One of my favorite things about my job is that amazing people like Gracie (Nozama) and Jen (OnStage) reach out to me when they have exciting projects like Empower One Another and ask me to interview the artists and host their post show conversations!
Get your tickets to see six female run dance companies/choreographers on April 13th. You can catch the matinee, check out the Spork (post show conversation) with yours truly and then head over to the Dance Complex just in time to see karen Krolak's I-ARE Residency Showcase in the evening! It's a perfect day of dance! But first, check out this fabulous interview with Gracie Novikoff about Nozama's role in this show and her experiences in collaboration! (More show at ticket info at the bottom of this post!)
Nicole Harris: Collaboration can be rewarding and difficult. What is one great moment and one challenge you’ve faced during this process?
Gracie Novikoff: When Jen (of OnStage Dance Company) and I were coming up with the concept for “Empower One Another”, we were primarily driven by the idea of bringing Boston dance companies and independent choreographers together. We wanted to not only promote collaboration, but support for one another and to build a network in which directors can share the highs and lows of managing a company in Boston. With that, the overwhelming reward of “Empower One Another” has been to see six companies share their visions, talents, and experiences to work together and create beautiful new art. I am also thrilled to see the companies creating works under the themes of female empowerment, as this is what drives my company Nozama Dance Collective’s entire mission. At the same time, working with others can be tricky when you all have strong, powerful ideas that are worthy of being shared. With our partner company, Kaleidoscope Dance Company, they are also directed by not one but two incredible women. Along with my co-director Natalie, that makes four collaborative partners with bold ideas. Finding space and time for all four of us to be heard in this process has been tricky, especially when even the co-directors disagree with one another! But overall, that challenge has made me even more proud of this process.
N: In addition to collaborating in the studio you have been collaborating with OnStage on this entire project. What is something you’ve learned through this experience?
GN: Working with Jen from OnStage Dance has been a gift. She is not only an experienced instructor and choreographer, but studio owner. She also single-handedly runs a 60 person company, which is a phenomenal feat. Jen juggles all of her tasks and jobs so seamlessly, and I have learned an incredible amount from her. She has taught me about prioritization, time management, and how to push beyond one’s limits. Our partnership materialized into “Empower One Another”, which is such a dream and accomplishment to me. I cannot wait to see what else our partnership creates!
N: Where did the idea for this concert come from?
GN: Unfortunately in the Boston dance community, there is not nearly as much support between companies as we would like to see. Companies do not often attend one another’s shows, or take one another’s classes. Companies are insular, and do not often collaborate or help one another with things such as fundraising or networking. Jen and I wanted to tackle that, and bring companies together to collaborate and share one another’s gifts and creative visions. At the same time, we wanted to help form a network between Boston dance company directors and choreographers. Managing a company is hard work, and doing it without any support is nearly impossible! Having the six company directors meet for a Round Table Discussion about how we all tackle the challenges of managing companies was a massive priority for Jen and I. The “Empower One Another” performance is the exciting culmination of this collaboration, but we know that the partnerships will last beyond the show as directors continue to lean on one another for support.
N: Where else can we find you this Spring/Summer?
GN: Nozama Dance Collective has a lot of exciting things coming up! We are launching our Spring Company Class Series, in which we will teach master classes at Green Street Studios on 3/18, 4/19, 5/6, and 5/20. Additionally, we have our annual concert “Uplift” at Green Street Studios on August 9th and 10th. We are also looking forward to performing in a few festivals and concerts around Boston, so keep an eye out for us!
N: What other local companies or choreographers do you recommend people check out? Why?
GN: SO many! It is so hard to pick just a handful. The Boston dance community is filled with incredible talent, visions, and creativity. Personally, I am drawn to choreographers who tell poignant, empowering stories about the female experience through their work. Putting the other artists of “Empower One Another” aside, I am forever drawn to Colleen Roddy’s choreography. I am also inspired by the work of Luminarium Dance, particularly because that is another company managed by two incredible women who collaborate together so well. But honestly, if you have a free night, just check out the Dance Complex or Green Street Studios and check out whatever is happening! There is no bad dance experience out there. Support other artists! They will support you back!
You can catch their show at
OnStage Dance Company, 665 Salem St, Malden, MA
Saturday, July 7th @ 4pm
Use VIP Code NDC10 to get a special ticket price here!
Follow Nozama on Facebook, Instagram & Twitter to learn more about them!!
Nicole Harris: Can you tell me about the work you’ll be performing as part of the OnStage Summer Performance Series?
