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An interview with Anne-Marie Mulgrew of Anne-Marie Mulgrew and Dancers Co about their upcoming performance "Le Dada Va Gaga Dans 2011" at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA)

by Robert Abrams
March 28, 2011
The Rotunda
4014 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Featured Dance Company:

Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA)
PIFA (office)
Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Attn: PIFA Festival
260 S. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102
215-546-PIFA
www.pifa.org

The Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) is a sponsor of ExploreDance.com.

Le Dada Va Gaga Dans 2011 will be performed April 29, April 30 and May 1, 2011. Tickets are $10 to $15 each.
Robert Abrams: What is your role in the show?

Anne-Marie Mulgrew: Concept, direction, choreography (sections in collaboration with the dancers) and I also perform in a few sections.

RA: Please describe the performance you will present at PIFA.

AMM: Le Dada is a site-specific interdisciplinary work for nine performers set to an eclectic score of French music, classical, pop and assorted sounds. Le Dada is a joint celebration of my company's 25th Anniversary and the 100th Anniversary of the Rotunda Building in conjunction with The Kimmel Center's PIFA Festival. The star of the work is the actual building designed by architects Carrere and Hastings (of New York Public Library fame). The goal is to bring new awareness to its architecture and history (high ceilings, domed roof, wrought iron railings, floor to ceiling windows, altar space, choir loft, raked wood floor, archways, natural light and chandeliers). It was an active place of worship until 1996 as a First Church of Christ Scientist founded by Mary Baker Eddy.

The production features a dozen short vignettes. The piece begins outside with an 11-minute prelude (weather permitting). This section features the stilt walker in a white costume and six dancers in long blue coats moving through the courtyard space culminating with the dancers clinging, draping and building structures using the outside Church doors as a frame/set. The audience is led inside by the stilt walker to enjoy a series of short dances that explore the space which include dancers interacting with the walls and wrought iron railings. There is a solo (busker-like-dance*) on a ledge and a group dance using a pew as a set. There will be installations such as a box-like structure with peep holes with back projections loosely inspired by Duchamp's Etants Donnes and a skirted 10 foot ladder with a dancer on top and another underneath (me) who performs a dance with two 6 foot PVC sticks. There will be wall projections and a dancer interacting with the projected image. Throughout the work, there is a woman in the choir loft wearing a "lighted" hat who drops Kleenexes from the choir rail throughout the entire work. Due to License and Inspection regulations there will also be six fire marshalls posted throughout the space possibly wearing red berets and interacting with the performers/audience. Video will be projected on the walls and assorted surfaces.

The dance and audience moves from the perimeters of the space into the center of the space. The performers and support personnel personally invite the audience one-on-one or in small groups to be seated in the center space where the pews are arranged in a circular shape by starting a conversation with the audience members containing researched tidbits about the piece that could include the Dadaist movement, the visual and performing artists and their works from 1911 and the building's history.

Once seated, there will five short dances meant to be viewed in the round using the huge fallen chandelier as a set structure. (We fondly refer to them as carousel dances as the dances are often moving in a circular path and performed at close range to the audience.) The work builds to interacting with the chandelier – dancers use it to make sounds and as a percussive instrument for a song which we invite the audience to join in. The work culminates with a celebration dance that encourages the audience to rise from their seats and join the dancers/performers to the black box space in the rear of the building for cake, and conversation.

About the fallen chandelier: Well the space is a tad decaying. The building belongs to University of Pennsylvania. It is only used a few times a year and it is up to the producer/presenter to get the paperwork in place. What happened is that the main gorgeous chandelier under the center dome in the 100 foot ceiling was taken down. (Perhaps faulty wiring, or it may have been taken down rather than have it fall and ruin more of the property.) It is very heavy and beautiful. Rather than negotiate a way to move it, we decided to use it as a sculpture - it is about six feet all around and has some glass lighting fixtures that we are hoping to fill with battery operated candles. It is located in the dead center of the space, hard to avoid so we decided to embrace it. There are also several smaller chandelier structures in true Cathedral/Church style still suspended from the ceiling.

