You may have heard by now that Elyssa Berg and Elizabeth Powers are the choreographers for this years Choreographic Mentorship program. In this interview, Elyssa responds to Elizabeth's questions about herself and her choreographic process.
EP: As a choreographer, dancer, and teacher, you wear many hats. How would you describe yourself to someone who doesn’t know you?
EB: I would describe myself as a dancer and choreographer. I use movement to explore what forms the human body can possess, the roles that it can take on, and the qualities that it can embody. I create work that explores natural elements (such as earth, wind, fire, and water), as well as animalistic qualities that are explored in abstract and concrete ways. As a mover and creator, I portray strength and physicality coupled with delicacy and fluidity in order to find genuine and honest situations for the human body. Intense and specific movement meets a grounded and powerful quality as a pathway to tap into the essences of inhuman entities and situations. Through this ongoing exploration I am most interested in creating worlds by building environments and atmospheres in which dance and movement are meant to exist in.
EP: What is the first step in your choreographic process?
EB: When I look into creating a piece, I first start with a lot of preparation. I take time to organize my thoughts and find a lot of ways that I can visually represent what I want to explore. Often through images, colors, environments, pieces of music. I usually use a Pinterest page to do this. I find that through this I can also communicate to other artists the exact world that I am working to create for that specific piece.
EP: Can you tell us a bit more about your process for creating a new piece?
EB: I use a lot of my preparation work to guide the rest of my process. I usually start with one phrase of movement and find ways of layering and manipulating the movement to create a specific vocabulary of movement that I want to use for the piece. At times I will have a lot of chunks of ideas that I like of different movement and imagery that I work on transitioning together to build and develop my piece.
EP: How has your concept of dance changed since you’ve recently graduated from college?
EB: I think that my interest of movement has changed since graduating. I am a lot less concerned with the technical execution of movement and more drawn to the simplicity of movements. Thinking that less is more. I think I appreciate a lot more the small details of expression and self exploration than I have before. I think your perspective has to change greatly when you are transitioning out of school and into your career. Things don't always happen instantly or consistently and you really have to keep your passion for dance and keep it alive in your life in any way possible.
EP: In what ways do the different types of dance education you have received influence the work that you create?
EB: I was lucky enough to be exposed to the early ideas of choreography at a young age from my time at Impulse Dance Center and through the guidance of my teachers Karen Krolak and Nicole Harris. This really impacted how I moved forward through the rest of my education and developed as a choreographer. I had the opportunity to focus on choreography just as much as I got to on my technique in college and this was really my time to deepen my exploration of movement and creation as I established my own artistic voice. One of the most influential moments of my education was my time studying abroad. I studied with the University of South Florida's Dance in Paris Semester Program under the direction of Michael Foley. This time influenced me more than ever. I was exposed to so many artists, so much artistic work, and a very different artistic culture. A lot of the ideas of creation that resonate with me the most, that I am still continuing to explore, have been picked up during my time in Paris.
EP: What are you most excited about in setting a piece on Monkeyhouse?
EB: I am most excited to be able to explore new ideas with such an inspiring community. I have always felt so supported and grateful through my contact with Monkeyhouse. Every person is supportive and open to trying everything and anything. It is very exciting to see people take your ideas in so many directions that you didn't even think were possible. I always walk away from time with Monkeyhouse with a new outlook or approach to my thoughts and work. It is exciting to have to chance to set a piece on such a special community.
EP: I know that you haven't started rehearsing yet, but can you tell us anything that you already know about the piece you'll be setting on Monkeyhouse?
EB: I don't know the details of the work but I do know that I will be exploring the use of technical elements-how they can relate to movement and exist equally on stage. I have used my time at musings with Monkeyhouse to explore the beginning ideas of this through the use of light. I have tried different lights and shadows to explore these ideas as well as exploring the relationship between dancer and light. I plan on continuing that exploration and really pushing myself to expand these thoughts even further.