Gracie Novikoff: Nozama Dance Collective is thrilled to be a part of the OnStage Summer Performance Series! We will be presenting a 45 minute set on Saturday, July 7th at 4pm. We will be performing predominantly new works, which is very exciting! We have been crafting a series of pieces surrounding the concept of “Enough”, in that as women we have seen enough, we have heard enough, we have had enough; now is the time to embrace that we are enough. Under this concept’s umbrella, we are presenting empowering works of frustration surrounding the threats to women’s rights, as well as uplifting dances of women coming together to celebrate one another. The tumultuous political climate of 2016-2018 has inspired us in numerous ways, particularly in how bold women have stood up and claimed their voices against oppressive forces. We are committed to bringing female empowerment to the Boston dance community, and this performance will fully embody that. This set list will then make up a large percentage of the choreography for our own full-length production, appropriately entitled “Enough”, which will be on August 3rd and 4th at Green Street Studios in Cambridge, MA.
In creating our pieces, we pull inspiration from our own experiences as well as the other women in our lives and our relationships with them. Specifically, Natalie Schiera and I (Nozama’s Co-Directors) are inspired by our mentor from Boston University, Micki Taylor-Pinney. She taught us the bulk of what we know about the art of choreography, and how to captivate an audience with your message. She is our greatest instructor and guide!
N: Last time we spoke it was during NACHMO Boston and you were presenting work of a new choreographer for your company. Have any additional company members choreographed work during 2018? How has it been for you and for the dancers to expand the number of choreographers you’re working with? What have some of the challenges been? What has been really successful?
G: One of the internal missions of Nozama Dance Collective in 2018 was to offer opportunities to our dancers that would promote their own individual goals as artists. With this, we now have numerous choreographers within the company. Natalie Schiera and I as Co-Directors still choreograph many of the pieces, but we have had stunning pieces choreographed by Kelly Gauthier, who has been with the company since its inception. Additionally, this season Dana Alsamsam is choreographing a phenomenal trio, while Juliana Wiley is crafting a fantastic duet. We are also excited to produce solos choreographed and performed by Teresa Tobin and Katy Esper, individually. We look forward to fostering the creativity and passion of our dancers as choreographers and as artists, and we are consistently seeking opportunities for them to achieve their goals.
N: I know it hasn’t been nearly as long between the last interview and now as it was between the first two, but what what are a couple of amazing things that have happened to the company since January?
G: So many things! We are especially proud to now be officially partnered with the Big Sisters Association! We teach monthly workshops to girls ages 9-13 years old with their “Big Sisters” from the program. These workshops focus on topics such as girl power and positive body image, and incorporate movement and choreography to express these concepts. The partnership has been tremendously beneficial for both parties, and we are excited to donate a proceed of our ticket sales from our August 2018 production, “Enough”, to this organization.
Want to be part of National Choreography Month? Take the #MonkeyhouseNACHMOChallege. Every day we will be posting a new prompt on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Follow along on social media to get the prompts and see some incredible dances! Share your own videos (no previous choreographic experience required!) using the #MonkeyhouseNACHMOChallenge hashtag in order to be featured!
Finally, don't miss the NACHMO Boston Concerts at the Dance Complex on Friday, February 9th and Saturday, February 10th!
In addition to our own show, we participated in several festivals and performances. One of them was the Southern Vermont Dance Festival, which was our first performance opportunity outside of Massachusetts. We were proud to be featured in their Friday night gala and their Social Justice Walk. Finally, last year we formed a partnership with the Big Sisters Association! We are now in the middle of our second workshop series. These workshops invite girls, ages 9-13, to explore movement themes like positive body image and strong female friendships with the support of their Big Sisters. We are now a company of thirteen talented, powerful ladies, and we cannot wait to see what happens next!
N: The story of where you got your name is pretty amazing. Can you share it?
G: Of course! In 2012, Natalie Schiera and Gracie Novikoff were alumni choreographers for Dance Theatre Group at Boston University. They were lucky to create works with inspiring, empowered women, who weren’t afraid to convey stories through athletic, raw, grounded movement. After graduating, they wanted to bring this movement quality and message to the Boston dance community by creating their own company, but without what to name it. They researched synonyms for “empowered” or “strong” woman, but they found many had a negative connotation. One that stood out was Amazonian, which they decided to quite literally “flip the term on its head” - with that, ‘Nozama’ was born.
N: It is very clear in reading about your company that powerful women are important to you. How have events in the last year like the Women’s March and #metoo impacted the work you make?
