You can learn more about Aftab here. To meet the rest of the artists, take the #MonkeyhouseNACHMOChallenge, and learn about upcoming performances follow NACHMO Boston and Monkeyhouse on social media!
Aftab Dance Group: In the Spring 2019 we performed in several Persian New Year events in the New England area (including the annual Persian Parade in NYC)! As we usually take a break over the summer and then start up again in the Fall, we then performed in Winter of 2019 at two local "Shabe Yalda" (Winter Solstice) events with new choreography. We had fully prepared for a Spring performance season with brand new choreography for 2020, but unfortunately the pandemic started right as Persian New Year events were kicking off (March) and all our remaining shows were canceled. We proceeded to take some time off and just filmed some videos outdoors until Fall 2021, but we are now excited to get back into rehearsing and performing!
N: You have challenged yourselves to take on many different forms of Persian dance over the years. What is the thing that unifies all the forms? What draws you to one form over another?
ADG: Over the history of the group we have taken on many different styles of Persian dance (Bandari, Baba Karam, Azeri to name a few), but we typically perform a fusion of modern and traditional styles as this is our strength and our audiences enjoy it. If a dancer joins the group with experience in a specific style or expresses interest in trying something new we explore ways to incorporate it into our routines!
ADG: We hope to expand our audiences to the greater dance community in Boston this year! This year our biggest challenge, like many others, is to create new pieces that are stage-ready while navigating the ever-changing landscape of what "performance" season looks like.
Aftab has long had a presence in the Persian community in Boston, but we have not had as much exposure to the larger dance community in the city. We are excited to continue branching out and to share our culture and choreography with everyone. We hope everyone enjoys all the work we put into our costumes and performances.
Learn more about Alex here. Learn about all of the NACHMO Boston 2022 artists, take the #MonkeyhouseNACHMOChallenge, and keep up with when you can see these artists work by following NACHMO Boston and Monkeyhouse on social media!
N: You have done a whole lot since I interviewed you for NACHMO last year! Can you tell us a bit about the work you are currently touring?
AN: Yes! NACHMO 2021 feels like so long ago and so many things have happened since then. I’ve been using it as a marker for my year so I’m glad it’s always in January.
The work in question, 10 Recalling-20, is a collaboration between myself and Ashlea Sovetts, a South Carolina based dancer/choreographer. We both are Winthrop University alums and roomed together abroad many moons ago so the pandemic and reconnecting on Zoom is really how this piece started. We interviewed ten individuals varying in age, backgrounds, religions, orientations, and occupations about their experiences in 2020. Nodding to the fact that it was 10 individuals recalling 2020, we named the piece such and have taken inspiration truly from the stories told, gestures used, and connected the themes from each interview. One of things that still strikes me about the interviews was my favorite question we asked each of them: “What is one word to describe your year?” None of these participatns knew each other and they were all interviewed separately, however, three of the ten answers with “roller coaster.” It became a major theme of the work and inspiration for the entire second section of the piece.
We premiered at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in October and have been working our way up and down the east coast performing and presenting the process at the National Dance Education Organization Conference, the World Dance Alliance Assembly, and the Dance Studies Association Conference. We’re planning to bring it home to Boston in May alongside a few other artists for CURE8 Cambridge, another new venture of mine.
N: Ah yes, ‘Subtly Alice’ from last year’s NACHMO was such a shining light for me creatively. I had never made a dance on film and had really only dabbled in the process back in college with a film student, so it was a nice challenge for me. That process relied heavily on editing as we didn’t have as much time in the studio as I would to create a live piece. I was surprised in what we were able to accomplish with three rehearsals, well let’s call them filming sessions, and how I was able to meld my process to fit different schedules, maintain social distance and dive back into dance in person.
N: This year you are working on a solo for yourself. Can you talk about what your goals are and why you are using NACHMO to reach them?
AN: Something I learned in the last year is the importance of solo work. I was able to reconnect with a colleague of mine at the Equinox Dance Festival where we both were teaching master classes and presenting work. She mentioned that solo work, while rigorous and intentional, is something that you should always have in your back pocket. Realizing there is a work I’ve always wanted to build out, I’m using NACHMO for the mentorship and really the accountability to create a new solo work. My goal for this piece to process aging and birthday rituals as I close in on my 30th birthday this month.
