When winter turns to spring, the upbeat of dance in the Berkshires begins to pick up. First up will be a joint presentation by Jacob’s Pillow Dance and MASS MoCA of the Australian contemporary dance company and audience favorite Chunky Move in Connected March 24 and 25 at MASS MoCA’s Hunter Center. Based in Melbourne, the company is acclaimed for dance works that merge unique visual design and “blasts of choreographic excitement” (Jack Anderson, New York Times). These daring and innovative works have garnered fans around the world, earning the company a strong reputation as “Australia’s biggest and most successful contemporary dance export” (Edinburgh International Festival). This engagement will mark Chunky Move’s first Berkshire County return since the 2007 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.
Ella Baff, Jacob’s Pillow Executive and Artistic Director comments, “We’ve presented Chunky Move over the years at the Pillow; they are always fresh and inventive. Connected, their newest work, is perfect for MASS MoCA, a collaboration of choreographer Gideon Obarzanek and visual artist Rueben Margolin. Margolin is known for large kinetic sculptures that move and morph, well suited to the dynamics of dance. In fact, in Connected, the sculpture takes up a good portion of the stage and the audience sees how it is built as the dance unfolds. It’s a fascinating interplay of human, machine, and movement.”
The evening-length dance Connected merges the worlds of visual art and dance, animating the physical relationship between eleven dancers and a kinetic sculpture made of wood, recycled plastic, paper, and steel. Constructed in real time during the performance, the sculpture has been described by dance critic Deborah Jowitt as “the most compelling presence onstage.” Connected builds in momentum as athletic and agile dancers twist and hurtle through space to a powerfully haunting electronic score by composers Oren Ambarchi and Robin Fox. Chloe Smethurs of Dance Magazine describes the choreographic variety: “From kaleidoscopic patterns to frenetic, body-flinging chaos, from simple walking to a mellifluous duet of action and reaction, the movement vocabulary…is ever-changing.” Keith Gallasch of Australia’s RealTime calls Connected “…an engrossing creation, intensely and rewardingly collaborative, passionately danced to exacting choreography.”
Founded in 1995, Chunky Move creates diverse dance works, ranging in site specific, stage, new-media, and installation pieces. Known for producing a distinct yet unpredictable brand of genre-defying dance performance, the company redefines the possibilities of contemporary dance as “one of the driving forces behind Melbourne’s thriving dance culture” (Theatre Notes). Succinctly described by ARTS HUB, “Chunky Move has challenged expectations with works that have been innovative, eclectic, physical and bold.” The company has performed throughout the U.K., Europe, Asia, and the Americas, including two week-long engagements at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in 2005 and 2007.
Founder Gideon Obarzanek, a 2005 Bessie Award-winner for Outstanding Choreography/Creation, serves as Artistic Director through June 2012. Ella Baff, Jacob’s Pillow Executive and Artist Director, describes Obarzanek as “a major presence on the international arts scene.” His accolades include Best Dance Work for Glow at the Live Performance Australia Helpmann Awards (2008) and Honorary Mention in the Prix Ars Electronica awards in the Hybrid Arts category (2009) for Mortal Engine. Connected is the final work Obarzanek created for the company before his upcoming departure to become an independent choreographer. This U.S. Tour marks the last performances under Gideon Obarzanek’s direction.
On July 1, 2012, Anouk van Dijk, internationally acclaimed choreographer based in The Netherlands, will commence her role as Chunky Move’s new CEO and Artistic Director. She has toured extensively around the world as lead soloist with the Rotterdam Dance Group and Amanda Miller’s Pretty Ugly Dance Company, along with her own company anoukvandijk dc. Anouk van Dijk and her troupe appeared twice at MASS MoCA performing the works Stau in 2006 and Shotz in 2009.
About Reuben Heyday Margolin, the visual artist and his unusual stage device
There is a story about the construction you see in these photos and video which you can find on Reuben Heyday Margolin’s website. It is one of his “Waves” creations.
The construction is is 35′ x 10′ x 20′ and made from high paper, magnets, string, steel, wooden ring, 88 pulleys, one motor.
“In 2009 I met the choreographer Gideon Obarzanek while we were presenting our work at Poptech. He was talking about dance. I was talking about waves. We both talked about movement. I immediately loved his work and felt that he was reaching deep into a realm of meaning to create his dance pieces. And I was simply struck by how dynamic and expressive the human figure can be.
