Tag Archives: Jennifer Mabus

Q&A: Tamsin Carlson

The former Merce Cunningham dancer on performing solos by the legendary American choreographer at the 16th annual Modern Dance Festival this weekend.

Photo: Reed Hutchinson/CAP UCLA Tamsin Carlson performs in Night of 100 Solos:  A Centennial Event at UCLA’s Royce Hall

Fort Worth — Thanks to the Merce Cunningham Trust, audiences across Dallas-Fort Worth will get to experience some of the revolutionary American choreographer’s most memorable solos as well as new works inspired by his methods at the 16th annual Modern Dance Festival, presented by Contemporary Dance/Fort Worth (CD/FW) in collaboration with the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

The festival’s roster includes works by many well-known locals in the modern dance genre, including Loris Anthony Beckles (Beckles Dancing Company), Kerry Kreiman (CD/FW), Muscle Memory Dance Theatre and Momentum Dance Company. Other familiar names include Lynn Lane and Jennifer Mabus of The Transitory Sound and Movement Collective (Houston) and Mel Mobley and Tina Mullane of M2 (Monroe, LA).

Also participating in this year’s Modern Dance Festival is master teacher and former Cunningham dancer Tamsin Carlson. The associate artistic director of Vox Dance Theatre in Los Angeles, Carlson was a member of R.U.G (Repertory Understudy Group) for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company from 1996 to 1999. From 1999 to 2000 she performed with Lucinda Child’s 25th anniversary tour and also worked with Jonathon Appels, Charemaine Seet, Ellen Van Schylenburch and Beth Toll.

Carlson is a graduate of the Arts Educational School and London Contemporary Dance School. She has been working with Rudy Perez as a member of his ensemble since moving to Los Angeles in 2000. She also is currently the chair of modern dance at the Colburn School and is part-time faculty at Renaissance Arts Academy.

This weekend Carlson will perform the Cunningham solos she learned for Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event. This special project originally took place on April 16 in New York City, Los Angeles and London and featured 25 dancers at each location performing a selection of 100 solos by Cunningham.

TheaterJones caught up with Carlson to discuss her introduction to Cunningham’s Technique, being part of the Night of 100 Solos event in Los Angeles and performing excerpts from these solos for audiences at the Modern Dance Festival this weekend.

TheaterJones: How did you get involved with the 16th annual Modern Dance Festival?

Tamsin Carlson: Kerry Kreiman contacted the Merce Cunningham Trust for potential performers from the recent Night of 100 Solos (Cunningham’s Centennial performances) for the Modern Dance Festival. I was one of the dancers who performed in Los Angeles. It was a wonderful coordinated event, with performances taking place in New York and London as well, all on the night of April 16,, 2019. After contacting the Cunningham Trust, Kerry reached out to me and we found the dates worked within my schedule of teaching and performing and I was thrilled to be able to participate.

Why is it important to you to be a part of festivals such as the Modern Dance Festival?

I believe festivals and performances in alternative spaces to be vital, both culturally and for reaching audiences. For making the work accessible, for connecting with wider, more diverse audiences and to potentially inspire and exhilarate with dance those who might not ordinarily be exposed to such an experience. And as this is Merce’s Centennial year, it is important that his work be an ongoing part of that celebration of world dance. With the Cunningham Company no longer performing, it is always a special opportunity to see his work in live performance.

Please talk about your history with the Cunningham solos you will be performing.

What was so wonderful about learning the solos is that all of the dancers got to work with actual stagers (former Cunningham company members) from the Cunningham Trust rather than learn the work off of video, which often happens. And what was particularly rewarding and special with regard to my four solos I performed in LA is that I got to work with each of the original Cunningham dancers that the solos were created on. They are Susana Hayman-Chaffey, Victoria Finlayson, Banu Ogan and Lisa Boudreau, each wonderful to work with. And as always performing Cunningham, it is an eloquent connection directly back to Merce, who I knew in New York and was on faculty at his School.

How did it feel to be a part of Night of 100 Solos: A Centennial Event?

