Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Candice Salyers' Chamber Series takes us down The Rabbit Hole: A Review

Event Description:
Dancer and choreographer Candice Salyers, will perform at The Rabbit Hole, 805 Main Street, Fitchburg on Friday, October 16th at 7:00 PM. Her solo dance/movement 'Chamber Series' explores qualities that exist within the transformation of perception and the perceiving of transformation. This site-adaptive dance work travels through a series of intimate and expansive spaces, and stems from the artist's desire to inspire care about human being and to expand imaginings of what is possible for human becoming.

Review (by Cindi L'Abbe):

Sometimes the dance world leaves me feeling cold, and not just cold, but helpless. I believe that dance, as much as any other art, has the possibility to be both incredibly emotionally compelling and painstakingly well-crafted. The dances that I see most often, however, seem to be more self-indulgent and (at the risk of sounding a little "red") decadent than either compelling or well-crafted (to say nothing of being both). This world doesn't seem hospitable for my own dances, nor does it offer me dance that feeds me and forces me to grow. Candice Salyers is one of a limited group of dance artists who renew m y faith in the art form and in myself.

Full disclosure alert: Candice has been a teacher of mine and a close mentor. I have affection for her personally, but she is also, to quote a new-agey friend of mine, "a powerful presence". Her small-space performance at the Rabbit Hole on Friday night provided the perfect opportunity to magnify and focus that power.

The performance began outside on the sidewalk, with Ms. Salyers who was (in spite of the cold) dressed in a lovely white camisole dress that evoked lingerie and formal evening attire. Lying on the sidewalk, thus attired, in downtown Fitchburg elicited a couple of cat calls from passers by. These did not at all detract from the performance, an exploration of the body as an objet d'art, flesh, matter---an exploration of seeing and being seen. In fact, later, the outline of her body chalked onto the sidewalk and bordered with small white-painted G.I. Joes, she wrote in the negative space, "My inner world is a post 'male-gaze' society." Somehow, Ms. Salyers, as a woman and an artist has moved beyond the objectification of a cat-call and if she does not feel objectified then it seems unlikely that she can be.

In the second section of the work, Ms. Salyers directed us inside the bookstore where she began moving slowly with her back to the small audience among the bookcases. As a performer, Ms. Salyers is impossible to look away from; even her smallest movements are imbued with obvious meaning and intention and she seems to always move from her innermost self with all of her might. Tucked into the stacks of books she moved in slow motion with a quality of seduction which made the audience feel that they were looking in at a private moment. At one point she slowly slid her strap off her shoulder and then back up. This coquetry (partially inspired by the ways Marie Antoinette might seduce someone, in other words, the flirtations of a powerful woman) was amplified by her use of direct eye contact. It was fascinating to see the reactions of audience members with whom Ms. Salyers made and held eye contact. Often she would smile at them, and at one point played a game of peek-a-boo by always finding the eyes of one audience member while spinning around. Some audience members reacted as though they'd been "caught" looking at Ms. Salyers, which is intriguing and led me to question what we are thinking of the people we see when we see a performance. Do we dehumanize performers so much that we fool ourselves into thinking that they don't know we are there?

Given the slow movement, the simplicity of the composition and the single-pointed focus of solo work, it may speak to the "powerful presence" of Ms. Salyers as a performer that no one's attention seemed to flag. I attribute this to something else (or rather, something additional); simplicity allows us to focus and humanity\meaning\consciousness intrigue us. How many dances have lost me because of too much movement? I have not known myself to ever complain because there was too little dancing in a dance.

Following Ms. Salyers up the spiral stairs of the Rabbit Hole, I was struck by the playfulness and kindness of her piece thus far. The last two sections of the work would prove to be no less intriguing, but, for me, more haunting, abstract and beautiful.

