Photo © 2009. Nannette Bertschy & Ann Moradian.

looking at the world and challenging our assumptions, definitions and creation of it through the lense of the body, movement, the arts and science.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

COMMUNITY CLASSES 2012

COMMUNITY CLASSES at the Centre de Yoga du Marais are donation-based, and every cent goes to support those in need: Families for Children is a not-for-profit agency that cares for over 600 destitute and mentally challenged children and women in India and Bangladesh. The organization is run entirely by volunteers from their own homes, so the money goes directly to the orphanages and schools that they have set up.

Ann Moradian will be conducting Community Classes at the Centre this Fall on:

Sunday, September 9, 2012
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Sunday, December 16, 2012

11h30 to 13h00 at the
Centre de Yoga du Marais, 72 rue Vertbois, 75003
(M° Arts et Metiers, Reamur-Sebastopol, Strasbourg-St. Denis)
Suggested donation 10€ - 50€

Reservation are encouraged, but not required.
Contact: rendezvousyoga(at)gmail.com or 06 89 70 23 58


The Centre de Yoga du Marais and its teachers have been supporting this organization for several years through this regular and ongoing Karma Yoga* practice.


*Karma Yoga, "discipline of action," is a form of yoga based on the teachings of the Bhagavad Gita, often described as "selfless service."

Physical Theatre & Movement Workshop in English for ages 8-14

Sunday, September 16, 2012
14h00 to 18h00, Salle Vilar
Salles St. Roch, 35 rue St. Roch, 75001 Paris
(M° Tuileries, Pyramides), €30

English and French spoken.
For further information and registration contact
Louise Denyer: Ldenyer(at)wanadoo.es or 0673934185

The workshop will introduce basic theatre concepts and movement techniques through acting games, improvisation and exercises founded on the children's inherent imagination, creativity and energy, both individually and as a group. Our aim is to strengthen their confidence and communication skills, and to help them discover and claim their physicality and movement as an essential method of non-verbal expression and an important tool for character preparation for stage or screen.


version français:

STAGE DE THEATRE PHYSIQUE ET MOUVEMENT EN ANGLAIS
pour des enfants entre 8 à 14 ans

dimanche, 16 septembre 2012
14h00 à 18h, Salle Vilar
Salles St. Roch, 35 rue St. Roch, 75001 Paris
(M° Tuileries, Pyramides), tarif 30€

On parle anglais et français.
Infos et inscriptions au
Louise Denyer : ldenyer(at)wanadoo.es ou 0673934185

Objectifs Pédagogiques : Introduire des concepts de base du théâtre et techniques de mouvement en jouant des jeux du théâtre, de l’improvisation, renforcer l’imagination, la créativité, l’énergie, la confidence et la façon de communiquer de chaque enfant, approche ludique que utilise des jeux du mouvement tout pour faire travailler la voix, le corps, les émotions et explorer avec des personnages, pour théâtre ou cinéma.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

REFLECTIONS ON PERFORMANCE: Dance GB

Big Dance Festival, London 2012 Festival and the finale of the Cultural Olympiad, July 7, 2012
©Ann Moradian for The Dance Enthusiast

The Big Dance Festival is dance -- happening all over London. You name a style and it is probably somewhere to be found. I caught a moment of Swing that transitioned into Maypole and then Morris dancing in Kensington Gardens between downpours. People of all ages and experience were dancing together. Maybe I’ll run across the Big Dance Bus today (rather than it running across me!). I have no idea what it might be like, but I am definitely curious. There are photos and films, lectures and performances, classes and workshops, everywhere. And many of the events are free.

In a moment of wonderful serendipity I stumbled upon Dance GB while wandering in Greenwich with a friend on the grounds of the Old Royal Naval College. The program features the national companies of Great Britain – the English National Ballet, the Scottish Ballet and the National Dance Company Wales -- with commissioned works inspired by the Olympic Games. (A woman seated next to me wondered, naturally, where the Irish contingent was but I couldn’t have even taken a guess).


The English National Ballet opened the evening with And the Earth Shall Bear Again, choreographed by Itzik Galili. The  title is of no help whatsoever but the dancing is an outright marathon of twists and contortions at breakneck speed, with a cast of 18 dancers filling the stage at almost every moment. They bring the driving, sometimes harsh, music of John Cage very much to life.

This dance is not about grace or beauty, despite the perfect bodies beneath sensual sheaths of sheer, textured black by Natasja Lansen. The dancers are all dressed exactly the same, doing the same movements (often in distracting attempts at unison), with one dancer seamlessly replacing and continuing the movements of another, as the company washes across the stage in a linear walking wave. It reminds me of a relay race. While there is a strong sense of teamwork at play, there is no sense of humanity or feeling in this work -- just a relentless drive, pushing for more, for faster, for denser movement. It leaves a taste of violence on the skin.