To say it was an honor to participate in such an event is absolutely true, but to your question about how did it feel, I found it to be incredibly moving and somewhat transcendent, if that doesn’t sound too abstract. To be a small part of this worldwide cultural celebration of Merce, and to add one’s efforts to such an amazingly gifted and dedicated corps of dancers unified in celebrating a special life and fulfilling the expression of that life on stage. There were four generations of dancers in Los Angeles, all of us in awe of Merce’s enormous, indescribable body of work. We found rich community together during the rehearsal process and culminating performance, an experience none of us will ever forget, but we now get the opportunity to share Merce’s work with others such as during the Modern Dance Festival.

Describe your introduction to Cunningham Technique? Did it immediately feel right on your body? Were you intimidated by any of his choreography?

So interesting you phrase the question that way, because it did immediately feel right on my body! In a way I feel Cunningham has been a part of my life forever, and this is very nearly true. I first encountered and fell in love with Cunningham technique as a teenager in London when I was at dance college. I then sought out teachers throughout London who were teaching Cunningham technique.

When I moved to New York in 1996 it was with the primary aim of studying at The Cunningham School. I was thrilled to become an understudy (what was called R.U.G.) in 1997 and then to join the faculty in 1998. Merce’s choreography was so intimidating! As well so thoroughly physically and mentally demanding, but also absolutely exhilarating for the same reasons. With Cunningham there was and is no halfway — you just had to dive in and give beyond that which you thought you were able!

For those unfamiliar with Cunningham’s Repertory Understudy Group (R.U.G) what was the purpose of this company?

We were literally understudies in the classic sense that should a dancer become injured, the understudy was ready always to perform in their stead, though I must say that rarely happened as Merce’s dancers were always so conditioned and strong. In my time as a R.U.G., the understudies also constituted an outreach program; we were representatives of the School who would tour as dancers the elementary, middle and high schools in the surrounding boroughs of the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and New Jersey.

We performed Cunningham repertory and after performances would hold Q&A sessions with the students. These times also could be so rewarding, to see some of the kids’ faces light up and their barely contained excitement made these tours special in their own right. Also, in later years when Merce would no longer tour with the main company, we R.U.G.s would be Merce’s dancers that he would choreograph on toward developing and staging the work.

What are some of your fondest memories performing with R.U.G?

So many! I mean, I loved being in the studio with the Company whilst Merce was creating new works and being part of that. In my time Merce created PondwayScenario, Biped, and he would start by teaching us phrases he had created (Merce often used the computer system “Dance Forms”) and Merce would assign counts for each movement of the torso, legs, arms, head. The series of counts and movements would build to a phrase and over time these counts would morph into a complex rhythm and then eventually you’d no longer count, but simply the rhythm would sustain you in a thrilling way as you navigated such challenging choreography. Merce was a genius and to have had the opportunity to work with him in New York is beyond anything I could have conceived while studying to be a dancer growing up in England.

Doing the tours, when we performed in the schools, I think for the majority of the children it was their first experience certainly with modern dance, and again they were so enthralled and excited by the performances and seeing live work that it was just really moving and created memories I have to this day.

 How does Cunningham’s method influence the work you are doing today?

Things from Merce stay with you always. The development of the phrase, the building process, the absolute commitment, trusting in the process of counts to liberating rhythm. I find when creating phrases for class or working on choreography, through Merce I am really focusing on rhythm. Merce’s technique makes the body extremely strong and versatile. It would have to be to perform the work.

When choreographing, I also find ‘chance’ to be an enormously helpful tool. Chance can aid in the placing of phrases in such a way that becomes original and unexpected. You know, it is inevitable sometimes, I find we tend to have impulses that follow some expected or obvious choices, and chance can shake this up, lead to some fascinating outcomes, or sometimes just refresh and reset the work.

Keeping things unpredictable can potentially result in more arresting work, both for audience as well as the performers. Part of Merce’s lasting legacy, I believe, is his unique way of using space; any and all coordinates are potentially important, any facing can be used. Merce was really the first choreographer to make those choices and it reflects on all choreographers today.

> This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.

