Choreographer Danielle Georgiou discusses the concept behind her company’s latest production, Dirty Filthy Diamonds, plus her experiences with crowdfunding and the state of the local dance community.
Dallas — Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG) may be one of youngest dance groups in Dallas, but they have certainly been grabbing the community’s attention with memorable showings at last year’s Aurora and this year’s Atopia. DGDG is hoping to keep that momentum going with its latest production, Dirty Filthy Diamonds, at the Margo Jones Theatre in Fair Park, running Feb. 26-March 8.
Danielle Georgiou formed the DGDG in 2011 and describes it as a performance art dance group that works within the ideas of German expressionism and Tanztheater. Georgiou truly has a hand in every part of the dance community in North Texas. She is the Program Coordinator and Visiting Scholar in Dance at Eastfield College, the Director of University of Texas at Arlington’s Dance Ensemble, a guest choreographer for Dallas Neo-Classical Ballet, a performer with Contemporary Ballet Dallas and a local dance writer/critic who writes a monthly column,Sixth Position, for TheaterJones.
Dirty Filthy Diamonds was created by Georgiou in collaboration with Justin Locklear (script and set design), Jermy Elizabeth Johnson (composer), Hillary Holsonback (video, makeup and costume designer), Emily Loving (graphic design and set design) and the DGDG dancers.
TheaterJones asks Georgiou about the inspiration for Dirty Filthy Diamonds, her experience using Kickstarter to generate funds and the challenges facing the Dallas dance community today.
TheaterJones: You wear so many hats: dancer, teacher, choreographer, performance artist, dance writer. How do you manage to balance it all?
Danielle Georgiou: Well, I don’t sleep a lot and I drink a lot of coffee. But really I just love what I do and it’s all connected in a strange yet logically way. And I think the fact that I can connect my teaching to my writing and then to the performance part of it, it just makes everything simple in a way. There are days when I am just done with everything, but the next morning everything is all right and I just get back to work. I mean if I wasn’t doing this for a living I would be completely miserable.
Did you start out as a dancer turned choreographer or vice versa?
It started out with performance, but I was also interested in behind the scenes work like stage managing and lights and just the whole process of being in a performance. Then in college I was given the chance to choreograph and I just feel in love with telling stories and now I can’t get it out of my system.
I have always been interested in creative writing. In college I got into business writing which I didn’t really like so, I took a public policy class and got really interested in writing about education and the arts. In graduate school when I was writing my thesis about arts education and arts funding in Texas it got noticed by Anne Bothwell and Charles Santos and they gave me a chance. My first writing opportunity was with Art&Seek, a service of KERA.
You are very in touch with the local dance community. What would you say is the biggest challenge facing the community today?
I think its two-fold. I think the first part is funding. It’s how the smaller companies are going to raise money when there are larger companies with longer histories also vying for funds. When you are new, and by new I mean 10 years or younger, it’s hard to maintain that audience base as well as the donation and funder bases. So, I think it’s very important for the smaller companies to start thinking creativity about how to put on a show. It doesn’t have to be in the biggest theater. It doesn’t have to be in a theater at all. I think a lot of the most interesting work is coming from people and/or companies that are seeking out alternative spaces.
And the other part is the competition aspect of the dance community and it’s not just in Dallas, but a national occurrence. Dance is about community. Fundamentality that’s how we used to communicate because we didn’t have a written language so, we’d communicate through our bodies and through movement. And I think that idea has gotten lost along the way. That we are really a family and that we are all speaking the same language. And if we are going to survive then we need to support one another and not fight against each other. And these challenges really go hand in hand because we are all fighting for the same money and audience. So, instead of pitting ourselves against one another I really think we need to have that camaraderie and that family spirit.
I know you used Kickstarter to help raise funds for Dirty Filthy Diamonds. What was the process like?
For me, it was just learning the process and doing it all. It’s very simple and they pretty much lay it out for you. I think my biggest challenge was just overcoming my nervousness about it. I have never asked for money before so, I was putting myself out there in this very vulnerable way. In the end I was so humbled by the amount of support we received from the Kickstarter community and people here in Dallas. I had a really positive experience with Kickstarter and with using a crowdfunding platform and I would definitely recommend it for other people.
Did you encounter any challenges during the collaboration process with Locklear, Johnson, Holsonback and Loving?
It’s been pretty smooth. We’ve all worked together in some capacity or another on other things. It helps that we all have the same way of thinking. We approach concepts differently, but ultimately we aesthetically view things in a similar manner. But it is also challenging. We are all really strong willed people and we have to work together to make everyone is happy and to make the work make sense. We also have to constantly remind ourselves that it’s not personal. I am just really lucky that I’m able to work with people who are like my family.
What is performance art?
I would describe performance art, in the dance sense, as taking a dance company out of the theater and then flipping the table and putting it back in. So, we are in a theater space, but it’s not a theater anymore. We’ve created an installation. We’ve created an environment. So, it’s not a traditional set and it’s not staged. You walk in and you become part of the show. Performance art is a happening. We’re living our lives in this place that we’ve created for you to come in and live with us. That is what Dirty Filthy Diamonds is about.
How did you come up with the idea for Dirty Filthy Diamonds?
My boyfriend Justin and I were talking about these vignettes that he was sketching out one day and I said it would be really great to tell that through movement instead of a traditional script and he agreed. Justin is an avant garde performer and works a lot with puppets and clowning so, movement comes naturally to him as well. And we thought this would be a great way to continue working together and really push both of ourselves because he has never worked on a dance project and I have worked on theatrical performances before, but have never streamed a performance together or written an original script. Then we just started developing the script based on the idea of growing up in America and then coming of age and dealing with sexuality and gender. And also that competitive aspect of becoming an adult and how we are basically still who we were in high school, but just with larger bank accounts and rules and responsibilities. The show really deals with the themes and concepts of being young in America and in a culture that is dealing a lot with social media, distraction and sex. Those are the things we are confronted with every day.
In the promotional photos the dancers are wearing similar black wigs and blue tops with blue lipstick. What is the idea behind this?
One of the main aspects of the show is finding individuality. How we fight constantly to present ourselves as individuals while we end up eventually conforming. This is something that just naturally happens. It’s just the social order of life and that’s the idea behind the wigs and identical looks of everybody. And throughout the show everyone’s constantly struggling with it and trying something else on so they eventually end up looking one certain way. This causes something to happen, but you will have to go see Dirty Filthy Diamonds to find out what.
This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.