Tag Archives: Bath House Cultural Center

Preview: War Flower, Danielle Georgiou Dance Group

Hive Minded

Danielle Georgiou Dance Group uses movement, text and original music to depict the democratic nature of honeybees in the new work War Flower at the Bath House Cultural Center.

warflower-dgdg
War Flower from Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. Photo: Steven Visneau

Dallas — “Unsettling” was the first word that came to mind as I watched Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG) rehearse War Flower, Georgiou’s latest theatrical dance work, which explores the inner workings of animal societies such as honeybees for insights into the human condition, at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas last Friday evening. The heavy electronic beat Donovan Jones plays in the beginning helps set the pace for performer Stephanie Cleghorn Jasso’s passion-filled monologue, which starts with the line “The bees came in the summer of two thousand and whatever.”

Dressed in a modest, floor-length cream dress with a wreath of flowers on top her head, Jasso moves purposely around the minimally adorned space (strips of artificial grass, white plastic chairs and a whole wall decorated in vines with “The Hive” spelled out in twinkling lights) as she tells the story of man’s creation using verses from the Bible. She finishes up by saying “welcome home,” which was the cue for the other 15 performers, all dressed in soft, floral-printed tops and dresses, to come in running and screaming like cavemen. The primitive movement, i.e. concaved shapes, heavy tailbones, rolling and crawling around on all fours, is right in Georgiou’s wheelhouse, along with theatrics, videography and soundscape.

War Flower from Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. Photo: Steven Visneau

War Flower is Georgiou’s grandest production to date with a cast of 19, including Georgiou, sound specialist Donovan Jones, conceptual designer Justin Locklear and lighting designer Lori Honeycutt, and also features a number of moving parts, including live music, video and small machinery. When asked about the large cast Georgiou says, “I wanted a large cast for the work to help visually build the idea of a community and demonstrate the rituals acts in the piece.” As for performing in her own work, something she hasn’t done in the last couple of years, Georgiou says that was a natural decision.

“When I started working on movement for War Flower in February of 2016 for the faculty dance concert at Eastfield College, I was working with a cast of four dancers, and I slowly began to find myself in the piece with them. Then when it became time to bring in the full cast for the premiere production it just made sense to remain a part of the show. As a dancer I was intimately connected with the work and I almost couldn’t take myself away from it.”

Back to the rehearsal. After the caveman dance, Dallas actor, director and playwright Ruben Carrazana steps forward and begins explaining the finer points of being a honeybee, including the fact that they live to die, to newcomer Vinay Naik. And similar to how Virgil leads Dante through the nine circles of hell, Carrazana then leads Naik through the social and political hierarchy of honeybees while also touching on some of the most controversial human belief systems in the U.S., including Catholicism, Scientology and the Democratic Parties.

Georgiou is known for tackling controversial topics such as sexuality and gender roles in ironic and poignant ways and War Flower appears to be no different in this aspect. Her clever use of metaphors and pop culture references allow viewers to enjoy the show even when their politics don’t align. For example, the text she uses in the show includes sections from The Bible, The Federalist Papers, John Milton’s Paradise Lost, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense as well as lyrics from popular Jay-Z and Nicki Minaj songs. Her decision to center the piece around the lifecycle of honeybees stems from her readings of Honeybee Democracy by animal behaviorist Thomas D. Seeley. Part of the book synopsis reads, “Honeybees make decisions collectively and democratically. Every year, faced with the life-or-death problem of choosing and traveling to a new home, honeybees stake everything on a process that includes collective fact-finding, vigorous debate and consensus building.”

Georgiou describes these tenets through a series of repetitive movement phrases that are executed singularly and collectively while someone is reciting text or performing a ritualistic action such as administering the Kool-Aid to a new cult member. There is also a scene where Carrazana asks Naik a list of yes or no questions in a rapid fire manner while Georgiou checks Naik’s body for signs of stress. This scene is eerily similar to the auditing sessions I recently saw on Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which Georgiou did confirm later was her inspiration for the section. She also told me that she got the list of questions from a personality test for Scientologists and a questionnaire that determines your political party, both of which she found online.