 

 

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Avant Chamber Ballet Announces 2019-20 Season

Avant Chamber Ballet goes bigger and bolder for its 2019-20 season with an added mixed rep in the fall, its first full-length Nutcracker production and new works and company premieres by George Balanchine and Christopher Wheeldon.
Romeo & Juliet
Avant Chamber Ballet presents Romeo & Juliet. Photo: Dickie Hill.

ACB will open its season in Setpember with Morphoses, a mixed repertoire program featuring Wheeldon’s Morphoses, Katie Cooper’s Sisterhood and a world premiere by Cooper to the famous Brahms Horn Trio. David Cooper, ACB’s musical director and the newly appointed horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, will be lending his talents to the Trio alongside musicals Anastasia Markina and Alexander Kerr.

I will miss Cooper’s clever take on a holiday classic like she had done previous years with A Ballet Christmas Carol and Little Match Girl Passion, but I am eager to see how she manages her first full-length Nutcracker. With choreography by local ballet legend Paul Mejia and a live orchestra, this Nut is already at the top of my list to see this year.

Mejia’s name appears again on ACB’s February program with his rendition of Romeo & Juliet. The company will also present Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations (a first for the company) in addition to a world premiere collaboration between Cooper and local Composer Quinn Mason. Mason also composed the music for Cooper’s Sisterhood.

The program I am most looking forward to is ACB’s Beauty and Beyond in April because of these three names: Cooper, Kimi Nikaidoh and Jennifer Mabus. Their voices and disciplines may be different, but I feel they share a common thread when it comes to storytelling and choreographic intent. Can’t wait to see what they do!

You can view the full press release below:

NEWS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Email: info@avantchamberballet.org

AVANT CHAMBER BALLET ANNOUNCES 2019-20 SEASON

DALLAS, TX (June 25, 2019)

Avant Chamber Ballet’s artistic director Katie Cooper and music director David Cooper announce the company’s 2019-20 season, featuring four subscription productions at Moody Performance Hall in the Dallas Arts District and the return of the Family Saturdays series. The season includes four world premieres by choreographers Katie Cooper, Kimi Nikaidoh, Jennifer Mabus, as well as five company premieres by Paul Mejia, Christopher Wheeldon, and George Balanchine. “This season is an incredible expansion for us in so many ways,” says Katie Cooper. “We are adding a fall mixed repertoire program and for the first time presenting a full-length Nutcracker with live music!”

The subscription season opens with Morphoses in September, a mixed repertoire program of three ballets: Christopher Wheeldon’s Morphoses, Katie Cooper’s Sisterhood and a world premiere by Katie Cooper to the famous Brahms Horn Trio. The Trio will be performed by internationally known musicians Anastasia Markina (piano), Alexander Kerr (concertmaster of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra) and David Cooper (principal horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra).

In December, Avant Chamber Ballet presents a full-length production of The  Nutcracker for the first time designed and choreographed by Paul Mejia with live orchestra accompaniment conducted by Brad Cawyer. This holiday classic is designed to take the whole family on a magical trip to the Land of Sweets through Clara’s eyes with Tchaikovsky’s rich score and ACB’s professional production.

Paul Mejia’s romantic and tragic Romeo & Juliet is the perfect way to celebrate Valentine’s Day. The performance features live music which brings the famous Tchaikovsky score and this timeless story to life. Opening the performance is George Balanchine’s beloved Raymonda Variations (company premiere) which celebrates the beauty of classical ballet and the sparkling score by Glazunov.  Next is a world premiere collaboration between ACB director Katie Cooper and local composer Quinn Mason. The ballet marks the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote and is inspired by the women who made it happen. Also featured will be a guest company appearance by Ballet Frontier from Fort Worth.

Closing the season will be Beauty and Beyond featuring four ballets with live music: the company premiere of Christopher Wheeldon’s Five Movements, Three Repeats which includes the famous “This Bitter Earth” pas de deux, world premieres by Kimi Nikaidoh and Jennifer Mabus- commissions of the  2020 Women’s Choreography Project, and Katie Cooper’s staging of  Aurora’s Wedding: Sleeping Beauty Act III.

