By Nicole Harris
Next up on the NACHMO Boston interview list is the one and only Evolve Dynamicz. I am so excited to be working with them not only as choreographers but as co-hosts of our Mental Health Happy Hours! You can join us any Tuesday or Friday in January at 7:30pm EST! You can always find the link to Happy Hour on the front page of our site.
To learn more about Evolve, Collective Moments, NACHMO Boston, and to follow the #MonkeyhouseNACHMOChallenge, follow us on Instagram!
N: Evolve Dynamicz is co-hosting Mental Health Happy Hours as part of NACHMO Boston this year. Why are these mental health breaks so valuable to you?
Evolve: We believe taking the time to focus on something that sparks joy (like dancing!) is important for our sanity, especially during this pandemic. We put on a production in October 2019 called LUCIDITY that Monkeyhouse was also involved in! The production was a series of vignettes about people’s experiences with mental health and illness: written, danced, choreographed, and spoken. We also partnered with a national non-profit called, This is My Brave, whose tagline is “storytelling saves lives” and we’ve really adapted that mindset as well. Normalizing conversations of mental health is essential to making it out of this pandemic on the other side. We are not only losing lives to COVID-19, we are also losing lives to the effects of social isolation on top of the preexisting systemic issues which add to the burden of mental illnesses. And we believe that community support is one of the best ways to combat this by enhancing mental health and wellness. And so, we are excited for others to join us and take a moment to take care of our mental health together, as a community.
N: Kaylee, what made you decide to start your own company?
Kaylee: I could write you a novel on why I decided to start my own dance company simply because I could talk forever and ever about dance. Instead I’ll give the short answer. I decided to start my own dance company because there is nothing more interesting and exciting for me than choreographing and getting to work with people. It has always been a dream of mine to create my own dance company! So, I decided to just go for it and here we are! Why wait to chase your dreams, life is too short to not wake up and do what you love to do everyday!!!!
N: This year’s NACHMO is different from anything we’ve done in the past, with all events entirely virtual. How will you change your process to deal with the obstacles 2021 brings us? What is the first thing you will do when the month begins?
Evolve: We shifted to Zoom rehearsals at the beginning of the pandemic and have been working that way since. So we’ve had some time to work out the kinks of virtual rehearsals. We’ve also put together a few films already, but not yet in one month’s time! We hope that by providing Kaylee with our pre-established virtual rehearsal structure, she will have more space to focus on creating and teaching her choreography!
Kaylee: This first thing I am doing is having a (Virtual) meeting with everyone in the piece, sort of as a check in to see where we are all at! We all have different living circumstances etc, which is something important to be mindful of. I am doing this piece completely stationary which I am excited to play with. In having that challenge, I hope it helps alleviate some of the potential pressure/ anxious feeling of wanting to be able to dance but not having the proper space. Again, for me as a choreographer and individual it is important for me to be aware of everyone as individuals and try to keep in mind the dancers needs and/ or challenges!!!!
N: Evolve Dynamicz has participated in NACHMO Boston several times in the past. This year you are collaborating with Kaylee Mahan’s new company, Collective Moments Dance Company, which is a new way to tackle the month long challenge. What are you most excited about in this process? What are you most nervous about?
Evolve: We are so excited to mentor Kaylee and support her through this process.
Lisa: After knowing Kaylee since she was 7, it has been inspiring to watch her through high school, college (as an Evolve apprentice, too!), and now launching her own company.
Nicole: I have not had the pleasure of knowing Kaylee as long as Lisa has, but she has been with us as an apprentice since our first production as a company SPACES in 2017 and it has been a pleasure having her on this journey with us! (She is now a full member since graduating college in May.) I remember in SPACES we did an improvised piece and I was injured at the time, so I was improvising while sitting on a prop we had built for the show. She came over to me during the performance, danced with me while I was seated, and the piece ended with us hugging. I knew in that moment that our souls connected on a deeper level and that our dance careers would be intertwined for years to come. We are very excited to both be a part of her new company and watch her grow as a leader and artist. The only thing that we are nervous about this month is hitting ceiling fans as we are dancing in our homes!
