Thursday, March 3, 2011

Amanda Hinchey: Everything Potent is Dangerous

Below are photos of Amanda Hinchey's artistic project, a dance piece entitled Everything Potent is Dangerous. The piece was a duet with Sarah Elizabeth Seger, with original music incorporating recorded interviews by 09-10 Kenan Fellow Gregory Miles Hoffman.

Photos by Melissa Gawlowski, Lincoln Center Institute:

Amanda Hinchey

Sara Elizabeth Seger and Amanda Hinchey

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Kayla Herrmann: Reflections on the Artistic Project

Kayla reflects on the process of creating The Orchard, a dance/music collaborative piece with Kathryn Logan:

"If you want to build a ship, don't herd people together to collect wood and don't assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea."

--Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1900-1944)

If you didn’t know, freshly squeezed grapefruit juice is amazing, and I am drinking that right now. I know many people think grapefruit without packets of sugar on it is too bitter, but it has a really sweet side, too. The trick to enjoying grapefruit juice is to drink it very slowly. With each small sip, notice how it starts off sweet, turns bitter at the back of your tongue, and then after you swallow it (enjoying the bits of pulp that come with freshly squeezed juice), enjoy the lingering mixture of sweet and tart next to each other.

My experience as co-director and performer in The Orchard was also very two-sided. I wouldn’t choose sweet and bitter to describe the two sides (although they had moments of each!), but they were certainly very different. It never occurred to me that performing and directing at the same time would be frustratingly difficult. Once all the musicians were in town and we were in the theater with the dancers, I kept needing to make decisions about lighting, video projection, placement of dancers and musicians, how loud the sound should be, you get the picture. On top of that, I needed be able to coach the musicians on how we can be more effective as an ensemble when playing with the dancers and film. I kept imagining that if I concentrated really, really hard, I could make another me appear out in the audience. I needed to be able to see what was going on-- to find out how well we were communicating to the audience. But when you are on stage, that perspective is almost impossible to have. On one hand, I am so grateful that my collaborator, Kathryn Logan, was not dancing and able to sit in the audience and make calls about lighting and placement. On the other hand, I hated feeling like I was not contributing as much in the overall direction of the piece. I felt defeated by my own self for not being able to sprout super cloning powers.

I thought about what it must have been like for Kathryn to sit in the audience, watching the movement that she created, and feeling frustrated when it isn’t being done correctly. I think that is very related to my experiences as a teacher, too. I often want to grab the cello out of my students’ hands and play it for them because they just can’t figure out this simple thing that I’m trying to teach them. I always remind myself that true satisfaction in those moments is finding the best way to help them figure it out. What made Kathryn such a great choreographer was her ability to coach the dancers into finding the “thing” she was after. In many instances, the dancers did something a little different, making it their own movement, and it worked even better! I was lucky to have such a great collaborator, because we agreed to always keep on open mind about the project and how it would evolve. In these moments, when the dancers or John (the cinematographer) or the musicians did something a little different than what we had in mind, we always considered it. I think that made our performance more organic and successful, because each performer had the opportunity to make some aspect of it their own.

I think this is the right time to make a confession. I was not as good of a director and coach for the musicians as Kathryn was for the dancers. Part of this comes from my decision to bring in musicians that do not live in NYC. The sweet part is that I didn’t have to schedule around work and school during tech week. The more problematic part: having to rehearse in a very short amount of time. We only got one real rehearsal in before the first tech rehearsal. There wasn’t any extra time outside of simply getting the music together. I really wanted to be able to share our concept with the musicians, give them some time to think about it and reflect on it with a guided discussion. I had sent them all a description of it when I asked them to perform in the piece, but they didn’t have a chance to develop a personal connection to the concept over a longer amount of time.