This season also marks the return of the Family Saturdays Series. This year all four performances are free. The shows are a family-friendly one hour designed to introduce the performing arts to kids of all ages.

Subscriptions go on sale now at TicketDFW.com. Single tickets will go on sale August 1. Subscribers will receive a 40% discount on all four productions.

THE 2019-2020 SEASON OVERVIEW

SUBSCRIPTION SERIES:

Moody Performance Hall, Dallas, TX

 

MORPHOSES

September 7th, 2019, 7:30pm

September 8th 2019, 2:30pm

Morphoses  – Christopher Wheeldon/Ligeti, Company Premiere

Brahms Horn Trio – Katie Cooper/Brahms, World Premiere

Sisterhood – Katie Cooper/Quinn Mason

 

THE NUTCRACKER

December 20th, 2019, 7:30pm

December 21st, 2019, 7:30pm

December 22nd, 2019, 2:30pm

Paul Mejia/Tchaikovsky, Company Premiere

 

ROMEO AND JULIET

February 14-15th, 2020, 7:30pm

Romeo and Juliet – Paul Mejia/Tchaikovsky, Company Premiere

Raymonda Variations – George Balanchine/Glazunov, Company Premiere

New Katie Cooper/Quinn Mason

Guest company Ballet Frontier

 

BEAUTY AND BEYOND

April 17-18th, 2020, 7:30pm

Five Movements, Three Repeats – Christopher Wheeldon/Richter, Company Premiere

Kimi Nikaidoh – Women’s Choreography Project Commission, World Premiere

Jennifer Mabus – Women’s Choreography Project Commission, World Premiere

Aurora’s Wedding: Act 3 Sleeping Beauty – Katie Cooper after Petipa

 

FREE FAMILY SATURDAYS SERIES:

Moody Performance Hall, Dallas, TX

 

Peter and the Wolf

September 7th, 2019, 2:30pm

 

The Nutcracker Suite

December 21st, 2019, 2:30pm

 

I Heart Ballet

February 15th, 2020, 2:30pm

 

Aurora’s Wedding: Sleeping Beauty Act III

April 18th, 2020, 2:30pm

 

Additional performances:

NUTCRACKER: SHORT AND SUITE

November 21, 2019, 7:30pm

White’s Chapel, Southlake, TX

Presented by Apex Arts League

Programming and casting for all productions are subject to change without notice.

Tickets on sale this fall through TICKETDFW.COM

About Avant Chamber Ballet:

Avant Chamber Ballet’s mission is to bring exceptional live dance and chamber music together for audiences in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. Our ensemble of classically trained dancers presents a diverse repertoire of classical and contemporary works from local choreographers, as well as internationally acclaimed artists. Since our inaugural season in 2012, ACB has presented over twenty world premiere ballets. The organization is in its eighth season, and is led by artistic director Katie Cooper and music director David Cooper.

Additional information is available on Avant Chamber Ballet’s website at www.avantchamberballet.org

From Korea With Love

Dark Circles Contemporary Dance preps for its Spring Concert, White Day, inspired by the Korean and Japanese version of Valentine’s Day.

DCCD Dancer Dexter Green. Photo: Sergio Garcia
DCCD Dancer Dexter Green. Photo: Sergio Garcia

Fort Worth — “Remember guys, be gentle,” choreographer Josh Peugh tells his dancers as they take their places at a rehearsal on a sunny February weekend. The seven dancers, including Peugh, begin a series of separate yet interlaced phrases consisting of hand gestures and upper body movements that pitch and arch with the music. Thus begins the first section of Peugh’s new work Marshmallow.

Marshmallow is one of three new works Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (U.S.) will perform at its spring show, White Day, this Thursday through Saturday at the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre in Fort Worth. The show is inspired by the Japanese and Korean holiday White Day, similar to Valentine’s Day, which is celebrated on March 14. Marshmallow is influenced by the fantasy and well-observed humanity of Japanese animé and includes music from the Studio Ghibli filmHowl’s Moving Castle by Japanese animation composer Joe Hisaishi.

