Editorial

DVD Review: Basic Castanet and Movement Technique Volume 1

Basic Castanet and Movement Technique Volume 1
JoDe Romano

by Emily Kate Long

Screen_shot_2014-08-11_at_8.32.14_AMIn this thirty-five minute instructional DVD, New York City-based teacher and choreographer JoDe Romano walks the beginning student through a series of six castanet exercises. She begins with simple instructions for putting on and adjusting the castanets, then moves on to finger exercises, and eventually incorporates arm, head, and leg movements. Each new element is added systematically, with emphasis on slow repetition and daily practice to develop strength and accuracy.

Romano’s verbal directions are clear and easy to follow, and each exercise is shown from the front and back. Her demonstrations cleanly show the technique for each combination, and she provides an inspiring example of the strength, passion, and power of Spanish dance.

This DVD is a useful tool for beginners of any age, or any dancer looking for a better understanding of the basics of Spanish castanet movement. Basic Castanet and Movement Technique is the first of a two-part series. Both DVDs can be purchased on Romano’s website, www.flamencoromano.com.

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New Series With DanceWorks Chicago – James Gregg, Choreographer

Welcome to our new series! In the coming months, you’ll be hearing a variety of voices from DanceWorks Chicago (DWC), an arts organization that has been around since 2007.

DWC gives early career artists an environment where they can build a foundation and hone their artistry through training, collaboration, performances and mentoring opportunities. They also showcase work from established choreographers.

Today we will hear from guest choreographer James Gregg, who will be a part of DWC’s SEASON 8. This season will include other guest choreographers from across the country and around the world as well as a focus on Chicago dancemakers through the DanceMoves Choreography Competition. Keep an eye out for interviews with DWC participants here on the blog.

In the meantime, let’s get to know James Gregg a little better, as he answers interview questions for us here today…

Nocturnal Sense, choreographed by James Gregg. Photo by VIN

Nocturnal Sense, choreographed by James Gregg. Photo by VIN

Why did you make the move from dancer to choreographer? 

I always wanted to be a choreographer, I knew from the very beginning.

What is it about choreography that appeals most to you?

It’s a hard question, there is so much that appeals to me.

I love painting the stage with movement and lighting. I love creating and challenging dancers to get out of their comfort zone. I love trying to connect with the audience and challenge them as well.

Where do your ideas come from for creating dances?

Every piece is different.

Sometimes it’s music, other times it’s a moment between two people on the street, or a commercial. It can be a life-changing moment or subtle exchanges between lovers. I mean, the ideas are all around you, you just need to open to receive them.

Is there anything you don’t enjoy about the process of choreographing a piece?

I enjoy it all—not to say certain days aren’t challenging. It’s all about the process and how we maneuver around those challenges, which in turn gives a better product. Those moments take you to places you wouldn’t have expected.

You created a piece for DanceWorks Chicago titled Nocturnal Sense. Did the choice of music (Vivaldi) come before or after you began choreographing?

The last musical movement of Nocturnal Sense was the catapult for the entire piece.

What was your process like for creating this piece?

I created 5 phrases based off the 5 senses, then manipulated them with each dancer, and then it just kind of molded itself from there.

James Gregg will unveil his new work at DWC’s “Dance Bytes”, taking place August 4th at the Ruth Page Center Theatre.

Choreographer James Gregg

Choreographer James Gregg

BIO: James Gregg began dancing at the age of nine with Ballet Oklahoma. He continued his training with Cece Farha’s Range of MotionHouston Ballet Academy, the Bolshoi Ballet Academy, and EDGE Performing Arts Center. In 1999, he moved to Chicago to dance with River North Dance Company, then in 2005, moved to Montreal, where he danced with Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal until 2013. James has performed the works of renowned choreographers Crystal Pite, Rodrigo Pederneiras, Barak Marshall, Frank Chaves, Danny Ezralow, Harrison McEldowney, Mauro Bigonzetti, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Cayetano Soto, and Edgar Zendejas. Besides RUBBERBANDance Group, he also performs with Aszure Barton and Artists and other dance companies around the country.

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Finis: Trey McIntyre Project’s Farewell At Jacob’s Pillow

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by Christopher Duggan

This summer at Jacob’s Pillow marked Trey McIntyre Project‘s last performances as a professional dance company before Trey moves on to other projects. I’ve photographed the dance company before, and I’ve always loved Trey’s choreography.

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It just seemed like a very special week, so I thought it’d be great to spend extra time with the company making pictures. I photographed the company in dress rehearsal as I usually do, but I also photographed one performance from backstage and I made portraits with four of the dancers around the Pillow grounds and on my family’s trampoline.