When I do this again, I will be more prepared to be a director. Directing isn’t just about where the musicians sit or what font the program should be. It is also about having a captivating personality and the ability to make everyone feel comfortable experiencing the concept of the piece. As a performer I am so used to following a conductor or communicating equally amongst the chamber musicians. As a performer/director, I need constantly be aware that I am wearing both shoes. Like the quote at the top of this reflection, I need to improve my ability to inspire the passion and confidence I have in my ideas and concepts.

Since this is my last blog as a Kenan Fellow, I want to say thank you to everyone involved in making this such a successful relationship between LCI and UNCSA. It has certainly been a career-shaping experience.

Photos of The Orchard by Melissa Gawlowski, Lincoln Center Institute:

Brittany Zellman, Kayla Herrmann, Taya Ricker, and Daniel Winnick (Katy Gilmore in foreground)

Kayla Herrmann

Kayla Herrmann and Taya Ricker

Daniel Winnick, Taya Ricker, Brittany Zellman, and Kayla Herrmann

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Benjamin Garner: Reflecting on the Artistic Project

Benjamin reflects on the process of creating Sacred Search, a theater/music collaborative project with Drew Madland, and on what's next:

There has been a challenge to Lincoln Center Institute, one that beckons with ferocity to be oneself and pursue art. I might speculate on the exact wording of the edict; and then debate with you the wording and syntax, all before finding out what this challenge is as a group. While not a bad idea, instead, I will tell you what I feel.

I feel privileged to have been a part of something spectacular! Phase 3 was the most challenging physically. I experienced more movement via warm-ups, blocking scenes, and mostly getting energy from being around people. I began to really appreciate the comfort and home-like quality of the Clark and Samuels during our rehearsals and tech week.

Reception Q&A following the first performance-- This was a real surprise to me. I actually enjoyed sitting up in front of people, taking questions. My father commented that it was because I was talking about things that I have a lot of experience with; I might agree with him. It certainly was an effective reflection tool as it provided valuable audience perspective and inquiry, immediately.

I want to take a moment to thank my LCI mentor Patrick for coming out to rehearsals and providing an extra set of ears. Your encouragement and observations were always insightful and helpful, especially in respect to dynamics. You were always willing to come sit in on a rehearsal and provide feedback about text or sound or ideas. I also want to thank Jeffrey [Drew's mentor] for his support and help all during the process.

I had tremendous support from my family during January. The transition from income to non-income put a strain on my ability to manage time, as well. My time started to be at the whim of whomever I could work for. I had time commitments outside of LCI as a result, but that still did not provide enough. With the generous help from my family, I was able to stay fed and warm and healthy. Not only that, but I had 12 extended family members attending the project performances. I wouldn’t be here without you all.

I made a challenge to myself some time ago. I want to provide for myself as much on art and, specifically, music income as possible. LCI helped show me that this could be through teaching music lessons, where I work directly with youth to explore musical ideas and concepts, or performing as a conductor or a pit-band musician, or as a recording engineer and producer. The point is that still I try to make income to support myself from music activities; I get to choose from the diversity of music as to how I make my income.

I plan to stay in New York, to fight for art alongside LCI via exploding creativity in youth, and blowing minds with high-quality art. We need to bombard our children and students with color and light and sound if we expect to hold their attention. If we are going to address the problems of our planet and our society, we are going to need our youth in on it, and we are going to need them to think outside of the box. That is a challenge for LCI and me and to our future.

Photos of Sacred Search by Melissa Gawlowsi, Lincoln Center Institute:

Robyn Rikoon as Keely and Joshua Brocki as Sentence

 Joshua Brocki and Robyn Rikoon

Joshua Brocki as Sentence, Drew Madland as Chorus, and Annelise Bianchini as Keely Understudy/ Chorus

 Joshua Brocki, Drew Madland, and Benjamin Garner

Drew Madland, Annelise Bianchini, and Joshua Brocki

Drew Madland, Joshua Brocki, Annelinse Bianchini, and Benjamin Garner

Joshua Brocki

Joshua Brocki