As the dancers become more adventurous in their movement they start playing with level changes, speed and locomotion. Peugh’s signature wind-up movement and pretzel-like floor work is present throughout the piece. As the momentum picks up, each dancer fights to sustain the gentleness Peugh is looking for. The dancers accomplish this by filling their bodies with tension and quickly releasing it. Not such an easy task. When the music changes the dancers slowly walk to the front of the stage, pull a marshmallow out of their pocket and eat it. In this moment viewers may be unsure whether to laugh or not. “I definitely want people to laugh when they find something funny,” Peugh says. His comedic flair also pops up in the waltzing section in which men twirl around with the ladies positioned on their shoulders backwards, pelvis and faces inches apart.

Peugh’s duet with company member Jennifer Mabus showcases his softer more romantic tendencies. The couple uses different body parts, including their heads, chests, knees and feet to initiate movement and propel themselves in different directions. The second part of the piece entitled White Day will feature music by Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto and will look at the more intimate and complicated side of the lovers’ holiday.

Afterwards Peugh asks his dancers to tell him what worked and what didn’t. They review the waltzing section where the spacing got a little funky as well as the trio involving Peugh, Jesse Castañeda and Dexter Green. It is obvious Peugh has a clear vision when he says things like, “Don’t collapse in the back cause it kills the energy” and “It should feel like you are pulling the bones of your toes apart.” Peugh’s calm and eloquent tone made for a very positive and focused work environment.

DCCD Guest Choreographer Louis Acquisto. Photo: Courtesy of DCCD
DCCD Guest Choreographer Louis Acquisto. Photo: Courtesy of DCCD

Rounding out the program is a new work from guest choreographer Louis Acquisto called Nemesis Variations. Acquisto is an alumnus of Southern Methodist University and a former dancer with New York City’s Amy Marshall Dance Company. Acquistro and Peugh both have a penchant for gestural phrasing and knee-bruising floor work, but that is where their similarities end. Where Peugh’s Marshmallow feels like a marathon that builds momentum and leaves viewers feeling satisfied, Nemesis Variations feels more like a sprint that leaves viewers breathless. Acquisto’s use of repetition and retrograde adds an obsessive quality to the dancers movement whether it’s fast or slow. And with a timer projected on the background notifying the audience how much time the dancers have left, it’s impossible not to feel stressed. With a grin Acquisto says that is exactly what he is going for. He wants the audience to feel anxious and apprehensive while watching the piece. Get ready!

This feature was originally published on TheaterJones.com.

 

Q&A: Joshua L. Peugh, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance

Joshua Peugh is the co-founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo: Sergio Garcia
Joshua Peugh is the co-founder and artistic director of Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. Photo: Sergio Garcia

The choreographer discusses his new work and the U.S. premiere of his company, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance.

Fort Worth – Choreographer Joshua Peugh is looking to bridge the gap between the East and West with his South Korean-based company, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance (DCCD). The company will be making its U.S. debut Sept. 26-28, 2013 at the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre at the Fort Worth Community Arts Center.

The program will include Peugh’s new work Jjigae and Korean choreographer Dong Hyoung Kim’s new work Fighting Game, as well as a restaging of Cosmic Sword, a piece created for the Breaking Ground Dance Festival in Tempe, Arizona last winter.

After graduating from Southern Methodist University in 2006, Peugh joined the Universal Ballet Company in South Korea where he performed soloist and feature roles in works by Ohad Naharin and Christopher Wheeldon. Peugh returned to Dallas in 2011 to join the Bruce Wood Dance Project as associate choreographer. Today he is an adjunct professor at SMU as well as the artistic director for DCCD. Since its inception three-and-a-half years ago DCCD has produced 17 award-winning works and performed in five countries.

TheaterJones ask Joshua Peugh about the motivation for starting the U.S. branch of his company, the inspiration behind his new piece Jjigae and what it’s like working in the Dallas arts scene.

TheaterJones: When did you decide it was time to bring Dark Circles Contemporary Dance to the U.S.?

