Monday, March 31, 2008

La Revolucion de las Mariposas

by Isabel Croxatto

To all of you, that are joining us this week on the blog I would like tell you more about what this piece and collaboration project.

And I will to start by telling you a little bit about ABUNDANZA and who we are.

ABUNDANZA is a concept of movement and a method to develop creative work in dance.
ABUNDANZA is also our ID. We are a group of independent artist from different disciplines that have come together to create and develop a new dance, that concerns social issues, that is meaningful and at the same time is asking questions and pushing the edges of contemporary art.

ABUNDANZA´s home is located in Santiago de Chile, but our development fields all around the world where we are invited, by dancers, students, organizations, special programs, residencies and venues open to experience and explore our work.

"The Revolution of the Butterflies" is the starting point of a new movement, that proposes to "reforest" the human soul with dance, to give to oxygen our society with human dancing trees and spread all over the world, the irresistible desire to stop consuming our environment, make a change, and move towards something better.

The language of movement of this dance, is born from four main concepts:

  • The Body as a Tree
  • The “ancestral and irresistible desire to dance"
  • The metamorphosis process of the Caterpillar into a Butterfly
  • And the “Effect of the Butterfly” ...the flying movements of one Butterfly here can mean a significant movement on the other side of the planet

As artists and dancers, we are moved by the urgency to save the planet, to hold the Earth with our feet, and to nourish back the Earth with our dance...

You can join us and be a part of this "Revolution of Butterflies", by giving us your thoughts, coments and experiences in the Blog, and of course by coming to see the performance on April 12 and 13 at Strathmore., at the Warmer concert.

Enjoy and lets keep in touch,

Isabel Croxatto

Choreographer and Director of Abundanza
Guest Choreographer at CityDance Ensemble, in Washington DC.

Meaning and Movement(s)

By Paul Gordon Emerson

There's a classic moment in "A Chorus Line" that stalks most choreographers. Its the one where Morales is trying to fight her way through an acting class where the instructor is all about what it feels like to be anything but human. "I feel the wind, I feel the snow." Morales felt.... "Nothing."

Its tough enough to get into the soul of a character with only human attributes. Getting into the soul of other living things, things for which we can have no direct sense of what it is "to be that thing" is more than hard. Its dangerous. How do you know if a) you're on the right track and b) that you're not making a total fool of yourself in the process.

The answer is you don't. And, in the end, if you trust the choreographer, and trust the intention, then those things aren't the point. Internally, for yourself, the point is the journey. Externally, for the audience, the point is to transport, to transfer, to translate. That takes courage coupled with talent. Pointed feet and nice turns won't get you there.

But there are keys, and when those keys are available the journey and the translation can go places you never imagined. And when the subject is global warming, and the triggers are in the devastation of the environment, the willingness to ask what it feels like to be on the receiving end of a chain saw is vital.

We respond to things to which we can relate. Its the source of empathy, and empathy is a source of action. We empathize by being willing to open ourselves to someone, or something, else's pain and situation. We call a failure to do so "dehumanizing." And in dehumanizing each other we make atrocity possible. Is it so utterly different when it comes to the creatures with whom we share the planet? It sounds like tree-hugging at its most far left, but is it? How do we effect change if we don't similarly effect our own internal change in perceptions of the things around us?

In this case we are using movement to create a movement. Dance, as a moving art, empowered to aid a political, social, economic and, yes, environmental movement. The journey requires a dancer to open him or herself to that empathy for other life (and thus for all the lives we DO care about), and to find a way to get an audience inside it. The honesty of that experience is the catalyst for dialogue -- for conversation -- and that, in turn, is a vital first step towards change. Silence, like the silence of the jungles being swept clean in West Africa and the Amazon, is not tranquility. Its emptiness. Like Isabel's anguished, aching movement and the preternatural sounds emanating from her dancers, silence is not an option in this pursuit. Neither is preaching. The point, both for the dancer trying to tackle the movement challenge before him or her and for the society we are talking with, noise -- comfortable and not -- is everything.

