Johnny Nevin

The Choreography of New Dances: Brian Hare and Temporary Proof

Brian Hare (Photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy of Thodos Dance Chicago)

In "Temporary Proof", Brian Hare sets himself a challenging task: to portray the process of personal development, to shine some sort of light on the many different ways that someone becomes who they are. In casting his study for six dancers, he makes it possible to explore a multifaceted look at a single individual, an individual trying, as Hare expresses it, to "become a more accurate version" of who they are. Although the subject of many works in many forms of art, this is an examination well-suited to Choreography, where Hare uses the emotion that can be so evident in movement to evoke an immediate identification with struggles everyone is familiar with. "One of the most powerful elements in dance is what the human body is capable of," Hare observes, "It's not so much that I'm concerned with presenting the dancers as performers for an audience; it's more as if they are extremely athletic, moving ideas that, through their physicality, express the idea that we are all ever-changing and evolving versions of ourselves."

The Choreography of New Dances: Jeremy Blair and 2:00 AM, Delancey St.

Jeremy Blair (Photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy of Thodos Dance Chicago)

Balance is always an issue in movement, but in "2:00 AM, Delancy St." Jeremy Blair is concerned with a deeper balance: understanding the differences between what we want and what we really need. To set the background for his look at choices and desires, Blair uses the bleak landscpape of the city -- not the bright, money-to-burn, VIP city, but the nothing-you-don't-need part of the city, the city where people stay out all night, but only because they don't have anywhere else they can be. Balance is always an issue in art, and Blair carefully balances the edgy and the melancholy in his movements as in his soundtrack, implying deep, and sometimes dark questions about choices. When are you working, and when are you just selling your self? What would you do for love, and is it really still love if you would do that? When people are bound to one another, what forces can bind them? Balance is always an issue in life-choices, but what happens when choices already made throw everything that follows out of balance?

The Choreography of New Dances: Jessica Miller Tomlinson and Big Technique

Jessica Miller Tomlinson (photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy of Thodos Dance Chicago

Jessica Miller Tomlinson was working with Melissa Thodos once when Thodos, while rehearsing a section in one of her works, said "Jess, give me your big technique." If that's a unique way to find the title (and inspiration) for a choreographic work, even more unique is the adventure that Jessica Miller Tomlinson is able to conjure from it. Imagine what can happen when Miller Tomlinson (whose recent independent production with Jacqueline Stewart JMT/JLS featured one inspiring display of artistic confidence after another) does a study dedicated to confidence in art. A remarkable subject for most choreographers to undertake, but Jessica Miller Tomlinson always seems to address subjects that only her uniquely inspired view of the world could imagine, and in "Big Technique" she imagines an inspired tour of the World of Artistic Confidence.

The Choreography of New Dances: Danielle Scanlon and Heart Strings

Danielle Scanlon (photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy of Thodos Dance Chicago)

Even in the broad landscape of modern choreography, Heart Strings is unusually bold, bold in the deceptively easy way that Danielle Scanlon plays with the most everyday of ideas -- the clothes we choose. Scanlon finds in that common cloth an intricate tapestry, and she uses it like a lens through which she examines the most individual and private of emotions. Set to a three-section soundscape of gentle, sometimes melancholy instrumentals, Scanlon takes a patient and careful look at the far-more-than-material threads that tie us to our past, to what we once wished for, to what never happened or never happened again. In doing so, she also explores one of the most effective of choreographic techniques, the contrast between a common, everyday action, like trying on a piece of clothing, and the extraordinary grace of the dancers' movements. To see Dance on stage is always other-worldly, but when it is interwoven with the ordinary, its transcendence of the routines of daily experience is even more enchanting.

The Choreography of New Dances: Jacqueline Stewart and Jiffy Pop

Jacqueline Stewart
Jacqueline Stewart

In her new work "Jiffy Pop", Jacqueline Stewart delves into a concept called "the gaze", which the web site Art and Popular Culture explains this way: "The concept of gaze ... in analysing visual culture is one that deals with how an audience views the people presented." More ominous, and more in line with Stewart's vision in "Jiffy Pop" is the Wikipedia article on "the gaze", which discusses how "the subject's autonomy is brought into question by the projection of her 'identity' on to an exterior object". If that sounds esoteric, wait until you see "Jiffy Pop", where Stewart propels her audience into a front-of-the-roller-coaster ride through the the image-obsessed madness of modern media culture.