Kaylee: Nicole that moment will stay with me forever. I truly cannot begin to come close to expressing my gratitude and love for these two people! They truly are an inspiration to me everyday and I cannot thank them enough for sharing their dance journey with me! I still cannot believe I have been with Evolve since basically the beginning and I had never gotten the chance to be a part of this event! I am very excited! I think I am most excited to honestly start the new year off creating a new work! I can have quite the difficulty in trying to make decisions/ be decisive, but, I feel with the prompt of having a month to do it will help push me to make decisions and be decisive. And I think that is also what I am most nervous about.
Luminarium - we really look up to Luminarium as a company doing things that we hope to be doing in the next 5 years. A lot of the decisions we have made in growing our company have been inspired by Luminarium!
Ellen Oliver - Nicole had the pleasure of participating in The Dance Complex’s aMaSSit residency and was inspired by her thoughtful and carefully curated body of work. Lisa got to meet her this past October when we were performing at the Starlight stage and we were both mesmerized by her choreography and movement involving tinfoil! She is such an elegant mover, choreographer, and filmmaker! She is also producing a film festival this winter that everyone should check out!
Nicole Harris: What will you be doing for Uplift?
Lisa & Nicole: We will be performing a piece called “Purlieus.” It’s funny because we choreographed the piece before Nozama even announced the theme of their show this year and it is actually about how we support one another as a group of women!
N: We have been thrilled to hear about your recent focus on mental health. Can you tell us about LUCIDITY and why the topic is so important to you?
L&N: LUCIDITY is our upcoming production, premiering this fall! As artists, we’ve recently been focused a lot on who we are and what we want to say with our dancing and choreography. We believe mental health (not just illness!) is something that is not discussed enough in our day to day lives. We believe that taking care of your mental health should be just as important as taking care of your physical health… you workout to keep your body healthy, so why shouldn’t we discuss what’s going on with our mental states on a daily basis? There is so much stigma surrounding mental health and talking about emotions, and we want to end that! We all have emotions— happiness, sadness, anxiety, grief, excitement… the list could go on forever, but we want to bring those emotions to the surface and explore them without stigma. LUCIDITY is a compilation of the emotional experiences of us and our dancers and topics range from eating disorders to anxiety to injury induced depression, as well as community mentality, support systems, and authenticity. We are also partnering with a non-profit called “This is My Brave” (look them up if you don’t yet know them) and we will have a few of their speakers as a part of our show too! We are so excited to be part of UPLIFT because we think it is a great compliment to our show! Nozama works hard to empower women and in doing that they are also ending the stigma surrounding women’s emotions. And we think that is great!
N: Who are your mentors past and present?
Nicole: A past mentor of mine was my college dance professor, Missy Pfohl Smith. She shaped my choreographic mind before I even really understood what choreography was. Missy was the one who helped me bring my academic background of physics into my artistic and creative work and I am forever thankful for her continued presence in my life.
A current mentor of mine would be a current grad school professor, Mary Hale. I am pursuing a Masters in Architecture and Mary is a practicing architect with her own creative firm that works specifically with dancers in the performance realm! Mary has taught me so much so far and I am excited to keep learning from her in the next two years of my degree program.
Lisa: My biggest mentors are my former dance teachers, Karen White and Terry Paretti. They taught me every style of dance and instilled a pure love for the art form that dance can be. They also supported and encouraged me to pursue my dream of having a career in dance once I graduated from high school! A current mentor of mine is a former coworker and good friend of mine, Melenie Diarbekarian. Although we aren’t far apart in age, I am constantly blown away by her hard work and dedication. She is a part of some of my favorite local dance companies and is a bright light in everything she does. Not to mention someone I can count on to be my barre buddy in ballet class! Through our time in knowing each other, she has shown me how to make things work and keep the flame of passion burning inside no matter how crazy life gets.