It's Isabel's revolution, made possible through the tiny, exquisite wind brought on by a million butterflies who each can do little but taken together can change everything.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Musica y Danza, Una Historia de Amor.

By Isabel Croxatto

Me encanta fantasear e imaginar, ese primer instante eterno, en el que el hombre primitivo, danzó por primera vez.

Una de las historias que me invento, es que el ALMA, solitaria y atrapada en el cuerpo, ve un día, pasar al bello silencio...y se enamora perdidamente de él!

Decidida a conquistarlo, el alma que solo puede, salir y entrar del cuerpo a través de la respiración, juega a seducirlo, entrendo y saliendo, saliendo y entrando...el silencio fascinado por su gracia para aparecer y desaparecer, la sigue y juntos como dos amantes, se sumergen en el cuerpo, lo remecen, lo inundan y lo mueven al ritmo de sus encantos, caricias, ritos y pasiones...entrando, saliendo, entrando.

De éste juego amoroso y fecundo nacen dos hijas: la DANZA y la MÚSICA, hermanas y madres legítimas del Arte.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Speaking in Two Non-Verbal Languages

by Paul Gordon Emerson

Music. Movement. Meaning.

Most of the time choreographers come to the studio with their music picked. The score is "to tape" meaning its already finished and the composer, musicians, producers and everyone associated with its making are long-since done. Its rare that those artists even know that their music is being used. Of course sometimes those composers have been dead for a few hundred years, so the idea of collaboration is, well, moot (barring the intervention of some psychic somewhere with a special link to Mozart and 18th century Germany).

Making dances, regardless of the score, is remarkably challenging. Where music is concerned it means choosing to follow or to ignore the score. Regardless, it means acquiring a deep understanding of the music -- far more than simply understanding what meter its in. But where there is collaboration between composer, musician, choreographer and dancer the challenges, and the opportunities, grow phenomenally.

Today, with the enormous and exceptional Studio 405 as the canvas, a composer, Sis McKay, and a choreographer, Isabel Croxatto, sat down to try and understand their respective arts, to talk possibilities and to see if they could speak their respective languages together. One speaks in sound. The other in silence. Yet they need each other to realize a dream. And, remarkably, that began to happen.

Isabel is an exceptionally vibrant, visceral mover. She understands the elemental in ways most of us can never access. And she understands sound. Not words. Sound. Her physical exploration of what it is to be something profoundly physical, to understand the sound trees make in interacting with the wind, the sound humans make in breathing through many moods, from ecstasy to agony, is astonishing. And it gave Sis something to grab onto. Sis, too, understands the elemental, and they started to understand those elements from their mutual disciplines and find common-ground.

Making music for dance, as opposed to making dances to music, is a deeply collaborative process. It requires letting ego go to make a unified vision. Its hard. But its also one of the most rewarding things that any dance-maker can be a part of. We've done this many times, and I do it every chance I get, but to watch the process unfold from the outside was inspiring. What comes next I have no idea. They may make something together for April 12, or they may not. But the discovery process, the finding of common ground and common voice across two arts is remarkably fun to watch happen.

Friday, March 21, 2008

The Revolution: Day 1

Time to Dance

By Isabel Croxatto

Greetings to every one!

First of all I have to say that it is an honor and a pleasure to work with CityDance Ensemble: the dancers, the creative team, the production staff and of course Paul, the head of this whole collaboration initiative.

I want to thank the Embassy of Chile for their support and commitment to this project and to Strathmore, the home of CityDance.

We started our creative rehearsals on Wendnesday, and as you can see in the videos and pictures the experience is fascinating and nearly impossible to describe in words!

I can only add that, "The Revolution of Butterflies" has already started and it is dancing out loud!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

"Revolution of the Butterflies" 02

"Revolution of the Butterflies" 01: Choreographer's Introduction

The art of politics and the politics of art

By Paul Gordon Emerson

Where does art intersect with global issues?