Part three of the performance was danced on a floor covered with rose petals. Given the themes of the piece throughout, the seductive nature of rose petals could not be ignored. The movement in this section demonstrated, more than any of those previous, Ms. Salyers' tremendous strength and technique as a dancer. However, her dance was much more than a display of virtuosity. Every movement of her hands, a foot, the top of the head was clearly intentional and meaningful. The repetition of a phrase which grew and crystallized with each repeat was so compelling that I didn't notice (but was informed by friends later) that the audience was once again, disconcertingly confronted with the objet d'art\flesh question. Flipping her body with power and strength, Ms. Salyers revealed her underwear, her thighs and the feminine nature of her body. Having danced in a work of hers in 2005 (Belief is a Persistent Angel), I couldn't help but see similarities. The primary dancer in the 2005 work has performed a similar solo in a similar costume with similar results.

The final section of the work at the Rabbit Hole consisted of a solo that I'd never seen, but had heard described. The fact that Ms. Salyers explores the underlying themes of her work over the course of years, is additional evidence of the intellectual prowess and attention to craft that she embodies. A worked and re-worked piece satisfies the audience with its completeness much more than the staged result of a stint at Jacob's Pillow, never mind the lights and set and flash. Familiarity with the work of a choreographer and their process is also satisfying, so my full disclosure clause applies here again.

During this last section a slide projector projects a single slide with the text, "My body lacks nothing.", while in one of the most beautiful pieces of dance I've seen (excepting perhaps a similar segment in the aforementioned Belief...), Ms. Salyers raises herself from the floor to standing with full understanding and experience of every movement. The most stunning moment, for this observer, occurred when, standing on one foot, she slid the other leg off the floor and slowly, reaching through the sole of her foot and toes (Ms. Salyers has some of the most articulate toes I've seen) she searches for and encounters the floor, feeling it fully before placing her weight on it. Once she was standing, she joined the audience (after smiling at us) and the projector clicked, "(except for you)".

To paraphrase Ms. Salyers, my inner world is a post "meaningless dance" society. She lives in that world with me.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Explorational Musings to Inspire Movement

I pulled these notes from my journal today to share with Steph to help us generate both movement ideas and larger, conceptual, project ideas:

Small space
New Hampshire
Sense of Place
Community (small scale)
Community (large scale)
Identity à personal style
Who am I as a mover?
Who am I in this place?
Who am I in relation to dance?
Who am I in relation to the other dancers in the space?
Community à Communication
Verbal, physical, touch, visual, via the internet
Via the internet, information distributes itself in clusters which spread exponentially (I drew some diagrams\schematics)


“Dance is movement in space and time.”
Life is movement through “place” and time.
What is the significance of the place I live in, and my personal history? How does my relationship to dance change in this place as opposed to another?

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tiny Dances

As my time in Baltimore grows short (sigh), I am brainstorming new and exciting projects to take with me to NH. Stephanie mentioned to me that her problem with dance, and many people must feel this, is that it is so ephemeral, so temporal and ungraspable. When dances are produced for the stage, there is so much build-up and then they pass before the eye and disappear.
While dance for the camera has developed into a major art form in its own right in the past few decades (thanks be to Merce Cunningham and Meredith Monk), the form is production heavy and intensive, and given the audience for it, almost as fleeting and ungraspable in the end.
Stephanie has mentioned a desire to create dance for the internet and of course she's not the first to think of it (browse youtube and see many dance films, most though are promo-reels and documentation of rehearsals or concerts). The internet in conjunction with film is a great way to collaborate with dancers and artists who are not in the studio with you, and the finished product can be watched again and again for cheap or free.
But one of the problems with the internet is that it can be difficult to spread your art---it's available to everyone, but how will they find out about it. I think that putting all of the internet dances--tiny, lo-production, fun dances that are as much or as little "art" as the collaborators\choreographers want-- into one place (how about a ?) and then linking that site to all of our blogs and social networks and tweeting it and spreading it out in that way, is smarter than using facebook or YouTube itself to share the dances.
However, the magic of the internet is in the collaborative, interactivity of it, so creating a YouTube channel that is linked to the main site, and inviting subscribers and viewers to create their own videos in response (dance theater workshop does something similar using twitter:
I'm still hashing out the details of what I'd like to do, but I'm excited to get to NH, and talk with Stephanie and possibly create something fun, kitschy and artsy and accessible that will spread the word of dance.

