a dance with three steps

An exploration of the process of creating dance


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Damani Pompey

Damani Pompey

Photo Credit: Ivan Forde

A new and up and coming choreographer that I know quite well is Damani Pompey. Damani’s choreography and hard work is an inspiration. He (and I) attended the Fiorello H Laguardia High School for Performing Arts as a dancer and furthered his training at the SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance where he graduated in 2012. Damani is a skilled dancer, choreographer and lighting designer. A free lance choreographer, he recently premiered Magnus Works at the E- Moves stage in Harlem, New York. His dancers were Tamisha Guy, Cody Hayman and Tyler Shnese (all SUNY Purchase dancers).

Here are some videos of his previous works:

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Spring Concert: New York Live Arts

Spring Concert was a hit; everyone danced beautifully! My family came to see me dance in the first piece, the Bill T. Jones piece; Spent Days Out Yonder. Unfortunately they weren’t let in because they started the concert early. How unfortunate?! Lucky for my family and all you dance enthusiasts who want to see great dance, SUNY Purchase Dance Company is having an NYC season May 22nd- 25th!

The season will be at New York Live Arts in Chelsea, New York. Click the link to get tickets! Amazingly, the Executive Artistic Director of NYLA is Bill T. Jones himself. As a member of the cast of Spent Days Out Yonder, I’m honored to do this work in his own venue.  NYLA blogged about us and shared quotes about our experience. This quote does a great job of verbalizing how complicated this piece is to perform. We certainly struggled a lot at the beginning with understanding the structure of the piece but, over time, loosened up a bit and really enjoyed the experience!

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“What makes this rehearsal process unique is that the piece is not only based on an improvisation by Mr. Jones, but it exists within an improvisational shell.  So, each run is different and a product of our decisions in the moment.  It requires attentiveness to our surroundings and phrasing which brings forth a mental challenge most set pieces don’t deal with constantly.  We are working with the balance between impulses and decisions passed through a rational strainer, which allows for a continual reinvention of our improvised material and of how we fill in the piece.” –Michelle Giordanelli


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The Ultimate Dance Theater Company

Ultima Vez

Born and raised a classical ballet and modern dancer, I had never really given physical theater a chance. That is until I saw Ultima Vez at Pace University on March 23rd, 2013. I went with a friend who had done some of Ultima Vez’s repertory while abroad, and he had really enjoyed it. While I was abroad in Australia, I was exposed to physical theater as a very serious art form as it is not very common or popular here in the U.S. I was talking to one of the graduating dancers about his future, and he told me that he had jobs in the physical theater world already set up for him upon graduating. It seems that physical theater is huge and widely recognized in almost all other parts of the world.

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Ultima Vez is a physical dance theater company from Belgium. It was founded in 1986 by choreographer, director and filmmaker, Wim Vandekeybus. The piece I saw was called What the Body Does Not Remember, which premiered June 12th, 1987 in Toneelschuur, Haarlem (NL). Vandekeybus collaborated with composers Thierry de Mey (who, you may remember, also worked with Forsythe) and Peter Vermeersch. Ultima Vez, revived and toured the piece around the world, 25 years later with a new pickup cast.

Wim Vandekeybus says of What The Body Does Not Remember: “The intensity of moments when you don’t have a choice, when other things decide for you, like falling in love, or the second before the accident that has to happen; suddenly they appear, with no introduction, important for me because of their extremeness rather than for the significance to be given to them. The decision to use this as a basic material for a theatrical composition is at least a paradoxical challenge, considering a theatrical event as repeatable and controllable. Perhaps when all is said and done, the body doesn’t remember either and everything is a subtle illusion of lack which helps to define or exhaust the game.”

This piece is exciting and moving. There are genius moments of comedic relief. There are statements made about bodies and boundaries. The dancers are incredible and move with such authenticity and power. The women are just as strong as the men, and the dancers aren’t there to perform for an audience; the audience is merely viewing real people interacting with each other in very genuine ways. I don’t want to spoil anything!! All you need to know is that you want to see this company! I’m so inspired to create more than just dance movements within the frame of certain counts. I want to create physically challenging choreography that people who don’t or can’t dance will be able to relate to.

If you ever have the chance to see this amazing company, take the opportunity to do so!


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Straya Mate!

Having recently studied abroad in Australia, I’ve been exposed to some Australian dancers, choreographers and companies that I wouldn’t have normally known of. One huge highlight was the presence of a beautiful Australian dancer: James O’Hara. O’Hara is most well known for his work in Faun choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. This is the video, it will blow your mind. I can only post the link, as embedding has been disabled for the video.

While in Perth, Australia, I had the pleasure of watching him perform Faun live at the Heath Ledger Theatre. I also got to take 2 classes from him at the Western Australia Academy for Performing Arts (WAAPA). They were amazing.

James O'Hara in Faun

James O’Hara in Faun

O’Hara was also featured in the new Sigur Ros music video, Valtari. He is PHENOMENAL. Unfortunately, I can’t embed a Vimeo video, so here is the link. (O’Hara is so damn elusive.)