AN: In so many other fields it is engrained that it’s all in who you know… well I’ve found it is the same in the arts. Maybe even more important. It was exciting last year to be able to meet some new people, see new dance and for some NACHMO participants watch the piece evolve for the Malden Dance Mile. I’ve also come into a mindset that nothing is ever truly finished. With 10 Recalling-20, every time Ashlea and I come into the studio there are new ideas, stronger ways to convey our message, and other avenues to explore. Strength needs time, and time creates strength. Ashlea and I have found a balance as a duo in collaboration and I’m always keen to mix in more of this in my life. Peer-to-peer mentorship is bigger than just creating something for NACHMO, it’s creating relationships in the greater Boston area and furthering the field of dance with deep meaningful conversation.
N: Like Monkeyhouse, you are a Malden resident. We have been thrilled to see the arts community here growing since we first arrived. What do you love about this community and how do you hope dance can thrive here moving forward?
AN: I’ve been living in Malden for going on three years now and I have loved to watch it grow! I really love the support of the local politicians like Mayor Gary Christenson. He’s always there for things, supports the arts, and I’ve caught him playing Pokémon Go on his breaks from the office, which I think is so funny! It’s been really affirming to see the stuff popping up in the center of town and the new forthcoming community arts center. Very exciting!
AN: So many locals I love! In the last few months, I’ve danced with and grown to know and love Rachel Linksy. She has such a wonderfully keen sense of herself and is always down to play. I’ve also been working more closely with Lonnie Stanton who inspires me every day to think somatically, be open to process, and invite others in.
Nicole Harris: You will be collaborating with a painter and a musician on your piece for NACHMO this year. Can you tell us about that?
Abigail Ripin: We are playing somewhat of a game of broken telephone where we create art across our own mediums of expertise. I've sent both the musician and painter a video of a piece of choreography I created. Using this choreography as inspiration, they are creating music and a painting, respectively. They will share their work with me, and I will use it to inspire my next piece of choreography. I will then show the painter this choreography, and he will paint something inspired by it. We are planning to repeat this exchange a few times.
N: You have extended out an invitation to work with new dancers. How has the process of finding dancers gone? How has it been working with new dancers?
AR: I have been very lucky to have received a lot of interest from dancers who want to participate in my piece. I am looking forward to starting rehearsals and building a cohesive group dynamic. This is the first time I've assembled a group of dancers for a project in almost 4 years, so I am grateful for the dancers who are eager to contribute their time and talent, and I am optimistic for the potential of this work.
I'm really excited to create on a group of 5 to 8 dancers and just play director and choreographer. It has been a very long time since I have not performed in my own work, so I'm looking forward to taking a step back and just focusing on creating. I'm also excited to connect with local choreographers through the mentorship tracks and see how my collaborations progress.
Learn more about Cassandre here. To learn more about NACHMO, take the #MonkeyhouseNACHMOChallenge, and learn about where you can see these artists’ work, follow NACHMO Boston and Monkeyhouse on social media!
Nicole Harris: What will you be working on for NACHMO this year? In what ways will you be pushing yourself in new directions?
Cassandre Charles: This year I will allow myself to embrace stillness and smallness in my process. I’ll be continuing on the Dance on Film track for, This Black Artist, A Digital Visual Journal. This TIME based dance film is my arts journaling experience, prompted by working with NACHMO last year. I am pushing myself to have complete choreography for a “transition” vs. using improv to “tell a story”. I would love to see words like “and” “therefore” and the sound of breath in my body.
‘I am asking my body and brain to use the breathing, dance and reiki training I have received, (and continue to receive) to come together with joy and gratitude in choreography and self healing. And I want to dance!’
CC: My film was shown at the virtual 8th Annual We Create Festival (June, 2021) the Festival of You, Us and Them, The Dance Complex (September, 2021), and the City of Malden Winter Festival (December, 2021).
N: You have been BUSY in the last year! Tell us a bit about what you’ve been up to and what you have coming up!
