B. Moore Dance debuts with Bridget L. Moore’s evening-length NISSI at Addison Theatre Centre this weekend.
Photo: Christian Vasquez
Christian Burse & Natalie Newman of B. Moore Dance
Addison — We have seen her work performed by TITAS, Bruce Wood Dance (BWD) and Dallas Black Dance Theatre (DBDT), but now Dallas audiences will get to see what Bridget L. Moore’s choreography looks like when done on her own terms in the debut performance of her company, B. Moore Dance, Sept. 6-8 at Addison Theatre Centre.
Entitled NISSI, this evening-length production runs around an hour-and-a-half and features past and present works created by Moore, including some fan favorites such as Uncharted Territory and Southern Recollections as well as new pieces that focus in on Moore’s current sense of self.
“In trying to find a voice and an identity for B. Moore Dance, I decided to take the works that I’ve created and love so much and put them on my dancers because all of these works were created on particular companies,” says Moore.
Photo: Brian Guilliaux
Bridget L. Moore
“I created Sketches of Flames on Ailey II. And Southern Recollections was one of the first works that I made for DBDT and I also did Uncharted Territory for DBDT, but the work was originally commissioned by Charles Santos for the 2017 Command Performance Gala.”
When coming up with the program for her company’s first performance Moore says that she wanted to present some of those works, but also wanted to find a voice within the company that felt like it was its own. So, Moore took a page from artist and author Romare Bearden, who was the inspiration behind her work Southern Recollections, and decided to combine some of her old material with new material to create something new.
“That is something that Romare Bearden did quite often, which I really was intrigued by. He was able to take things from magazines and from his old works of art and combine them to create something new, and I thought that was really amazing. He always had these different motifs within his work and I feel like my work is very much like that. And that is why I decided to combine those things so there would be a specific voice for the dancers to all have right now.”
She adds, “I’m always interested in creating with the dancers in mind so I think NISSI in the perfect piece for B. Moore Dance. The dancers really look dynamic and amazing in it and I love it!”
The company is comprised of 11 dancers (six company members and five apprentices), and all of them have worked with Moore before in some capacity. She even has a couple of former students from Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Audiences will also see a few familiar faces, including Alyssa Harrington, Lindzay Duplessis, Hailey Harding and Xavier Santafield.
As to why she choose to go this route Moore says, “With the beginning of this company I wanted the dancers to be individuals that I’ve worked with before and who really understand my work and understand my process.”
And while it did take some time for her to commit to the idea of starting a dance company, Moore says there was never a question in her mind that it all would happen in Dallas. She explains, “With all the travelling that I have done I was ready to come back home and really wanted to be here. Dallas also has this great arts community and my roots are here as well as my friends and dance peers. And essentially having B. Moore Dance here in Dallas makes sense to me.”
In addition to her company’s debut performance, this season also marks Moore’s first year as the artistic director of Joffrey Ballet School-Texas. Regarding her appointment, Moore says, “I enjoy working with young artists and I am looking forward to guiding these students in their training and creating quality rapport with them.”
She adds, “I also want to connect them with different tools and people and assist them in their professional careers however I can.”
This weekend, the award-winning dance and theater choreographer Camille A. Brown opens the TITAS Presents season with BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play.
Dallas — 2018 has been quite a year for Camille A. Brown whose powerful combination of storytelling and modern, African and hip-hop movements has been capturing audiences from every angle, including concert dance, on and off-Broadway, and television. Most recently, her work has been seen on NBC with the Emmy-nominated special, Jesus Christ Superstar LIVE, and also on Broadway with the 2018 Tony award-winning production, Once On This Island. Her other theater credits include A Streetcar Named Desire, Cabin in the Sky, Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOMand Dallas Theater Center’s world premiere productions of Stagger Lee, Fortress of Solitude, and Bella: An American Tall Tale.
The dancing It Girl is also a four-time Princess Grace Award winner, TED Fellow, Ford Foundation Art of Change Fellow, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award winner, Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and Audelco Award winner. Her work has been commissioned by the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Complexions, Ailey II, Philandanco!, Urban Bush Women, Ballet Memphis, and Hubbard Street II, among others.
With all these creative accolades it’s no surprise to learn that Brown has been choreographing since childhood when she would make up dances to cartoon shows. A lot of her movement is influenced by the social dances of her childhood, including hip-hop, African and step dance. She was also versed in salsa dancing and musical theatre thanks to her parent’s love of musicals and Latin social dances. Add in her point of view as a strong black female from Queens and you have the foundation of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play (2015); the second part of a trilogy that her troupe Camille A. Brown & Dancers will be performing as part of TITAS Presents in Dallas Aug. 24-25.
TheaterJones caught up with the busy dancemaker to talk about her current success, working on Once On This Island, finding her artistic voice and what Dallas audiences can expect to see from her dancers this weekend.
TheaterJones: Most young dancers dream of becoming performers, and yet you knew you wanted to choreograph from a very young age. Dancers don’t usually come across composition classes till they reach high school age, so how did you foster your interest in creating movement growing up?
