The greater the risk, the greater the reward. It’s a saying heard time and time again to incentivize and inspire us to take our goals and aspirations to the next level — to push ourselves out of our comfort zones in hopes of gaining something more. And while tangible rewards are welcome, the greatest and most valuable rewards often come to us in the form of lessons learned along the way (after all, it’s about the journey, not the destination, right?). It is in those moments of risk-taking that we learn the depth of our strength, use that strength to fuel our confidence and use that confidence to move boldly forward.
For the artists at Peckish Rhodes Performing Arts Society (PRPAS), their big risk was to create and self-produce an evening-length dance concert in their inaugural season. If you’re familiar with the world of concert dance and start-up dance companies, then you may very well know that this is no easy task. Evening-length productions demand a certain skill set from the choreographer, a well thought out concept or story line, dancers with the technical and artistic skill to translate that concept or story line, a venue with the appropriate technical capabilities, a marketing campaign, a variety of costuming and appropriate rehearsal time and studio space — all of which require funding. That funding can be difficult to acquire for any dance company, especially one in its infancy that has not yet had a chance to build its connections and its audience.
But PRPAS Founder and Artistic Director Megan Rhodes decided to risk self-producing a production of this nature, and that risk came with rewards and lessons along the way. DancerMusic Dance Editor Kristi Licera recently caught up with Rhodes to see what she learned about her strengths as an Artistic Director and choreographer, about how she used that strength to inspire confidence in herself and her dancers and how that confidence is guiding the company’s future. Here’s what Rhodes told us:
The ensemble represents physical manifestations of fear that are manipulating and controlling the central performer…
“THE LIGHT IS BELOW YOU is focused on the theme of fear and the crippling effects it has on our ability to take action in our daily lives. The ensemble represents physical manifestations of fear that are manipulating and controlling the central performer — Megan Rhodes (Yes, I made myself the lead in my own show for a company that I named after myself).
This show was the first evening-length work that Peckish undertook as a company. The jump from single pieces in festivals to a self-produced evening-length show was huge and a major learning curve for myself and my dancers. We were rehearsing once a week for two hours and trying to create a show that was about an hour long. From a purely mathematical stand point this was a nearly impossible undertaking. I feel like it didn’t all come together until we rehearsed in the theater for the first time. I had such a clear vision for this show from the beginning and I’m so grateful to my dancers for taking a leap of faith and trusting my vision from day one.” –Megan Rhodes
This show was a huge lesson in self-editing and polishing, but I think with any craft you are constantly refining and redefining.
“I love this picture because it represents such a high in the show. It’s essentially a full on dance party that 100% panders to the audience. It’s completely presentational and unapologetic. The dancers Sarah Glover, Taylor Raley and Katherine Stewart had to juggle all of that with a quirkiness and exuberance that isn’t typical in concert work.
It was challenging to take a piece like this and juxtapose it with material that was more serious and emotional. There’s that fine line between variety and confusion. I had to constantly circle back on my overall themes for this show, constantly asking myself, does this serve the story? Will this help the audience understand what I’m trying to say? This show was a huge lesson in self-editing and polishing, but I think with any craft you are constantly refining and redefining.” — Megan Rhodes
We took a lot of risks in this show — audience participation, speaking, improvisation — and at the end of the day that’s what I want from my work: pushing myself, pushing my dancers, pushing my audience.
“I’ve been working towards making more theatrical and interactive work. This show scratched the surface of that and is something I want to delve deeper into in the future. Multiple times during rehearsal for this piece I would just look around and be like “What is this show??” These are professional, classically trained dancers and I’m making them put on a full puppet show. But I think it pays off. We took a lot of risks in this show — audience participation, speaking, improvisation — and at the end of the day that’s what I want from my work: pushing myself, pushing my dancers, pushing my audience.” –Megan Rhodes
Fear is so human. We experience it daily and this show was my way of picking it apart and facing the monsters in my own closet.
“We wanted to take the audience on a journey during the performance and have them experience this emotional change in real time. This show heavily explored the use of humor, but there’s also this underlying darkness. Fear is so human. We experience it daily and this show was my way of picking it apart and facing the monsters in my own closet.
Creating this evening length show was equal parts draining and invigorating. It was a creative push, but also a push for endurance. Staying in the same world without breaking for an hour is exhausting, but I love going to that place. Throughout our upcoming season we are focusing on shorter work and projects with the intention of taking on another evening-length beast in the spring.” — Megan Rhodes
Peckish Rhodes Performing Arts Society will be co-hosting Take Up Space with Moonwater Dance Project November 21-24, 2019 at The Den Theatre ( 1333 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, IL 60622).
The festival celebrates women in dance and features performances by Peckish Rhodes Performing Arts Society, Moonwater Dance Project, 2nd Best Dance Company, Alysia Johnson, Banks Performance Project, Kaitlin Webster, Nicole Lemelin, Abby Stachnick, Cattywampus Dance, Forward. the movement, Hanna Bricston and Hot Crowd.
Tickets to Take Up Space are available via The Den Theatre.
To learn more about Peckish Rhodes Performing Arts Society and additional performances, visit www.peckishrhodes.com.