Most of the movement in War Flower is simplistic in nature – a lot of pedestrian walking and gesturing, pivoting body isolations and loose hips – but when performed in unison by the group easily captures the essence of the hive mind mentality. Georgiou explains, “For me, the hive mind mentality occurs when a group of people come to the same thought at the same time. Or when people act in unison without any foresight, communication or practice. It’s something instinctual and real. It’s a raw response; a decision made from the heart and gut, not the head.”

She continues, “It’s the group mind at work and that’s what really interested me. How we can make decisions in our hive without ever talking or without ever really knowing each other. It’s both terrifying and enticing. How we act in unison with our social groups, our friend groups, our families, without ever really being aware of where the initial inspiration came from.”

War Flower runs Jan 19-21 and 26-28, at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas.

>This preview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

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Q&A: Marlana Doyle of the Houston Met

Houston Met Artistic Director Marlana Doyle. Photo: Ben Doyle
Houston Met Artistic Director Marlana Doyle. Photo: Ben Doyle

The Artistic Director of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company on wearing multiple hats and the third weekend of the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival.

Dallas — The Barefoot Brigade’s three week-long dance festival concludes with “All New Stuff.” This weekend is dedicated to premieres, debuts and works in progress by guest companies/artists from throughout the region. According to festival organizers, this incredibly diverse program will give audiences a chance to see a wide variety of dances at different stages in their creative development.

The program includes performances by Barefoot Brigade first-timers Brazos Dance Collective, Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG), Eyakkam Dance Company, FireWalk Dance, GORDONDANCE, impulse Dance Project and Houston Metropolitan Dance Company.

The Houston Met will be presenting a large group piece called There Are Things We Dont Know We Share, which the company premiered this past November.

Artistic Director Marlana Doyle has been dancing with the Houston Met for the past 12 years and was a major part of the Met’s reorganization in 2003. As the AD she has tried to keep the diversity and versatility of the dancers and choreographers a part of the overall artistic vision of the Company. The Houston Met has performed in Boston, New York City, California, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Indiana, Michigan and Louisiana.

TheaterJones asks Marlana Doyle about wearing multiple hats and working with choreographer Erin Reck on There Are Things We Dont Know We Share.

Week three of the Barefoot Brigade Dance festival takes place Jan. 24-26 at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas.

TheaterJones:  Is this your first time performing at the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival?

Marlana Doyle: Yes, this is our first time performing with them.

How did you hear about the festival?

We have a service organization here in Houston called Dance Force Houston where people post auditions, festivals and grants and that’s how I heard about the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival.

What motivated you to apply for the festival?

We are based in Houston, but if there are any opportunities for us to travel to festivals I try to apply to them just so we can get some exposure outside of our area.

Is the dance scene in Houston pretty competitive?

There’s a huge dance community here and it’s actually very supportive. We’re all involved in each other’s projects and we all go and support each other. You wouldn’t think of Houston as being a dance hub, but it actually is.

I’m originally from Boston and went to school in Pittsburgh, but I didn’t want to go to New York or Chicago to dance. The director of my school at the time told me to look into Houston and I was really surprised at how good the community was. I have been here 12 years and the community has expanded greatly.

What can you tell me about the piece the company will be performing this weekend? 

"There Are Things We Don't Know We Share." Photo: Ben Doyle
“There Are Things We Don’t Know We Share.” Photo: Ben Doyle

There Are Things We Dont Know We Share was created by Erin Reck who is one of our new choreographers for the season. She set it in September and we premiered it in November. She lived in New York and had a company there till she moved to Houston where she currently teaches at Sam Houston State University.

For this piece she had us do a lot of writing and a lot of group work. The general synopsis is about a group of people experiencing the same thing, but also having an individual experience. So, what the piece is actually about and what we wrote about was the topic of losing something or someone. Death became the main focus and each of us has had different experiences with it and yet there were common ties. It’s very impactful and very emotional.

