There is so much that happens in the studio that can only be understood by doing. On Thursday, November 10, GroundWorks DanceTheater will present its first-ever Dancer ChoreoLab Showcase, an informal showing of new work created and developed by GWDT’s dancers.
“Fundamental to the GroundWorks creative DNA, our artists are constantly involved with helping to generate new work, where they are exposed to and called on to work with a huge range of creative processes,” says Artistic Director David Shimotakara. “This is an opportunity for the dancers to explore, synthesize and expand their artistry outside of those influences, in ways they are curious about.”
Company dancers Felise Bagley, Michael Marquez and Stephanie Terasaki will debut new work at Thursday’s invite-only event. We spoke with Felise about the two new pieces she will be showcasing – Roughspun, a duet with fellow company member Damien Highfield, and a work-in-progress trio called Taming the Dragon, featuring Damien and company members Lauren Garson and Michael Marquez.
Tell us more about the two new pieces you will be sharing.
“Roughspun is set to a live acoustic recording of ‘Big Love’ by Lindsey Buckingham. It will be a duet of myself and Damien, exploring the promise of unfulfilled love. Because I’m using a song with lyrics, you’re going to get the story from the song. But what’s unique is the process I used to create the duet. It’s much more abstract. I used muslin, a rough cotton material that costume designers use to make test garments. I took seven yards of muslin and used that as a premise to the movement. Damien and I use it, we wrap ourselves in it, and explored what kind of movement it inspired.
Taming the Dragon will be a trio featuring Damien, Lauren and Michael. This piece was choreographed by myself in collaboration with the dancers. The music is from the album ‘Taming the Dragon’ by jazz composers Brad Mehldau and Mark Giuliana. The song is a stream of consciousness account of a dream he had. It’s funny and weird and surreal.”
Why is it important for dancers to have an opportunity to create their own work?
“For all these years, I’ve been concentrating on my job, which is to take a choreographer’s vision and make it come alive for myself so I can make it come alive for my audience. As an artist who needs to continually grow, you need to be able to take your vision and communicate it so other dancers can do the same thing.”
How is this opportunity stretching you as an artist?
“It’s stretching me creatively. It’s all about communication. How do you communicate in words, actions, movements? It’s a very hard skill. It’s a skill you need to flex those muscles. It’s important to be able to on both sides of the studio as an artist.”
How does this event fit into the larger mission of GWDT?
“GroundWorks is dedicated to new work and it invites the artist to participate in that new work. It makes everyone more empathetic and sensitive and more cohesive.”
It will be a treat for the audience, many of whom have been following GWDT for a long time now, to see another side of the company.
“We’re such a tight-knit group. There’s a lot of laughing, it’s a very fun, very relaxed environment. And with the Showcase, there’s no pressure, this is just an exercise. That’s how we’re all were looking at it. I can’t tell you how many times, the audience is interested in knowing what’s going on in your mind, as an individual and an artist. So this is a wonderful opportunity to be able to express yourself.”