The Choreography of New Dances: Joshua Manculich and ____versus____

Joshua Manculich (Photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy of Thodos Dance Chicago)

Joshua Manculich began planning this work several years ago, building it out of a repeated awareness of how opposing forces in every life bind an individual, limit an individual, prevent an individual from breaking out of -- something. Could be anything, and in everybody's experience, it's many different things, which is why the title leaves both parts of the opposition blank. The essential idea is of determination and endeavor --- because Manculich is more concerned with what a person does about breaking free than he is with the specific challenge that binds them. In doing so, he also identifies one of the unique qualities of choreography among the arts. A painting of this subject, and there are many, would have to be deeply abstract, like music, or else literal and specific, like writing. But in voicing this study in the movements of ten dancers on a stage that is emblematic of their challenge, Manculich's choreography can remain focused while still being inclusive of all similar challenges.

The Choreography of New Dances: Sharon Joyce Kung and “Just Before Now”

Sharon Joyce Kung with her maternal great-grandmother and her maternal grandfath
Sharon Joyce Kung (Photo by Cheryl Mann, courtesy of Thodos Dance Chicago)

Sharon Joyce Kung, whose new choreographic work “Just Before Now” will premiere this July at New Dances 2010, had an intriguing concept for this piece. In part inspired by the recent passing of her grandfather, and in part by the remarkable life journey of his mother (her maternal great grandmother), Kung wanted to explore some of the rich philosophical ideas of her heritage. Her great-grandmother struggled heroically to bring a young family (including her grandfather) safely out of the chaos of the Japanese invasion of China, settling finally in Hong Kong. Having a clear concept in mind is a great start, but to communicate that concept to those who must make the work with you while you yourself are still working out how to express your vision --- that can be a challenge. In Kung’s case it may have been even more complicated. When a subject is as rich as this, to express that concept in movement requires a delicate balance of commitment and flexibility.

Extensions Dance 2010 Showcase

Extensions Dance Company 2010 Showcase Flyer

Extensions Dance Company’s 2010 showcase, which took place Saturday at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, was not only a great concert, it was in many ways a unique experience, the kind of experience that can be difficult to place in a specific category. It was a Dance Concert in the traditional sense, a presentation of dance pieces that each featured excellent performance and inspired design, and that flowed convincingly from one to another. It was also very much a showcase; the program provided an in-depth presentation of the abilities and accomplishments of the Company dancers, both individually and in ensemble works. It was also a celebration of the fifth anniversary of Extensions Dance, a celebration of a remarkably successful season for the Company, and a celebration of the contributions of two Extensions performers, Miranda Borkan and Natalie Pearson, both of whom will attend the prestigious Alvin Ailey / Fordham University partnership program in New York.

‘ohana Dreamdance “Time Now (Piano)” Free Download

‘ohana Dreamdance’s “Time Now Choreography Mixes” release features both of the tracks composed for choreographer Lizzie MacKenzie. The full original score is the Time Now MacKenzie Choreography Mix; it’s an arrangement of the two original tracks “Time Now” and “Some Time” that ‘ohana Dreamdance producers Dan Agosto and Johnny Nevin wrote for the Extensions Dance Company performance. Besides the Choreography mix and the two original tracks, the release includes a four minute Piano-only version, which is now available as a free download from All Over The Place Records distributor IODA (the Independent Online Digital Alliance).

IODA runs a service called Promonet. It provides access to sample tracks from many IODA distributed labels, and makes them available to bloggers and review sites, as well as to IODA distributed labels, like All Over The Place.

The download is coming from IODA Promonet, and the link is pasteable into a lot of different social media locations: by all means copy any of the links (but especially the free download link) as much as you wantl. (In Windows, right-click, on a Mac, Control-click the icon and Copy Link. Here it is:

Time Now Choreography Mixes - EP
Time Now (Piano) Free Download (mp3)

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More On This Album from IODA Promonet
More about 'ohana Dreamdance from IODA Promonet

The Process Of Choreography (Part 4): Stirring Imaginations

The title of this article is the second half of the title of one of the best descriptions of choreography I’ve ever read. Roslyn Sulcas wrote a year-end article in the New York Times summarizing the most memorable performances she had seen during the year. The article is called “Leading Bodies, Stirring Imaginations”, and it begins with a superb description of the art of choreography:

"CREATING a dance involves much more than inventing steps for dancers. It needs a judicious eye for visual and spatial effect, a sense of timing and an instinct for building attention, for varying the mood and creating an overall theatrical arc that draws an audience into the world of the dance. Thinking about my favorite dance watching moments of the year, I realized that they all involved a sense of wonder at the skill with which the choreographers had woven these elements into a whole, making every aspect of a dance feel not just necessary, but inevitable."

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