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05. Continued Growth

 Creative research/COLLABORATION abroad


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From December 16th-24th, 2018, I traveled abroad to visit the Netherlands and Germany. My first stop was Amsterdam, where I visited the Stedelijk Museum. It iaan international museum dedicated to modern and contemporary art and design. The collection offered me unique and compelling insights into today’s world and highlighted topics that impact our societies and individual lives. The visional design of the museum was guided by a fresh, energetic approach to displaying, caring for and renewing the world-famous collections. I explored complex topics of yesterday, today, and tomorrow – as defined by the artists and signaled by myself – in an adventurous chronological layout. The museum has built memories and inspiration for my future dance making and teaching of composition. 
Next, I was off to Germany, where my first stop was the Cologne Cathedral. This was a building of superlatives that is clearly the center and hallmark of this city on the Rhine. The richness of the cathedral, its history, works of art, and above all its spiritual dimension were breathtaking to explore. It was extremely profound to learn that the cornerstone of this Gothic cathedral was laid on August 15, 1248, and it would be a work in progress for over the next 632 years. An astonishing fact and visually evident is that the cathedral architects had adhered persistently over time to the Gothic design and medieval plans, which had been drawn up around 1280. When the cathedral was finally completed in 1880, it was the tallest building in the world. Today, it stands 516 feet high, covers a little over 86,000 square feet of floor space, and holds more than 20,000 people. The building’s impressive Gothic architecture, the shrine of the Three Wise Men, the outstanding stained-glass windows, and the many other important works of art, the Cologne Cathedral, a World Heritage Site, makes it not only jaw-dropping for an artist like myself to witness but for anyone who experiences it.
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That day, I also visited the Romano-Germanic Museum near the Cologne Cathedral. It was built in the 70’s around a site of a 3rd-century villa, which was discovered in 1941 during the construction of an air-raid shelter. The Museum houses the floor of a main room villa, known as the renowned Dionysus mosaic, which dates from around A.D. 220/230. In addition to the Dionysus mosaic, there was the reconstructed Sepulcher of legionary Poblicius from about A.D. 40. There were also many artifacts of everyday life in Roman Cologne, including an extensive collection of gorgeous Roman glassware and pottery, an array of Roman and medieval jewelry, architectural fragments, and statues of the Roman emperor Augustus and his wife Livia Drusilla.
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The next day, I was off toThe Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln (the German Dance Archive of Cologne) It is part of a global network of institutions and initiatives, which is dedicated to the preservation of knowledge about the art of dance. While there, the generous and helpful librarian guided me through the online archive and the library. It was evident that the commitment to the scholarly study of dance was the focus of the Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln’s work. For me, it opens up research opportunities, including support for research projects and publications concerning scholarly dance themes. 

The Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln is associated with the Institut der Hochschule für Musik und Tanz in Cologne (University of Music and Dance) and additionally cooperates with North Rhine-Westphalia based dance training institutions, such as the Folkwang-Universität der Künste, Essen (Folkwang University of the Arts).  Also, in cooperation with the State of North Rhine-Westphalia, the Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln awards the Tanzwissenschaftspreis NRW (The NRW Scientific Study of Dance Award) to individuals that are involved in the scholarly study of dance every five years. My visit to the Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln not only opened up opportunities for research but for international networking. 

In the same building, I also visited an exhibit of dance photography by Gert Weigelt entitled, Autopsy – In Black and White. Human sculptures filled the gallery. Sculptures in movement, staged by the photographer, Gert Weigelt. Created in cooperation with dancers in the studio, his black-and-white photographs exceed the limits of conventional dance photography. They appeared to be an aesthetic aspiration, using the camera to show dance from an analytical yet expressionistic perspective – and often with an ironic wink. It felt as though the photographer took me through the dancers accentuated formal rigor and aesthetics as well as with their erotic flair. See for yourself.

Gert Weigelt trained to be a dancer in Berlin and Copenhagen and danced in companies such as the Royal Swedish Ballet, the Cullberg Ballet, and the Dutch Dans Theater. His work with famous choreographers such as Hans van Manen, Jirí Kylián, Jerome Robbins, Birgit Cullberg, Glen Tetley, Kurt Jooss and José Limon had a lasting influence on his artistic aspirations. Even during his years as a dancer, he was already an enthusiastic photographer.

After his career on the stage, he took on artistic photography fulltime. His work has decisively influenced the visual presentation of dance in the past 40 years. Gert Weigelt has lived and worked in Cologne since 1975. 

