Thursday, February 16, 2017

NACHMO Chester - what's it about?

This weekend is the inaugural weekend of NACHMO Chester!

NACHMO is a national organization designed to give dancers, dance makers, and dance supporters a "choreographic kick in the pants". The challenge (to those who choose to accept it) is to spend January in creative research and possibly share elements of the process in February.

I've been informally participating in NACHMO for several years - following the social media prompts and using the catalyst of the New Year founders to break through the doldrums of winter hibernation - physically and creatively.

With the support of Widener University and The Artist Warehouse, through Boundaries and Bridges (which is in turn supported by the Barra Foundation), I'm sharing NACHMO with Southeastern PA.

So, if you're coming to celebrate dance and the grand opening of the MJ Freed Theater's Dance and Photography studio, here are some questions you might have:

Dance in Chester?
Yeppers! There are a lot of folks in Chester and at Widener University that love and support dance! Philly's just a hop, skip, and a jump away and Philly has a pretty amazing dance scene, so its been easy for dance enthusiasts to just leap over to Philly for classes and performances... not that that's an excuse! Dance everywhere! NACHMO Chester and Boundaries and Bridges provides an opportunity for folks from the Chester, Philly, and other places in Southeastern PA to come together and share resources, dance, and thoughts.

What should I expect to see?
You'll see dance pieces that have been well-rehearsed and polished and others that are in process. Choreographers have been invited to show works in progress to utilize NACHMO and the performance process as an element of their continued research. Much like a chef needs to "try out" a recipie, choreographers often find it helpful to "try out" ideas and get feedback from an audience. (Did you ever "try out" a recipie on close family or friends before making it for a special occasion?)

This sharing is designed to provide a wide range of intention under the umbrella of DANCE. You might see sharings of:
Concert dance (dance with an artistic or abstract intent or focus)
Entertainment dance (dance that is meant to provide enjoyment)
Praise dance (dance with an intent to engage spiritual practice or worship, usually Christian)
Social dance (dance often performed within a communal setting)
Competition dance (dance designed for the intent of being judged by a group of professionals within the field)

In addition, you'll see a broad range of genres under the umbrella of DANCE: ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz, hip hop, African...

Of course, these are very broad generalizations and most dance genres can fit into one or many of categories of intention. For example, Hip Hop began as a social dance and is still often performed as such. However, with battles and popular commercial shows like "America's Best Dance Crew" the dances are performed for competition. Rennie Harris, Raphael Xavier, and others take Hip Hop to the concert stage. Again, I'm making broad generalizations for the purpose of understanding that "categorizing" dance is a very complex, and sometimes unnecessary task for a novice (or seasoned) dance enthusiast. But, why is this important? There's an on-going argument of the value of ART vs. ENTERTAINMENT. NACHMO Chester doesn't seek to explore that argument, just the process of making the dances (that might add to the conversation or not).

Can I provide feedback on the works in progress?
YES! We will provide you with paper to write "love notes" to the choreographers. There will also be time to chat with the artists, informally.

How do I give feedback?
Giving feedback is as unique as the person and process is itself. Choreographers may have specific questions they want answered, or they make be looking for general impressions. I suggest going into NACHMO with an open mind and the expectation to have your own notions of dance challenged. That being said, I encourage you to provide feedback beyond "I liked it" or "I didn't like it." Ask yourself "why?" Sometimes the experience of art tells us more about ourselves as a viewer than it does about the intention of the artist...

Here are some prompts for feedback:
What feelings or emotions did the work evoke?
What colors did you see, sounds did you hear, were your other senses engaged? Did these evoke any memories?
Did the work provide a narrative or story for you? What was it?
Did the work give you a sense of place or time?

When is it, again?
Friday, Feb 17th and Saturday, Feb 18th at 7:30pm each night. Each night boasts a different program, so come for both days at the MJ Freed Theater's brand new studio!

I'm presenting two new works in progress. Silence(d) will be shown tonight and Broken Open is being performed tomorrow.

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