PLEASE LOVE WHAT YOU DO: Richy Jackson

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In this episode of Pod De Deux, Michael Mahany speaks with Lady Gaga’s Visual Director and Choreographer, Richy Jackson! (Scroll down for extended video cut!)

Jackson, who grew up in the California Bay Area, tells us all about how he came to find dance, the fateful day when he left Tuskegee University as a pre-law student to move to LA and become a full-time dancer, and dishes on creating, casting, and shooting his most recent collaboration with Gaga — her latest music video, “Stupid Love“! Find Richy on Insta and Twitter @richysquirrel !

Richy Jackson is a world-class Visual Director and Choreographer who has spent the breadth of his 16-year career working in counts of eight alongside the most influential recording artists in the music industry. He is responsible for the widely acclaimed Lady Gaga Super Bowl Halftime Show and a master at inventing her signature dance style. He has served as Lady Gaga’s Visual Director/Choreographer for most of her career, creating the majority of her music videos, live performances, and television appearances. Jackson has also worked with Katy Perry, Keri Hilson, Nicki Minaj, Sean “Diddy” Combs, and Brandy, to name a few.

In addition to being one of the most sought-after choreographers in the business, Jackson displays superlative talent in stage direction, camera-blocking, and direction in narrative/character development. He has put his directional creativity into performances for some of the most recognized shows on television both domestically and abroad, including American Idol, Dancing With The Stars, So You Think You Can Dance, Saturday Night Live, The Today Show, Good Morning America, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, The Late Show With David Letterman, The Academy Awards, The Grammy Awards, the MTV Music Awards, the American Music Awards, the Billboard Awards, the BET Awards, and countless others.

While Jackson has spent thousands of hours developing and perfecting his craft in the rehearsal room, he is also an established television personality – appearing on-camera during multiple seasons of the wildly popular MTV franchise “Making The Band”. In 2011, Jackson was featured as a series regular on two hit shows: “The Dance Scene” (E! Entertainment) and “Born to Dance” (Black Entertainment Television).

Extended video cut:

I DID IT AND I ANALYZED IT LATER: Gabri Christa

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In this second week of COVID quarantine in New York City, Michael and Clara had the privilege of connecting with multi-disciplinary art maker Gabri Christa over Zoom. Gabri is a dancer, choreographer, filmmaker, scholar and all-around artist with a rich history and intriguing body of work. She told us about the cross-roads culture she experienced growing up in the Dutch Caribbean island nation of Curaçao, where she took yoga with adults and absorbed cultural dance forms before encountering modern dance when she attended university in the Netherlands. Hearing Gabri’s story of choreographing and performing at a young age on the island was an inspiring reminder that the urge to create comes not from formal training but from a well of creativity within. Most recently, Gabri has been touring her multi-media project, Magdalena, which took shape in response to her mother’s dementia, and hosting/curating the second Moving Body-Moving Image festival of dance films at Barnard. The festival theme this year is aging. It will take place completely online on April 4th from 12-6pm – we hope you’ll tune in! https://www.movingbodymovingimage.com/festival

You can see the film Gabri made with Kyle Abraham, QUARANTINE, on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/42853661

Multi-disciplinary and wide-ranging in form, Gabri Christa’s art-making spans film, choreography, performance, curation, writing, and more. She is currently an Assistant Professor of Professional Practice at Barnard College and a member of Mayor de Blasio’s Cultural Advisory Commission. Gabri has danced and choreographed with companies such as Danza Contemporanea de Cuba, DanzAbierta and the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. Awards include the Guggenheim for Choreography, and five Jerome Foundation grants. Her choreographies have been presented nationally, internationally and locally at Central Park Summer Stage, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Symphony Space, PS122 and for five seasons at Dance Theater Workshop (now New York Live Arts). 

ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN: Megan Williams

Megan striped, credit Amber Star Merkens

Jessica and Clara had the privilege of connecting with dance artist Megan Williams about her multi-layered career and many years of adventure in dance. Megan told us about getting started at Juilliard in the 80s and touring with Mark Morris Dance Group for 10 years, a relationship that evolved into an opportunity to stage his works for students and performers around the world that continues to this day. We also learned about Megan’s recent shift into choreography and her upcoming work, can I have it without begging, a live music and dance collaboration between Megan and award-winning composer Eve Beglarian. We found it fascinating that the process of developing the work has uncovered and shaped the layers of meaning within it, as have the inter-generational performers involved. We also discussed the importance of live music; it’s not easy to afford and incorporate live music as an independent choreographer, and we are excited that Megan was able to do so for this show! Don’t miss the world premiere at Danspace Project, March 26–28, 2020. You can learn more about Megan and her work at mwdanceprojects.com.

Megan Williams is an independent dance artist, choreographer, in demand teacher and repetiteur. Her choreography has been produced throughout the United States. In addition to performing her own work,  she can be seen dancing with choreographer Rebecca Stenn and in Netta Yurashalmy’s Paramodernities project. In 1988, she joined the Mark Morris Dance Group; she danced with MMDG for 10 years, touring worldwide, teaching, and appearing in films such as Falling Down Stairs (with Yo Yo Ma), The Hidden Soul of Harmony, The Hard Nut and Dido and Aeneas. Williams continues her affiliation with Morris, as guest ballet master, guest rehearsal director, and as a stager of his works.

