While most use the summer for rest and relaxation, many dancers utilize this time to enhance their training and explore the many facets of the ever-growing and evolving world of dance. These dancers look to participate in intensives, where they are given the opportunity to train with professional dance companies and learn choreography from the company’s current collection of works. Chicago is an ideal destination for these dancers, especially since it is bursting with a number of diverse, distinct, and accomplished dance companies and artists eager to share their insights and techniques. There is no shortage of dance events, classes, and intensives in The Windy City, but Deeply Rooted Dance Theater offers something distinct and unique as part of their summer programming.
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater’s summer intensive also serves as a creative incubator for the selected choreographers.
Like many summer programs, Deeply Rooted’s four-week summer intensive offers technique classes and gives participants the opportunity to learn, rehearse, and perform select pieces of DRDT repertory (this year’s repertory selections include works by DRDT Co-Founder & Associate Artistic/Production Director Gary Abbott and Dance Education/Lead Rehearsal Director Nicole Clarke-Springer). But here’s what makes this program special: in addition to technique and repertory, select summer scholarship awardees are invited for an additional two-week process prior to the intensive to participate in the creative process of up-and-coming choreographers. These choreographic works are then presented in the intensive’s culminating performance in a feature called the Emerging Choreographers Showcase. In this way, DRDT’s summer intensive also serves as a creative incubator for the selected choreographers. In conjunction with sharing a program with some of DRDT’s most accomplished choreographers and most beloved works, the emerging choreographers are also given access to the many tools they need to reach their choreographic vision including rehearsal space, a cast of talented dancers, and administrative support.
Recently, DancerMusic’s Kristi Licera caught up with Emerging Choreographers’ Showcase Producing Director Joshua Ishmon to learn more about the showcase and the choreographers involved. Here’s what Joshua told us:
The Emerging Choreographers Showcase gives these brilliantly growing choreographers the opportunity to have a process that challenges and opens them up to varying approaches to exploring their creativity, and exposes dancers to the next generation of dance makers as they come into themselves.
My goal every year is for the choreographers to feel like they’re deepening a work as opposed to just regurgitating.
Kristi: Since its inception seven years ago, you have acted as the Producing Director of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater’s Emerging Choreographers Showcase (also referred to as ECS), where DRDT apprentices perform alongside scholarship awardees from the summer intensive. Can you give us some insight into the history and evolution of this project, as well as how the process is structured?
Joshua: The ECS originally started as a passion project inspired by how often I was told that I needed more choreographic experiences with professional level dancers. At that time there weren’t many programs that facilitated rehearsal space, dancers, coaching, theater time, technical and marketing support at minimal to no cost to aspiring choreographers. Deeply Rooted empowered me to create this opportunity for myself and others facing similar challenges. Along with my partner at the time, Adriene Barber-Hodge, we founded this program and it ran as an independent project from 2012-2015. In 2016, Adriene stepped down as Project Manager and the position was taken up and is still helmed by Justin P. Clarke.
That same year, we decided to shift the focus of the program toward training by having it absorbed by Deeply Rooted’s Summer Intensive. The dancer ensemble would continue to be comprised of the companies apprentices with apprentice level scholarship students coming to participate in the intensive. Also, instead of an 8-10 week season, the ECS process would scale down to the two weeks preceding the summer intensive, then feed into it. This provides the dancers with a more intimate process that empowers them to be leading figures among the rest of the dancers in the intensive. The choreographers are each given a week to reset and investigate new directions for their work, with the goal of meeting a joint vision (agreed upon between they and I) for its new debut. My goal every year is for the choreographers to feel like they’re deepening a work as opposed to just regurgitating.
I started the “Emerging Choreographers Showcase” to help brilliantly growing choreographers get their work seen.
Kristi: The showcase features the work of three emerging choreographers, including yourself, alongside select DRDT repertory works that the summer intensive participants have been learning and rehearsing. Can you tell us more about yourself, your fellow dance creators and give us some insight to their works?
Joshua: I am from Gary, IN but have lived in Chicago for nearly a decade. I studied dance at Emerson School for Visual and Performing Arts and joined Deeply Rooted’s second company right after high school to continue my training. More than eleven years later, I’m now one of the company’s Rehearsal Directors, am part of the Associate Artistic Team, and am a Senior Company Member. As stated earlier, I started the ECS to help brilliantly growing choreographers get their work seen. ECS gives these brilliantly growing choreographers the opportunity to have a process that challenges and opens them up to varying approaches to exploring their creativity, and exposes dancers to the next generation of dance makers as they come into themselves.
The young dance makers chosen for the 2018 Emerging Choreographers were Kamali Hill and Christopher Page-Sanders.
Kamali’s work, “Never Was There a People” is inspired by Isabel Wilkerson’s book, “The Warmth of Other Suns.” It takes a peek at the individual and communal relationships of African American people during the Great Depression in the era of the Great Migration. Kamali is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, originally from Washington D.C., but is currently living in Atlanta. She has worked with Dissonance Dance Theater in Washington D.C., Fuerta Dance Company in Atlanta and has presented work at the Roger Lee Black History Showcase in Philadelphia and the Rialto Dance Center in Atlanta.
Chris’s piece “Conversations: Gratitude” is an excerpt of a larger work that we agreed could definitely stand on its own. It was originally submitted as a solo that acts as a conversation with God about thankfulness and gratitude. I enjoyed the work but felt casting a small ensemble would transform the work for the better. We agreed on Chris exploring the work as a quartet instead of a solo. He beautifully evolved the work to use the musicality of the movement to serve as a conversation betwixt the dancers instead of a conversation between the soloist and God. Chris is originally from St. Louis and a graduate of the University of Missouri-Kansas City. He has danced for many prestigious organizations such as Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble and Wylliams/Henry Contemporary Dance Company. He is also a Co-Founder and Co-Artistic Director of Nu-World Contemporary Danse Theatre.
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater presents its 2018 Summer Intensive Performance featuring the Emerging Choreographers Showcase Friday, July 20 and Saturday, July 21, both evenings at 7:30pm at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts (915 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637). Tickets are available via Eventbrite.
Learn more about the performance by visiting deeplyrooteddancetheater.org/events or by visiting DRDT’s Emerging Choreographers Showcase Facebook Page.
Photo Credits: Feature Image and Images 1 & 3 courtesy of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater • Image 2 by Ken Carl • DANCER IDs: Feature Image – L: Nina-Rose Wardanian, Under: William Roberson, Above: Rebekah Kuczma • Image 1 – William Roberson • Image 2 (L-R) – Rebekah Kuczma, Nina-Rose Wardanian • Image 3 – William Roberson