This piece was a challenge for the dancers because we had to stand in a straight line and each be seen, but we also had to watch each other too. I know the festival space is small, but I think putting this group piece in such an intimate setting is just completing the vision that Reck had.

Is the movement more structured or improvisation?

Photo: Ben Doyle
Photo: Ben Doyle

Reck videotaped us improving individuality to what we wrote and then she pulled some of our movement and put it with her own. So, they are structured solos, but she would also come in and look at them and revamp them. So, even though the solos are pretty set there’s always room for growth.

How do you juggle being a dancer and artistic director?

It’s a lot of multi-tasking! I have received a lot training over the years from the executive director and the board about how things work and what my position is and I’ve just learned to balance it out. But it is a hard job and I am slowing stepping away from dancing. I also attend a lot of conferences for the arts and I get mentored by some of my colleagues who I really look up too. I am trying to get a group of individuals who I can really trust and who really trust me.

What do you look for in a guest choreographer?

I look for diversity in the choreography and the choreographer. There are people that I love who I will bring back every couple of years just because I trust them and their work has been audience favorites. I also look for who is hot and not so large yet that we can’t afford them.

Part of our mission is to acquire not only established choreographers, but emerging choreographers as well. There are so many young choreographers out there who don’t get a chance to set work on a professional company so, once a year we bring in an emerging choreographer.

 ◊ This interview was originally posted on Theaterjones.com.

The last weekend of the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival titled “All New Stuff” runs Jan. 24-26 at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas.

Program includes performances by:

  • Beckles Dancing Company
  • Brazos Dance Collective
  • Christine Bergeron
  • DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group)
  • Eyakkam Dance Company
  • FireWalk Dance
  • GORDONDANCE (TX/IL) – Lonny Joseph Gordon
  • Houston Metropolitan Dance Company
  • imPULSE Dance Project
  • Tina Mullone (Louisiana/Texas)
  • Jessica Thomas (The Colony)

Q&A: Courtney Mulcahy of Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth

Courtney Mulcahy, right, with Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth. Photo: Milton Adams
Courtney Mulcahy, right, with Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth. Photo: Milton Adams

The choreographer on collaborating with a local composer and the inspiration behind her work Soxx, part of the second weekend of the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival.

Dallas — The second week of the Barefoot Brigade’s three week-long dance festival focuses on a theme called “pARTners in crime.” According to a Barefoot Brigade press release, “Week two is devoted to the magic which happens when artists get together and create something they couldn’t have made on their own.

Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth company member Courtney Mulcahy took this as an opportunity to reconnect with Dallas composer Jon David Johnston and together they created a light-hearted piece entitled Soxx.

Originally from San Antonio, Mulcahy holds a BSHE in Fashion Merchandising from Texas State University and a MFA in Dance from Sam Houston State University. She has performed with such companies as The Dance Theatre of Harlem, The San Antonio Dance Company and The San Antonio Metropolitan Dance Company. She currently teaches modern, ballet and Latin ballroom at Collin County Community College and Tarrant County College. Mulcahy has also received several honors and awards for her unique and thought-provoking choreography.

TheaterJones asks Mulcahy what she enjoys most about the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival, the challenges that come along with collaborations and the inspiration behind her new piece Soxx.

Week two of the Barefoot Brigade Dance festival takes place Jan. 17-19 at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas.

TheaterJones: How long have you been involved with the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival?

Courtney Mulcahy: This is my third year.

What do you like most about this dance festival?

It’s just a great opportunity for choreographers to showcase a lot of different work and for us to collaborate with artists in the area. The festival also has a great variety of companies coming from not only within the state, but also out of state. So, you get exposed to a lot of different people.

What is this weeks theme and how does it factor into your piece?

