Ground-breaking new platform for leadership in dance

We are thrilled to announce today the beginning of a new Artistic Fellowship program for the SKETCH series beginning in 2019. The first Artistic Fellow of the SKETCH program is Ben Needham-Wood (Louisville Ballet, Smuin Contemporary Ballet).

Starting July 2018 Amy Seiwert will assume the position of Artistic Director at Sacramento Ballet. With the new appointment comes an exciting opportunity for the future of Imagery’s SKETCH series.

Imagery’s new Fellowship program is a natural progression for the company, the SKETCH series will continue to foster risk in ballet-based choreography. In addition, we will be serving the field by fostering the next generation of arts leaders. Our Fellowship provides both artistic and administrative mentorship, offering the tools needed to make the jump from a performing career to an artist’s next step.

Read more in our press release.

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    Amy Wins an Izzie!

    We are thrilled to announce that last night Amy won the Isadora Duncan Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography for Back To performed by Amy Seiwert’s Imagery during SKETCH at ODC Theater last summer.

    We are delighted to share this honor with Choreographer Robert Moses. A big congratulations to Amy, our Imagery Artists, and all the other winners and nominees of the 30th Isadora Duncan Dance Awards!

    The Isadora Duncan Dance Awards, known locally as the “Izzies,” are awarded annually to acknowledge exceptional creative achievements in the performance and presentation of dance. Awards are given in nine categories to honor the dancers, choreographers, designers, composers, dance companies, dance scholars and other individuals who have made important contributions to the San Francisco Bay Area’s thriving dance community.

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      Slow Motion Ballet

      How does Imagery spend our free time? We like to slow things down a bit…

      Peter Litwinowicz joined the Imagery dancers in the studio to “play” with Twixtor (slow motion software) by his company RE:Vision Effects. The dancers are shot on Red Epic at 120fps, retimed up to 160x slower than real time.

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        Sarah Griffin on SKETCH 5: Inside Another Skin

        Inside Another Skin: Instinct, Collaboration, and Creation

        Collaboration is the spirit of the SKETCH series. Through the last five years we have collaborated with nine choreographers, five musicians, two composers, and nineteen dancers. Every one of our thirteen world premiere works has been shaped by artistic collaboration and exchange between the artists. So it wasn’t too far fetched to commission a work this year as a joint collaboration between two choreographers. It’s been a fun, challenging, and engrossing project for many reasons, above all the strong creative leadership of Amy Seiwert and KT Nelson.

        The piece, called “Starting Over from the End”, is very much a blend of Amy’s and KT’s voices. Much of a choreographer’s voice is shaped by instinct. Amy has the discerning eye of a ballet dancer, and KT has the human sensibility of a modern dancer. This combination of finely tuned instincts and aesthetics makes for new and unexpected juxtapositions of form, space, and language.

        We began the collaborative process with each choreographer generating a gestural phrase with the upper body. Those gestures were manipulated individually by the dancers, then edited and composed by both choreographers together and separately. The dancers acquired each other’s manipulations, combined into partnered or group interactions, and only then applied musicality. Amy most often works very closely with music from the beginning of a creative process, but KT wanted the dancers to find our physicality before exploring the music. While this was unusual for me, it began to make sense as the choreographers mixed and matched the creative puzzle pieces to form the complete work. There were several rounds of editing, and we are still growing in the work with each rehearsal.

        Challenges abound in this highly collaborative environment, but in the best ways possible. KT challenges Amy to break with her usual processes and methods in the studio. Amy challenges KT to find new and subtle ways to use pointe shoes. Both choreographers challenge the dancers to problem-solve phrases and partnering assignments. Amy tasks the dancers with seven specific ways to inform our creative manipulations, KT pushes us to create movement through sensation. I am fascinated by what attracts each choreographer in the movement created by each dancer, and how they challenge us to shape our material. I find myself making new choices, acquiring a different sensibility in my body, and sometimes spending an hour or two in the corner of the studio just playing around with something. A simple choice in weight shift, range of motion, or dynamic can open entirely new pathways and possibilities for choreographer and dancer alike. We discover new access points and transitions, adding flourishes of gesture that connect to the work’s movement language. Improvisation and happenstance can become part of the choreography. There are no mistakes, only clues to solve a problem.

        This collaborative effort incorporates the instincts of all the dancers as well as the choreographers. SKETCH dancers must possess versatility, openness, and a well-tuned instinct for movement in order to be good collaborators. I am amazed by how unique we all are in our training, experience, body types, and personalities, and how these elements lend themselves to highly individualized personal style and movement instinct. This instinct shows itself in a dancer’s muscular dynamic – some naturally tend to be long and languid, others strong and deep, quick and precise, or soft and airy. Likewise, instinct shows in a dancer’s tendency to use turns, jumps, extensions, or floor work to differing effects. Executing another dancer’s created phrase can therefore feel foreign, like being inside another skin. Touching and experiencing another person’s instinct through movement can reveal and inform creative navigations in shifts of weight, muscular dynamic, and range of motion.

        I have learned more in the SKETCH environment than any other by watching my colleagues work, occasionally inhabiting their skins to become a part of their processes. I’ve experienced the instinctual creations of so many wonderful artists and am happy to call myself a collaborator. I find that dances shaped and manipulated by the artists’ instincts look and feel very personal, which is what I find so special about this collaboration and the spirit of SKETCH.

        Day by day we continue to layer nuances of form and timing, and the piece feels entirely original and alive. SKETCH audiences are in for a real treat, and I look forward to sharing this exciting, diverse program in San Francisco, Walla Walla, Bozeman, and New York.

        Sarah Cecilia Griffin

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          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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            Change Afoot

            Welcome to our new website. With the new website comes a new blog, something I have not done before. Here you’ll get some random musings by myself as well as the Imagery dancers, guest choreographers, and collaborators.

            Sometimes people ask why Imagery exists. I’m fortunate, I get to make ballets across the country. I have worked with fantastic dancers in Washington DC, Atlanta, Anchorage, Denver, Milwaukee and Cincinnati. Seeing the level of artistry across the country is a joy, and the work these dancers I make together is something I am immensely proud of. I applaud the companies who continually take artistic risks and engage new works, allocating valuable resources as an investment in the future of the art form.

            So why don’t I just make dances for hire? Why do I not solely work as a free lance choreographer? Again and again examples of a successful, brilliant choreographers starting companies then closing the doors exist. Trey McIntrye has been applauded and called courageous in most circles for closing the doors of the Trey McIntrye Project at the height of the company’s popularity. Chris Wheeldon co-founder of the Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company, who then left after three years. If these wildly successful choreographers can’t, or don’t want to, make this model work, maybe it’s time to give up the model?

            That said, I’m not willing to do that. Perhaps it’s from one simple fact – I don’t do this alone. I create with dancers, and the dancers who invest in Imagery are astounding. With these dancers I can continually take creative risks. We have mutual respect, and together create an environment where we can all grow as artists.

            By doing this, we have created an extended family of patrons, donors, and artists who are supportive of what we do. The SKETCH series encourages risks, Move to the Now celebrates our community. When in season, we offer a “Pay What You Can” technique class, where any professional dancer in the area can come and train with us – as no dancer should forego training due to financial reasons. These things are important to us.

            That’s the gist, right there. US. As an artist, I want to be part of an us, a community. I have a glorious extended family of dancers and artistic directors across the nation, and for that I am incredibly grateful. But Imagery is my nuclear family, and for these dancers I will continue to fight the good fight of artistic administration so we can keep presenting the work we do.
            Thank you reader, for being on our site and being interested in what we do. I hope to see you at one of our upcoming shows.

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