By Nicole Harris
N: How was the NACHMO experience? What was something that went really well? What was something that went a little sideways?
BB: I have been choreographing for over 10 years and every experience has its ups and downs. For NACHMO, I felt it was such a new experience creating dance on film that everything felt wrong, but in a good way. I was challenged to use tools that went familiar, and unsure of where to start and what the outcome would be as a whole. I am pleased to say I would do this over and over and over again, and take what I have learned from NACHMO as I continue to create for as long as I can.
N: What sort of changes (if any) did you make between the NACHMO Boston informal showing and the Malden Dance Mile?
BB: The changes between the informal and MDM showing I made, were use of space. I needed to consider the audience receiving more of a personal experience. Taking away the frontal view, and giving a visually uncomfortable take of searching for happiness.
BB: YES, this is very important. We must lift each other as artists because what we do is valuable and could have great impact on our communities. Im a FAN FAV of my dancers/ Boston based creators, Jeryl Palana and Deidre Lewis. These two fantastic women have continued to support me as I have supported them. To name a few more, Angie Conte, William McLaughlin, and Joe Gonzalez.
By Nicole Harris
N: In addition to being the NACHMO Boston regional director you were inspired to choreograph a piece this year! What made you excited about your idea?
BB: I initially started off the year not intending to choreograph. My first year as regional director I also choreographed and danced in a piece, and it was far too much for one month! However, once the month got rolling I was so excited by what everyone else was doing that I wanted in. A prompt put forth by NACHMO HQ this year was to dance with a piece of paper constantly connected to your body and the ground, and I found that very appealing. That was how the first phrase of my piece was created and I went from there!
I’ve also learned that organizing is key, having help makes everything more exciting (yay Monkeyhouse!), the Boston dance community needs more positive experiences with what mentorship means, and that choreographers are always excited by this opportunity. My favorite part of NACHMO is seeing new connections being formed!
N: This year’s NACHMO was different than past years. What was one of your favorite moments? What was something that went a little sideways?
BB: It was certainly different but so wonderful! I loved forming connections in the small groups of the Mental Health Happy Hours. It was amazing to form real, deep connection in a time when connection was so hard to come by. I also loved all of the group mentorship sessions. Each one was unique, but the current running through all of them was how kind and thoughtful people were about offering insight and feedback to each other. I left each session feeling inspired and full of admiration for the community that was created.
I try to pay these gifts forward by having a door open to talk about dance and life with the younger generation that I was lucky enough to get to know through a few years of teaching dance. Plus, by offering mentorship opportunities at NACHMO Boston with the goal that they feel as safe and fortifying as mine do.
N: It is important to us that we continue to lift up other artists in our community. Who are some of your favorite Boston area choreographers? Why?
BB: There are so many! Evolve Dynamicz, Ruth Benson & Lynn Modell, Kristin Wagner, Monkeyhouse, Sasso and Co, Public Displays of Motion, Ryan P Casey, and more!
N: We are so thrilled to be in Malden! Do you have any connections to this fantastic city?
BB: I unfortunately have not spent a lot of time in Malden, except for one time in Summer 2020 when my partner and I kayaked in the Mystic River. It was a beautiful day towards the end of the summer and was a new spot for us. I'm looking forward to returning to kayak again at some point this year!
N: For NACHMO Boston this year you created a piece on the ice. Can you tell me a bit about your history with ice skating? How has it complimented and contradicted your experience as a dancer?
AG-B: Sure! It's interesting, my dance background actually began as a supplement to my skating career. I started taking ballet at the age of 9 (rather late!) to help with my posture, extension, and coordination on the ice, and I became increasingly interested in various dance forms as I continued my competitive track in figure skating. As my competitive career came to an end, I started to transition more and more to dance as a practice, and when I moved to NYC for my Masters in Composition, I gave myself over to training as a dancer quite heavily, working in disciplines from ballet to GAGA and many places in between. I took some needed time away from the ice to engage with my movement research more fully, but soon returned to coaching and sharing on the ice. It's been both a compliment and a contradiction, I have to say. On the one hand, they are very much one and the same, in which the blades come off and it becomes dance. On the other hand, there are many qualities that cannot be achieved on the floor that are unique to the ice and vice versa. That's part of the fun of it though- there are so many possibilities that can easily translate, while others become a real challenge, and that investigative challenge is particularly exciting to me. It can be easy to slip into the mindset of partitioning the two into separate categories, but I am working concertedly to integrate my movement practice and blur that distinction. Another category to add here is my background as a composer, which I have previously allowed to be its own separate entity in my life as well, but one that I would like to invite into the same space as my movement practice. I teach composition at Berklee College of Music, and I was always afraid to share the movement side of myself with my colleagues out of fear that I would not appear as a "serious" composer, but the more I live in my creative world, the more I realize these components of my life are one and the same. It was great fun to finally sample some great sounds from the ice in the sound design in this film. I want to push further in this regard, and this NACHMO experience was a step along that pathway.
N: A lot happens in a short amount of time during NACHMO. What was something that went really well? What was something that went a little sideways?
AG-B: Speaking of a short amount of time, that's what I had to film! There is a window in this one particular ice rink that I coach at before the sun comes up, and as I stayed one morning to skate on my own, I noticed this ethereal, otherworldly light that refracts as the sun peaks through that window. It is a magical glow that makes the fluorescent lights disappear for a bit, but it's a very narrow window of time that only lasts for about 20 minutes or so. Therefore, we only had about 20 minutes to film everything, which was rather nerve-wracking! I guess that thing that was so great was also the most elusive to manage.
N: Who are your mentors? What makes those relationships special to you? What are you doing to pay forward the gifts they have given you?
AG-B: Wow, where do I start? They have all given a piece of themselves to me and walk with me everywhere I go, whether I am creating work myself, teaching, or collaborating with others. I have many, and I endeavor to share the best that each of them has given me in my work and with the next generation of artists. I wish to give a special mention to my composition teachers, Reiko Fueting, Nils Vigeland, Marjorie Merryman, and Peter Child. They very much empowered me to imagine beyond what I had made on the page and where an idea could go. In my dance and figure skating training, I have many mentors: Frances Patrelle, Adrienne Hawkins, Mary Wanamaker, Beth Duxbury, Nathan Birch, Doug Webster, Sheila Barker, Brice Mousset, Manuel Vignuole...the list goes on. These people have given me so much support and so many tools to draw from, and at times have given me a kick in the "tuck-ass", in Frances "Uncle Frankie" Patrelle's words, to believe in myself and never be satisfied.