Friday, August 7, 2009

I have decided

that I want to be a literature professor. Too bad this means that I would need to get another bachelor's degree, then a masters, then a doctorate...

But, how fun is it that I decided, on a whim to read Don Quixote and The Idiot at the same time, and I did not even realize that, not only are they parallel in subject matter, but The Idiot seems to be directly inspired by Don Quixote, and open about this within the text. In addition, who knew that Don Quixote was a shining example of meta-fiction, which I thought was a 20th century literary form (form isn't the right word...formlessness is better).

And, I don't get to have a captive audience to discuss this with.

Maybe I'll make a dance about it instead.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


For Immediate Release
Contact: Lauren Withhart, Press Coordinator
443-845-0779 cell

"Move Music" on July 30th and 31st : new dance, live music
"Move Music" will feature new work from local choreographers: Reggie Cole, Cindi L’Abbe, Kelly Mayfield, and Lauren Withhart. Each choreographer will present an innovative collaboration between movement and live music. "Move Music" will be presented at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson Theater located at 3134 Eastern Ave. in Highlandtown. Performances are on Thursday, July 30th at 7:30pm and Friday, July 31st at 8:00pm.
"Move Music" is a unique opportunity for dance to live symbiotically with musicians live on stage. Each choreographer will showcase their creativity along side talented local musicians. Representing the wide spectrum of modern dance, each choreographer builds a unique relationship that highlights musicality and virtuosity.
Cindi L’Abbe founded Dilettante Dance Company in Baltimore. Her work is a true collaboration with guitarist David Ross as they explore literary works of Edgar Allen Poe and the photography of Georgia O’Keeffe, the process of which is documented at Reggie Cole has dance and choreographed with CityDance Ensemble, Edgeworks Dance Theatre, and Contradiction Dance as well as performing solo work both regionally and internationally. In this concert, he is presenting solos and duets with cellist Henry Mays and percussionist William Goffigan. Kelly Mayfield, founder of DC’s Contradiction Dance explores the life between internal and external realities with Imaginary Clouds, accompanied by Aligning Minds. Lauren Withhart, an MFA candidate of Dance from UMD and professional member of Baltimore’s The Collective, VTDance, and Gesel Mason Performance Projects in DC, presents two restaged works, including a distinctive improvisation with partner Betty Skeen.
These four choreographers along with professional local musicians unite for a two-evening engagement at the Creative Alliance. The performance will feature professional dancers from the Baltimore and DC area with original scores by local composers.
"Move Music" is the perfect performance to invigorate the senses and stimulate the Baltimore dance community.
Ticket info:
Tickets are $12/adults or $10/students & members on Thursday, July 30th. Tickets are $15/adults or $12/students & members on Friday, July 31st. Tickets can be reserved by calling 410.276.1651 or visiting Performances are at 7:30pm on July 30th and 8:00pm on July 31st.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Updates, Mind-spew

I am about to begin working on a new piece (which I began thinking about in February, but which is only now becoming a serious consideration). It is always an overwhelming feeling to step into the studio and begin new work. I think that I am lucky in some respects, as I rarely enter the studio with no idea. In face I never begin moving with the intention of making a dance when I don't know what that dance is. Is that a weakness, a mistrust of my body's ability to create, a snobbery, some cerebral prejudice, desire to show off my erudition...and on and on? Probably some of those things are part of it, and some of it is the way I came to dance. I have no idea why I'm a dancer---it makes no sense!

