Nicole Harris: Can you tell me about the work you’ll be performing as part of the OnStage Summer Performance Series?
Lisa Costello & Nicole Zizzi: The work we are showcasing will be performed to the composer Roberto Cacciapaglia’s album titled Quarto Tempo. We are experimenting with how to bring visual diversity to a set of music that is more or less similar and coherent. We are also hoping to engage in a storytelling through movement by means of contemporary dance that is not literal in its purpose. We love to experiment with ambiguity in our movement vocabulary and choreography so that the audience can interpret our choreography in their own ways. We want each of the audience members to be able to connect to our work in their own ways so we don’t like to be too obvious in our intentions and meanings. However, we obviously pull our inspiration from very specific places, so it is always interesting to see how the audience interpretations align with our own inspirations. So we are very excited for the informal nature of the show and the ability to interact with the audience afterwords! The OnStage Summer Performance Series is a good place for us to experiment with our newest ideas and get feedback from a diverse audience.
L&N: Since January, we have both choreographed each of our own separate pieces and we think they have both been successful in their own ways! Our individual movement styles are very similar but it has been interesting to see how our choreography can be different. We both have similar choreographic processes in the way we use notebooks and notations, but the way they come out on the dancers bodies really show our individual personalities and that has been really cool to see! We compliment each other in our differences, which is why we ultimately decided to work together when we first founded Evolve. So it has always been something we knew, but it has been so fun to see how that has manifested itself physically! We’ve decided to highlight our differences by inviting additional guest choreographers to set pieces on us for this show. We are really testing the waters on our different movement and choreography styles have be brought together in a cohesive way. It’s almost like our differences are exactly what has inspired the whole concept of this show.
N: Nicole, you had just recovered from hip reconstruction surgery in time to perform for NACHMO Boston. As dancers we are always hesitant to talk about injuries and setbacks, however, we all face them. What were the challenges you faced in getting yourself back on stage, especially after the prescribed “recovery time” was over? What did you learn from the time you were out of commission? What recommendations do you have for other dancers facing physical setbacks?
Nicole: The prescribed recovery time technically wasn’t even over until mid-June, so I would say the biggest challenge was the time it took to recover. I had about a year and a half period of pain before the doctor’s could actually diagnose me with Hip Dysplasia. I won’t go into that story but if anyone is interested I have been keeping a recovery blog! https://www.nicolezizzi.com/never-give-up I think the biggest thing I learned from the whole 2 year process from pre-diagnosis to surgery and recovery was that you should never doubt yourself. If you feel like you’re in pain, listen to your body and, even more so, advocate for yourself! If the doctor’s aren’t listening, find doctors who will listen. I ended up with the most amazing support team from the doctors and nurses at Boston Children’s (who treat the Boston Ballet dancers!) to my physical therapy team at Girl Fit in Newton and finally my “mental skills coach” Kelsey Griffith out of the Micheli Center for Injury prevention at Boston Children’s. Each and every one of my care team members were fully invested in my recovery. I also had the most amazing friend by my side the entire time and that, of course, was Lisa. :) She came to visit me while I was in the hospital and danced for me when I couldn’t express my emotions through dance. I was fortunate enough to never have to leave the dance world because she helped me stay involved in every possible way I could. I unfortunately did have to give up a dance teaching job due to the injury, but Lisa and the rest of Evolve really made sure I was still involved in the dance community. I choreographed and improvised and even taught chair choreography while I was still on crutches. My biggest recommendation to any dancers facing any kind of physical set back is to surround yourself with people who support and care about you, who are able to listen to you when it feels like the world is caving in, and most importantly who are able to remind you that there ARE ways to keep dancing even if not the way you had before.
N: What are three amazing things that have happened since NACHMO Boston?
L&N: Since participating in NACHMO Boston, we have had some amazing advances through Evolve. After applying for the past three years, we were accepted to the Boston Contemporary Festival for the first time! A very big accomplishment for us as directors and as dancers. We have also hit double digits with our number of dancers. We now have 10 dancers and we feel very proud to know that two short years ago we were only a company of 2. Lastly, we are so happy to announce our first out of state collaboration with fellow company, The D’Amby Project, in New York. Keep your eyes peeled for the final product!
N: Monkeyhouse believes in the importance of both giving back and paying forward. Who are some of your mentors? How are you paying forward what was given to you?
Nicole: My biggest mentor was my dance professor in college Missy Pfohl-Smith. My university unfortunately did not have a dance major, so of course it made sense for me to study physics….(makes a lot of sense, right?) …. Anyways, Missy really encouraged me to bring in my interest of physics into my dance studies. She always encouraged me to be genuine and authentic in my artistic endeavors and that has been one of the most important life lessons I have ever learned. I ultimately decided to stray from the field of physics, but recently started my Masters in Architecture and I plan to one day own my own design firm in conjunction with Evolve. :) I am always striving to stay true to myself no matter how out of the ordinary that may be!
Lisa: My biggest mentor is my former dance teachers, Karen White and Terry Paretti. They taught me every style of dance and instilled a pure love for the artform that dance can be. They also supported and encouraged me to pursue my dream of having a career in dance once I graduated from high school. I learned so much from them, I take the joy and love for dance that they taught me and pass it on to my youngest students at age 2 all the way up through my adult company members each day. I cannot thank them enough for shaping me through my early years into the dancer I am today.
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!