CC: I reconnected and performed with my neo-burlesque troupes, Lipstick Criminals and Slaughterhouse Society. It was fun to choreograph a 90s hip hop piece for the Crimz show and sociopathic clown act for the Society in October. It was a chance to just have fun and be silly after being away from each other for so long. Luckily, both troupes have members who are casted in The Slutcracker, a burly holiday tradition that usually keeps us very busy during the season. We had a smaller cast this year and all were vaccinated. Unfortunately, we followed suit of many theatre shows and cancelled our last closing weekend performances after a Covid exposure. Our producers were always about safety first. We were required to be vaccinated and they provided rapid tests. But, like much of indoor stage life, the pandemic is driving the artists’ calendar. It’s a lesson in accepting the new normal in exhibiting dance.
After a long, unexpected time-off, (thanks quarantine life) I am looking forward to using my Fall 2022 Monkeyouse @ ArtsAssembled Space Grant to work on filming for the NACHMO February event. I’ve peeked at the prompts and think this a perfect time for a ‘transition’ reel in my dance film journaling that challenges my choreographic skills.
CC: For me the difference I have noticed is the “when” I want to practice or produce in each medium. As I continue to view my dance journal I see that I am able to draw and dance, but not dance and draw. I don’t let myself go on the latter. Perhaps because I am a visual learner, to “see” a movement or shape then embody it is easier. I am excited about using NACHMO to explore dance then drawing as a prompt for creating work. I think it will help me let go of worrying about technique and just dance!
N: We love our local community! Who are some of your favorite local choreographers? And why?
CC: Marsha Parrilla, Danza Organica - I have learned a huge amount from Marsha’s workshops and was honored to be part of her first and most recent We Create Festival, celebrating women of color. Marsha has truly been a social justice warrior through her company’s work. Her dance aesthetic is strong and graceful, and she is generous with her curriculums in cultural storytelling and research.
Jenny Oliver, Modern Connections - Jenny’s choreography makes me feel like this is what I am supposed to do in the world. Her classes are fun, hard and you will walk away each time so proud of yourself because she has told you to “live” when you perform her center choreo. She answers every question and when you are lucky enough to see her perform, it is magical!
Jean Appolon, JAE Expressions - Jean takes me back to first Saturday dance classes in Haitian Folklore. I did not know all the connections to healing this grounded dance style has as a child. I learn and practice through JAE. His company members are just as kind in teaching and welcoming the community to move into healing.
I am SO excited to see Wisty Andres on the list of NACHMO participants. Wisty is a beautiful dancer with such control of their body. I have experienced their choreographic genius as a dancer, and their healer’s spirit in their mindful workshops.
And have to shout out Boston choreographers McKersin Previlus, LaKai Dance and Ronnie Thomas, Mystique Illusions. Both have a quality of movement that back up their beliefs and dance styles. It was an honor to see their growth as company founders and creative directors. They also promised I could jazz hands in their shows, a flare I think is underused.
Being from Boston, a predominantly white city, I saw a need to focus solely on Black dancers & choreographers in my first archival project. Boston’s black dancers deserve a space to know their works are exhibited with the best intentions and stored in ways that will preserve them for true historical research and reference in all the mediums possible.
It will also be a space for honoring our lost and living legend of multidisciplinary artists, who can be researched at the BPL. I want to support and honor black artists of all mediums.
Please join my website or follow me on instagram for project highlights and how you can help Cassandre bring The Black Arts Sanctuary to public and private institutions across Massachusetts and beyond.
The Black Arts Sanctuary
Learn more about Brenna here. Learn more about NACHMO, take the #MonkeyhouseNACHMOChallenge, and learn about where you can see these artists’ work by following NACHMO Boston and Monkeyhouse on social media!
Nicole Harris: NACHMO Boston has stretched itself in a whole lot of ways in the last few years. After needing to switch to creating dance films last year there are now three different tracks available for choreographers this year and choreographers are coming to NACHMO Boston from all over New England! What are you most excited about with all of this growth and change? What roles are you hoping NACHMO can play for the artists in our community?
Brenna Banister: I love that NACHMO Boston has grown and adapted over the years that I've run it. It feels like every year we're able to offer something more that benefits the choreographers we work with. For me, the excitement is in hearing how NACHMO Boston has impacted people in their choreographic journeys. We hear time and time again about how mentorship has offered so much to people, how they've met and deepened connections with other artists through NACHMO, and how this is an important time they take to set aside and create. Mostly, I hope that NACHMO creates community within Boston. I hope for artists to find people they can connect with and who enhance their artistic exploration. Whether that's someone they talk to about dance frequently, artists they collaborate with, or someone they just check in with now and again. All forms of connection are valid and offer us as artists a chance to deepen our work and practice. It's my opinion that often artists get lost in a small bubble or their own internal space, and growth and expansion happen when we connect with those around us
Where do you find the creative energy with everything else you do to keep NACHMO Boston up and running during the month of January? Where do you turn when that creative energy is running low?