Joshua Peugh: It was always the plan to have a U.S. branch of the company, but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. After leaving the Bruce Wood Dance Project five months ago things just kind of fell into place. A lot of doors opened and here we are a few days before the company’s premiere in the States. We have this whole different group of dancers and two brand new works so it is really exciting.

Why did you choose North Texas for your company’s debut?

I didn’t think our first appearance would happen in Dallas, but the more time I’ve spent here and invested in the dance community it just felt right. It’s a really exciting time to be working in Dallas what with all the new spaces downtown and the dance community in general. I am also connected to Booker T. Washington, Southern Methodist University and the Dance Council [of North Texas] so it just feels natural to have the performance here. You know, if Bruce hadn’t seen my work I wouldn’t have come over here in the first place. But because people had seen my work in his concert last summer everyone is really curious about what it is I am doing now. I am very excited and very thankful for people being so curious about what we do.

How did you select your dancers?

Well, last winter Jennifer Mabus and I created a new work for the Breaking Ground Dance Festival in Tempe, Arizona. We started working on it and decided it needed a third dancer, Jesse Castaneda. He is a beautiful folklórico dancer, but he is also a B-boy. This kid loves to move, has a natural quality and is just really curious. The other dancers are students of mine from SMU and Booker T. So, we have quite a huge spectrum of ages and experiences. They are all very professional in the way they work and they are all passionate about moving. That is ultimately what I am looking for in a dancer. So, to answer your question I hand selected all of these people. These are people who I have worked with or seen in class that made me curious and inspired me. It’s a really special chemistry we have right now which is fortunate. Ultimately, in our 3-to-5-year plan I would like to be able to offer the dancers a full-time contract so we can keep some of that talent here in Dallas. The only way we are going to be able to keep people around is to be able to offer them work that will sustain them.

What was the inspiration for your new work, Jjigae?

 Jjigae depicts Peugh's struggle to asslimate himself between two cultures.
Jjigae depicts Peugh’s struggle to assimilate himself into two cultures. Photo: Sergio Gracia

It’s about me trying to figure out what I am doing back in the States after having lived in Korea for five and a half years. It’s about me trying to assimilate myself into these two cultures. When I came back the press was being really nosy about North Korea so when you said Korea to people their immediate response was ‘Oh, the bad Korea?’ And those people who experienced the war in 1953 have a very different idea of what Korea is and that is not the Korea I spent five and a half years in. It has this beautiful and rich culture that I am really connected to emotionally.

Anyway, we are using traditional Korean folk music mixed with drum line music. So, it’s kind of this interesting balance between the two. I am also trying to connect American culture and idealism with foreign cultures and perceptions. It’s a hugely personal piece for me and it’s not particularly light which is going to surprise some people.

Can you tell me about the other pieces on the program?

Sure! One is the restaging of Cosmic Sword which is the piece that Jennifer Mabus, Jesse Castaneda and I did in Tempe, Arizona. The other piece on the program is Dong Hyoung Kim’s new work called Fighting Game. It’s four girls and a guy and it’s about the relationships we have with ourselves and other people. He’s a really beautiful and curious choreographer. He comes up with really interesting stuff.

Who is your target audience?

I am interested in creating work for a younger audience between the ages of 20 and 34. When we did performances in Korea the audience was mostly young professionals and students. I think part of that is because the kind of work that we are doing is more interesting to a younger crowd. I am hoping by using students who are active in the community we can build a younger base. We are doing our PR almost exclusively on social media and then we go around and put up posters in the trendy parts of town. As a society we want to be connected all the time through Facebook and Twitter, but I’m hoping we can connect people back to their humanity through movement. I think people are excited about that.

 Why did you choose the Hardy and Betty Sanders Theatre for your venue?

I chose a smaller venue on purpose. I’m hoping by working in smaller, more intimate spaces that we can get people feeling more connected to the work. And I think in a smaller space it’s a little easier for the audience to focus on what’s happening.

 What would you like the audience to take away from your performance?

I have never been interested in providing answers. I want people to leave with questions. The beautiful thing about being human is being curious about those answers, but not necessarily needing to have one.

This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.