AC: What first drew you to dance? What was your path to becoming a professional dancer?
SK: My mum is a dance teacher, and I always followed her in her class when I was young. I really started dance when I met Hip Hop culture in Paris. The music, the movements the style and energy inspired me from the beginning.
AC: How did you and Hind begin working together?
SK: Hind invited me to participate in the creative project Identity and we started to work from 22000km apart. I'm living in New Caledonia, so we started to create the collaboration by internet relations and work in different ways. Personally, I've created with my own company another work linked to calligraphy (what i was already working on) and this was my way to participate and add my brick to the wall. Then I invited Hind to New Caledonia and kept working and exchanging together. We kept the link and talking by Skype almost everyday and intensive working and documents sharing and writing.
AC: Have you encountered resistance to your work?
SK: The distance was my most important resistance/difficulty during this process...and the short time I had for the creative process due to my other company schedule and projects already.
AC: How has your attitude toward dance and performance changed over time?
SK: I was very anxious about my first work in Morocco. Representing my culture was a pleasure but at the same time brought back to me memories and struggle that I had had in the past, like [the idea that] dance is not a job. In our culture it is important to have a "real job". So [my attitude] slowly changed by accepting my own culture inside this way. Creating this work with Hind and Mohcine as my friends and family more than just random artists. This piece is a real part me, of my struggle, of my memory, my village in casablanca and all the ceremonies and weddings, all the music songs and songs that I've been hearing during all my childhood. I'm now fully accepting all this past as a present and as my present lifetime dancing and performing this piece and dancing with my heart, giving all who I am.
AC: Have you found your style or process influenced by those you work with?
SK: Yes, I am always influenced by the person who I'm collaborating with. As artists we are working with our souls and heart. We are sharing pieces of cultures, arts, way of thinking, living. So I feel like I've taken a small part from every artists I have collaborated with, every culture, every art form, universe.
AC: As primarily solo artists, what kinds of challenges do you face in creating and performing? Do you find that collaborative work erases some of those challenges, or provide new ones?
SK: I think solo is a really difficult way to work and to process because you are deeply facing yourself and this is the most difficult thing for me. I'm now also artistic director and choreographer of my own company, dancing in every piece I'm making, and this is truly bringing difficulty and at same erasing some.
Performing solo is sometimes sad because you're not sharing the pleasure to have been performing, and being on stage, or sharing the hard moments with someone. Collaborating with other artists you have to face their own personality and character, desires and anxiousness, strength and sometimes everything doesn't go in the way you would like to or expect to, if you have expectations. But sometimes it brings more than you could ever expect.
AC: What have you enjoyed most about working on Identity/Identite? What were your expectations verses outcomes?
SK: Discovering my culture through the artistic universe of Hind and Mohcine, their stories, and sharing the beauty, good things and also the struggles with people. Second, creating a new work being pushed again till the limit, and push myself to accept the challenge and discover their artistic world and stories.
AC: In the states, we often talk about the dance community and connecting performers with the audience. Can you talk about experiences you've had trying to engage with your audience, and with connecting dancers and performers to each other?
SK: We had such beautiful experiences sharing our work by Q&A, and sharing people's thoughts about what they felt by watch us performing. It's a such great opportunity to be able to receive the audience's feeling and understand the impact your work has had on them, and feeling how powerful art can impact people's life. To be honest, to be able to feel how much some simple things like a one hour art piece can change the perception of hundred of people, and open their minds. Just have to be responsible about what you are sharing with them.
Thank you for listening some bits of my story!
Photo by Paradise Photo. Graphic by Nicole Harris
A conversation between the two choreographers for this years choreographic mentorship program; Elizabeth Powers and Elyssa Berg.
EB: You just recently finished school at Roger Williams University this past May, what have you been up to since graduation?
EP: I am currently living in Providence, RI and working as a teaching artist in a middle school where I work with teachers to integrate arts into the academic curriculum. I'm taking classes and dancing in various projects around the Boston and Providence areas. I'm also working on creating some new work that pushes me into a different mode of creating movement.
EB: So now that you have a chance to pursue new ideas what are you finding yourself most interested in exploring as a choreographer?
EP: As a choreographer a lot of my interests come from thoughts. I am really interested in people and how they work. I think that dance and movement facilitate exploration of these sorts of topics. I am also interested in exploring the possibilities of improvisation. I like to create improvisation scores that involve challenges or problems that have to be solved by doing the improvisation. Personally I use this method as a way to get myself to create movement that is different from what I usually do. I find that improvisation allows dancers to constantly be pushing the limitations of movement without getting stuck in a pattern, or at least provides the option of editing a score to create an escape from the pattern. I am also interested in using improvisation within the structure of a final piece. I get sick of doing the same thing all the time and am interested in the ways that a piece can be different every time that it is performed while it is still the same piece.
EB: It sounds like you are trying to push yourself to constantly change and try new approaches and tools, where do you find most of your inspiration for these new ideas comes from?
EP: A lot of my inspiration comes from watching dance. When I need to come up with an idea for a piece, going to see a good show always brings me into that mindset and gives me ideas to play with. I'm also inspired by relationships and observations throughout daily life. I find that the movement that is constantly occurring everyday is often as interesting as any movement that we classify as dance, when it's put in the appropriate context.