I did not start dancing until I was 20 years old, and not only did I not dance, but I avoided moving for most of my childhood, so I really had no concept of what my body was capable of. My means of creative expression was primarily through writing; I wrote poetry, dabbled in short fiction and filled boatloads of notebooks with "free-writing" (sort of creative non-fiction mind-spew if you will...I will). Writing always seemed natural, because reading was natural. Reading is still the most natural thing I can think of--I will waste an entire day on a novel without a second thought. Given my predilection for ridiculous literature (Ulysses? Why not?), it makes sense that I approach choreographer with my head first and let my body follow. This process of writing, reading, planning, diagramming and reading before I even think of dancing is something that I enjoy and that I'm a tad "stuck" on. I am proud of the work that I make: however, I sometimes feel like a fake. I feel like I make dances that scoff at dance a bit, and that is certainly not my goal.

So why do I make dances...why not just write novels (haha, JUST write novels). The truth is that I think that dance is FUN. Really. That's it. I could write novels (probably not...but let's just say so for now), but I choose to deviate from what is natural for me and break into a field where I'm not all that good (really, when I perform it looks like I have no respect for technique, but actually I am in awe of technique...I just am trying to force these old bones into positions that they are not trained to go, although I'm continually surprised at how much an individual can improve even as they approach thirty), and take my writerly, readerly constructionist creative method and apply it to a body-based art form, which is "supposed" to be beautiful and otherworldly and stunningly effortlessly impressive etc, etc... I do it because it's fun. And because I think that dance audiences and dance makers deserve to see and create works that have meaning, craft and thought.

So out of that spirit of fun, I'm back in the studio (or to be more honest, I haven't really brought this new piece "into the studio" yet). I'm working on a trio for Jackie, Sara and myself, that is based on the 20th love poem from Pablo Neruda's 20 Love Poems and a Song of Despair. I'm hoping to perform the piece in the show we're putting up in July (yes that's crazy I know, and you can buy your tix at

The poem is here:
Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write for example, 'The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms.
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to a pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.I

no longer love her, that's certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another's. She will be another's. Like she was before my kisses.
Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that's certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

My concept for the piece is to have two representations of the poet as characters. Downstage, with a pile of paper and pencils, writing and crumpling and pining away, is the old poet, remembering his love. Upstage is the memory of the young poet with his love, reliving their romance and parting again and again in the old man's memory. Throughout the piece, the old poet will create a partition, a line on the stage, separating himself from the memories with his poetry. The remembered youths will be cought in an endless wheel of moving towards and away from one another as the lights go down.

The accompanyment will (hopefully) be an original composition by David of classical guitar and a tenor singing the spanish poetry.

Sounds beautiful, but the danger is that all these preconceived notions will make it lose the beauty that it holds in my imagination. We shall see.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


Sara, David and I are performing on Saturday at 8pm at Experimental Movement Concepts (3618 Falls RdBaltimore, MD 21211(410) 366-2626). It's an open choreography showcase, hosted by the Collective Dance Co., and it's free and open to the public.

So, come out!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

fun with photos, reflections on light

We wanted to have pictures that would make people come to the dance concert so we got together to make them. Sara, in black velvet with no sleeves, her white legs bare from above the knee, Zach with his camera, David with his guitar (hair sleek but not slicked, each curl a picture of the shape of the universe). I wore gray. We met in a grand ballroom of an old hotel (all the lights out) and danced in the space of light on the floor that came in from the tall windows. We wanted to be in the room, with all its old world glamour, with all of my strange gestures.

We felt like gangsters sneaking into the grand hotel, but when I left for home, walking quickly through the yellow-lit streets, I realized that what I felt, really, was the illusion of being part of a rococo painting. The chiaroscuro; the light and shadow brought my dances to life in still shots more than I was capable of doing on stage. In that tall light streaming across the carpet, everything took on weight and we stacked the gold painted chairs into a sculpture that was perfect for breaking our bodies into fearfully beautiful chair-like pieces and the light made the shadows seem so heavy and significant.