Camille A. Brown: I have always been a quiet child. My voice was small, so I got teased a lot, and it made me more self-conscious about speaking. I watched Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson videos as well as musicals (which my mom introduced me to). I would spend hours learning all the routines from videos and musical numbers. I also created movement to the opening credits of cartoons I watched. Family gatherings were opportunities to put on a show with friends and cousins. My family would support our efforts and was always a great audience.
How has your upbringing in Queens influenced your artistic choices throughout your career?
One of the first works I did was about rush hour in New York City and what happens when everyone is waiting for a delayed train. I took all of my experiences riding the subway since 13 to create six minutes of material. The work was eventually commissioned by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.My most recent work is also pulling from my experiences growing up in the city. Some of it is inspired by my neighborhood. A couple in Queens walking down the street with their isms bold and bright. The guys that play basketball outside. The hand gestures (dab) they do greeting each other.
In BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play, there are moments that are inspired by relationships with my mother, grandmother, and cousin. Q85, Farmers Blvd., Guy R. Brewer, Foch Blvd, E/F train (last stop), Green Acres Mall, Rochdale Village, grandma and granddaddy’s house. We carry our stories with us and they never let us go.
Looking back, would you still have chosen to go to college before starting your professional dance career?
Absolutely! I wasn’t ready to be a professional dancer after I graduated high school, and still wanted to learn more as a student.
How did you get involved with Once On This Island? What research did you do leading up to teaching the choreography for the show?
I had never seen OOTI, but was very intrigued by the story. I knew it was a very popular musical, which made me nervous! It’s hard stepping in as a choreographer creating material for a show that’s been done thousands of times. I got a little bit in my head about it. I knew my role as a part of the creative team was extremely important. I wanted to honor the culture of Haiti and the Caribbean islands, but also honor my choreographic voice.
People ask me what the inspiration behind the movement for the show was. Culture always tells you where to go. The challenge was to create a language that combines culture, my voice and the actor’s creative identities. I connected with an Afro-Haitian/Afro- Cuban consultant, Maxine Montilus. We had four sessions together. I told her that these sessions were not so I could implant these specific steps into the show. It was about me knowing the origins of steps so they could help to inform my choreographic choices.
The other challenge for me was the production was staged in the round and I had never choreographed anything in the round before. I was creating my latest work, ink, at the same time so I used that creative process as an opportunity to practice. It’s interesting how many projects can support one goal. I’m grateful for it all.
How have your experiences working on Broadway and TV impacted the way you think about movement for your company dancers?
I have always been interested in telling stories, but working in theater with collaborators and putting an entire show together that has music, acting, dance, set design, sound design, costume design and orchestrations has made me a better storyteller and communicator. The information that I absorbed working in theater has helped me to create my movement language and given me the tools to communicate what I want to my dancers and musicians.
Can you please talk to me about the building of BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play? Is it mainly autobiographical? Is it one complete story or broken up by experiences?
BLACK GIRL: Linguistic Play is the second piece of the trilogy and it reveals the complexity of carving out a self-defined identity as a black female in urban American culture. In a society where black women are often only portrayed in terms of their strength, resiliency, or trauma, this work seeks to interrogate these narratives by representing a nuanced spectrum of black womanhood in a racially and politically charged world.
Kyra Gaunt’s book, The Games That Black Girls Play, talks about the contributions of black girls to hip hop through childhood games. If we look at the mechanics of the hand clap game “numbers”, it’s highly intelligent, mathematical and musical. Social dance grounds a time and place. The body has so many stories to tell and we can see them through social dance. We can also see people’s creative identities.
There is artistry in childhood games and social dance.
I am bringing all my stories, my personal experiences of being a woman and of being black into the work. BG:LP is about my childhood. It has glimpses of the relationship I have with my sister-friends, cousin and mother.
At what point did you know you wanted to make this part of a trilogy?
After creating Mr. TOL E. RAncE, my headspace was still in the world of black identity. My mentor and dramaturge, Talvin Wilks, encouraged me to go with the flow. Three evening length pieces later!
Where do you want to go from here?
I want to stay focused, clear and keep growing. It is my goal to continue creating works for my company, become a director/choreographer for musical theater and do more TV and film. Debbie Allen is a huge inspiration. She does it all. Her body of work makes me believe that all things are possible.
The artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater on his new position, his plans for its future and Ailey’s masterpiece, Revelations.
Dallas — TITAS closes its diverse 2012-2013 season with the beloved Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Hailed as one of the first truly American modern dance companies, the Ailey Company makes its debut at the Winspear Opera House, May 3-4, after a 20-year absence in Dallas (it has been to Fort Worth’s Bass Hall several times since, though). The program will feature works by Alvin Ailey, Robert Battle, Ohad Naharin, Paul Taylor, Rennie Harris and Ronald K. Brown and will also include Ailey’s signature work, Revelations (1960).
Dancer, choreographer and visionary Alvin Ailey created Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to carry out his vision of a company dedicated to enriching the American modern dance heritage and preserving the uniqueness of the African-American cultural experience, according to the Ailey website.
Robert Battle is only the third person to head the Ailey Company since it was founded in 1958. Led by Judith Jamison since Ailey’s untimely death in 1989, Jamison personally selected Battle as her successor on July, 1 2011.
