7. HORSES / If Wishes Were Horses (2014-2016)

Role: Performer, Producer.  Description: I commissioned HORSES  from ALTERNATIVA/Kathleen Hermesdorf +Albert Mathias by writing a grant for Bates College Faculty Development Funds. The project brought nine Maine-based dancers and one Rhode Island-based dancer together in an intensive two week residency. As much about strengthening the professional dance community in southern Maine as it was about creating a work, HORSES had a successful run of performances in Portland, Boston, Lewiston, and at the Bates Dance Festival.

Bates Dance Festival Performance, Summer 2015 with 6 performers
Password: BDF_Kathleen

Project Narrative

From March 8-23, 2014, Kathleen Hermesdorf and Albert Mathias, a beloved choreographer/musician duo based in San Francisco (hereafter referred to as ALTERNATIVA) were in a teaching residency in the Bates Department of Theater and Dance.  I applied for Bates Faculty Development Funds to commission a new work from them for local professional dancers.  The 20 minute work, HORSES, was choreographed and musically composed in the evening hours of the teaching residency. It was performed by nine Maine-based professional dancers and one Rhode Island-based dancer in four different venues during the Spring/Summer of 2014 and by a smaller cast at the 2015 Bates Dance Festival.

The original cast spent approximately 20 hours rehearsing together to create HORSES.  Hermesdorf relied heavily on the group to make improvisational and choreographic decisions both within the studio process and in the performance.  This meant deep collaboration and bonding for the cast.

As the producer, I was responsible for gathering and scheduling the cast and space, and for organizing, advertising, and fund-raising for the premier performance at SPACE gallery.  It was challenging, but rewarding, to gather the twelve professional artists for rehearsals and performances.

The master schedule for the ALTERNATIVA residency
The master schedule for the ALTERNATIVA residency

HORSES at the Bates College Spring Dance Concert with the original cast.

 

Professional connections among the cast members were made that continue to play out. For example, Katsuyoshi and Oulette both guest taught at Bates following the residency, and Dilley and I were invited by cast member Charlotte Griffin to perform at Bowdoin College. Several cast members were invited to teach and show works in progress at 95 Empire, a Providence, Rhode Island venue run by cast member, Betsy Miller. I cast several of the HORSES performers in We Build Excitement (2014).

We also strengthened professional connections with theaters such as SPACE Gallery and The Dance Complex in Boston.  Our SPACE Gallery show was nearly sold out.  Since this event, the owner of the gallery has been extremely supportive of dance events in his venue. His commissioning my most recent collaboration with Jesse Sugarman at SPACE in October, 2014 and his support of a bi-monthly professional choreography group at SPACE are in part results of the ALTERNATIVA project.

Hermesdorf continued to work on the choreography at residencies around the US and Europe in 2014-15.

Laura Faure invited ALTERNATIVA to revise the HORSES for performance at the Different Voices showcase concert at the 2015 Bates Dance Festival.  Due to financial limitations, a smaller cast of 6 engaged in a week-long rehearsal intensive at the festival to revise the work, which was presented as If Wishes Were Horses.

In addition to the aesthetic value of the work to the approximately 500 people who saw HORSES, these performances create an identity for Bates and southern Maine as a place where experimental dance is blossoming.

 

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Performance as Research

This project added to my understanding of the role of the professional dancer in the choreographic process.  Unlike recent projects such as Avalanche, which developed over two years and was theatrically driven, the process of working on HORSES was compressed, high pressure, and physically driven.  It required both soloist and group improvisational thinking, quick choreographic choice making, and accurate execution of athletic dance phrases and partnering sequences.  The opportunity to stretch and grow techniques I had learned in the process of making Avalanche with a new cast and director was invaluable. I left the process with a much more well-rounded understanding of group improvisation, which I apply to my teaching and performances.

Additionally, performing with a live musician–especially one of Mathias’ caliber –is an unfortunately rare occurrence.  Mathias subtly, yet powerfully shifts the sense of energy and space on stage with his loops, electric tabla, and sound effects, responding differently to performers every night.   This experience informs my composition teaching and teaching collaborations with the talented musicians in the Bates community, including Bill Matthews and Shamou.

 

 

Details

HORSES (2014)

Choreographer: Kathleen Hermesdorf with dancers
Music: Original music created during the development process by Albert Mathias
Dancers: Rachel Boggia (Bates), Carol Dilley (Bates), Charlaine Katsuyoshi (Denmark, ME), Meredith Lyons (Bates), Audrey Ouellette (Auburn), Annie Kloppenberg (Colby), Betsy Miller (Providence, RI), Jessamyn Schmidt (South Portland), Charlotte Griffin (Bowdoin), Amanda Hamp (Colby)

Performances

  •  SPACE Gallery. Portland, Maine. March 21, 2014.
  • Bates College Spring Dance Concert. Schaeffer Theatre. Lewiston, Maine March 29­30, 2014.
  •  Women@Work. Evening Length Showcase The Dance Complex. Boston, MA. May 16­17, 2014.
  •  First Friday Portland. A production of the Bates Dance Festival at the Portland Public Library. Portland, Maine. June 6, 2014

If Wishes Were Horses (2015)

Choreographer: Kathleen Hermesdorf with dancers
Music: Original music created during the development process by Albert Mathias
Dancers: Rachel Boggia (Bates), Carol Dilley (Bates), Meredith Lyons (Bates), Annie Kloppenberg (Colby), Betsy Miller (Providence, RI), Amanda Hamp (Colby)

Performances

  •  Bates Dance Festival Different Voices Concert. Lewiston, Maine. August 6 and 7, 2015.

 

  • Boston Dance Complex Spring 2016.

 

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