Courtney Mulcahy with composer Jon David Johnston. Photo: Milton Adams
Courtney Mulcahy with composer Jon David Johnston. Photo: Milton Adams

The second weekend focuses on artistic collaborations. I have an acquaintance who is a musical composer so, I asked him if he wanted to work together on this piece and he said yes. I have worked with Jon David Johnston before and I really enjoy him.

I kind of wanted to do a light-hearted piece. I have been noticing recently in several modern dance performances this trend of performers wearing socks. I wanted to do a piece that focused on the dynamic of socks. So, I basically asked Jon to if he would be interested in writing a poem about socks and then compose the music for the piece. We had a lot of fun taking this whimsical look at socks and how they relate to us in our daily lives. And also just poking a little bit of fun at performers who dance in socks.

Do you find it more challenging to create a light-hearted piece versus a darker piece?

I do typically go for darker themes, but I am just not in that place right now so I wanted to do something fun and different. For me this was more of a challenge than your typical serious modern piece because you don’t want to come across too cheesy or not funny at all. It’s very delicate business trying to balance the whimsical and comedic material, but I have really enjoyed doing it. At least there is a lot more laughter involved in this process.

What are some of the challenges choreographers face when collaborating with a composer?

Well, the main challenge is the language. Jon has worked with dancers before so he has an understanding of our language. I have a music background and can speak a little bit of his language, but I don’t always hear all the things that he hears. So, it’s really about finding a common language that helps communicate what he’s trying to create and what I’m looking for. That has been a challenge for us, but every time we work together it gets a little easier.

What inspired the movement for this piece?

Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth. Photo: Milton Adams
Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth. Photo: Milton Adams

Every time I choreograph I try a different way of approaching movement.  I simply went into the studio and without any thought of the poem or the music I started creating movement. It was actually a very freeing process because I wasn’t bound by rhythms or phrases. I created movement that I loved that emphasized the socks. A lot of flexed feet and a lot of thought went into how the feet would be involved. It was just really fun to create any movement that I wanted to.

I ended up creating about seven minutes of material which I then videotaped and gave to Jon. He took the video and just composed the music to the movement that I had created. He is really interested in doing film scoring so he did it from that perspective which was very interesting.

The Bath House Cultural Center is a pretty intimate setting. How did the size of the venue impact your movement choices?

My piece is a trio, but even so the space is still quite challenging. I like knowing the venue before I go into the choreographic process because that does play into my work. At the Bath House the audience is right there so, I took that into consideration when creating this piece. You can use more minimalistic movement because it reads a little bit better in a smaller venue. The space also contains four columns which I didn’t specifically include in my chorography. I just told my dancers there were going to be four columns that they would have to navigate around while doing the movement.

What are your plans for the future?

I will always continue to teach. I love being in the classroom and having contact with the students, but I do miss choreographing. So, hopefully through Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth I’ll have more opportunities and more venues to be able to present my work. And maybe one day I’ll have my own company.

◊This interview was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

◊ Keep a look out for my interview with the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company’s Artistic Director Marlana Doyle next week. The company will be presenting a group piece during week three’s program “All New Stuff,” Jan. 24-26 at the Bath House Cultural Center.

◊ The Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival continues with:

Jan. 17-19: pARTners in Crime

  • Big Rig Dance Collective
  • Sue Collins with music by Denton composer Claudia Howard Queen
  • Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth premieres choreography by company member Courtney Mulcahy in collaboration with Dallas composer/musician Jon David Johnston*
  • Collective Force Dance Company
  • Feel Good Dance
  • Satellite-Dance

Jan. 24-26: All New Stuff

  • Beckles Dancing Company
  • Brazos Dance Collective
  • Christine Bergeron
  • DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group)
  • Eyakkam Dance Company
  • FireWalk Dance
  • GORDONDANCE (TX/IL) – Lonny Joseph Gordon
  • Houston Metropolitan Dance Company
  • imPULSE Dance Project
  • Tina Mullone (Louisiana/Texas)
  • Jessica Thomas (The Colony)