Clara is a freelance film Producer and Grant Writer in New York City. She spends her "free time" surfing Facebook, talking to her mom and plotting to take over the world - one half-finished essay at a time. @clara_peterson
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 Agesand 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 !)
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.
Jessica and Clara had the great pleasure of interviewing five 2019 Bessie Award nominees this year – in order of interview: Caleb Teicher, Molly Poerstel, Shamar Watt, Ni’Ja Whitson and Leslie Cuyjet! (See below for nominations!) The Bessies – which celebrate their 35 anniversary this year – are New York City’s premier annual dance awards honoring outstanding creative work in the field, and our interviewees could not have illustrated this more clearly. We were fascinated to dig into the inspiration and processes behind a sampling of the imaginative, diverse, socially important and truly outstanding works that are being recognized this year. We hope you will enjoy listening as much as we enjoyed conversing. For more about each artist, continue scrolling for individual bios/episodes! Note that the Bessies awards ceremony will take place on Monday, October 14th, 2019. Jessica and Clara will be there, alongside our five interviewees and of course many more. Come join us and be sure to say ‘hi’!
Caleb Teicher – Nominated for three awards: Outstanding Breakout Choreographer, Outstanding Production (More Forever, Guggenheim Works & Process ), and Outstanding Sound Design/Musical Composition (along with Conrad Tao), for the same work
Molly Poerstel – Nominated for Outstanding Performer for Sustained Achievement with Hilary Clark, David Dorfman, Jeanine Durning, Alex Escalante, Juliana F. May, Susan Rethorst, Roseanne Spradlin, and Larissa Velez-Jackson
Shamar Watt – Nominated for outstanding Performer for Sustained Achievement in the work of Nora Chipaumire
Ni’Ja Whitson – Nominated for two awards: Outstanding Production (Oba Qween Baba King Baba, Co-commissioned by Danspace Project and Abrons Arts Center), and costume co-designer / member of Outstanding Visual Design, for the same work, together with Jeanne Medina (Costumes), Gil Sperling (Video – featuring art works by Wangechi Mutu and Galvin Jantejes ), and Tuçe Yasak (Lighting)
Leslie Cuyjet – Nominated for Outstanding Performer for Sustained Achievement in the work of Jane Comfort, Niall Jones, Juliana F. May, Cynthia Oliver, and Will Rawls
Pod de Deux interviewed Leslie Cuyjet as part of a series of interviews with five 2019 NYC Bessie Award nominees. Leslie was nominated for a Bessie for Sustained Achievement with Jane Comfort, Niall Jones, Juliana F. May, Cynthia Oliver, and Will Rawls. We hope to do a full-length interview with her in the future!
Leslie Cuyjet is a dance and collaborative artist based in Brooklyn. She has collaborated, contributed, co-directed, facilitated, designed, and danced with a range of artists, including Kim Brandt, Yanira Castro/acanary torsi, Jane Comfort, David Gordon, Niall Noel Jones, Cynthia Oliver, Juliana F. May, KatieWorkum, Julian Barnett, Stephanie Acosta, Vanessa Walters, NARCISSISTER, Sean Donovan and Sebastián Calderón Bentin, Emily Wexler, David Thomson, Mark Dendy, The A.O. Movement Collective, and Will Rawls, among others. Cuyjet has been presented in New York by La MaMa (La MaMa Moves!Festival/The Current Sessions), Gibney Dance (DoublePlus), Center for Performance Research (Fall Movement), Movement Research (Fall Festival, Movement Research at Judson Church), AUNTS (Realness, Populous), and Danspace Draftworks. Leslie has held residencies at Chez Bushwick, Movement Research, and Center for Performance Research, and Yaddo.
Pod de Deux interviewed Ni’Ja Whitsonas part of a series of interviews with five 2019 NYC Bessie Award nominees. Ni’Ja was nominated for a Bessie for outstanding production and Visual Design of Oba Qween Baba King Baba, which was Co-commissioned by Danspace Project and Abrons Arts Center. We hope to do a full-length interview with them in the future!