Growing up in Miami, Battle trained at the New World School of the Arts before moving on to The Julliard School where he met his mentor Carolyn Adams. Battle performed with the Parsons Dance Company from 1994 to 2001 and began setting his choreography on the company in 1998. A frequent chorographer and artist-in-residence at Ailey since 1999, Battle has set many of his works, including Strange Humors, The Hunt, In/Side and Takademe on the Ailey Company, Ailey II and The Ailey School.
TheaterJones asks Robert Battle about the challenges of running the legendary Ailey Company, his plans for the future and preserving the Ailey legacy.
TheaterJones:This is your second season as artistic director of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. How has the transition been going for you?
Robert Battle: It’s been a fairly smooth transition. Partly because Judith Jamison chose me ‘cause she felt that this would be the right fit for the company moving forward. So, I think that has been reflected in the ease in which we’ve made this transition. It’s also comforting to know that she is there if I need advice or just to say “Woo! This is intense!” Whatever it might be she’s always right there to encourage me to trust my own instincts and to follow my own singular voice. So, in that way the transition has been painless.
But taking the helm of such a major institution that has meant so much too so many has brought about the question about whether or not it would be recognizable with a new artistic director. But it’s really more like a calling than a job, and so I have just been moving forward and doing the things that I think are important to keep the company going. And to keep it exciting! I think that’s represented in the repertoire and certainly in some of the repertoire that I have brought into the company.
How do you find that balance between the Ailey tradition and your own singular voice?
It’s a fun challenge. It’s challenging, but it’s also rewarding. There is so much great work and finding ways to play off of the company’s history and to think about people who may come in with certain expectations and to sometimes defy those expectations, all that is built into what I do as a choreographer.
I also use the same principles when I’m looking at potential work for the repertoire. For instance, looking at Minus 16 and some of the elements of that work I’m thinking this would be different for the audience, but the heart and soul of the work really speaks to the company’s core values. [The Ailey Company will perform Minus 16 opening night.]
Did you always have a passion to choreograph?
I was a member of the Parsons Dance Company for many years, but I always knew that there were other things I wanted to do beyond dancing myself. I have always had that instinct to create movement. Even when I didn’t know how it would manifest there was always this restlessness about it. So, in some ways, it was an internal compass that steered me toward the position that I’m in now.
When I was little I used to take apart my grandfather’s old-fashioned tape recorders just to see what made the things turn and be able to record sound. And then I would try to put them back together and end up forgetting pieces so, my Grandfather would yell at me and have to get a new one. So, there has always been that curiosity about construction and deconstruction, the manipulation about how people see things and the magic around what you’re presenting to an audience. That whole notion is why I am where I am today.
Can you describe your relationship with Judith Jamison?
When I first started dancing I saw these iconic photos of her dancing Cry, the masterpiece Alvin Ailey created for her, so I have always been in awe of her. So, it has always been one of admiration and respect which has grown into mutual respect as she enjoyed my choreography and chose me to do works for the main company. But I have always maintained that respect and reverence for her because that was my initiation into knowing who she was. I keep those things sacred because that’s my upbringing. She will always be held in my eyes as a legend in the field. And that is how the relationship has developed. It’s a wonderful connection that we have and relationship that we keep.
I am so excited to see Revelations again. Why are audiences still so drawn to this particular Ailey work?
I think the intent of the work is clear and everyone gets something from experiencing it. No matter what your age, cultural background or how much of dance you know Revelations manages to have some impact on you. And I think the mark of any true masterpiece is that it defies place, time and circumstance.
But the work is also joyous. It really takes you on this journey that is almost like a baptismal in a way. It brings people together. Most people in the audience don’t know one another, but by the time Revelations is done everybody feels united in the experience that they’ve had. It’s more than seeing dance, it’s having a visceral experience and in some ways a spiritual one. And no matter what anyone’s religious preference is they have this kind of intense experience.
You talked about being welcomed into the Ailey family. Can you describe this family dynamic?
Well, I think that has a lot to do with the founding of the Ailey Company. The African American experience in this country was one in which the idea of family was extremely important for survival. And this lesson that it wasn’t just about dance, but it was also about opportunity, a social and political statement and the personal experiences of Alvin Ailey is the foundation on which this company was built. So, I think the very notion of the way the company started has so much to do with the sense of family and humanity that is displayed in the work.
What are some of your long-term goals for the company?
That’s really to be seen. I really am just following my instincts. I don’t have a five-year plan laid out. I am responding to the times, to the new choreographers who are saying things in a different way and in a way to the dancers in the company who are inspiring me to do different works. So, that part of it is very more organic and difficult to plot out.
But you always want more. You want to make sure you reach more people. In addition to the main company we also have the Ailey II touring company and the Ailey School, which also has a BFA program in conjunction with Fordham University. All of this is an extension of the initial vision of the company. So, in a way it’s really about moving on from where we are and reaching out. Alvin Ailey’s oft repeated quote is that dance comes from the people and should be delivered back to the people. So, I want to make sure that continues to happen and we reach even more people. That’s my hope for the future.