It’s hard out there for emerging choreographers. While there are a number of avenues that new dance makers can pursue to show their work, there is a mountain to climb before a given piece of work can hit the stage. Dancers must be cast, studio space rented, rehearsals scheduled, costumes to fit, sound scores to design and the technical capabilities of a theater or performance space to consider. And how do you pay for all of this? These days the choices are slim: pay out of your own pocket, start a fundraising campaign or apply for grants. And that is yet another mountain to climb, especially if you choose the route of grants, as applications tend to be lengthy and there is no guarantee that you will be the one selected to receive the funds.
If you manage to navigate your way through all of the above, there is still the question of where to show what you have worked so hard to create. Should you choose to present and be selected to be part of a festival, your work will be part of a program that features four or more emerging choreographers. Often times there are application and technical theater fees to consider, technical rehearsal time on stage tends to be extremely limited and you risk your work getting lost or poorly placed in the program. An emerging choreographer could also choose to self-produce an evening of their own work, but as someone just beginning their journey into dance making, a new creator may not have the time or funds to create enough work to fill an entire performance, let alone acquire the funding to cover the expenses involved in self-producing.
Luckily, the world of concert dance is brimming with brilliant emerging choreographers, and thanks to the inherent collaborative nature of the art, these emerging choreographers sometimes find the perfect partner to split a production with. That is certainly the case for choreographers Francesca Baron and Kaela Norwood — two up and coming choreographers who are getting ready to present their split-bill, FUSED, at Links Hall on Sunday, November 10, 2019. DancerMusic Dance Editor Kristi Licera recently had the chance to talk to Francesca and Kaela about how they came together, as well as learn more about the works they are presenting. Here’s what they told us:
It felt right to partner with Kaela on this project because we share a similar drive of making meaningful work while being active members in the Chicago dance community.
Kristi Licera: When audiences sit down for a dance concert, it is typically presented in one of the following ways: a dance company presents selections of repertoire or an evening-length work or a festival or similar organization presents single works from various choreographers or companies. More uncommon presentations of dance concerts include split bills, where two artistic entities present their work in one concert, and concerts self-produced by an independent choreographers or artists. The latter is often a huge undertaking, especially for choreographers who are still working to establish themselves. For FUSED, you have essentially combined the two less common presentations to create a split bill self-produced by two independent choreographers. Can you tell us about how and why you chose to come together to create FUSED?
Francesca Baron: Kaela and I met a few years back on a small project we were both a part of. Since then we have kept tabs on one another, each following the other’s journey. It felt right to partner with Kaela on this project because we share a similar drive of making meaningful work while being active members in the Chicago dance community. Kaela originally reached out to me with the idea of doing a split-bill show, and I knew immediately this was something I had to see through.
We are two working professionals that took initiative to create a platform where we can share and have our voices be heard.
Francesca: As an emerging choreographer, I knew that taking part in producing this show was the proverbial “next step” for me. I’ve gained so much knowledge from this experience that I will take with me moving forward, including all the behind the scenes work it takes to put on a show. It would be remiss of me not to give a shout out to Links Hall; through their Linkage program, they have provided us with resources and have been a huge help in assisting with our production needs.
I feel endless pride and gratitude when I look at the work we have done, and I hope that it is received well by our audience. We are two working professionals that took initiative to create a platform where we can share and have our voices be heard. It is our sincere hope that you will join us for an evening of dance and support your local dance makers.
Putting this show together has provided us the ability to be part of our community in a larger way by supporting our community artists who dance as well as write, photograph, design, etc.
Kaela Norwood: In early April of this year, I accepted admission into a graduate studies program and was thrilled to discover that there was an opportunity to create work during our first semester. That same excitement generated numerous thoughts on the patterns of sharing work within the United States, and more specifically the Chicago Dance Community. In most cases, I would have to share work in conjunction with several other artists. That meant risking the integrity of my work and self and being lost to comparison or an over-saturation of artistic voices for the audience to take in at once.
While I am thankful for every opportunity to share my art, I wanted to do something different. I wanted to produce a show as myself, not a company, and not with expedited tech times due to high volume of choreographers. So, I made the decision to produce a show of my work – a task not truly meant for one single person, as I would learn as August approached. This is where my desire to have a split bill show initiated the search for a partner. After watching the growth and considering the repertoire I had with a few dance colleagues, the choice to partner with Baron was clear as day.
Kaela: A few years back, at the beginning of increasing numbers of smaller dance companies and project-based dance within the Chicago dance community, I was fortunate enough to meet Francesca Baron through a mutual friend (also a dancer within the community). I was captivated by her presence as a dance artist and a fan of work. I felt our choreographic styles would complement each other well and still have a clear contrasting individuality. Mounting FUSED with Francesca was the best decision; it all felt right!
We both have a strong aspiration to create and share dance with our community. Putting this show together has provided us the ability to be part of our community in a larger way by supporting our community artists who dance as well as write, photograph, design, etc. We are thankful for the learning, growth and support that has taken place in the curation of this evening-length performance and are excited to present FUSED!
While each work completely stands alone, you will find a common aesthetic — physical movement that focuses on the inner workings of the body to produce movement that is qualitative, a sense of circularity creating flow and the juxtaposition of release-based movement against classical technique.
Kristi: Can you tell us about the works you each will be presenting in FUSED? Why did you choose to present these particular works, and how do they speak to your choreographic point of view/aesthetic?
Francesca: I will be presenting a total of three woks. Two are works that I created in early 2019, originally presented at Trifecta Dance Collective’s A New Light Festival: Do Not Disturb (fissures) deals with the inner struggle of staying true to one’s self while keeping societies influence at bay, and a self-choreographed piece entitled Float the Brain, which was inspired by the Countertechnique training I have acquired over the years – a new and progressive dance technique founded by Anouk van Dijk. This solo investigates the mechanics of distributing weight into space and explores the soft subtleties of the body. Lastly, the premier of my third work, Between the Lines We Lay, examines remnant feelings and things left unsaid between people.
I have quite an eclectic background in my dance training and I find that to be apparent in my work. While each work completely stands alone, you will find a common aesthetic — physical movement that focuses on the inner workings of the body to produce movement that is qualitative, a sense of circularity creating flow and the juxtaposition of release-based movement against classical technique. Each piece is very telling of who I am as an artist and speaks on where I am headed as I further evolve.
Through physically demanding phrase work and clear pathways, this work explores the concept of time and how we all individually value it.
Kaela: For the performance I will be presenting three very contrasting works that speak to what I believe are the three sides of a person: how people see us, how we see ourselves and who we really are. The first is a short group work performed by studio students of mine from Envision Dance Company. This piece is centered around insomnia and the “work until exhaustion” mentality many artists like me possess.
The next work, Choices, which originally premiered in September of this year at Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble’s Forward March of Women, investigates the legislation of women’s bodies through early 20th century history until now. The piece has several sections, and music scores all assist to reveal parts of my life and ideals that, for the most part, have remained private.
The last work to be shown is a quartet, There is not enough of it… Originally, it premiered as a duet. However, after much thought about the piece, I felt adding the double duet structure would generate a specific dynamic the work was missing. Through physically demanding phrase work and clear pathways, this work explores the concept of time and how we all individually value it. This piece resonates strongly with where I am in my life. It feels relevant to my evolution as an emerging dance maker.
Francesca Baron and Kaela Norwood present FUSED on Sunday, November 10 at 7:30pm at Links Hall (3111 N Western Ave, Chicago, IL 60618). Tickets are available at linkshall.org.