PRE-View: Alessandra Corona Performing Works at Brooklyn’s Gelsey Kirkland Academy
… in what promises to be a convincing display of Corona’s high-level understanding of the art of collaboration, and of her commitment to presenting this art to her audience.
Alessandra Corona Performing Works is the New York based company that Alessandra Corona founded in 2012, building on a widely successful performance career. That career included rigorous training in her native Italy, a dozen years as principal dancer with Ballet Hispanico, and a broad range of dance and theater accomplishments, and it continues with her performances as part of ACPW. “My goal is to make artistic works that integrate dance, music, theater, video and film arts,” she writes at the Company’s site. “My passion is to create art collaborating with high-level professional artists from different performing art disciplines.”
You can find out just how much Corona means that on December 7th and 8th, if you’re close enough to New York City to get to the Gelsey Kirkland Academy (at 29 Jay Street in Brooklyn) by 8pm. That’s when a pair of premieres by Manuel Vignoulle and Guido Tuveri will be performed by the A Corona dancers, along with a multi-disciplinary gathering of collaborating artists, in what promises to be a convincing display of Corona’s high-level understanding of the art of collaboration, and of her commitment to presenting this art to her audience.
Tuveri’s new work is called Interactions, with choreography he developed with the collaboration of the dancers. “It is a voyage of consciousness and an exploration of relationships without emotional barriers,” is the way the Company describes Interactions, and the work integrates a series of images in randomly projected video clips to suggest additional dimensions to the ideas Tuveri explores.
Manuel Vignoulle will premiere a new work called W2! (Women Too!) and rather than attempt to describe the multidimensional, interdisciplinary imagination that is in store, we asked Vignoulle if he’d give us a little closer look at the work. Here’s what he told us:
How can men and women relate in this new configuration?
Johnny Nevin: Before anything else, congratulations on winning the Grand Prize at the McCallum Theatre Choreography Festival for your work EARTH! It only makes it even more exciting to hear about your newest work W2! (Women Too!), which Alessandra Corona Performing Works will be performing at Brooklyn’s Gelsey Kirkland Arts Center (GKArts) on December 7th and 8th at 8pm. In many ways, this is a very different work from some of your others, but it has that same depth of thought in its construction that we’ve always seen in your choreography. Can you tell us about the ideas that you’re exploring in W2! (Women Too!)? What sorts of thoughts are you weaving into it?
Manuel Vignoulle: The old, familiar social constructs between women and men have been disrupted. Women are tapping into their masculine energy, while men are developing their feminine energy, and this has created a new social context in which a lot of new kinds of behaviour and interaction are being explored. The boundaries that used to define both sexual identity and sexuality have been stretched, and that challenges us to be open to new possibilities, to be willing to ask new questions.
How can men and women relate in this new configuration? How can strong and powerful women still feel feminine, and how can sensitive and vulnerable men can still feel masculine? How can all genders find their own place and feel at peace, and in this process of acceptance, what will be gained, and what will be lost?
W2! looks into the challenges on both sides in this new configuration, and at the modern couple where stereotypes have been modified to create a new balance between one another.
It was all of these questions that brought to me the desire to create a piece about women with a modern man’s point of view. I wanted to explore and revisit some part of the male/female dynamic in history, and then, Inspired by real historical facts, I wanted to weave a kind of historical tapestry where the audience will witness the change in the status of women over time, and the influence it has on men’s behavior.
In W2! I’ve also explored family portraits, and the evolving place of each person in those portraits, including taking a new look at what people call ‘the battle of the sexes’ — sometimes clear and other times more subtle. W2! looks into the challenges on both sides in this new configuration, and at the modern couple where stereotypes have been modified to create a new balance between one another.
When Alessandra suggested hiring an actor, I right away contacted Parris Lewis, a powerful African American woman who is a singer, actor, and writer
Johnny: W2! is very different from some of your other works in several ways, but most especially in its incorporation of a much more theater-like approach. Since this is very much within Alessandra Corona’s vision for her company, can you tell us about the new theatrical and musical dimensions to the work, and about your experience working with this very forward-looking Company?
Manuel: When Alessandra commissioned me to make a new work for A. Corona Performing Works, she was very specific about her vision for her company. Mixing different arts and dance theatre are the two pillars she wants to develop, and I was very excited to explore them, especially because I haven’t really investigated this in my previous works.
I wanted to some to degree to venture into everyone’s privacy, to hear their ideas, and their questions, about freedom in relationship to their own body.
When Alessandra suggested hiring an actor, I right away contacted Parris Lewis, a powerful African American woman who is a singer, actor, and writer with whom I really wanted to collaborate. I discovered her in another show a few years ago, and her strong presence on stage and impressive singing made me think that she would be a perfect addition to this work. Since I wanted the piece to be punctuated by some poetry and spoken words I asked Parris to write two poems based on her reaction on the following texts:
The first was an excerpt from Deuxieme Sexe (Second Sex) by Simone de Beauvoir in 1986: “Women are not, like African Americans, like Jews, a minority; there are as many women as men on earth … Women do not say ” we “…. They have no past, no history, no religion of their own; they do not have, like proletarians, a solidarity of work and interests …. They live scattered among men, attached by habitat, work, economic interests, social condition to certain men — father or husband — more closely than to other women.” This first poem serves as a statement of what was and what still is, right now.
The second one is about the day when Rosa Park refused to surrender her seat to a white passenger on a segregated Montgomery, Alabama bus, which spurred the 381 day Montgomery Bus Boycott that helped launch nationwide efforts to end segregation of public facilities. In this second poem, we focus on the parallels between racial and gender discrimination, at heart with the urge to stop both of them.
There’s a third section of W2! with spoken words that is based on each dancer’s reaction to this quote from Siri Hstvedt: “My body belongs to me, no matter what my sex, you have no rights to my body unless I decide to give it to you. If I give you my body, I do it freely and not because I have to.” This is probably one of the most important statements of the #MeToo movement. In this preamble of the last section, I wanted to some to degree to venture into everyone’s privacy, to hear their ideas, and their questions, about freedom in relationship to their own body.
This allowed me to imagine and suggest ways for each of them to create their own character in W2!, and each of them nourishes the purpose of the piece while balancing each other. They were an awesome group to work with.
The score for W2! is baroque music, which brings you back to “what it was”, to the old format, the old way of thinking. It’s a bit like a scratched disc constantly playing in our heads, an emblem of the dusty rules of our current society, holding us back from exploring and enjoying these changes. But change is inevitable and it’s always better to embrace it. The arrangements by Thomas Lentakis create the mood for the spoken words sections.
We distorted the baroque music, reversing it, twisting things here and there, creating an unexpected melody, symbolizing that something is wrong. Our old beliefs are outdated and they hold us back from welcoming the new, the renewal, the change. Through the suggested spoken words, our minds create new beliefs that free us from the past.
It was a great experience working with A. Corona Performing Works’ members as each of them is really unique. Beyond just their diversity in age and ethnicity, they each have a different temperment, different qualities, and something beautiful that I wanted to explore. This allowed me to imagine and suggest ways for each of them to create their own character in W2!, and each of them nourishes the purpose of the piece while balancing each other. They were an awesome group to work with.
Alessandra Corona Performing Works will perform at Gelsey Kirkland Academy (29 Jay Street Brooklyn, New York 11201) on Friday, December 7th at 8pm and on Saturday, December 8th at 8pm. The performances feature new works by Manuel Vignoulle — W2! (Women Too!) — and by Guido Tuveri and the Company — Inneractions. Tickets are available online from SmartTix.com