Sam Mullen: You used to dance with Monkeyhouse a bit more regularly before you went to grad school. We are so excited to have you back working with us again! What are some ways you keep dance in your life?
Sarah Friswell Cotton: I use dance as exercise all the time. It helps keep me active and helps keep me happy when life gets crazy. I try to take dance classes when I can but it's hard to get into the city where the classes I want to take are happening.
Dance and performance impacts my teaching all the time. I use my performing to try to engage my students all the time. We even create dance moves to help remember different science ideas. I use my expression and performance techniques as much as I can. It also makes my job more fun.
SM: You grew up dancing with Nicole and Karen at Impulse Dance Center. The piece you are performing for this concert came out of an adult tap class you took at Impulse just last year. Can you talk about transitioning from being a student to the world of Monkeyhouse?
SFC: It's funny because I have known Nicole for a very long time in a number of capacities so the transition has not been something I've put much thought into. She has been my babysitter, a family friend, a teacher, a mentor, a company director, and now a friend so it has felt like a very seamless transition to be performing together now.
SM: In addition to dancing you also sing. At times you can even be found with an a cappella group based out of Brookline! What do you think draws you to those two art forms?
SFC: I think my passion for performing is what keeps me looking for opportunities like Monkeyhouse and like a cappella. I really enjoy performing and being in front of an audience. It is really thrilling and really fun to have an audience enjoy watching you or listening to you. I guess, for this performance, they will be watching AND listening since I'm performing in a tap piece.
by Nicole Harris
For the past year I have been honored to have three former students return to the studio to take class as adults. It began with Olivia Scharff, who sweated out the summer with me last year at Impulse Dance Center during my adult tap class. When September rolled around she was joined by Kelsey Griffith and Monkeyhouse alum Sarah Friswell Cotton. Towards the end of our first ten week session these ladies approached me to ask if they could dance on the "big stage" in Impulse's end of year concert. LuAnn (Impulse's director) was more than happy to include three Impulse alumni in her show so we got down to work and the second ten week session was dedicated to creating a piece of choreography.
The piece they performed this June was to Waving Through a Window from the Broadway show Dear Evan Hansen. The choreography was intricate and the incredible music gave the piece body and character. However, the music also allowed for the dancers to hide within its orchestrations. Don't get me wrong, these ladies aren't lazy! But the fullness of the music overpowered some of the rhythms and counterpoints they were working so hard on, so we decided to also create a version of the piece with no music at all to be part of reAct reBuild reCollect in July.
The original plan was for all four of us to perform this new tacit piece but unfortunately, Kelsey tore her ACL this spring and will not be able to join us at the performance. However, you can still learn about the amazing things she, Sarah and Olivia are doing by clicking on their images below. It's exciting to see how people keep dance in their lives and these three are doing some pretty incredible work.
I can't describe to you how much fun it was to work with these ladies again. Teaching adults is a very different thing than teaching children or even teenagers. I loved seeing the different ways each of them had learned how to learn in the ten years since they last took class with me. I am impressed by their ability to see their strengths and also their weaknesses and not be afraid to ask for or offer help. I am honored to dance with them on July 27th and continue working with them in the future!
by Nicole Harris
We have been so lucky over the last seventeen years to have former students from Impulse Dance Center, Dover Sherborn High School, the Dancing Arts Center, Natick High School, Groton School, Endicott College and beyond who have returned to be part of Monkeyhouse in some way. They've been board members, funders, company choreographers, audience members and guest artists. They have participated in Musings and company class as well as been invaluable advisors to us in and out of the studio. We are forever grateful to each and every one of them!
This past summer we created a series of Musings at Impulse Dance Center to give the alumni an opportunity to dance at a more professional level and to play with choreographic ideas in a low stakes setting. (We'll be talking more about that particular program in a future blog post. Keep an eye out!) During that process we were inspired to create a new Choreography Mentorship for emerging choreographers. Many of our former students have gone on to complete dance programs at the college level and came home with inspiring new skills, ideas and goals. We want to help these emerging choreographers as they transition from an academic dance life to a professional one.
We are starting this program with two of our Impulse Dance Center alumni, Elizabeth Powers and Elyssa Berg (who you might also remember as being a choreographic intern during her senior year of high school and a guest artist at Monkeyhouse's Misplaced/Displaced concert). These two dynamic choreographers will continue to lead Musings for December and January as they refine a choreographic idea. During the month of January, they will each create a piece of choreography for NACHMO (National Choreography Month) using dancers from Monkeyhouse.
This is an exciting opportunity for emerging choreographers. They receive studio space for both Musings and rehearsal; mentoring in choreography, design and all the administrative work involved in producing a new work; the opportunity to set work on a company and a whole lot more. You will hear a whole lot about these two ladies and the work they are creating over the next three months. But first, here's a quick introduction:
Elizabeth Powers graduated from Roger Williams University in May 2017 with a BA in Dance and Performance Studies and a double major in Psychology. Elizabeth grew up dancing at Impulse Dance Center in Natick, MA where she studied a variety of dance styles before finding contemporary-modern and improvisation techniques to be her passion. Nicole Harris and Karen Krolak were two of Elizabeth’s teachers at Impulse who encouraged her to find her creative voice and push boundaries. They continue to do so today.
Throughout college, Elizabeth had the opportunity to study with and perform in works by Heather Ahern, Hilary Easton, Ori Flomin, Kellie Ann Lynch, Fritha Pengelley, and Christina Robson. She was graced with the mentorship of Michael Bolger, France Hunter, Cathy Nicoli, and Gary Shore. She was also able to spend a semester studying dance and performance in London, UK where she worked with choreographer Katie Lusby.
Elizabeth is currently working as a teaching artist in Providence, RI, where she works with middle school teachers to integrate the arts into their academic curriculum. She is also performing and choreographing for various events throughout the Boston and Providence areas. She is extremely excited to be exploring a new idea with Monkeyhouse.
Elyssa Berg began her dance training at Impulse Dance Center in Natick, Massachusetts. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Virginia Commonwealth University with a BFA in Dance andChoreography. In 2016, she studied abroad with the University of South Florida’s Dance in Paris Semester Program, under the direction of Michael Foley. During her time at VCU, Elyssa performed in works by Scott Putman, Melanie Richards, Judy Steel, as well as guest artists; Doug Varone, Liz Lerman/Dance Exchange, and Dawn Bazemore. In 2015, she performed in the official music video for Victor by Prinze George, a finalist in the LA Music Video Festival.
Outside of VCU, Elyssa has studied at Bates Dance Festival’s Young Dancers Program as well as their Professional Training Program. Elyssa has been commissioned twice by Monkeyhouse to create work and has presented choreography in the Boston area as well as Richmond, Virginia.