It is curious that such rigid and intricate order could create what often felt like unmanageable chaos. I wish it would have all slowed down just a bit, so we could see the complicated, beautiful, impossible, sculpture of a dance that is buried under all of that speed.


The second piece, Dream, was choreographed by Christopher Bruce to music by Ravel and Welsh composer Grace Williams. Performed by the National Dance Company Wales, it begins with the dancers at play, exuberant as puppies, in every physical game we in the West might have known as children: tug of war, wheelbarrow and sack races, hopscotch and leapfrog. As they grow up, they bring the same passion and joy to the competitive sports we’ll soon be seeing at the coming Games. (I don’t suppose we’ll actually see any ice dancing this summer, but the reference to Torville and Dean’s gold medal routine to Bolero did not slip by unrecognized or unappreciated here, and the ‘skating’ was as beautiful, as seamless and as smooth as if it were truly on ice.)

There are nice touches of humor throughout and some lovely partnering work, particularly among the men. I loved the wrestlers’ duet that became a tender cheek-to-cheek that was then interrupted by a third wrestler. Rather than breaking into a new duet, they became a fluid trio that seemed to defy gravity not only effortlessly, but almost unconsciously.


I was surprised at how the company’s 10 dancers filled the stage –- I counted when they bowed to make sure there weren’t more. Full of the swirls and bounding of people’s lives, with never a moment of unison I was astonished that the dance could leave us with such a strong sense of harmony, order and wholeness.

The last work on the program, Run For It, was choreographed by Martin Lawrance and performed by the Scottish Ballet. Where the English National Ballet’s work focused on the relentless drive to surpass oneself, and the National Dance Company Wales focused on the strength of dreams to nourish our journey toward excellence, the Scottish Ballet’s work seemed to be in honor of the dedication and exigence needed to become an Olympic athlete.

While highly abstract, it was accessible through its beauty and grace. Double-hued leotards in shining variations of blues by Yumiko Takeshima were elegant on these dancers’ beautifully sculpted bodies. Martin Boyce’s giant pillar served as a reminder not only of the Olympics, but of the Greek gods and their temples. I didn’t catch the significance of the lighting sconces hanging from the ceiling pointed toward the stage like paper airplanes, but they were pleasing to the eye.


The dancers retained the precision, control and care that are usually associated with classical ballet, while taking on a much more contemporary vocabulary. The word ‘rigor’ comes to mind – rigor that at its worst can just seem rigid and stuck (and there was a fleeting moment like this), but at its best fills the dancers with their full animal power and sensuality. Pushing constantly, but not rushing. Taking that fraction of a moment to extend the balance to its outer limit before moving into the next transition in a way that tells us that these dancers are in complete control of what they are doing.

The second movement stood out among the others as particularly beautiful, taking on the sweet fullness of John Adams’ music without losing an ounce (okay, a gram) of its strength. The rain pounding heavily against the tent top only added to the score and didn’t distract the dancers’ focus even for an instant.

The fact that the choreographers and the dancers presented this evening are thoroughly and inarguably musical is noteworthy, as is the level of partnering work each company presented. This program reminded me without a shadow of a doubt that dancers are among the most extraordinary of athletes. This fact is little known–even amongst ourselves–because our level of excellence is measured not by meters or seconds or scores, but in large part by how effortlessly we perform. If the performance is strong, the audience will probably never know how impossibly hard the dance is or how much work it has taken to get there.

Photo ©Ann Moradian, London 2012

Amidst the last minute construction for the Summer Olympics in London, the ongoing torch relay and scattered torrential rains, it is a special moment to be here. Of course there is a bit of irritation among the locals for the inconvenience of park closures, the farmers are concerned about the food supply because the rains have
turned their fields to mud, and anyone who lives here probably dreads the crowds that
will soon be disrupting the smooth rhythms of their daily lives. But there is excitement too, everywhere. The Tower Bridge is all cleaned and re-painted, proudly hosting the Olympic rings, the city is a-buzz, ready to welcome you (with its multi-lingual phone booth/pissoire). And dance, for the moment, is everywhere!