RA: Have you collaborated with anyone to create your PIFA presentation?

AMM: Yes

RA: Who have you collaborated with to create your PIFA presentation?

AMM: Collaborators are Carmella-Vassor Johnson (videographer/primary collaborator); Stan Sadowski (photographer/videographer); Brian Strachan (costume designer blue coats and two constructed tall hats inspired by the Eiffel Tower); Gina Renzi (director of the Rotunda who is serving as venue partner); Catherine Lee (technical director) and core company dancers Jacklyn Koch, Sarah Konner, Jodi Obeid, Leslie Ann Pike, Kate Speer and Christine Morano – stilt walker/performer.

RA:What has this collaboration allowed you to achieve that would not have been possible without it?

AMM: Collaborators bring their resources and insights to the creative process. For instance, Carmella is creating video components and the box-like structure. Stan is videotaping the process, shooting promo images and making a 25 year retrospective video. Brian is creating the two tall hats for a short chandelier duet and created the blue coats for an earlier work. The dancers collaborate throughout with their suggestions/feedback and movements. Catherine brings her technical prowess as to how to focus the space and how each specific dance can be more readable for the audience. Gina is instrumental in providing not only knowledge of the space but sound equipment, lights, piping/draping, video projector, promoting the show to Rotunda audiences and some staffing. I designed the lighted white hat, stilt costume and skirted ladder installation and serve as artistic director, choreographer.

It is the gestalt of the creative energies and expertise that will make the production a success. We (Carmella, Gina and myself) have been brainstorming and researching for a year. Carmella and I have been collaborating since 2001 which began during a month long residency at The Yard, Martha's Vineyard. We have created numerous dance for Camera projects, works for alternative spaces such as Three Ladies in Waiting, The Lemon Lady and most recently the full-length work, SALT (2009).

Le Dada is an ambitious project. The audience is also a collaborator as we invite them to participate by following the action through the space.

Collaborations make each of us think in different ways and to embrace subject matter we may not have previous thought about so we are always growing, learning, taking-risks and evolving.

RA: In your art that you are presenting at PIFA, what is unexpected?

[There will be plenty of unexpected elements in Le Dada, but some of them are spoilers which we are not going to reveal here. Get a ticket and see for yourself.]

RA: What is "new" about the art you are presenting at PIFA?

AMM: How does one define new? The work (a world premiere) has never been done before but it is inspired by centuries of art that has come before. The newness is in the context, the whimsical title, the site and the production. We are trying some new ideas - the repetitiveness of the lighted lady, female stilt walker as MC/narrator, whimsical costumes, familiar Parisian music, accessibility (the work is for people of all ages), crowd control and audience interaction.

RA: What is the connection between your show at PIFA and Paris between 1910 and 1920?

AMM: The point of departure involved researching visual artists and their works in 1911. I was surprised to learn that Picasso and Braque worked together in Ceret, creating works that were very similar as well as reading about Duchamp, his mechanicals and notions that painting was dead. For me, the connection is about collaboration, experimentation and willingness to try new ideas just as the visual artists, choreographers, composers, designers, poets/writers and filmmakers were doing in Paris and elsewhere in the 1910-20's. For me that is the nature of art to explore unfamiliar terrains and bring awareness to what is possible.

We are also using some obvious music connections "La Vie en Rose" Louis Armstrong, "Reve D'Accordordeonise," and Emmanuel Santarromana's "Chinese Bubbles" from Paris Lounge.

RA: If audience members were seeing your PIFA show for the second time, what should they pay special attention to in order to enhance their appreciation of your art?

AMM: I think they may pay more attention to the lighted lady, the beauty and magic of the decaying space, the sounds of the building, the smells, the light and how the production flows through the space. Perhaps, they may get the connections to Paris as an incubator for art and how artists today (like in the past) are always reinventing themselves and challenging themselves to take risks to move forward. As a choreographer, I begin in an empty studio (like a painter facing a blank wall or canvas) and from this emptiness something happens.