Ni’Ja Whitson (CA/NYC) is a Creative Capital and Bessie Award winning, Nonbinary Transinterdisciplinary artist and writer, who has been referred to as “majestic” by The New York Times and recognized by Brooklyn Magazine as a culture influencer. Theyare a 2018 MAP Fund recipient, featured choreographer of the 2018 CCA Biennial, 2019 USA Artists Fellowship Nominee, and 2018-2020 Urban Bush Women Choreographic Center Fellow. Other recent awards include a Jerome/Camargo Fellowship, Watermill Residency, Dance in Process (DiP) Residency, Hedgebrook Fellowship, LMCC Process Space Residency, Bogliasco Fellowship, and Brooklyn Arts Exchange Artist Residency. Whitson is an Assistant Professor of experimental choreography at UC Riverside and founder of The NWA Project. www.nijawhitson.com
Ni’Ja’s Oba Qween Baba King Baba engages spiritual multiplicity and the role of Queerness in the Divine. The work’s title is based on the Yorùbá word “Oba,” which is a genderless term that has come to be known as a king. An iteration of this work was presented during Dancing Platform Praying Grounds: Blackness, Churches, and Downtown Dance (Platform 2018) curated by Reggie Wilson.
Pod de Deux interviewed Shamar Watt as part of a series of interviews with five 2019 NYC Bessie Award nominees. Shamar was nominated for a Bessie for Sustained Achievement in the work of Nora Chipaumire. We hope to do a full-length interview with him in the future!
Shamar Watt is an artist born in Kingston, Jamaica, he was raised in both Jamaica and Miami, FL. He received his AA in psychology, and a BFA in Dance at FSU. What drives Watt as an artist is the quest to fill in the blank spots of history by projecting and manifesting the potential of the possible past-futures/futures alike. He uses the Body as a weapon to manifest the powers vested in him to attain emancipation and liberation of the whole self – mind, body and soul for himself, the people, and for all mankind, through sound waves, gravitational waves, spirit waves. He is also deeply invested in the potentiality/impossibility of bridging the divide of the old/new African. Watt has researched and performed with Nora Chipaumire since 2015, in Zimbabwe and internationally. Watt continues to work on his own craft as an emerging choreographer/sound engineer. He has been performing and presenting his own work professionally for 3 years. His work has been presented in secular venues and at sacred happenings frequently. Shamar Watt was a 2018 Bessie nominee, and also elected as one of 2019 top 25 to watch from Dance Magazine!
Pod de Deux interviewed Molly Poerstel as part of a series of interviews with five 2019 NYC Bessie Award nominees. Molly was nominated for a Bessie for Sustained Achievement with Hilary Clark, David Dorfman, Jeanine Durning, Alex Escalante, Juliana F. May, Susan Rethorst, Roseanne Spradlin, and Larissa Velez-Jackson. Molly talked about her experience dancing for a range of artists and how these artists have influenced her artistry and creative process. She talked about Jeanine Durning’s “inging,” among others. We hope to do a full-length interview with her in the future! *Note that when Molly refers to Abrons’ underground theater, she is referring to the fact that the theater is not a proscenium theater.
Molly Poerstel is a dance artist whose dance career spans twenty years. As a performer she has collaborated with Ivy Baldwin, David Dorfman Dance Company (05-09), Jeanine Durning, Alex Escalante, Juliana F. May, Susan Rethorst, Roseanne Spradlin, and Larissa Velez-Jackson, among others. Poerstel has taught at SUNY Purchase Dance Conservatory, the Dalton School and The Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts, The New School. She was a 2015 Movement Research Artist-in-Residence and is a 2018 BAX Parent Space Grant Recipient. Her choreographic works include: Are we a Fossil, and of Facings (2016), Stolen Grounds (2014), The Highlands (2014), Hungry Ghost (2013) and Do Beast (2012). She is currently in process making bottom feeder, which premieres at Abrons Arts Center in 2020. mollypoerstel.com