Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Always finding new inspiration

Every year, I attend the Association of Arts Presenters (APAP) conference in New York. The conference is the world's largest networking forum and marketplace for performing arts professionals. Mor​e than 3,600 presenters, artists, managers, agents and emerging arts leaders from all 50 U.S. states and more than 30 countries convene in New York City for five days of professional development, business deals and exciting performances. It is always one of the most exciting weekends of my year and this year’s conference was certainly no exception.

During my stay in NYC this year, I saw over 30 performances including dance, music, theatre, and circus. I also had two faculty members and two students from Pinkerton with me and they all saw a bunch of shows on their own. I spent all day Saturday with Julia Sylvain, a Pinkerton sophomore who is very involved in the school’s dance program. In that one day alone, Julia and I saw the work of 17 dance companies. There were companies from all over the country. Some were ballet companies and one was a hip hop company, but for the most part what we saw was a lot of modern dance. Over the course of the past few years, I’ve seen so much evidence that as theatre artists we have so much to learn from modern dance. Of all the companies we saw, the one whose work resonated most with me was ODC Dance from San Francisco. Their work is visually stunning with exceptional grace and other-worldly strength. Upon returning home, I spent some time researching the company and found some very interesting parallels between them and theatre KAPOW.

According to the ODC website: “The organization was formed by Brenda Way in 1971 as a collective of artists at Oberlin College in Ohio where the name ODC originates (Oberlin Dance Collective). Adventure, a certain irreverence and the joy of moving were key ingredients to the core philosophy of our founding members. In 1976, the sixteen dancers, painters, writers, photographers and musicians of the collective bid farewell to Ohio, piled into a big yellow bus and came west to San Francisco to find a context for their artistic vision and social ideals.” Similarly, tKAPOW was founded by four of us that met doing theatre at St. Anselm College. I really love ODC’s statement about adventure and how they exemplified their commitment to adventure by packing up and moving to California. That level of courage is truly inspirational. See a video of ODC's work here.

In NY, I was able to see excerpts of ODC’s piece boulders and bones which was inspired by the work of Andy Goldsworthy and features and original score by ZoĆ« Keating, two of tKAPOW’s favorite artists. Sitting and watching a piece inspired by an artist that is often one of your inspirations and having that piece set to music by an artist whose work is often used in our training is a strange experience. Using these sources, ODC is creating beautiful dance while we look to the work of these artists when creating theatre (especially with our devised and other original work).

One of our resolutions for 2016 is to experience the work of other companies and I am so thrilled to have been introduced to this exciting company for the first time. I’m hopeful that the year will be filled with numerous other opportunities to see the work of great artists in a variety of disciplines.

~ Matt Cahoon

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