BB: It feels really ambitious to create while running NACHMO Boston! For the first few years I ran NACHMO I absolutely refused to also choreograph. However, I think due to my injury (mentioned later) and so much time of inactivity, I'm itching to do something creative right now. I also always find that NACHMO inspires me. The mentorship sessions keep my spirits and creativity up. Even the sessions where I don't show my own work offer me so much inspiration and motivation. Additionally, using the Creation track this year takes some of the burden off. I can create as much as works for me, and not feel pressure to come up with something that feels very "complete" and ready to present. Finally, working collaboratively with my dancers helps to keep ideas flowing and sharing the process with them allows for me to have rehearsals where I come in less prepared and see where the movement takes us!
N: You have been dealing with an injury for the last few months. How do you plan to tackle choreographing alongside this new obstacle? What are you most excited about for this new approach? What are you most nervous about?
BB: Yes; in October I ruptured my Achilles tendon. I 10/10 would not recommend! I still won't be able to move much in January- walking is my expected limit. I plan to build my piece very collaboratively, which is an approach I've grown to love. However, this time I won't really be able to contribute my own movement. I'm excited to see what the dancers develop and watch them create instead of creating alongside. It will be fun to see their movement develop! As for nerves, I don't have many! I feel pretty connected to the dancers I'm working with so I feel confident that they'll be able to interpret my ideas without me being able to move and that they'll offer many of their own wonderful ideas!
BB: It's been so great to rotate Alive Dance Collective choreographers for the past few NACHMOs! I think it gives a chance for our group to get that kick in the pants and start the year off with someone different each year. Additionally, I'm so excited for added mentorship requirements. I hope that mentorship helps members of Alive find their voices and bolsters their confidence, while also connecting individual members of our collective with more members of the Boston dance community.
N: Last year you shared your love for Evolve Dynamicz, Ruth Benson Levin & Lynn Modell, Kristin Wagner, Monkeyhouse, Sasso and Co, Public Displays of Motion, and Ryan P. Casey. Who are some local artists you specifically met through NACHMO that you love? And why?
BB: I meet so many people through NACHMO! Jessica Roseman is someone who I got to know much better through Mental Health Happy Hours last year. She's a lovely person and I love how she works to make movement accessible to broader communities. I was able to attend one of her Nourish days at LexFarm and was so inspired! Also, Anne Goldberg-Baldwin is a NACHMO connection for me and I'm so fascinated with how her film last year combined her background in figure skating and dance. It was so beautiful!
Learn more about NACHMO Boston, take the #MonkeyhouseNACHMOChallenge, and learn about how to see these artists’ work by following NACHMO Boston and Monkeyhouse on social media!
Nicole Harris: This is your first time participating in NACHMO Boston. What are you most excited about? What makes you the most nervous?
Dani Robbins: I'm most excited about participating in NACHMO because of the timeline--I think a huge part of a creative practice is sometimes making yourself available to create small projects quickly and with less self-judgment than projects with more luxurious timelines. There's an important set of skills buried there--following your intuition, making choices quickly, removing the second-guess impulse, celebrating your taste. I'm thrilled to be participating in NACHMO because I think so many of those deeper creative skills come to the surface in a collapsed timeline like one month. Now following my own advice on that is what I'm most nervous about...
N: You run a dance program at College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, ME. From what I understand it’s a fairly unique program. Can you tell us about it?
DR: I'm really lucky to be teaching as an adjunct at College of the Atlantic right now. COA is a tiny liberal arts school where every student receives the same credential: a degree in Human Ecology. This makes for really well-rounded students that take everything from contemporary dance technique, to marine biology, to conflict resolution or poetry. I'm working to make the dance curriculum as interdisciplinary as the model of the college. Dancers and choreographers write, draw, and heal. They are political, they are scientists, they are active citizens. I try to replace the term "dance practice" with "embodied scholarship practice" as much as possible.
