To get ready for Deeply Rooted Dance's "Reaffirmed / Reimagined" at Chicago's Logan Center, we asked Jacquelyn Smiley Robinson about some of the challenges, opportunities, ideas, experience, and inspiration that make her appointment as Managing Director for Deeply Rooted Productions so promising. Here's what she told us:
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater has long been a leader in Chicago dance, recognized for its impeccable technique, choreography and storytelling abilities. As they enter a new age of leadership with their rotating artistic leadership model, Nicole Clarke-Springer takes the reigns and promises to maintain, nurture and push the company's creative legacy forward. Here's what she told us:
...what happens when you are at the helm of an artistic operation for decades? How do you stay inspired, motivated and fight the burnout? If you happen to be the Artistic Director of a dance company, your responsibilities are monumental and seemingly endless. Those responsibilities are centered around the all-important preservation and growth of the company’s artistic vision, which can mean lending your own choreographic voice to the repertoire. This is in addition to finding other dance makers, both seasoned and up-and-coming, to keep the season’s programming diverse while still functioning in support of the original vision. Then comes curating
Although nobody talks about it very much, courage is an important part of dance. It takes courage to go on stage and perform of course, but it also takes courage to keep facing the reality of imperfection, a reality that in some ways becomes more vivid the more you find the courage to improve. Then there are even more intimidating, more difficult challenges, some of them very frightening, and that's when you need courage just to keep going. Paige Fraser has always done that and more. When she was awarded a Princess Grace Award, when she was named by Dance Magazine to their prestigious 25 to Watch, and all of the other times that her work has been so widely admired, many people might have thought that it was because of her exceptional gifts as a performer, and of course it was. But the only reason anyone ever got to see Paige Fraser's always-impressive performances is because she kept going, even when anyone with less courage might have given up. Fraser has begun to turn more of her attention to choreography, and her latest work is a twenty-five minute piece entitled ASCENSION for Northwestern University. We wanted to hear more from Paige about her work as a choreographer, and especially about ASCENSION, so we asked her to give us an idea of what we'll see in March at Northwestern's Josephine Louis Theater. Here's what she told us:
The person that you are is a sum of all your experiences - good, bad, ugly and everything in between. If you happen to be Deeply Rooted Dance Theater Co-Founder and Associate Artistic Director Gary Abbott, then those experiences also inform the choreographic works that have and continue to receive praise from critics and audiences alike. What does all of this experience have to do with Gary's latest choreographic work, "Parallel Lives," for Deeply Rooted Dance Theater? Well, when we got to talking with Gary, it seems that he had been collecting the pieces of this creative puzzle for some time without realizing what the final picture would be. From deep within his past came the memories of an upbringing in a house of strong women. From his experience choreographing for theater and from his mentors, a deeper understanding of how to use drama and staging effectively to convey his ideas. And from teaching at the university, an unexpected connection with the ballet class pianist that would lead to an original score for the piece. DancerMusic's Kristi Licera caught up with Gary to see how all of these pieces came together to form "Parallel Lives" and to learn more about what's on the program for An Inspired Past, A Jubilant Future. Here's what Gary told us:
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. 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:
After closing their twentieth anniversary with a massively successful series of performances at Chicago's Logan Center (their performance of Fana Tshabalala's INDUMBA was named Dance of the Year by the Chicago Tribune's Lauren Warnecke), Deeply Rooted Dance Theater is already right back at it. They're performing at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts on Friday, February 24 at 7:30pm in a program entitled "Looking To The Future". The program includes works by Kevin Iega Jeff ("Church of Nations" and "In a Child's Eye"), Gary Abbott ("Desire"), and by Nicole Clarke-Springer. Clarke-Springer's "Femme" was featured, and widely admired, in Deeply Rooted's Twentieth Anniversary concerts, but their "Looking To The Future" presentation at the North Shore Center will also include the World Premiere of her work "Alice". DancerMusic's Johnny Nevin asked Nicole about "Alice", Deeply Rooted, and about what she sees moving forward from here. Here's what Nicole told us ...
As a costume designer, Alex Gordon is increasingly in demand, and the insights he shares with us here about his work for Deeply Rooted Dance Theater show why. It may be just because he is a gifted designer, or it may have much to do with the depth of his perspective as choreographer and performer. In any case, his in-depth thoughts about of the art of costume design offer a rare look into one of the most important and least understood details of successful concert dance.
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater celebrates the end of this monumental season with three performances of Deeply Free: 20th Anniversary Finale - December 8-10 at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts in Chicago. The program features company classics such as Church of Nations, Desire, Surrender, as well as the premiere of INDUMBA, choreographed by South African guest artist Fana Tshabalala. I am blessed to be in this space. They are not just dancers, they are human. This week, DancerMusic's Kristi Licera got a chance to talk to Fana about INDUMBA and his experience with Deeply Rooted. He started off by
Deeply Rooted Dance Theater's Deeply Free performances will include works from two of the artists most closely associated with Deeply Rooted's accomplishments, Dance Education Director Nicole Clarke-Springer's "Femme" and Associate Artistic Director Gary Abbott's "Desire". Here are four closer looks at moments from each of these pieces, with thoughts from the choreographers ---