ALL DANCE HAS A MESSAGE: Sean Dorsey

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Jessica and Michael had a fun, energized and important conversation with Sean Dorsey, the U.S.’ first acclaimed transgender modern dance choreographer. Sean’s newest work, BOYS IN TROUBLE, unpacks masculinity with unflinching honesty from unapologetically trans and queer perspectives – and Sean likewise spoke openly about how his work incorporates and expresses unique perspectives on gender, as well as social justice. In fact, Sean shared the idea that all dance, as an inherently expressive art, is a form of social messaging for which the choreographer is responsible. He also shared some ways in which his commitment to the queer community and principles of openness impacts all aspects of his work even beyond the stage – for example using his tech rider to ensure that the spaces where his company performs include non-binary restrooms and the option of non-binary dressing rooms. It was particularly refreshing and motivating to hear details about the “terrified beginner’s welcome” workshops Sean hosts for all people of all body types, gender identities and movement levels across the country, as well as how his team’s background in activism allows them to consistently sell out shows to audiences that include many non-dancers. Let’s learn from Sean’s approach to help more people experience dance!

Sean Dorsey is an award-winning San Francisco-based choreographer, dancer and writer. Recognized as the United States’ first acclaimed transgender modern dance choreographer, he has toured his work to 30 US cities. Dorsey has been awarded five Isadora Duncan Dance Awards and the Goldie Award for Performance. He has been named in Dance Magazine’s 25 To Watch and named “San Francisco’s Best Dance Company” (SF Weekly). Most recently, Dorsey was awarded a Dance/USA Artist Fellowship. Dorsey has been awarded major support by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Dance Project, Dance/USA, and many more sources, as well as a variety of commissions from sources including American Dance Festival, Bates Dance Festival, Queer Cultural Center in San Francisco, 7 Stages in Atlanta, and more.

Dorsey’s works are powerful explorations of human experience. They are highly physical, accessible, rooted in story, and danced with precision, guts and deep humanity. His newest work is BOYS IN TROUBLE, is a powerful evening of dances that unpack masculinity with unflinching honesty – from unapologetically trans and queer perspectives.

WELCOME TO POD DE DEUX: Our New Co-host Michael Mahany!

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After a particularly busy fall performance season, Jessica and Clara decided to bring a new co-host onto the Pod de Deux team – and could not have been more thrilled when Michael Mahany jumped on board!! Despite a demanding schedule performing with the recently extended Rock of Ages and serving as New York City Correspondent & Host for Dance Network TV, Michael has already brought remarkable energy, enthusiasm and much-needed social media skills to Pod de Deux. After many years of interviewing dance stars on the Dance Network red carpet and publishing written interviews (like this one with PDD guest Tiffany Mills!), Michael also brings a familiarity with Broadway and commercial dance that will help PDD widen its scope even further. This refreshing new energy is just what we needed for 2020. Welcome, Michael! (Listeners you can follow Michael on instagram at @michaelmahany – and don’t forget @rockofagesmusical and Dance Network at @watchdancetv !)

DANCE IS FOR EVERYONE: Catherine Tambini

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Clara sat down with award-winning documentary filmmaker Catherine Tambini just days after Catherine’s new film, Perfectly Normal for Me, had its nationwide television premiere on the WORLD Channel. (The film can be streamed on worldchannel.org until November 29th!) Perfectly Normal for Me follows children and teens in a NYC after-school program called Dancing Dreams that is designed to help students with physical disabilities learn dance and express their interest in movement and performance.  Catherine spoke about the universality of dance as well as the experience of making the film and her gratitude for the families who allowed her into their lives during filming. She also shared her own evolving experience with dance, speculated on the linkage between dance and social activism, and gave us a peek into the process of making a documentary film. We hope you will enjoy the interview and head over to worldchannel.org to stream Perfectly Normal for Me by Nov. 29th, 2019! 

Catherine Tambini is an award-winning filmmaker and documentarian. Her past films include Hate Rising, about the 2016 presidential campaign rhetoric and the rise of the Alt Right; The State of Arizona, about Arizona’s struggle with illegal immigration; and Farmingville, about a small town on Long Island in the wake of the hate-based attempted murder of two Mexican day laborers. Catherine also co-produced the Academy Award-nominated Suzanne Farrell: Elusive Muse about George Balanchine’s iconic ballerina. She has won and been nominated for many additional awards, including an Emmy for The State of Arizona, the Sundance Special Jury Award for Farmingville, the Impact Award for Outstanding Documentary for Hate Rising, and more. In addition to her documentary work, Catherine has assisted in the production design of many well-known Hollywood films, and she has field produced and shot portions of several reality series. She is a Sundance Institute and MacArthur Foundation fellow. She holds a BFA from the University of Oklahoma and a MFA from NYU Tisch School of the Arts.

IN BETWEEN: TIFFANY MILLS

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In this episode, our new co-host Michael joined the mic with Clara to interview choreographer, Tiffany Mills ahead of the world premiere of her new work,
Not then, not yet. Tiffany shared how she drew inspiration for this evening-length work from Mary Shelley’s life and writings.  The motif of liminality became a powerful, generative force behind the work to explore movement, emotion, and character in between contrasting states of being. Having come from a diverse background of tap, gymnastics, and modern dance, Tiffany revealed how she eventually became interested in choreographing dance from a theatrical and dramaturgical perspective.  (more…)