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Preview: A Moving Conversation

Written by Carla María Negrete Martínez
A Moving Conversation, Fremont’s annual movement arts event, aims to bring together both new and established choreographers in Seattle and start a dialogue between audiences and dance-makers. This year’s production will take place at 8 pm on February 24 and 25, 2012, in the Great Hall at the FremontAbbeyArtsCenter. As the Education and Dance Curator at the Abbey, Victoria McConnell has been charged with the task of curating the program. “It was challenging to determine who to invite into the show,” says McConnell. “I wanted to bring in some returning choreographers, and also give the opportunity to choreographers who are new to Seattle.” This year’s lineup includes Elana Jacobs, Naphtali Beyleveld, and Elizabeth Mendana Shaw, all fairly new to the city, and local choreographers, Kenaniah Bystrom, Christin Lusk, and Marlo Martin.

The Fremont Abbey’s goal with this event is to bring people together, creating a sense of community, by providing the opportunity to have a round-table discussion. Straying from the typical Q & A after the performance, A Moving Conversation will invite audience members into the Abbey’s cozy café, empowering them to discuss what they felt and experienced during the performances, and ask more in-depth questions to the choreographers. McConnell’s wish is to build up appreciation for dance by having audiences learn the context in which the pieces were created. “I love to create atmospheres for audiences and choreographers that open them up to the present experience.” She believes there are three conversations in the production of performances: the choreographer conversing with the dancer, the dancer conversing with the audience, and the audience conversing with the choreographer. Unfortunately, the third dialogue almost never happens, leaving the loop incomplete. By letting the audience converse with the creator, McConnell hopes to complete this loop.

McConnell’s enthusiasm and passion gleam in her face as she discusses the goals of the event. “I hope to create an interactive and engaging atmosphere for dance audiences, taking down the intimidating walls that going to art events [sometimes] creates. Musicians have figured it out; people go to concerts and there is this magic that occurs, the attendees know some of the songs and this great interactive connection happens. I think it’s important to move dance forward by learning from other mediums. I would love to get non-dance audiences at the Abbey.”

Of the three choreographers new to Seattle, Elana Jacob’s is the most recent transplant. Arriving 5 months ago from New York, Jacobs is excited and honored to have been given this freeing opportunity to define herself and her work by showing it to an audience she barely knows. Though her dancer and collaborator, Emily Sferra moved here just 3 weeks ago for the event, their process began while Sferra was still in New York. Jacobs would send Sferra videos of her dancing in an effort to maintain their creativity. While usually prompted by cartoon-esque images and gimmicky add-ons, for the creation of this piece Jacobs has been inspired by the layers of the anatomical heart. She compares the inner wall of the heart to vulnerability. “When you share an infatuation with someone you define yourself more, but you also become vulnerable to the same degree. You can become extremely raw, and that moment can last 10 seconds and then there is a question where you decide to go back to showing your comfortable self or stay in that uncomfortable place until it becomes comfortable. I am just fascinated with that because we humans have the potential to flourish in our own skin at our best places, and we also have the potential to contract. I’m trying to analyze that moment and bring it to my life as much as possible.” Her choreography promises to magnify beautiful moments that are sometimes neglected in day-to-day life.

Naphtali Beyleveld moved to Seattle from Houston, Texas about 2 years ago where she choreographed for HopeStoneDanceCenter and Big Range Dance Festival. A Moving Conversation will be Beyleveld’s choreographic debut in Seattle. Though she is used to working with dancers she’s known for years, forming new relationships with dancers she’s recently met here has still made her process quite fruitful. “The work is about fear and anxiety, and how it affects us physically and emotionally and how we deal with it in our lives. Fear has been a subject in my life and it definitely [feels] vulnerable for me to explore this topic. But it’s been so wonderful and a huge blessing because the dancers have just dived in and been very real and deep with me on such a personal and vulnerable subject.”

As the third relatively new choreographer to Seattle, Elizabeth Mendana recently relocated from San Francisco where she performed with Epiphany Productions, Facing East Dance & Music, and WING IT! Performance Ensemble. She is excited to see how diverse the dance scene is in Seattle in terms of modern dance styles and aesthetics, and feels finally at home in a city that has “room for diverse expressions.” Mendana promises to bring some humor to the evening with her work “The Wall Street Rag,” which comments on the “over-the-top-ness in regard to Wall Street.” As her second work to be shown in the city, Mendana feels this piece is very different than the rest of her work to date. Mendana also feels it is important to use live music whenever possible, and for this piece, local pianist Paul Swenson will accompany the dancers with a Scott Joplin medley he arranged.

In addition to these works, Marlo Martin’s company, badmarmar dance, will present an excerpt from tenSIDES, Christin Lusk will present a dance film, and Kenaniah Bystrom will present a duet entitled The Gravity of Memory. A Moving Conversation will take place February 24–25 at the Fremont Abbey. Doors open at 7 pm with refreshments and snacks available at the Abbey Café. Tickets can be purchased at Brown Paper Tickets.