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Brett Perry and Benjamin Behrends

Each of these four dancers, Benjamin Behrends, Chanel Da Silva, Amber Mayberry and Brett Perry, really gave me time to explore with them. The nature of a dancer’s schedule is that they just don’t usually have a lot of time to spare. So I approach a portrait with an idea that we try to execute and we may be able to try one other thing after that, but then the dancer needs to go.

Chanel Da Silva

Chanel Da Silva

Chanel and I had two hours together and there were several photos we tried that are not featured here, because we were able to explore more and figure out the best portraits. The same with Amber Mayberry below – she gave me a nice amount of time to have a relaxed approach and create something together.

Amber Mayberry

Amber Mayberry

To be able to create something together is special. We’re both artists, and we want to make something beautiful. I was able to do that with all of them, because they were so generous with their time and excited to work together. When they had their final performance that Sunday afternoon, I snuck in to the Ted Shawn Theatre at the very end to capture their final bows. I wanted them to have this moment forever.

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Contributor Christopher Duggan is a wedding and dance photographer in New York City, the Berkshires and beyond. Duggan has been the Festival Photographer for Jacob’s Pillow Dance since 2006. In this capacity, and as a respected New York-based dance photographer, he has worked with renowned choreographers and performers of international acclaim as well as upstarts in the city’s diverse performance scene.
Christopher Duggan, Photo by Julia Newman

Christopher Duggan, Photo by Julia Newman

He photographs dancers in the studio and in performance, for promotional materials, portraits and press, and he often collaborates with his wife, Nel Shelby, and her Manhattan-based dance film and video editing company Nel Shelby Productions (nelshelby.com). Together, they have documented dance at performances from New York City to Vail International Dance Festival.

Christopher Duggan Photography also covers the finest wedding venues in the Metropolitan and Tri-State areas, in Massachusetts and the Berkshires, and frequently travels to destination weddings.

His photographs appear in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Knot, Destination I Do, Photo District News, Boston Globe, Financial Times, Dance Magazine, and Munaluchi Bridal, among other esteemed publications and popular dance and wedding blogs. One of his images of Bruce Springsteen was added to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and his dance photography has been exhibited at The National Museum of Dance and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

His Natural Light Studio (http://www.christopherduggan.com/portfolio/natural-light-studio-jacobs-pillow-photography/) at Jacob’s Pillow is his most ambitious photography project to date – check out his blog to see more portraits of dance artists in his pop-up photo studio on the Pillow grounds.

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Absence Makes The Dance Grow Stronger

by Catherine L. Tully

Photo by William Frederking.

Michael Estanich and Lucy Vurusic-Riner

Mutual respect.

These are two words that form the cornerstone of any healthy long-term relationship—personal or professional. Even so, it’s often hard to check the ‘ol ego at the door for the greater good of the partnership. But take two people from the dance world that have known each other for 16 years, give them a shared vision and complementary skill sets…and wonderful things can happen.

It’s immediately obvious that there’s a deep rapport between Lucy Vurusic-Riner and Michael Estanich, and it is in every sense the foundation that their dance company is built upon. RE|Dance is a collaborative effort between these two long-time friends, and their respective titles provide all the information needed to dig a little deeper and see why they work so well together.

Vurusic-Riner is the Executive Director and handles the majority of the business aspects of RE|Dance. Estanich runs point on the creative arena as the Artistic Director. He choreographs and selects costumes. She writes grants and markets the performances.

Estanich lives in Wisconsin and teaches at University of Wisconsin/Stevens Point. Vurusic-Riner resides in Chicago and is a high school dance program instructor. They do the majority of the work for the company separately, coming together only for short spurts of time where they work together intensely, then return to their respective towns.

This makes for a challenging situation, but the two have learned to embrace it, and even thrive on it. Estanich explains saying, “Our time apart provides privacy to consider the ideas, movements, research etc., on our own (this includes the dancers too). When we are together it is RE|Dance Group nearly 24 hours a day. We are constantly together and with the company and feel a bit of pressure to generate a lot of material during those intensive rehearsals. The time apart gives me the chance to consider what the company and I have generated and see how it influences the direction of a project.”

RE|Dance, Photo by Jeff Larson

RE|Dance, Photo by Jeff Larson

Daily communication is important to this process, and Estanich believes this enriches the creative ideas that have been generated. “It is rare to have the opportunity to discuss the choreographic ideas so deeply before moving again,” he says, adding, “I think this builds indelible trust in each other, personally, creatively, administratively, and inspirationally.”

So how do the two artists make this arrangement work while teaching full time? They multi-task. Most projects begin with Estanich working with his students to create an initial jumping off point. Vurusic-Riner says, “We then take what they have put together, which is typically a smaller version of the piece, and we expand it to become an evening-length work.”