“We struck up a conversation about how to do a collaboration combining kinetic sculpture and dancers. Rather than simply having the sculpture overhead and the dancers below, we both wanted to do something more challenging, and to somehow have the sculpture reflect the movement of the dancers. Over the next year Gideon stopped by my shop twice, and we experimented with different ways of tying strings between a person and a suspended matrix.
“The sculpture we decided upon has similarities to a torqued square wave, but rather than adding two sine waves, one axis is tied to the dancer’s arms, and the other axis is tied to the legs. These twin movements allow for a wide range of expression in the sculpture, and the strings can also be distributed between multiple dancers. Besides the suspended paper matrix, the sculpture consists of an overhead tension grid and a block on the floor that adds a mechanical wave to the motion originating in the dancer. I came to think of the sculpture as a musical instrument, where my job was to give it the most expressive potential possible before Gideon figured out how to play it, give it meaning, and somehow incorporate it into a performance. Gideon wanted to build the sculpture on stage, and so I designed an articulating magnetic joint so the paper elements could quickly snap together.
“While I was building the sculpture in my shop in California, Gideon was developing his choreography with five dancers in his studio in Melbourne. In January of 2011 I traveled to Australia to set up the sculpture. Connected is produced by Gideon’s dance company Chunky Move was rehearsed and developed with the additional talents of two composers, a lighting designer, and a costume designer. The opening was on March 15, 2011 at the Malthouse Theater in Melbourne, Australia.”
In addition to two public performances, on March 23, Chunky Move will conduct a daytime master class and open rehearsal for dance and visual arts students from Williams College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), and Bennington College.
Jacob’s Pillow and MASS MoCA have co-presented performing arts programming since the museum was founded in 1999. Together, with funding from the Irene Hunter Fund, they support the development of visual and performing artists, encouraging experimentation within and between various art forms, and expanding the public’s understanding of creative processes. The Irene Hunter Fund increases MASS MoCA’s capacity to nurture and present innovative dance programming at the highest quality; develop new dance audiences in the Berkshires; and continue deep collaboration with Jacob’s Pillow. Past co-presentations include Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, STREB, MOMIX, DanceBrazil, Stephen Petronio Company, Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, Armitage Gone! Dance, and Los Muñequitos de Matanzas.
Performance and Ticket Information:
March 24 8pm and March 25 3pm; Hunter Center at MASS MoCA. Galleries are open until 7:30pm on Saturday, March 24 so visitors can combine the performance with a stroll through the exhibitions. On Sunday, March 25, MASS MoCA’s galleries are open from 11am-5pm. Ticket prices: $39 premium / $29 orchestra / $25 mezzanine / $10 children under 16 MASS MoCA Box Office hours are Wednesday through Monday, 11am–5pm.
For additional information on Jacob’s Pillow and the 80th Anniversary Season, visit www.jacobspillow.org.
Jacob’s Pillow, celebrating its 80th Anniversary in 2012, is a National Historic Landmark, home to America’s longest running international dance festival, and recipient of the prestigious National Medal of Arts. The Festival includes more than 50 national and international dance companies and 300 free and ticketed performances, talks, tours, exhibits, and events. The School at Jacob’s Pillow encompasses one of the most prestigious professional dance training centers in the U.S., as well as an Intern Program in various departments of arts administration and production. The Pillow’s extensive Archives, open year-round to the public, chronicle more than 80 years of dance in photographs, programs, books, costumes, audiotapes, and video. Year-round Community Programs enrich the lives of children and adults through public classes, residencies in area schools with Jacob’s Pillow Curriculum in Motion®, and more than 200 free public events. Choreography commissions; Creative Development Residencies, in which dance companies are invited to live and work at the Pillow and enjoy unlimited studio time; and the annual $25,000 Jacob’s Pillow Dance Award all support visionary choreographers. Virtual Pillow is aimed at expanding global audiences for dance and offers the opportunity to experience dance and Jacob’s Pillow from anywhere in the world via online interactive exhibits, global video networks, and mobile social media. For more information, visit www.jacobspillow.org.
MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art) located at 87 Marshall Street in North Adams, is the largest center for contemporary visual and performing art in the United States. A well-established year round presence in the Berkshires, the galleries are open every day except Tuesday, and the institution produces more than 60 performing arts events all year long. The museum exhibitions feature some of the liveliest, most evocative – and provocative – art being made today. MASS MoCA’s thought-provoking and visually stunning exhibitions make it a “must-see” for art lovers. For more information, visit www.massmoca.org.