In The Studio

Every year, the DANCE NOW Festival challenges artists working in various genres to choreograph a clear and complete piece, no longer than five minutes, for the tiny stage at Joe's Pub. But walking into a rehearsal for ZviDance's festival submission, you would never know the company was preparing for a performance in a smaller space.

As dancers Alex Biegelson and Chelsea Ainsworth rehearse an excerpt from Zvi Gotheiner's LIKE, they never shy away from expansive movements, wrapping around one another and lifting each other off the ground, sometimes upside down. However, Gotheiner and his dancers say they are excited to present the duet in an intimate space, as the audience will have the opportunity to experience the subtle nuances of the pair's onstage relationship.



DANCE NOW Festival at Joe's Pub, September 4-7

In The Studio
Molissa Fenley and Holley Farmer watch as the company rehearses at NYU Tisch for their upcoming performances in NYC.

"We find ourselves in a situation now with global warming where extreme storms, hurricanes and rising sea levels are happening throughout parts the world, and water is scarce or wasted in others," says choreographer Molissa Fenley. A comment on the current global threats to our environment, Fenley's dance series Water Table explores the patterns of large bodies of water.

We stepped into a rehearsal of Water Table with Molissa Fenley and Company as they prepare for an upcoming show at Danspace Project to talk performing in your 60s and how an international upbringing influenced her as an artist.

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In The Studio
Photo by Ralph Alswang

Although she constantly pushes the level of risk in her work, Streb Extreme Action Company artistic director Elizabeth Streb surprisingly looks for more than just a passion for physicality when recruiting dancers action heroes. We went to S.L.A.M (Streb Lab for Action Mechanics) to get an inside look at a rehearsal, and quickly learned that though she may have an addiction to danger, Streb isn't quite as tough as she seems.

A sense of teamwork is really clear amongst your dancers when they are working. How is that something you have tried to instill in your company environment?

You have to be a team in this work or you are in big trouble. It certainly wasn't like that in the beginning. So this was an end game for a very incremental process. I figured out how to have people who love people in the room. It's a very pacific concept but it's a humane concept. And as we went along we realized it's our job to be socially kind and interested in anyone who walks in the room.

Speaking of which, your rehearsals are all open to the public. Is that something you have always been interested in doing?

When we moved from the Canal Street studio to garages in Williamsburg they were all on the ground floor, so we started practicing what it meant to invite the community in and let people who walk by and don't know Streb come in and be interested in watching us. And that's changed my set of questions and has changed who I'd like our public to be.

Photo by Teresa Wood

The level of risk in your work heightens each year. How do you visualize that risk in the beginning stages of a new work?

There's this great quote from Tim Cahill that says "the explorer is the person who is lost," so I don't pretend to know what I'm doing. I have an idea—is it the spinning ladder idea? Is it the high speed windshield idea? In any of those circumstances where we try to create a sense on unfamiliarity in the space, I don't really pre-amp ideas. If I know before I see it then it's happened before.

In The Studio
Photo by Morgan Lugo

This week American Ballet Theatre launches its fall season at Lincoln Center with an exciting lineup of performances. One last-minute addition to the program is a new work from Benjamin Millepied, which will be performed by ABT Studio Company and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School dancers in the theater's promenade during select intermissions. Although the specifics of the performance are hush hush, we stepped into the studio with Millepied for an inside look.

What has it been like to choreograph on younger dancers and how, if at all, did you change your approach?

To be honest, they're really good. Rhythmically, it's not easy at all and they've done incredibly well. The piece could be longer. It's really one movement but, for the first time, to use that space it felt right. Nothing says I couldn't add two more movements next season to make it longer.

What are your thoughts on bringing classical ballet outside the proscenium setting?

For me, it's great to think of spaces theatrically. We build sets with lighting and props, but there are also all these environments that are beautiful and theatrical, and with a little bit of work you can create something within them and that becomes site-specific. That's really fun because you create something really specific for the environment.

What would you like to see more of from young ballet dancers?

What I would want to see more of in ballet is just more interesting collaborations. These ballet dancers are great and they're ready and what they need is more interesting work. I feel people are playing it safe a lot. If anything, I think it's the choreographers and the directors who need to make an effort for these dancers who have made this art form their passion, and to really be as daring or at least as relevant as some of our peers were when they were commissioning pieces a long time ago.

In The Studio
Roy Assaf and Hadar Younger in Six Years Later, Photo by Orna Kalgard

As the sun beams into the beautiful John Cage & Merce Cunningham studio at the Baryshikov Arts Center, Roy Assaf and his dancers are exploding in the space preparing for their upcoming performance. The fact that Assaf grew up with no formal dance training would come as a surprise to anyone watching this rehearsal. Afterward, we sat down with Assaf to hear about his creative process and the fears he finds himself trying to overcome.

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