In the past this has meant learning from video, but for their upcoming project, The Long and Forgotten Winter, the pair used a different approach. “This is an idea that Michael developed for the company specifically and we have had full investment and ownership in it since day one,” says Vurusic-Riner, who took a more direct role in the movement development this time around.

The most interesting area of crossover is the company’s rehearsal time, directed, surprisingly, by Vurusic-Riner. Since home base is Chicago, she is responsible for keeping Estanich’s vision alive in the dancers and putting them through their paces. This creates unique challenges in its execution, but again, the respect for one another provides a through-line. “We trust each other to do what’s best for the company,” says Vurusic-Riner, adding, “We don’t always like the same things and our movement preferences are not always the same, but we do have the same vision when it comes to our artistic philosophy.”

Vurusic-Riner knows Estanich’s style so well that she is often able to “guesstimate” a movement pattern or linking step if it isn’t clear. But even so, the dancers must remain flexible in terms of learning the choreography as it can change in a moment once Estanich appears back on the scene.

RE|Dance has enjoyed steady growth throughout the five years it has been in existence, but The Long And Forgotten Winter is more than just another choreographic vision coming to life. It also represents how dedication, mutual respect and love for one’s art can triumph over distance and time. It may not be the easiest way to work, but for these two artists, it is the only way they can do what they love with the other person at their side.

Even if it’s only some of the time.

_______________________________

The Long And Forgotten Winter will be at the Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts August 1st and 2nd at 7:30 pm and August 3rd at 3 pm. Tickets are $20.

Read more about this production on Art Intercepts.

*Lucy Vurusic-Riner is a contributing writer to 4dancers.org.

 

 

 

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Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival 2014 – Opening Week With The Hong Kong Ballet & Carmen De Lavallade

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by Christopher Duggan

It’s been a glorious first week back at Jacob’s Pillow in every way. Fantastic dance, beautiful sunshine and lots of making pictures. I wait all year for this and it’s finally here.

This year was my first time photographing the Pillow’s Gala in many years. It was fun to be a part of all the season opening festivities again.

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My friend John Heginbotham received the Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award given to visionary artists for their creativity.

The amazing Carmen De Lavallade danced with the back barn doors of the Ted Shawn Theatre open, in my mind symbolizing the opening of the festival’s doors for all to come this summer.

A few of my Inside/Out images were included in the Gala’s silent auction, and though the auction is not officially over, I’m honored to say it looks like my dance photography brought in a few thousand dollars!

The Hong Kong Ballet is a stunning and exciting company. So many dancers. Impeccable technique. Really fun to photograph. The company only did one dance in costume for our photo call together, but it was plenty for me. I’m so glad these strong ballet dancers are opening the festival.

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It’s hard to describe photographing Ms. De Lavallade. She has such grace and dignity. She raises the bar just by walking into the room. Her show is poignant and funny, and it’s just a treat to watch such a high level of performance coming from a woman who has more than six decades of experience onstage. She holds the distinction of the longest Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival performing career on record, and made her Pillow debut with Lester Horton Dance Theatre in 1953. Just out of this world.

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Contributor Christopher Duggan is a wedding and dance photographer in New York City, the Berkshires and beyond. Duggan has been the Festival Photographer for Jacob’s Pillow Dance since 2006. In this capacity, and as a respected New York-based dance photographer, he has worked with renowned choreographers and performers of international acclaim as well as upstarts in the city’s diverse performance scene.
Christopher Duggan, Photo by Julia Newman

Christopher Duggan, Photo by Julia Newman

He photographs dancers in the studio and in performance, for promotional materials, portraits and press, and he often collaborates with his wife, Nel Shelby, and her Manhattan-based dance film and video editing company Nel Shelby Productions (nelshelby.com). Together, they have documented dance at performances from New York City to Vail International Dance Festival.

Christopher Duggan Photography also covers the finest wedding venues in the Metropolitan and Tri-State areas, in Massachusetts and the Berkshires, and frequently travels to destination weddings.

His photographs appear in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, The Knot, Destination I Do, Photo District News, Boston Globe, Financial Times, Dance Magazine, and Munaluchi Bridal, among other esteemed publications and popular dance and wedding blogs. One of his images of Bruce Springsteen was added to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and his dance photography has been exhibited at The National Museum of Dance and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

His Natural Light Studio (http://www.christopherduggan.com/portfolio/natural-light-studio-jacobs-pillow-photography/) at Jacob’s Pillow is his most ambitious photography project to date – check out his blog to see more portraits of dance artists in his pop-up photo studio on the Pillow grounds.

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