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Robert Abrams
Special Focus
The Painted Bride Art Center
Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA)
United States
Philadelphia, PA

An Interview with Amy Harding of Alchemy Dance Company about their upcoming performance "Rite of Passage" at the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA)

by Robert Abrams
March 30, 2011
The Painted Bride Art Center
230 Vine Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106-1293

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

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

Rite of Passage will be performed April 15, April 16 and April 17, 2011. Tickets are $20 each.
Robert Abrams: What is your role in the show?

Amy Harding: My role in the show is creator, choreographer, and artistic director. In collaboration with my assistant director, we have developed the concept behind this piece and I have created the movement and characters that will depict the story.

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

AH: Alchemy will present a world premiere of our new work "Rite of Passage" as well as a revised version of our 2009 piece "Sideshow Noir". Our new dance piece is inspired by the audience reaction to the premiere of Rite of Spring as well as the ballet itself. Rite of Passage takes a quick look at our interactions as ego-driven beings and asks questions like "How do we relate to death?", "How does perception change in the mind's eye?", "What holds us back from moving forward?", and "How does our journey through life affect our transition into after-life?"

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

AH: Yes, I have collaborated with my assistant director, Jonathan Bowles, who is responsible for assisting in concept development in addition to creating all of the original music for this dance and designing most of the costumes.

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

AH: I think this collaboration has allowed us to achieve a level of originality that makes this dance unique. Nobody will have heard this music anywhere before they hear it in the theater. Also, the music and sound design were created specifically for this dance which highlights the feel of each section – everything was created consciously with the idea of how it will all affect the whole show. It isn't just music, it's the sound as well – an electrical zap, a thunder clap, the sound of people whispering. It adds so much more atmosphere than would be possible otherwise. It's a complete work.

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

[Ms. Harding revealed some unexpected elements in the show, but she would prefer they not be revealed beforehand. Go buy a ticket and find out for yourself.]

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

AH: I don't know how "new" it is. It is new and different for me as a choreographer as we are working in the realm of dance theater rather than just dance. We are trying to incorporate sound, costume, lighting, props, and movement to really transform the stage into a new dimension – to immerse people in the experience. People have been doing that for a long time, but for us it is new. Some of our movement is new and different to the company. I have worked in a different way this year, using less unison movement and creating much more individual expression for the dancers even while they dance in groups.

One thing that is very new to us (and is a little bit of a question mark as to how it will work out) is that we are using volunteers to fill our stage at the beginning of the show. They are not dancers, but they will be moving on stage with the rest of the company at the beginning of this dance, and it will be very interesting to see how that works and plays out on stage.

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

AH: Our connection is the inspiration of the dance being the audience reaction to the premiere of Rite of Spring as well as the dance itself. 1910-1920 is not so distant in terms of how people relate to one another, how we behave in certain situations, and the inner issues we continue to deal with as human beings in society. Death is universal to all of us. It is something we all will go through, but something we know little about beyond the physical.

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?

AH: This isn't an easy question to answer. I think they would pay special attention to how the music is not just a background to the dance, but actually is very much a part of the entire performance and see if they could appreciate how the music and movement combine to create the feel of the sections of this dance.

RA: Does your art have an activist message?

AH: I don't know that it's activist, but I believe there are some messages.

RA: What message are you trying to communicate?

AH: There are a few things that this dance seems to have decided to tell…
Fear holds us back – release of fear is the embrace of everything possible.
Death is a transition, not an end.
There is more to existence than what the eye can see.
There are more levels of existence than what we believe to be reality.

RA: Do you work with schools or children?

AH: Yes

RA: Please describe your educational work.

AH: I teach outreach classes on Saturday mornings at the Lansdowne YMCA. They are creative movement classes for ages 3-4 and 4-5, and they focus on teaching basic ballet movements in a creative atmosphere that embraces the imagination of the child.

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

AH: Alchemy is still very much an emerging dance company. We are doing big things on small budgets and very little rehearsal time compared to the bigger companies of this area. I'd like them to consider supporting a smaller company that is growing and creating a name for itself. Give us a chance and you won't be disappointed. Our audiences always respond very positively, we just need more people to know that you get what you pay for when you see us. We have good dancing, we have theater, we have entertainment, and we have art. There's something for everyone.

To purchase a ticket to this show, go to www.pifa.org/events/980190999.
To purchase tickets to all PIFA dance events, go to www.pifa.org/events?bucket_id=1.
For more information about Alchemy Dance Company, go to www.alchemydance.org.
To follow PIFA on Twitter, go to www.twitter.com/PIFAPhilly.
To "Like" PIFA on FaceBook, go to www.facebook.com/PIFA.Philly.
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