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Young ‘n Up ‘n Comin’

The process of creating dance… So far I’ve been sourcing a lot of my influences. Be it art, choreography, systems and structures from older established artists, inspiration can also be drawn from the people close to you. The choreographic process is difficult and requires patience and hard work. My own rehearsal process has been heavily influenced by my experiences as a dancer in other people’s projects. At the dance conservatory at SUNY Purchase, graduating seniors must complete a senior project. Senior projects weekends are a 2 day dance show that consist of 4-5 seniors that each perform a solo set on them by a professional, established choreographer as well as a 7-10 minute dance that the senior choreographs. The dancers in these pieces are typically other SUNY dancers.

LIVE at Purchase, a senior project

I’ve recently had the honor of dancing in the senior project weekend entitled “LIVE at Purchase” in Matthew Perez’s  dance “Extemporary Destiny.” Aside from the fact that the dance was incredibly fun and challenging to perform, the rehearsal process was amazing. Perez had a clear idea of what he wanted. He was calm, straight forward, and he was able to articulate what he wanted from his dancers. Intent, focus, imagery, tension, power, etc. As a dancer, his professionalism was very much welcomed (some seniors have trouble establishing the rehearsal dynamic of choreographer over fellow dancer). As a choreographer, his professionalism was inspiring. I’ve been in rehearsals where nothing got done because everyone was just hanging out. That’s a waste of time. In the real world, no one is going to pay money to rent a studio just to sit around and gossip. Now, not only is Matthew Perez a great choreographer, but he is also a beautiful dancer and person. His solo for his senior project was a piece by Andrea Miller called “In Medias Res.” Perez currently has a coveted apprenticeship with Miller’s company, Gallim Dance. See? Young ‘n up ‘n comin’!

Matthew Perez, Photo Credit: Ted Kivitt

Matthew Perez, Photo Credit: Ted Kivitt

Perez is a beautiful dancer with long, strong, limbs that he has complete power over. He is a giant. No, really, he’s like a giraffe. He eats up space and can be ferocious and strong. He can also be delicate, soft and quiet. He has no bones; he is the bendy-ist baby. As a friend, he is sweet, funny and honest. It’s very clear that he loves dance and works hard every day to fulfill his desires. Perez has always pushed me to want, to desire, to fight for dance. I have an unbelievable amount of respect for him. Inspiration can be found everywhere and anywhere and it is powerful as hell to find it right in front of you, dancing his ass off.


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Genius

William Forsythe

When it comes to creating dance, a choreographer has to be able to multi task. A choreographer has to be able to visualize and create movement for the individual dancer. The steps and choreography are important  elements to a dance, but there is also the visual art aspect of dance. A choreographer has to consider what their use of space and imagery will evoke in the audience. One choreographer that is really genius when it comes to creating work is William Forsythe.

William Forsythe's One Flat Thing, reproduced

William Forsythe is an American born dancer and choreographer. He was a resident choreographer for the Ballet Frankfurt from 1984-2004, and in 2005 started The Forsythe Company. Forsythe’s choreography is very interesting for the dance world because of his love for math and geometry.

William Forsythe's One Flat Thing, reproduced

One of his most famous contemporary works is One Flat Thing, reproduced which premiered in 2000 by the Frankfurt Ballet. This piece has over 200 cues that the dancers have to abide by, as the piece is structured by the dancers taking cues off of each other. Forsythe’s mathematical thinking can be clearly seen through the use of tables that the dancers, at the start of the piece, run, drag and set up in a grid. They then proceed to dance on, around and under these tables.

One of the most amazing things about trying to understand this piece is a website called Synchronous Objects that explains the complicated nature of the piece by “translating and transforming them into new objects – ways of visualizing dance that draw on techniques from a variety of disciplines.” The project was created by scientists from Ohio State University’s Advanced Computing Center for the Arts and Design (ACCAD) and artists from the Department of Dance. This website and project is incredibly helpful for understanding and analyzing the complex interlocking systems of organization that Forsythe has created.


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Art and Inspiration

Having recently created a Pintrest, I’ve been collecting imagery in my head about how my dance should look and be structured. I’ve been looking at a lot of Dadaism (or anti art) and thinking about how that could translate into movement (or anti movement, whatever that means…). My darling mother loves to reference “The Lovers” by Rene Magritte, which is featured below:

Rene Magritte The Lovers 1928

Rene Magritte The Lovers 1928

Dadaism, or Dada was an art movement during the early 20th century. This art movement was an anti-war response that aimed at rejecting the norm and standards of art at that time. The Dada movement was an angry one. The people who fueled the movement were not only anti-war, but also radical left and anti-bourgeois. Dada came about in the form of visual art, theater, literature, poetry, theory and graphic design. There was not much of a response in the form of dance, which is interesting because a lot of Dada visual art portrays people, gestures and imagery.

Rene Magritte Intermission 1928

Rene Magritte Intermission 1928

Rene Magritte (1989- 1967) was a Belgian artist who specialized in painting. His works are considered surrealism; they challenge the viewers idea of reality in art. A lot of his paintings are realistic until you realize that the things being portrayed would be impossible in real life. This sort of imagery is something that I would be interested in using in my own choreography by playing around with the ideas and imagery that Dada presents. However, I can understand why dance was not a prevalent form of response during the Dada movement because its surrealism; it’s hard to physically represent the unreal! How can one portray bodies of just one arm and one leg?! The challenge is enticing…

Rene Magritte, The Musings of The Solitary Walker 1926

Rene Magritte, The Musings of The Solitary Walker 1926