EB: You are about to begin the process of creating a piece for NACHMO, as you start this process and other processes what would you say is your biggest challenge in creating a new work?
EP: My biggest challenge when creating work is probably choosing what to focus on. I often have a lot of completely random ideas and so choosing which ideas to focus on is a challenge. I like to let ideas develop and pull my work in a certain direction, but before I can do that, I have to choose which ideas to give that power to. Sometimes I'll let a piece go in one direction for a while before deciding that isn't where it is supposed to go, so being open to giving a piece multiple chances to identify itself is important to me.
EB: Do you have any plans for the near future? Are there any goals or things you would like to accomplish in the next five years or so?
EP: Honestly the only thing that I know I still want to be doing in five years is dancing. I want to be creating and sharing work regularly. I want to work with populations who have varying abilities as well as share the power of movement with anyone who could benefit from it. I want to be moving in a different way than I am right now. There are so many different ways to move and in my 22 years of life I have just scratched the surface.
EB: As you have had a long relationship with Monkeyhouse what would you say is your favorite part about working with the company?
EP: I love that I get to work with people who are so willing to try and to support. I can go into a musing with a weird idea or a hand gesture and come out with something really interesting. Also working with people like Karen and Nicole who have been teaching me dance since I was a kid is amazing because I know that they won't hesitate to push me out of my comfort zone but they will also help me make sense of things when they seem to be going nowhere. So, my favorite part of working with Monkeyhouse is being able to work with a community of dancers who will accept crazy ideas and make something out of anything that they are given.
by Nicole Harris
We have been so lucky over the last seventeen years to have former students from Impulse Dance Center, Dover Sherborn High School, the Dancing Arts Center, Natick High School, Groton School, Endicott College and beyond who have returned to be part of Monkeyhouse in some way. They've been board members, funders, company choreographers, audience members and guest artists. They have participated in Musings and company class as well as been invaluable advisors to us in and out of the studio. We are forever grateful to each and every one of them!
This past summer we created a series of Musings at Impulse Dance Center to give the alumni an opportunity to dance at a more professional level and to play with choreographic ideas in a low stakes setting. (We'll be talking more about that particular program in a future blog post. Keep an eye out!) During that process we were inspired to create a new Choreography Mentorship for emerging choreographers. Many of our former students have gone on to complete dance programs at the college level and came home with inspiring new skills, ideas and goals. We want to help these emerging choreographers as they transition from an academic dance life to a professional one.
We are starting this program with two of our Impulse Dance Center alumni, Elizabeth Powers and Elyssa Berg (who you might also remember as being a choreographic intern during her senior year of high school and a guest artist at Monkeyhouse's Misplaced/Displaced concert). These two dynamic choreographers will continue to lead Musings for December and January as they refine a choreographic idea. During the month of January, they will each create a piece of choreography for NACHMO (National Choreography Month) using dancers from Monkeyhouse.
This is an exciting opportunity for emerging choreographers. They receive studio space for both Musings and rehearsal; mentoring in choreography, design and all the administrative work involved in producing a new work; the opportunity to set work on a company and a whole lot more. You will hear a whole lot about these two ladies and the work they are creating over the next three months. But first, here's a quick introduction:
Elizabeth Powers graduated from Roger Williams University in May 2017 with a BA in Dance and Performance Studies and a double major in Psychology. Elizabeth grew up dancing at Impulse Dance Center in Natick, MA where she studied a variety of dance styles before finding contemporary-modern and improvisation techniques to be her passion. Nicole Harris and Karen Krolak were two of Elizabeth’s teachers at Impulse who encouraged her to find her creative voice and push boundaries. They continue to do so today.
Throughout college, Elizabeth had the opportunity to study with and perform in works by Heather Ahern, Hilary Easton, Ori Flomin, Kellie Ann Lynch, Fritha Pengelley, and Christina Robson. She was graced with the mentorship of Michael Bolger, France Hunter, Cathy Nicoli, and Gary Shore. She was also able to spend a semester studying dance and performance in London, UK where she worked with choreographer Katie Lusby.
Elizabeth is currently working as a teaching artist in Providence, RI, where she works with middle school teachers to integrate the arts into their academic curriculum. She is also performing and choreographing for various events throughout the Boston and Providence areas. She is extremely excited to be exploring a new idea with Monkeyhouse.
Elyssa Berg began her dance training at Impulse Dance Center in Natick, Massachusetts. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from Virginia Commonwealth University with a BFA in Dance andChoreography. In 2016, she studied abroad with the University of South Florida’s Dance in Paris Semester Program, under the direction of Michael Foley. During her time at VCU, Elyssa performed in works by Scott Putman, Melanie Richards, Judy Steel, as well as guest artists; Doug Varone, Liz Lerman/Dance Exchange, and Dawn Bazemore. In 2015, she performed in the official music video for Victor by Prinze George, a finalist in the LA Music Video Festival.
Outside of VCU, Elyssa has studied at Bates Dance Festival’s Young Dancers Program as well as their Professional Training Program. Elyssa has been commissioned twice by Monkeyhouse to create work and has presented choreography in the Boston area as well as Richmond, Virginia.