DR: To be honest, my rural location in Bar Harbor has been the singular largest challenge to my work as an artist for the past four years. It's difficult to make a 6 hour round trip to take class, see a show, or connect in-person with a larger dance community. However, I feel that I'd choose being a rurally-based artist again and again, because it has pushed me to develop a creative community for myself. That often means reaching beyond circles of "dance people" and engaging community members who might not have a long history with contemporary dance. That's where some serious magic happens, and it's allowed me to foster relationships with families, schools, students, seniors etc. I'm excited about the opportunity NACHMO provides to connect with the larger New England dance community, as that's something I really crave. I'm finding that being a rural artist just means casting your net for community a little further.
N: You were artist in residence at Acadia National Park. Tell us about your experience!
DR: I was really lucky to participate in the Acadia National Park Artist Residency program back in 2019 alongside a close collaborator of mine. We spent lots of time doing sensory-based work in the National Park (lots of tourists wondered who the folks laying on the rocks were...) I think the residency really challenged us to consider our relationship between our bodies, colonization, and the concept of "property." I feel grateful to have had that space as an emerging artist.
N: There are so many incredible local choreographers here. Who are some of your favorites and why?
DR: One of my favorite Boston-based choreographers is Betsi Graves. I feel really lucky to have studied with Betsi as a young dancer through Urbanity Dance. I really think of her as a whimsical genius--she builds a captivating world for each dance to live in with its own delightfully bizarre logic. I also love to share space with Scott McPheeters, who is based in Biddeford, Maine. Just a radiant human. His movement really captures the expansive joy of dancing.
N: We recognize how important mentors are to artists at all stages of their careers. Who are your mentors and how have they impacted your trajectory?
DR: One of my closest mentors is actually a Boston-based dancer, teacher, choreographer, Jaclyn Thompson Waguespack. Jaclyn and I met when I was really young, and in a very tender place in terms of my relationship to dance. She offered me a pathway through dance that was healthier and served my growth as a whole person. It's been a huge gift to grow together as artists.
Learn more about NACHMO, take the #MonkeyhouseNACHMOChallenge, and learn where you can see these amazing artists’ work by following NACHMO Boston and Monkeyhouse on social media!
Nicole Harris: We are thrilled that NACHMO Boston is expanding into NACHMO New England! We are so excited to have you with us this year. What are you hoping to get out of this process? What will you be working on?
Amanda Whitworth: I’m hoping to meet new artists and to prioritize joy in my own process. I’ll be working on animating soft sculptures where the body is fully or partially obscured.
N: This is your first time participating in NACHMO Boston. What are you most excited about? What makes you the most nervous?
AW: Most excited about expanding my community and being part of a creative movement that gets us talking and working. I don’t feel nervous, just glad to be connected.
AW: The cohort of artists at RDDI have helped me think about the kind of work I really want to make. That work is emergent, collaborative and not made for the proscenium. I’m collaborating with two badass women; Christina Pitsch, an mixed-media installation artist and Vivian Beer, a designer who works primarily in metal. We have given ourselves complete permission to play with whatever ideas we want. Together, we will show three short “experiments” that fully or partially obscure the human form. It’s definitely a WIP, very weird (hopefully in a delightful way) and not exactly intended for the stage - FUN!
N: We recognize how important mentors are to artists at all stages of their careers. Who are your mentors and how have they impacted your trajectory?
AW: I use the feedback and support from a “brain trust” to center my own process. That looks like a group of artists, friends, colleagues who I trust and check in with. Because dance shows up for me in non-performance ways, that brain trust includes folx from different disciplines and sectors. This diverse feedback helps me think about ways dance lives (for me and others) to sharpen creative projects and also as tools or modalities to support innovation in healthcare and education.
N: There are so many incredible local choreographers. Who are some of your favorites (both from Boston and New Hampshire!) and why?
AW: It’s impossible to pick favorites so let me shout out NH based artists/companies: Sarah Duclos/Neoteric Dance, Nick Neagle and Zack Betty/N-Squared Dance, Joan Brodsky/NH Dance Collaborative, Aaron Tolson/Speaking in Taps, Amy Fortier/Ballet Misha, Lissa Curtis/Safe Haven Ballet.