Sometimes the answer is easy and obvious. Literature -- and words in all forms -- have a long and profound legacy of inspiring and codifying change. But the more abstract the art, the more the reach of art as a political mechanism is stretched. There are exceptions of course. “Guernica,” Picasso’s angry, anguished protest against the Fascist massacre in that otherwise unknown town during the Spanish Civil War is perhaps the best-known contemporary example. Rodin’s “Burghers Of Calais” was more metaphorical because it dealt with something historical, not contemporary, but the impact was clear and, regardless of the backstory, remains powerful today in every museum and sculpture garden where the work is to be found. Protest art is consciously (and often self-consciously) overtly political, as is its step-sister, state-sanctioned political art, which the Soviets made into a calling for artists in the 1920s. Sometimes, as with Rodin, the work is made powerful because it is so literal. Sometimes the power lies in heroic abstraction, and sometimes, as with Picasso, it is the stretch, both in form and message, which fuels the fire.

With dance the possibilities are exceptionally rich.

Dance is uniquely positioned to pose questions about the human condition, because it is a uniquely human art, requiring no intermediary steps, no paint or pianos, no canvas or carvings, to convey its message. We are the art, and the art is us. Only the human voice, raised in song, compares, requiring no intervention, no innovation through another medium. But, for that very reason – its literalness – dance can struggle as a vehicle. Literal messages, whether about love or injustice, risk becoming trite. Deeply abstracted messages, using movement to suggest mood and intent, leave many parts of an audience behind, engaged in that “was that supposed to mean something” miasma.

In seeking to “say something,” then, the choreographer and the dancer walk that line between what is honest and what is obvious, what is literal and what is ephemeral. It’s a problem to solve in making work.

Which brings us to climate. A dance about social injustice has obvious entry points. But a dance about climate change and habitat loss? For Brenda Way, in making “On A Train Heading South,” the story is very much about human impact and ignorance laced together to create profound change. For Isabel the entry point is nature -- and the creatures who face the immediate consequences of our actions with no understanding of how these changes are occurring and why.

How does a dance on that subject arise? And how do humans represent nature in the face of nature being devastated by humans?

(there was, on Nat Geo, the other evening a program about ANWR -- the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge -- and about the devastation of polar bear habitat. The bears are becoming scavengers, reduced to seeking out carcases of whales from the native hunt)

Where does our humanity, and "human-ness," allow us to intersect and interpret nature?

Friday, March 14, 2008

First Look

By Paul Gordon Emerson

The question of creativity, and of the many processes that find their confluence in the placing of a dance on stage, led to this blog. Because CityDance uses many creative voices, the expression of those processes will take many forms.

Of all the questions I am asked, the one that comes the most often is "how do you do this?" -- meaning how do you make dances. "What gets you started, what happens when you get stuck, where do the ideas come from and how do you know whether you're on the right track or not?"

We've started this blog to invite the artists with whom we work - choreographers, dancers, composers, musicians, costumers, actors and more, to share their ideas, approach, methods, inspirations, frustrations and, really, anything they want, as a way of getting readers "inside" the question of creativity, and to invite conversation around it.

Our lead blogger is Isabel Croxatto, from Santiago, Chile. Isabel came into our world in 2007 as a teacher of a Master Class for our professional dance troupe, CItyDance Ensemble. In 2008 she was back in DC briefly and we got to talking about choreography and, specifically, Global Warming. Climate change is taking center stage in world attention -- and it needs to do so in a hurry if we're to turn this around -- and artists have a unique opportunity to speak to it. Isabel is deeply interested in making work which draws its inspiration from, and message about, climate change. And so, as we approach our first concert on climate change, "Warmer," we invite her to start us off.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

CityDance Tackles Global Warming

Saturday, April 12, 2008
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Room 405
Music Center at Strathmore
5301 Tuckerman Lane
North Bethesda, MD

Centered on the reality that our planet is getting warmer, Warmer invites choreographers and CityDance company members to tackle the question of global warming and the impact that art will have on this issue. Warmer—a concert for today and about tomorrow—promises to unfold intriguing voices, surprising insight, and a challenging reality.

The program includes ODC/San Francisco Artistic Director Brenda Way's On a Train Heading South, a world premiere by renowned Chilean choreographer Isabel Croxatto, and a new work by CityDance company member Bruno Augusto.