This month on 4dancers you’ll notice posts on choreography. Today we have Margi Cole, Artistic Director and Founder of The Dance COLEctive, a Chicago-based company that has been around for over 16 years…
When did you first take an interest in choreography and what drew you to it?
Believe it or not my interest in choreography started young. I organized neighborhood kids and actually produced performances in the garage at a neighbors house. Funny to think about now. I think I really enjoyed gathering and organizing groups of people.
How do you see the role of the choreographer in the dance world?
This is a hard question. I guess the privilege of being a choreographer is creating the opportunity for others to see something new. The power to create an image or explore an idea that resonates with someone long after the live performance.
What is your own choreographic process?
I work very collaboratively. Usually I come in with an idea and some plans around how I want to explore that idea whether it be through the development of movement vocabulary, research, personal writing exercises and conversations about our own experiences. I share this with the group and then we go on from there. The process is informed by everyone’s participation and my role inevitably as the editor.
“COLEctive Notions 2012” is coming up in May, and it’s a showcase for choreography from members of your company. Can you talk a bit about how you helped mentor the choreographers through the process of creating works for this program?
First, they had to submit a proposal where they put forward their ideas in writing. While this seems simple, it is often a great challenge to clarify ones ideas in writing. It is an important and necessary tool. From there they work on their own for an extended period of time. When they are ready they invite me in for feedback, ask me questions, look to me for direction and confirmation that their ideas are working. I encourage them through the process and help them see it to the final stages for performance.
What are the greatest challenges for new choreographers in terms of creating a work?
Having the resources they need to create work whether it be space or the knowledge of how to assemble a group and produce a performance or access to a “mentor” to help them explore their ideas and ask them questions throughout the process.
Is the relationship a reciprocal one? Do you learn anything from the choreographers?
Absolutely! It is so interesting to see what they value in terms of craft. Watching them helps me to further define my own aesthetic and watch them deepen their own. It is pretty awesome!
What is the most surprising thing you have learned since you have been choreographing dances?
The power of a strong visual image. How important it is to be honest in the process with yourself, your collaborators and your audience. That the options for creativity are endless and that fills me with fear and wonder!
Margi Cole graduated from the Alabama School of Fine Arts, received a Bachelor of Arts in Dance from Columbia College Chicago and a Masters of Fine Arts in Dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. As a teacher and guest lecturer, she has taught for numerous educational and professional organizations such as the Alabama Ballet, the American College Dance Festival, Ballet Tennessee, Northwestern University, Columbia College Chicago, and various other institutions throughout Illinois, the Midwest, and the Southeast. As a choreographer, Margi has been commissioned by The Alabama Ballet, Springfield Ballet Company, Sanspointe DanceCompany, the Birmingham Museum of Art, Girl’s Preparatory School of Tennessee, Beloit College and Columbia College Chicago.
As a performer, Margi has danced with well-known choreographers and companies, including Ralph Lemon, Joe Goode Performance Group, Liz Burritt, Stephen Koplowitz, Ann Boyd, David Rousseve, Bill Young, Douglas Nielsen, Timothy O’Slynne, Paula Frasz, Colleen Halloran, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak, Mordine & Company Dance Theatre, Renee Wadleigh, and Ellie Klopp. In August 2011, Cole traveled to Finhorn Scotland to join 19 international performers to participate in the Deborah Hay Solo Commissioning Project.
Awards and acknowledgements of Margi’s accomplishments include making the list of “Teachers Rated Excellent by their Students” four consecutive semesters while on faculty at the University of Illinois, receiving two Dance Center of Columbia College Choreographic Mentoring Scholarships, two Illinois Arts Council Individual Artist Fellowships, a 2005 Chicago Dancemakers Forum grant, a American Marshall Memorial Fellowship, and winning a Panoply Festival Choreography Award for Contemporary Dance in Huntsville, AL.
Margi is active in the Chicago dance community, serving on grant panels and in public forums as an arts administrator, dancer and choreographer. In 2011, she was integral in organizing both the Dance/USA and Marshall Forum annual conferences in Chicago. Cole is currently a Chicago Dancemakers Forum Consortium Member and is part of the Marshall Memorial Fellowship Selection Committee. She is currently on faculty at Columbia College Chicago, where she has served as a Lecturer and Associate Chair. Most recently she was name on of The Players in New City’s “Fifty People Who Really Perform in Chicago” List.