G: The political climate of 2017 refined and redefined our message as a company. We have always been a collective of women, about women, who aim to create a safe space for women to share their stories. In 2017, this became even more important as our liberties as women felt threatened. At the same time, we were beyond excited and empowered by the Women’s March, the #metoo campaign, and other initiatives where female voices were heard. This is the time to stand up and speak out, and confidently share those raw and powerful stories that make us vulnerable, but strengthen and empower us in the process. In 2017, our choreography shifted to highlight our reaction to what was happening in the world around us. In particular, our piece “Bodies and Choices” (2017), represented female empowerment in this tumultuous time. Our dances in this 2018 season will continue to portray empowered, emotional, badass women who are coming into their own and ready to speak out in a time where others may not want us to. Our pieces will include a great deal of partnering, as we believe now, more than ever, women must empower one another in times of struggle, and celebrate one another in times of triumph. We are stronger and more powerful as a collective.
N: What advice do you have for emerging choreographers?
G: Experiment! Don’t be afraid to say whatever it is you want to say through dance - more likely than not, someone else is feeling the same way, but cannot figure out how to express it. If you have a concept in mind, try coming up with short phrases that convey the theme. Or try throwing on some music that evokes that specific emotion and see how your body moves to it. More often than not, our dances begin with a rough concept and a piece of music that we love. The music inspires the movement and often influences and refines the concept. We also always recommend that emerging choreographers find a mentor or established choreographer in the area to help get his or her feet off the ground. It is inspiring to work alongside other artists, and we have been so lucky to create some wonderful projects with other companies and choreographers in the area
We are so excited to share the first interview with one of the 2016 ChoreoFest choreographers! Gracie Novikoff and Natalie Schiera are the co-directors of Nozama Dance Collective. They took a moment out of their preparations for a show in mid August to talk to Nicole about who they are and their thoughts on ChoreoFest!
Interested in learning more about ChoreoFest or purchasing your tickets? Visit LuminariumDance.org!
ND: To begin a new work, we take the concept and the piece of music and ask ourselves how those two make us want to move. We improvise to the music and picture ourselves in the time and place the concept lends itself to, and we build choreography based on the improvisations. Each new piece is a new world. We think about how choreography would naturally fit in this world, and who the dancers are portraying in this world. At times the dancers are humans, and in other worlds they are not. We think about if and how the dancers would interact, and if it makes sense for the dancers to be aware of one another's existence. When all of the elements come together into a cohesive world, we have a piece we are excited about.
ND: In college, Natalie and Gracie were dancers and choreographers with Dance Theatre Group, a contemporary company directed by Micki Taylor Pinney. In choreographing new works for Dance Theatre Group, Micki along with other faculty would give constructive feedback throughout the creative process. We were encouraged to think through the aesthetics of the piece, as well as how the choreography fit and how we could push the movement to be bigger and bolder. We greatly appreciate Micki's assistance during those years, and since the creation of Nozama Dance Collective in 2013, we have asked Micki for her guidance. Natalie and Gracie were the Choreographers in Residence at Green Street Studios in January-February 2015, and during those months we asked Micki to assist us with the creation of our two solos, "Vortex" and "Nightmare". We were encouraged to take a concept and create not just one, but multiple worlds in which that concept could live. We improvised movement, and then built variations of those movements. As a result, we have successfully created four pieces based on the movement created during those residencies. We are ever in debt to Micki's expertise, and we continue to seek her guidance.
ND: Whenever we are lucky enough to have a mentor assist with our work, we ask whether or not the movement that we are presenting makes sense with the concept, the music, and the world in general. We want everything to be cohesive and make sense. We don't necessarily want to direct the audience to an exact emotion or an exact instance in time, but we want to create a world that the audience can relate to that can be easily followed. We want to take the audience on a journey that they will enjoy and be excited about. We also ask our mentors, "have you seen work like this already?", because we are consistently striving to create new choreographic experiences.
N: Who are some of your favorite choreographers? If you could pick any choreographer from any time to set a piece on you, who would it be and why?
ND: We are both currently obsessed with the work of Jaci Royal, the director and choreographer of Royal Flux based in Los Angeles. Her movement is raw, athletic, bold, daring, and exciting. Her larger group pieces are captivating, and the stage pictures that she creates are incredible. As we create works that portray women empowering one another, choreography like Jaci Royal's is inspiring. We would be honored to have Jaci Royal set a piece on us!!
N: What other events do you have coming up?
ND: We have our first full-length production, "Pushing Past Impulse" at Green Street Studios on Friday, August 19th at 8pm. Tickets are $20 for adults and $15 for students/children. We are thrilled to produce our best works since our inception! Here is the Eventbrite link for tickets, and our post in the Boston Calendar.
N: Where can people learn more about you and your work?
ND: Here are our Facebook page, website, and Twitter page. Check out what we are all about!