RA: Does your art have an activist message?

AMM: For this production, the performers are all-female (in the past there have been the long-standing male dancers) so there may be some gender issues, adopting the female gaze.

RA: What message are you trying to communicate?

AMM: We are trying to communicate to embrace the new and what is possible. To make people pause and think about the site and to be in the moment and enjoy the experience. It is really about art making today and making connections to the world we live in.

RA: Do you work with schools or children?

AMM: Yes, we have participated in 62 residency programs mostly for inner city and rural youth.
Recent highlights include a 40 day residency for Owen J. Roberts School District in Chester County, PA; 20 days at the Reiffton School in Reading, PA, 20 days at Stafford MS, Manahawkin NJ, and monthlong summer SLAM programs (Philadelphia, PA).

RA: Please describe your educational work.

AMM: Residencies involve working with a core group every time and 3-5 introductory lessons with the entire school population. They also could include teacher/ staff development workshops, planning sessions with the team, pre-residency assemblies, student driven productions, choreography set on students, dance exhibitions/displays, lec-dems, master classes and Q & A's. Residencies are tailored to the needs of the site and aspire to involve the school community- teachers, students, parent/guardians, staff, administrators, PTA's etc.

RA: What else would you like people who are thinking about purchasing a ticket to your show to know about your art?

AMM: It is a great deal. Le Dada takes place in a building built in 1911, rarely open to the general public. The work is a world premiere created and performed by some of Philadelphia's finest artists. It uses the festival theme as departure point. There will be stunning visuals, compelling choreography, great music, surprises and unusual staging. It is for audiences of all ages. Come for a fun adventure. Wear comfortable clothes and bring an open mind. It's about whimsy, the unexpected and experimentation set in the glorious but aging sanctuary space. In addition to the performance, there is a cake and conversation with the artists all for $10-$15 a ticket.

To purchase a ticket to this show, go to www.pifa.org/events/980190987.
To purchase tickets to all PIFA dance events, go to www.pifa.org/events?bucket_id=1.
For more information about Anne-Marie Mulgrew and Dancers Co, go to www.annemariemulgrewdancersco.org.
To follow PIFA on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/PIFAPhilly.
To "Like" PIFA on FaceBook, go to www.facebook.com/PIFA.Philly.



* A busker is a street performer who works the audience usually for money. They perform in public spaces. Buskers can be musicians, singers, jugglers, dancers … early versions were the minstrels and troubadours.



WHO'S WHO LE DADA VA GAGA DANS 2011

THE COLLABORATORS

ANNE-MARIE MULGREW (collaborator, choreographer, performer) is the Founder/Artistic Director of ANNE-MARIE MULGREW AND DANCERS CO., (AMM & DCO), an experimental modern dance company founded in 1986. For the company, she has created 60 major works that have appeared on traditional concert stages, festivals, alternative venues, unusual places, museums and film in the United States and Canada. In the Spring 2001, under her direction, AMM & DCO was selected for a prestigious month long artist-in-the schools residency at The Yard, Chilmark, MA. Anne-Marie is the recipient of the Temple University Fellow Award, Stella Moore Dance Award, two Woo Awards from The Leeway Foundation, a PA Council Fellowship and a Philadelphia Fringe Rocky. Under her direction, AMM & DCO has received numerous grants and commissions, notably from WHYY, Channel 12 TV, funded by PEW, to create a video that aired nationally, a commission from the Friends of the Rodin Museum, a 2002 commission for a new work instigated by Mahler's music and a commission to create the "Opening Dance" for the 10th Enterprise Awards ceremony attended by Governor Rendell. Anne-Marie holds a BS in Ed and an MFA in Dance from Temple University where she was adjunct faculty for five years. Anne-Marie has also served as dance faculty for Penn State University, The College of NJ, and University City Arts League. She has performed in special projects with internationally known artists - Kei Takei, Wendy Perron, Stephan Koplowitz, Bridgman/Packer and London's Royal Ballet. She was a featured actress for Jonas dos Santos' Lila Wallace Digest documentary, appeared in Robert Palumbo's feature film Fallout, was the subject of a thirty minute documentary Creativity produced by and aired on Comcast Cable TV and was an extra for Night Shamalyan's film The Last Airbender. Anne-Marie was selected from a national pool to attend the first Choreography for the Screen program at The School of Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Beckett MA in 2003.