The light coming in from the yellow-lit city was not so different from the sunlight that used to stripe across our bedroom walls and ceiling in our first apartment (in Keene), blind-shaped tiger stripes of light that a film major once told me represented imprisonment when shot in a film, and if I'm honest, there were times that I felt trapped. The sunlight striping the old bedroom walls is not so different from the splotches of sunlight (shaped like the negative space between the leaves and branches of trees) that decorated thousands of notebook and novel pages from the time I could read and write and walk in the woods alone. The light of the space between tree leaves is not so different from the soft orage glow of the night-light, shaped like a turtle that was the first birthday gift from my first and only boyfriend when I was 17. The light of the brass turtle (that still sits in my bathroom) is not so different from the vivid twinkle of the stars in Drewsville NH in December in the cold and snow when all other light is extinguished.
All photos by Z. Z. Handler 2009

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Great Choreography Tool

Liz Lerman's site is pretty much the go-to for fun and creative choreography ideas...gets the juices flowing.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Community Project 2009 Video

This is the link to the youtube vid of the Community Project 2009, "Paper or Plastic", choreography by Jessica Fultz.

It was so much fun, and I hope to someday replicate the Community Project idea in other cities, because I think that it expands the audience for dance, and brings the experience of performing to a group of individuals who might otherwise never have that opportunity.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Community Project--Photos

The Collective's Community Project is an annual opportunity for adults with all levels of movement experience to learn a piece and perform it on stage at the Baltimore Museum of Art. This year the piece was called "Paper or Plastic" and was choreographed by Jessica Fultz.

Zach Handler took some pretty swell pics backstage which show how much we came together as a cast. It was a really great experience and I look forward to doing more dancing with these great folks.

See the pics:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Thoughts on Creativity (not mine); should keep you busy for a while...

Twyla Tharp (her book, The Creative Habit, is worth reading if you like making stuff...dances or whatever):

Amy Tan (I've never read her books...she's funny and smart though):

Bill T. Jones (won the genius award, because, well...he kicks ass, skip to 5:47)

And the best Bill T. vid:

Dance specific, William Forsythe improvisation technology:
(this goes on and on, very complex, see it in action in the next vid):

On collaboration:

Another fun one:

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Bob Dylan Suite Part One...except performed to Fleet Foxes...

Stuck Inside on a Beautiful Day

Well, I'm stuck inside at work, so might as well update my little log of the creative experience that is life...

I'm in the process of creating two new (and slightly ambitious) works. Wish me luck.

The first piece (which I hope to perform at Open Marley Night on May 30th) is based on Poe's The Fall of the House of Usher and inspired originally by the Usher Waltz by Koshkin (a very cool piece of guitar music, inspired by the same piece of literature mentioned previously). I have realized that I really like working from literature (it's probably my most natural source of inspiration), and I am always excited when I find a piece of music that comes from literature (The Magic Theater---based on Hesse's Steppenwolf---comes to mind...I must choreograph this piece!).

Anyhow, there have been a total of zero rehearsals so far, but I've done some thinking and writing, which always comes first with me anyways. I've also listened to a recording of the music while soaking in the tub...very helpful. I haven't really danced yet, so I'm not sure what the movement will look like, but I already have formed a structure in my mind.

If you are unfamiliar with the story click:

And the music:

Ideas I have so far: There are three characters (Usher, Narrator, Sister). Usher is the guitarist\music, so the musician must be somehow integrated into the performance. The music is a waltz and the era of the piece makes it sensible to play on the classic idiom of a waltz partner dance. I might have books all over the stage...

Problems I'm working on: I don't want to re-tell the story; what is the point of creating the dance if it doesn't go beyond what already exists. In the story the narrator is an observer; he relates with Usher, but not with the sister, however in my dance Usher is not a dancer and the sister and narrator are, so most of the interactions have to happen between the narrator and the sister.

Structural Ideas: The piece begins and ends with a solo by the narrator. The piece begins with music, but ends in silence. The pas de deaux between the Narrator and the Sister, represent the horror that the narrator feels in the presence of the sister. The music represents the character of Usher and the dancers interface with the musician. The dance follows the structure of the music (which means I have to figure out how the music follows the structure of the narrative...).

That's where I'm at. I hope to start rehearsing (with Sara! Yay!) within the next couple of weeks.

Coming soon...lots of rambling about Pablo Neruda.