist. It offered extreme physicality and athleticism but also required a strong base of technique. Two things I’d worked hard for throughout my life. But it also gave me the chance to play with character work and acting. I’d wanted to pursue an acting conservatory after high school but couldn’t pass on that full scholarship for a BFA in Dance. I was given the greatest of opportunities working for Paul for so many years. We established a great working and personal relationship and I’ll be grateful forever for the gifts he gave me as an artist.

BDL: What interested you about working with Broadway Dance Lab?

FG: I love Josh Prince. There, it’s out. I said it. The real story is that Josh and I met several years ago when Taylor was still performing at City Center. He later married one of my closest friends in the company and we inevitably got closer on more on a personal level. We both respected each other tremendously and expressed working together some day on several occasions. When I left Taylor in July I called him and gave him my availability for the next few months and crossed my fingers that he was serious about working with me in a creative setting. Fortunately he was and believed I could do the job for the other choreographers so here I am. I have a profound respect for what he’s doing here for creatives and I really wanted to be a part of it.

BDL: How are you finding the worlds of modern dance and theatre different?

FG: Well as dancers we’re all pretty similar. There’s a similar trait in all great dancers that I’ve yet to be able to articulate but I think it would be something related to vulnerability. The dancers Josh selects all have at least that in common. I think you get to a certain level in your professional career when you realize that in order to grow and experience those penultimate moments in the craft you have to be willing to bare your soul in the creative/learning process. We’re not perfect and accepting that can have reaping benefits when you’re approaching something new. But I digress. The biggest difference that stands out to me now is the creative process. I’ve only worked a little in theatre but as a Broadway choreographer it seems apparent that the job is to tell a preconceived story through dancing (and often singing) with characters who have a clear motivation. You can certainly start the same way as a modern dance choreographer. Paul did it all the time. However, you don’t need to start creating with the scaffolding of a story. The dance could grow out of an idea, a piece of music, a gesture, or literally anything else that inspires the creator. Also, there’s a lot more room to play with the story if you’re a modern dance choreographer. If the dance maker wanted to make a change, something as simple as a look in another direction could significantly alter the story’s message. I don’t think that autonomy is as likely in theatre because there are so many creative minds working towards the same goal. I don’t think one is better than the other. In fact I think placing limitations on your creative project can be very productive. Even the best modern dance choreographers practice this. All that said, BDL is unique in that it offers an alternative by giving a little more control to the dancemakers.

BDL: The Taylor repertory includes a lot of narrative and strongly thematic works, how do you approach portraying a character in dance when you don’t have text to tell the story?

FG: I think there are several different personality archetypes that most people would recognize. For example, one who is calm will project peace, one who is angry will project confrontation. Paul is a master of giving directions to his dancers on how to approach movement that is character/story driven. Usually the direction is vague enough to allow the dancer to interpret the role for themselves. I’ve always thought though that Paul’s work is good at conveying an idea or message. What comes out of the dancers’ faces is secondary. A shape can be repeated in several different dances but have just as many interpretations. It’s the intent that the dancer projects through that shape that assists in the telling of the story or the concept of the piece.

BDL: What’s next for you after BDL?

FG: I’m taking a break from NYC for a couple of months to be with my family in Texas. We’ve been through a lot of stuff in the last eighteen years since I moved here and I have never had the chance to land there and just BE with them. Also I’m the middle of a major transition so I’m looking forward to resetting and returning with new intentions and goals. I plan on continuing to photograph dancers and performing artists of all kinds. I love teaching so I’ll remain on the faculty of the Taylor school as well. I’m still very curious about choreographing so I’m definitely going to invest more time and energy in that pursuit. My friend and current Taylor dancer, Laura Halzack, and I started a creative outlet for ourselves called Studio Three and I expect that to grow also. I’m not completely done dancing yet so I’d like to keep reaching out to people for more projects. Aside from that my modus operandi consists of digging into my creative side consistently, without judgement, and continue to learn, learn, and learn.


Nov
09

Q&A with choreographer CALEB TEICHER

We recently sat down with Fall 2017 Cycle choreographer Caleb Teicher, to discuss his process and the ideas he’s bringing with him to BDL. Read a transcript of that conversation below.

BDL: Can you tell us a little bit about your performing career and how you began choreographing?

CT: I’ve hopped around quite a bit as a performer, but the majority of my work has been in rhythm and music-based dance companies. I was a founding member of DorranceDance in 2011 and danced with the company throughout the beginning of 2017. I’ve also danced with The Chase Brock Experience, The Bang Group, Syncopated City Dance Company, Sally Silvers & Dancers, and numerous other choreographers in a concert dance setting. I’ve performed in a few musicals, most notably the International Tour of West Side Story and the Encores! production of Irma La Douce.

I started as a tap dancer at the age of 10, and within the first six months of taking class, I had already choreographed my first a cappella solo. I think I’ve always had an interest and compulsion towards composition. I’ve been very fortunate over the past few years to have more opportunity to exercise this creative habit.

BDL: What are three words you would use to describe your choreographic style?

CT: Musical, quick, and social.

BDL: What is your favorite part of the artistic process?

CT: Every process is so different! Sometimes, it’s becoming deeply familiar with a musical composition or recording (the joy of dancing and choreographing to good music is like nothing else). Often, it’s my collaborators — I really love working with intelligent and creative dancers who, beyond executing with precision and grace, bring their own personality and perspective to the work. For me, the moments where I’m in a studio, problem-solving with dancers about the greater intent of a piece, is where the beauty can be found. I don’t like cleaning dances — I’m grateful to often have someone else who will help me do that.

BDL: Did you bring any specific goals with you for your time with BDL? Are there any definite projects you wanted to work on or are you just experimenting?

CT: I had a number of goals for my time with BDL. I had some questions I wanted to ask myself about working with this particular group of dancers. I’m often working with my own dance company, so my dancers are hand-picked by me for the particular work being created. At BDL, I was gifted with remarkable dancers, but they’re almost all new faces to me. I wanted to see where my technique, aesthetic, and dance traditions would meet halfway with their perspective and experience. I also wanted to return to physical narrative and pattern-making as a storytelling device. There’s quite a bit of abstraction in my company’s work, but I went much more literal with my BDL work.

The biggest takeaway from the week was probably re-imagining “The Portland Fancy” from Gene Kelly and Judy Garland’s Summer Stock. That’s been a pipe dream of mine for a long time, and I’m hoping someone will let me choreograph the first stage production of this beautiful musical. Anyone listening?

BDL: What has this week taught you?

CT: This week confirmed a lot of things I already know; I love creating dance work, I’d like to do it more, and doing so with the intent to build character, develop storylines, and contribute to a greater narrative vision are all things that suit my creative style. I’ve learned (as I do almost every time I make a piece) to enjoy the slow crawl of creation, skip things that aren’t working and return to them later, and to make sure the room is always filled with warm and generous individuals. It makes the work better.