CARMELLA VASSOR-JOHNSON (videographer-collaborator) is recognized for her documentaries on Philadelphia dance artists such as Philadanco's Joan Myers Brown ("Standing at the Edge: We Dance") and PureMovement's Rennie Harris ("Endangered Species"). In 1999, she was awarded a Dance Media Fellowship at UCLA, as part of the PEW funded National Initiative to Preserve America's Dance (NIPAD). Her local production company Wild Child Productions produced, "Creating Across Cultures" a documentary on the Asia Pacific Performance Exchange and documents dance concerts for local and national artists. In 2001, Carmella collaborated with Jawole Zoller and Urban Bush Women on "Hair Stories" through special residencies at Jacob's Pillow and Atlanta Arts Center. She was the resident videographer for Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival where she produced Video Journals, half-hour documentary/performance videos distributed to the educational community. During her professional dance career, she performed with Philadanco, Philadelphia Civic Ballet and AMM & DCO. Since 1998, Carmella and Anne-Marie have collaborated on numerous dance for camera and experimental video works.

STAN SADOWSKI, photographer/video artist, collaborator graduated from Temple University's School of Communication and Film. His work has appeared at the Wilma Theater, Walnut Theater and Philadelphia Shakespeare Festival. Currently, he is working on the Robinson Freedenthal documentation project. He has worked on special projects with AMM & DCO since 1994.

BRIAN STRACHAN (Costume Designer) is the Costume Shop Manager for Delaware Theatre Company, and former costume director for the University of the Arts Dance Department. Brian has designed costumes for The Philadelphia Shakespeare Theater, Lantern Theater, Ego Po Theater Company, The Upper Darby Performing Arts Center, Montgomery Theater, The Idiopathic Ridiculopathy Consortium, New City Stage, AMM & DCO, Sharp Dance Company, City of Maples Repertory Theater, Ursinus College, Temple University, and Burlington County Community College as well as many other dance companies and theaters in the country. Brian holds a B.A. in Dance from Point Park College in Pittsburgh, PA and a B.A. in Art from the University of Maine in Orono, Maine. He also has a M.F.A. in costume design from Temple University, Philadelphia, PA.

CATHERINE LEE (Lighting Designer, Technical Director), is the resident designer for Jeanne Ruddy Dance/The Performance Garage and Kun-Yang Lin Dancers. New to Philadelphia, she has worked extensively with NY theater artists, choreographers, and opera. Her designs have appeared at traditional theaters and alternative venues worldwide.

THE DANCERS
JACKLYN KOCH, dancer, is the co-artistic director and choreographer for modern dance collective Pink Hair Affair. She graduated from University of the Arts with a BFA in Modern Dance and is a registered adult and children's yoga instructor. She has studied with and performed works by Merce Cunningham in NYC, Brian Sanders, Curt Haworth, Silvana Cardell, Manfred Fischbeck, and Merian Soto. Jacklyn's choreography has been shown in the Philadelphia Fringe Festival 2007-2009, Rocky Awards, Mascher Space Cooperative, Philadelphia School of Circus Arts, and Arte Femenino in Panama City, Panama. During the 2009 Philadelphia Fringe Festival she directed Pink Hair Affair's magical show POOF! at The Fidget Space. She has also trained in circus aerial skills with Karen Furhman, Serenity Smith Forchion, Shana Kennedy, Gemma Palomar, at Airplay Studio, La Casona Panama, and Philadelphia School of Circus Arts. Recently, she has studied dance with Bastardproduktion, Nana+na Colectivo de Danza, La Tribu Performance, and Estudio Nuboso in Panama City, Panama. Jacklyn made her debut with AMM & DCO at The Dumbo Festival, Brooklyn NY.

