Back in the Spring of 2014, Executive Artistic Director David Shimotakahara, was inspired by a conversation he had with GroundWorks DanceTheater Board Member & historian, Dave Lieberth. “I began to formulate an idea around creating a dance that was based in the Civil War to coincide with the sesquicentennial commemoration. Not an issues based piece, but new work that examines the human experience of that time & the unresolved issues that remain.”

“One thing led to another,” he goes on to say. “I met with Cadenza Artists shortly thereafter & they connected me with
(a chamber quartet they represent by the name of] Aeolus.” who were very interested in collaborating with dance. Eventually I spoke with Aeolus about my ideas for this project. They connected me with composer Steven Snowden who had previously created a beautiful work based in early American folk traditions.”

From there Shimotakakahara reached out to Dancing Camera Founder/Director Nic Petry, whose expressive work with video and dance seemed right for the project. With the creative team assembled, Shimotakahara began to approach this subject collaboratively in a way that would allow his vision to be realized. “What makes this project different

[for GroundWorks] is that the majority of the collaboration is happening online.” With the team residing in different states across the country, it was necessary to agree on a methodology that would allow each team member to be involved while fostering creativity outside of a typical creative environment.

As Shimotakahara & Snowden spoke about the piece, conducting their own historical research in between conversations, they both found themselves drawn to various images from the Library of Congress’ database. These key images inspired some of the thematic launching points for the creative process.

“Once we agree upon a particular image, I begin to generate movement with the dancers. Initially we often work in silence. The structure for the work seems to be taking its cues from the movement. As the dancers and I work through different movement ideas I’m filming excerpts & sharing with Steven. He’s simultaneously working on the tonality of the piece which will lay the foundation for the music he will compose.”

“We were both intrigued by a very mysterious photo of a hospital setting. “I kept looking at that image & thinking about, What would it feel like to have been a soldier in that room, in that hospital. Or a nurse. Or a spirit. I read lots of essays about the time, pieces like the memoir- A Woman’s Civil War by Cornelia Peake McDonald. I was interested in first hand accounts from the civilian experience of the war to help me better understand the pain & suffering of common people. [This research is helping me to create] a kind of moodscape with dreamlike fluidity, that will inform the structure of the dance and what it will look like.”

The piece to be titled “House of Sparrows” will debut during GroundWorks inaugural concerts at Akron’s E.J. Thomas Hall’s, as part of their “StageDoor Series” on March 5 and 6.

For the first time, we will be sharing creative notes on our blog as the dance progresses to bring you into our creative process. Continue to join us for this journey & make sure to reserve your tickets to see the finished product this Spring!