In the Studio: The DASH Ensemble Prepares for Jacob's Pillow
Photo by Kelsey Grills
As usual, the calendar at Jacob's Pillow this month is overflowing with exciting artists and events. Tomorrow evening, The DASH Ensemble, led by choreographer Gregory Dolbashian and composed of four electric dancers, will take to the Inside/Out stage to perform a semi-new work. Titled Ways to Handle, the piece originated last year during a residency at the Kaatsbaan International Dance Center but has since evolved for the company's performance at the Pillow. Dolbashian says the work is inspired by "how people respond to the different facets of life: love, loss, determination."
We caught up with Dolbashian and his company before they left for the Pillow to get an inside look at their collaborative rehearsal process.
Every person in this company is such a natural mover. How much of the material given during rehearsal is taught and how much is task-based?
"Greg directs us in many formats and then he allows us to make a choice," says dancer Elena Valls. "He pushes us to be as three-dimensional and as expansive as possible."
"We work a lot with improvisation and then it will turn into movement invention, and then it will turn into something set," says dancer Lauren Santos.
Gregory Dolbashian with dancers Chris Ralph, Isaies Santamaria, Elena Valls and Lauren Santos. Photo by Kelsey Grills
The idea of giving and receiving between choreographer and dancer is so clear. How important is that in making the rehearsal flow smoothly?
"To have such wonderful people so ready and committed when they enter the space gives me the inspiration to commit myself to them and create a work that they can be proud of," says Dolbashian.
"We trust each other. We respect each other. There's no pressure or expectation when we come to rehearsal," says dancer Isaies Santamaria.
"I've been in many processes where we say it's a safe space but we know it's not," says dancer Chris Ralph. "I know when I come to this room with these people that it is. I feel safe to explore different ideas and be as silly or vulnerable as need be."
The cast of Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in rehearsal. Photo by Stephanie Berger, Courtesy The Shed
Akram Khan loves to dive into genres he is unfamiliar with. While his own movement vocabulary is a hybrid of kathak and contemporary dance, he has choreographed a new Giselle for English National Ballet, collaborated with flamenco artist Israel Galván and made a dance theater duet with film star Juliette Binoche. Now, in between touring Xenos, his final full-length solo, and several other projects, he's found time to tackle kung fu. Khan is part of the collaborative team behind Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise, a blockbuster musical based on themes of migration and the fight for survival, running June 22–July 27. Directed by Chen Shi-Zheng and featuring a score that remixes songs by Sia, it's part of the inaugural season of The Shed, a new venue in New York City.
I'm a Broadway dancer with a long second toe and the nail is always bruised. I had thought switching from pointe work to dancing in character shoes was the answer—I felt great for several years until recently. What's the problem?