Behind the Scenes of Iron Daisies

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Entropy Directors Alicia and Daniel Mullikin started creating dance together in 2008 and have since produced works for multiple venues around Seattle including On the Boards and Velocity Dance Center’s The Bridge Project. Their company Entropy launched this summer under the name Seattle Performance Collective with a series of self-described jam sessions at Cal Anderson Park, Broadway Farmers Market, and the Arts in Nature Festival. After watching rehearsal, SeattleDances writer Charlotte Hart sat down with the Mullikins to discuss their work and upcoming full-length debut, Iron Daisies.

Mullikin Photo
Daniel and Alicia Mullikin in “Locura” presented at On The Boards, 12 Minutes Max.
Photo by Tim Summers

SeattleDances: When did you begin collaborating as artists?

Alicia Mullikin: It started in 2008 at Riverside City College in California. I created a solo and Daniel played the music. The school liked it and decided to send it to American College Dance Festival in 2009. We thought: hey, this collaborative thing works. Since then, I have only used Daniel’s music.

SeattleDances: As a married couple collaborating together, how is it working together in such close quarters?

Daniel Mullikin: Well, the cool part is that this is different than any artistic partnership we have had before. It can be two in the morning, and I have an idea, so we work.

SD: What comes first for you in creating a project?

AM: Hearing Daniel play and jam, which he does around the house a lot, is inspiring to me and sparks images and movement. I’ll start moving and tell him, “oh, I like this,” and then we’ll bounce ideas back and forth. I feel the majority of our projects have started from jamming together.

DM: Every once in a while I get to be a surrogate dancer. She’ll say: catch me like this or hold me here. It’s cool to get to be involved in that way.

SD: I noticed you had a very clear idea about the timing of a specific movement during the rehearsal. Does being a surrogate dancer help you participate in the studio?

DM: That’s the idea behind Entropy, the intricate relationship between music and dance. Also, I’ve been accompanying dance for five years. And what I’m doing with the instrument onstage to create the music is choreography in itself.

SD: Good point. How would you describe what you do onstage to create music?

DM: I think what I do is technically similar to sample artists, like DJs and electronic composers. Instead of using synthesized sounds, I use acoustic instruments. I think the fact that the sounds are recorded live adds a neat facet to the score. The listener can see how the sound is made, and how it’s used and manipulated in the score as a whole. I’ve found the cello lends itself well to looping because of tonal range and ability to create a varying pallet of tonal colors.

SD: Alicia, what about your part as choreographer?  How did your interest in dance begin?

AM: I started with martial arts as my movement training. In middle school, I was in show choir, and a choreographer dropped out at the last minute. The teacher was panicking, and I volunteered, although I’d never taken a dance class. I just loved it! I wanted to be a choreographer. I started watching music videos to pick up dance moves. I figured that if I was going to be a choreographer, I should probably know how to dance. After a year, I began more formal training. And then I got into Cornish.

Entropy Press Photo
Entropy’s “Iron Daisies”
Photo by Joseph Lambert

SD: Your work together tends toward a very organic sensibility, both in the movement and how the music is layered over and through the dancing. Is that a quality you consciously think of when crafting your work?

AM: I don’t think we purposefully try to be organic. Our work stems from emotion. For example, in Iron Daisies we worked on sections about loss and sorrow, so we played with remembering a painful emotion and then being driven into the ground by it. We let the movement stem from that idea. I think that might be where the feeling of organic quality might come from. The emotion is the internal impetus that we then externalize in movement. I also use emotion to drive how I ask Daniel for a certain musical quality.

DM: What she says a lot in rehearsal is “that feels good.” She’ll say that, instead of commenting on an aspect of technique or how something looks. She uses that with the dancers, too. To answer a question about how a hand should be, she’ll ask: “What do you feel?” It’s not so much about Alicia’s personal feeling, rather the dance becomes more about the feeling that everyone can share. That’s something about Iron Daisies that I am wholeheartedly excited about: that we can all relate to the emotion.

AM: Iron Daisies started with an idea about memories, and why we as humans hold on to memories. In order to delve into the questions, we began by free writing. As we kept working, we realized that the most important memories were those of things we could no longer physically access, which ended up being the people that we’ve lost. During the duet, we’re saying the names of all those that we’ve lost, including names contributed by the dancers. It’s become very emotional for all of us, even to tears during rehearsal. We hope to convey some of that emotion to the audience.

Entropy’s Iron Daisies performs Friday and Saturday, October 18-19, 2013 at 8 p.m. at Velocity Dance Center. Tickets available in advance through Brown Paper Tickets or at the door.