In this installment of PDD’s fall/spring series covering the Dance Now 25th anniversary season, Paul Hamilton speaks with Choreographer, Writer, Director, and two-time Bessie winner Jane Comfort, who is being honored on Thursday, December 3rd at 7:00pm during the festival’s evening celebration. This interview is a wide-ranging conversation in which Jane shares thoughts about her work, her long career, and motherhood. You can find more information about the celebration honoring Jane and purchase a $20 ticket here, or check out the full season and ticketing options at https://dancenow.online/! Find out more about Jane and her work at http://janecomfortandcompany.org/about-jane/.
JANE COMFORT is a choreographer, writer, and director whose 2018 40th Anniversary Retrospective at La MaMa won a Bessie Award for best revival. She was also given a lifetime achievement award by the American Dance Guild. Her work has long explored the intersection of movement and text, often mixing high and low arts to make social and political commentary. She has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, two BESSIE Awards, a Doris Duke Award for New Work through ADF, and multiple artist fellowships from NEA, NYSCA, and NYFA. She also works in theater and opera, and choreographed the Broadway musicals Passion, by Stephen Sondheim, and Amour, by Michel Legrand.
In the 3rd episode of PDD’s coverage of the Dance Now festival’s 25th anniversary season, new hosts Paul Hamilton and Sabrina Karlin interview Jamal Jackson and Nicole Wolcott! Digital commissions from both artists premiere as part of Chapter 2 on Thursday, October 8th. Tickets and additional information are available here. Check out the full season’s offerings at https://dancenow.online/. In today’s interview, Jamal and Nicole discuss pandemic parenting, giving space to marginalized voices, and the challenges of empowering new audiences to interact with dance. The artists also look back on the importance of DANCE NOW in developing their respective choreographic voices.
Jamal Jackson, born in Brooklyn, graduated from Brown University and performed as a principal dancer with Ballet International Africans for two seasons. In 2004, he founded the Jamal Jackson Dance Company with the goal of fusing traditional African styles with modern and hip hop techniques. The company maintains a strong presence in the dance community through outreach and performances in festivals and venues such as Jacob’s Pillow, Summerstage and DANCE NOW. His work focuses on themes of identity and community.
Nicole Wolcott is a Brooklyn-based performer and choreographer who co-founded KEIGWIN + COMPANY with Larry Kiewin in 2003. Both in collaboration and independently, she has since created and performed across the lines of concert dance, film and theater both on and off Broadway. She continues to experiment with space and medium while choreographing and teaching at many notable universities. Her work with DANCE NOW spans over 13 years.
In the 2nd installment of PDD’s fall/spring series covering the Dance Now 25th anniversary season, new hosts Paul Hamilton and Sabrina Karlin interview the iconic Gus Solomons jr! Gus will be honored in Dance Now’s Chapter 1 virtual celebration on Thursday, October 1st at 7:00pm EDT. You can find more information and purchase a $20 ticket here, or check out the full season and ticketing options at https://dancenow.online/! In this interview, Gus gives us a fascinating overview of his career, including how he made his way from an architecture degree at MIT to Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and many more luminary choreographers. Along the way, he emphasizes the resilience and ingenuity of dancers and the dance community at large – an important message and reminder for all of us in these challenging times.
Gus Solomons jr. is a vital and essential part of American dance history. As a dancer, he drew and captured the attention of Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, Pearl Lang, and Donald Mckayle, to name just a few. He created Gus Solomons Company/Dance in 1972, and the dance collective Paradigm in 1996. As a choreographer, he has created more than 170 works that have been performed on stages around the world, in art galleries and museums, in warehouses, and on film. As a teacher, he has motivated and mentored dance students for over decades. As a writer, he is creating literature that will hold true as the genre evolves. Yet, he continues to challenge himself, shifting seamlessly between these roles and creating new forms and new understandings of the art form that has given him so much.
Robin Staff, Founding Executive Artistic Director of Dance Now, sat down with Clara and new PDD host Paul Hamilton to discuss Dance Now’s 25th anniversary season that kicks off on September 10th! Dance Now, which traditionally opens the NYC performance season with a week of shows at Joe’s Pub, is charting new territory by hosting a completely virtual season with performance and celebration chapters spanning September 2020 to May 2021. Pod de Deux will be covering the whole season! We chatted with Robin about the process of going virtual, presenting artists with the challenge of creating work remotely within the dimensions of the Joe’s Pub stage (fitting for quarantine!), and her own personal history in the dance world. Purchase tickets to individual events or a season pass at https://dancenow.online/!
Don’t miss these videos of creative approaches to dance in pandemic times that Robin mentioned enjoying!
The daughter of a painter, Robin went to Goucher College to study visual and creative arts and graduated as the first dance major, charting the development of one of today’s most vital college dance programs. She continued her career as a dancer at an age that was then considered ‘too old’, creating a small repertory company to sustain both a love of neo‐classical ballet and an eagerness to explore new and contemporary movement styles. Robin was inspired by unusual urban spaces and created her first gallery performance at the Wooster Street Gallery in Soho in 1993. The intimacy and enormous enthusiasm between the artists and audience members at this first performance predicted DANCE NOW’s artistic direction.
Over the past two decades, DANCE NOW has worked to make dance accessible and welcoming, bending the rules to offer artists a new way to think about creating and audiences new ways to experience dance. As DANCE NOW moves into its third decade, Robin’s vision continues to encompass the untraditional, the unconventional and the unknown. As an administrator, she is directed by her concern for the survival of dance makers, particularly young artists and BIPOC dance artists. She remains steadfast in her commitment to providing opportunities that present new choices, stimulate creativity, advance careers, and encourage exploration of the untried, while defying the archetypical and carving a path to new means of expression.
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.