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The day was topped off by attending a cutting-edge evening concert performance entitled Rough Housedirected and choreographed by Richard Siegal, an American choreographer, oddly enough. Siegal created a crossover project of actors from the Ensemble Schauspiel Köln, dancers from his own company, Ballet of Difference, and an on-stage crew of music and film engineers, producing in real-time. The premise of the work suggested plays on words and bodies swirling around the stage, tilting in and out of control. Convictions were undermined. Truths appeared and disappeared. Everyone communicated, but no one understood each other. The actors and dancers talked themselves into trouble, while still pressing on topics of today’s society in the United States, through the media. There were cutting elements of slapstick and subtle to laugh-until-you-cry humorous bits. And through the chaos, it was clear to see Siegal’s point that we think too much, label too much, and don’t receive, accept, or admit to enough. 

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I was truly inspired by the simplicity and function of the set. It consisted of eight to ten large, 20-inch gym mats that were ever stacked in various formations. Two wall flats of white paper that projected video messages and images were also used, and two big screen televisions sat stage right, where on-stage rolling cameras projected the footage. Costumes were pedestrian wear in the beginning, and one by one, the performers switched to avant-garde fashion – each more curious than the next. 


The production was a spectacular circus, and I left the theatre, without a doubt in my mind, motivated to create.


Early the next morning, I was on the train to The Hague back to Holland. This was the day I was waiting for. It was the day that I was going to meet some of the best dancers in the world, watch them work, and attend their evening performance. It was also the day that I would meet one of the world’s most respected choreographers. I am talking about the Netherlands Dance Theatre and long- time affiliate Paul Lightfoot, former company member and now Artistic Director and Choreographer.


I arrived at the Lucent Danstheater, home of the Netherlands Dance Theater just on time to grab a quick cup of coffee and attend the company’s morning ballet class. One who teaches ballet and watching the best dancers in the world take class…there are truly no words to describe the amount of perfection I was witnessing. Among this amazing bunch, was Paul taking class, who even at age 52 could out-dance all of them with spirit and experience.



Following the class, I was so fortunate to be invited into one of Paul’s rehearsals with some of my favorite dancers in the company: the exquisite Chloé Albaret from France and the powerhouse Lea Ved from the USA. Among them was also the newest company member, Guido Dutilh from the Netherlands who was in NDT II, the second company of younger dancers. I was mesmerized by the level of performance and movement quality, the focus, and the mutual trust between Paul and the three dancers. I learned more in that rehearsal about getting precision out of a dancer than ever in my career. Watching up-close how these dancers worked in rehearsal will help me train our students how to work that way and watching how Paul worked with his dancers has inspired me to also bring out the very best in our dancers at SUNY Potsdam. 


Later, in the earlier part of the evening, I attended a “question and answer talk” prior to the performance, where one of the speakers was Guido, from the rehearsal earlier. He talked about his experience being a new company member and about the creative process for the pieces in the upcoming concert that evening. Another speaker was the composer and musician of the final work in the concert. He beautifully expressed his experience as a musician from Mexico working so organically with the choreographer, Hofesh Shechter and NDT’s universal group of dancers in rehearsal. 

Finally, it was performance time! There were three works in the concert. First was Singulière Odyssée by Paul Lightfoot and long-time partner Sol León from France. The piece is set in the waiting room of a train station in Basel. Dancers enter through a small door projected with light and exit through a larger door on the opposite side of the room. It’s simply about those moments in time, some flighting while others frozen in time. At one point, thousands of leaves fall on stage from above, hinting at various ideas …although time continues as the thread. The costumes by Joke Visser and Hermien Hollander were exquisitely classic, made with earth toned linen and embroidery.  The movement was rich and classic Lightfoot/ León with echoes of Jirí Kylián, former Artistic Director of NDT. The dancers were flawless!


Second in the program was a work by Marco Goecke entitled, Walk the Demon. Words were spoken throughout the piece: Thank you, hello, and goodbye. It was a powerful work with sometimes explosive screams and movement gestures followed by a sense of insightful inner humanity through the softness of a touch. Simply designed, the movement and the human aspect of the work spoke for itself and no other than the NDT dancers to pull it off so stunningly.


The final work on the program was Vladimir by Hofesh Shechter. The following program note speaks volumes about the work: “When you put your heart on the table, be ready to have it crashed. It’s when life breaks it, a sensation…we want to feel, we want to live, we want to push far into the suffering, the beauty, the vodka, the TV, the dance routines. Fuck poetry, only Vladimire can save us.” -Facebook. The piece was raw, wild, and jagged with sensations. It made me think about a hundred new choreographic thoughts with a thousand new angles for upcoming works. The work resonated PURE BRILLIANCE!  VISIT NDT WEBSITE

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