A thank you to Ms. Perry and Ms. Mansfield

Last week I had the honor and pleasure of spending a week in log cabin up near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. My neighbors were some horses, deer, elk and a bear. And every day, this was my studio.

I was in Residence at Perry-Mansfield, the 100+year old performing arts camp founded by Smith College alumni Charlotte Perry and Portia Mansfield. Agnes de Mille was here, and legend has it a square dance in town inspired Rodeo. Merce was here too, as well as Jose Limon, Hanya Holm, and Doris Humphrey. Walking through this idyllic environment, with the knowledge of the incredible creative minds who had been there before, the sense of isolation that comes with being a dance creator washed away. At any given meal time, just sit at any communal table. Not only would you be enjoying the most delicious food ever served at a camp, seriously challenging the notion of “camp food,” you could count on a random conversation about art, process, and teaching to inspire.

Working with dancers from the “PPI” – Pre-Professional Intensive, I crafted a new work. These dancers were open, eager, and soaked up theories on technique, movement and creation. They pushed themselves hard, and their love of dance was a reminder of why I do what I do. Dancers from all over the country with diverse backgrounds come together in almost instant community, that’s what a common goal and love can do.

An added bonus of this week was having Ilana Goldman and Gabe Williams to assist me in the process. Both danced in Imagery projects for years, Gabe and I actually performed together in one of my early works. Accomplished artists and wonderful teachers, it was lovely to connect with them again artistically and to see the integrity with which they coached the PPIs.

This week was special in ways I never imagined. If you don’t know this camp, check it out. For more of the history, click here. You can even adopt-a-cabin at the camp, helping to support the camp’s infrastructure so this fantastic resource can energize artists for another 100 years.

To Ms. Perry and Ms. Mansfield, true visionaries, I owe you a debt. Thank you for what you created.



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    Gazing into the Music Mirror

    Guest blog by SKETCH 4 composer Kevin Keller

    “How should we get started?” was the question that Amy Seiwert and I both pondered on the day that we found out about our New Music USA grant. The project was titled “Sketch 4 | Music Mirror”, and the idea was to see how two different choreographers (Amy Seiwert and Adam Hougland) would react to the same piece of music.

    I suggested that, since there was no narrative concept or “story” that we were trying to tell, perhaps we should start with photographic images. My most recent project had been a collection of piano pieces (“Nocturnes”) inspired by photographs, and it had gone very well. Since this new work was to be about 30 minutes in length, I thought 6 images would be enough. They should be images that inspired Amy and Adam, and that could be seen as “challenging” to interpret.

    Riffing off this idea, Amy suggested that she and Adam could each choose 3 images, and send them to me without showing them to each other. This way, only I would know what the images were. To make things even more fun, we decided that I wouldn’t tell Amy and Adam which musical piece corresponded with which image, nor would I tell them what the titles of the pieces were. This way, they could react to the 6 sections of music without being influenced by me, nor by each other.

    With this plan in place, off we went!

    A couple days later, I received e-mails from Amy and Adam with images attached. What I found most interesting was that the 6 images had a similar aesthetic when viewed as a set, which I would describe as “spooky”. Each photograph was visually compelling, and definitely inspiring. In fact, I could almost immediately “hear” the music coming from each one.

    The music, scored for piano and cello (my favorite combination), was composed in about 5 weeks. I’m almost ashamed to admit this, but the project felt easy. Each time I started on a new image, the music just flowed effortlessly. I think this is because the images that Amy and Adam gave to me were so inspiring.

    I can’t wait to show the images to Amy and Adam, and tell them how each one inspired the music. But until the premier in July, that’s my secret!

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