SARAH KONNER, dancer, received a BFA in Dance and a BS in Environmental Science from the University of Michigan. Sarah just moved to Philadelphia, performing and presenting new work at various venues in New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. This past May, Sarah performed an original duet at the National Gala for the ACDFA at the Kennedy Center. In addition to her own choreography, Sarah has performed major works by Laura Dean, William Forsythe, Amy Chavasse, Michael Miller, and Paul Taylor. She has studied and performed improvisation with Amy Chavasse, Ishmael Houston-Jones, and David Brick, as well as other peer collaborators. In addition to her dance training she is certified in both Pilates and Yoga and teaches regularly. Sarah is a co-founder of Bedlum Dance Collective and has made numerous original works of choreography, including multi-media collaborative projects. Le Dada marks Sarah's debut with AMM & DCO.

CHRISTINE MORANO (stilt walker/dancer) After graduating college with a B.S. in Biology and a B.A. in Dance in 2008, Christine followed a trail of images which led her to discover aerial arts. She began her aerial training at Frequent Flyers Aerial Dance Festival and workshops at the New England Center for Circus Arts. She teaches at the Philadelphia School of Circus, performs with the Give and Take Jugglers and freelances at commercial and concert events.

JODI OBEID is a performer, dance maker, and dance educator. She is obsessed with the investigation of movement of all kinds. Since her arrival in Philadelphia three years ago, her choreography has been presented at the Painted BrideTheater, Mascher Space InFlux, for the CEC New Edge Mix, and for Stadium/Praxis Puppet performance practicum. Jodi has been a guest choreographer at both West Chester and Rowan University. She has performed the work of Michelle Stortz- Ring Dance Theater, and Jaamil Kosoko- Kosoko Performance Group, Junction Dance Theater, SCRAP Performance Group, and Anonymous Bodies. Jodi has shown work and performed in Washington DC, North Carolina, Toronto, and Belgium. Jodi received a BA in Modern Dance and French from Goucher College and a Certificate in French Theater and Culture from the Sorbonne University. She earned her MA in Dance Education from the American University. She is currently on faculty at Rowan and Drexel Universities. This is her second season with AMM & DCO.

LESLIE ANN PIKE, dancer, started her dance training at age 2. In 2005, she graduated with a B.A. in Dance from DeSales University in Allentown, PA. While at DeSales she studied under Trinnette Singleton, Vincent Brousseau and Lynne Mariani and was a member of the DeSales University Touring Company. Before graduating she joined BosmaDance of Washington, DC. Leslie Ann has performed with Mary LaBianca, Serendipity Dance Ensemble, Re-Cored Dance Co., Eng & Friends Dance Co. and Alchemy Dance Co. This is her third season performing with AMM & DCO.

KATE SPEER'S work ranges from performance and choreography to research scholarship. She holds a BA in dance and biology from Swarthmore College and has studied with such artists as David Dorfman, Michael Foley, Robert Een, Odile Duboc, Leah Stein, and Lisa Kraus. Speer is a member of Philly Contact Collective, a 2009-2010 New Edge Mix Artist, and an artist-in-residence at Mascher Space Co-op. In Philadelphia, she has performed in the 2009 Philly Fringe, Please Touch Museum's Dancing Days, the first annual GLBT Arts Festival, and Willi Dorner's bodies in urban spaces in the 2008 Live Arts Festival. Speer has presented research at Dance Under Construction XI Conference and will be presenting at the 33rd SDHS conference at the University of Surrey, UK. Her own choreography has been presented at Current Series, ETC Performance Series and React/Dance's South Philly Salon. This is Kate's third season with AMM & DCO.

Photo © & courtesy of Stan Sadowski


Photo © & courtesy of Stan Sadowski

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