by Nicole Harris
This interview isn't just with a NACHMO Boston participant but wth Brenna Banister, the woman who has taken the help of the entire project this year!
To learn more about NACHMO Boston you can find them on Facebook and Instagram! You can also support this year's NACHMO Boston programming here!
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!
B: NACHMO Boston has been something I’ve enjoyed doing since its conception here in Boston. I have danced with Jess Muise, the former organizer, in a number of different settings. She approached me last year to let me know that she would likely be moving on and asked if I would be interested. I told her that with the support of Alive, I would be so excited to host such a wonderful dance opportunity in Boston! Alive looks forward to NACHMO every year and we’re thrilled we get to share that in a new way this year.
N: What are you most excited about for this year’s National Choreography Month?
B: I’m always excited to see what everyone else brings to the table and the work that’s created. The connections made are always fun, and it will be so exciting to experience all of it from the driver’s seat.
N: Your company, Alive Dance Collective, is almost four years old! Congratulations! What made you decide to start a company? Are you the sole choreographer for the company?
B: Thanks! The decision to start Alive was less of a decision and more of a serendipitous series of events. I had met a bunch of dancers who I loved, and in July 2014 had a piece in my head that I really wanted to get out. I approached these friends to see if they would work on this piece with me. We rented studio space and worked together with no real end goal in mind. We were having so much fun, that eventually we decided we needed a name. From there, everything just fell into place. I am incredibly lucky to have a dedicated group of friends willing to share this journey with me. We create work that comes out of our life experiences and use dance as a way to support each other’s journeys. Our rehearsals are full of dance, tears, and laughter, and I couldn’t ask for anything more. At first, I did all of the choreography for Alive. However, over time others joined in and began creating work. Our first large show, presented in November 2016, was the impetus for that, and now we share choreographing roles based on who is interested and what projects we’re working on.
B: I think having a wide knowledge base allows me to pull from many different areas and helps me to not feel boxed in. Although I don’t perform Tap very often, it is one of my heart’s biggest pleasures, and I find that my Tap training comes out in my Contemporary choreography, particularly with how I hear and interpret music.
N: What changes in your process to build a piece in such a short time span (one month)? How long do you usually take to create work?
B: Creating work really varies for me. The piece that I started on Alive in July 2014 (“Shallows” or “The Pit”) took over two years (off and on) to complete. However, it is not uncommon for me to create something in a month if there’s an impending deadline. When I have to create work quickly, I usually start with an idea that is more fleshed out or less abstract. That way I either have already done some of the journey involving the concept of the piece, or there’s less of a complicated journey to take when thinking about the work. Then, I will usually create the choreography and teach it to the dancers. I usually incorporate less improv or collaborative building when there’s such a tight deadline, but I constantly talk to my dancers and other friends about the piece to gain ideas and inspiration. And sometimes, with a deadline, I just have to make a decision and can’t wait for the decision to come to me. One of my mottos is: “we can always change it later,” and I find myself reminding myself of that regularly during NACHMO. Nothing is set in stone, and sometimes making a decision actually gets you closer to what you want than sitting around waiting for the right answer to appear out of thin air.
N: Who are some of your favorite choreographers?
B: I’m a big Kate Jablonski fan. I love her combination of technique and artistry and unique athleticism. I also love Emma Portner and Michelle Dorrance. In addition, I’ve loved Wayne McGregor’s work that I’ve seen, and I adored Yury Yanowsky’s “Smoke and Mirrors” and hope to see more of his work. Plus, he and Kathleen Breen Combs have the cutest baby!