Photo ©Ann Moradian, London 2012

--
And the Earth Shall Bear Again
English National Ballet

Choreogreophy by Itzik Galili
Music by John Cage
Costume Design by Natasja Lansen
Lighting Design by Yaron Abulafia

Choreographer’s Assistant Elisabeth Gibiat


Dream
National Dance Company Wales
Choreography by Christopher Bruce
Music by Ravel and Grace Williams

Lighting Design by Guy Hoare
Design by Christopher Bruce


Run For It
Scottish Ballet
Choreography Martin Lawrance
Music by John Adams
Set Design by Martin Boyce
Costume Design by Yumiko Takeshima
Lighting Design by Charles Balfour

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Emily Weissman asks about The Medusa Project



The Medusa Project
from a live interview by Emily Weissman of Ann Moradian,* August 16, 2010

The attached photos are from a collaborative exploration of light textures and shadows for The Medusa Project:
Nannette Bertschy (photos)
Ann Moradian (movement)
Fred Moreau (lighting)


All photos ©Nannette Bertschy & Ann Moradian.



Emily Weissman: What’s the overall theme of Medusa?

AM: Historically, we've been given a story that is about the hero Perseus, who has to face and be-head this awful monster that petrifies anyone who looks at her. But a lot of information has been left out over time because the stories are told and re-told through the cultural filters of the times. And this story of the monstrous feminine has mostly been re-told within the context of a patriarchal culture. What we really have is not the story of Medusa but the story of Perseus and his confrontation with this monster. It begins with his birth and ends with his "happy ever after." What I would really like to do is to go back further and bring back some of the information that’s been buried, like "Who was Medusa?" "Where did she come from?" She wasn't always a monster, so "How did she come to be one?"

EW: Where did you get the idea for Medusa? Where did you get the inspiration?

AM: I was living in India after 09/11, watching what the US was doing from an outside perspective. At first there was a constructive response to the very real challenge of coexistence. And I watched as that corroded, decayed, transformed into a more destructive reaction - more like coercion than an real response or attempt at constructive cooperation.

And that concerned me enormously because (it seems to me) the challenge of coexistence in the world is a primordial challenge. Once you’re in this format of a material body, in this dimension (these dimensions) of time and space – as soon as you’re here in a material body – you are never alone, and you constantly have to deal with others. And it is not easy. I remember when I was really little thinking “If I was only by myself how simple it would be!” (You can imagine, with two older brothers!) But as you get older you realize "Well no, frankly, it wouldn’t actually work." But that feeling of how complicated everything gets when there’s even just one other person in the picture was very clear.

So there I was, watching from India as 'we' (the US) fell into a fear-based chain reaction - and missed the opportunity to create a new pattern. I remember looking at myself in the mirror at around that time, thinking about all of this, with my very curly and unruly hair, thinking of Medusa with her snaky hair who petrifies everyone. To be petrified - to be so afraid that we turn to stone. It made me wonder, "What on earth could be that scary?" And "What does it mean to turn to stone?" I was looking at myself in the mirror with this crazy hair thinking "God! What would it be like to be a woman who anytime anyone dared to approach her they would turn to stone?" She would have no contact, no touch, no connection. And I thought, "This poor woman!" [she laughs]

Photo ©Nannette Bertschy & Ann Moradian.

So there was a conjunction of an humanitarian question around fear and violence, and our reaction to 'the other,' - how we demonize others out of fear. This, along with a very personal empathy for the character. That was where the piece initially began – I mean the first seed of it – looking in the bathroom mirror.

EW: So how long have you been working on this piece?

AM: Since 2001. I started researching the myth then. As you go into the myth, you get deeper and deeper into all the connected myths. Athena is very instrumental in the destruction of Medusa, and I started wondering “Why was Athena out to get Medusa?” So I would research into that. Or “Who is Perseus really?” You pull up all these sub-stories. I love the fact that there are so many versions of the story. There’s not one set version. Which is in part why the piece is taking on a collage format as opposed to a linear, singular story format. It’s a collage, and in it we are playing freely with time. It is not all happening in one singular time frame, and it’s not all happening in one medium.

Like history and myths, the work challenges us to put the pieces together the best we can. So, for example there’s movement and dance vocabulary informing scenes, but there is also poetry and dialogue – things we think of as more theatrical. There is video imagery that comments on what is happening, or becomes the primary voice of the work, or creates the context. And there are these little 'vignettes' that might seem totally unrelated - contemporary little scenes - in contrast to the flow of mythic time that is also present.

It's been a long time in the making. I started the research, following all of these threads, and the piece began to come then. I resented it at first, actually. I had quit all of my artistic work at that time, and so I tried to shut it off. I didn't want the responsibility, because creating work is so difficult. There are all of these challenges and so much responsibility, and I thought, “I don’t want to do this again!” But, you know, these images kept coming. Insistent. They spoke powerfully to me and were persuasive. Finally I accepted that, if the piece wants to come, I'll let it come and I’ll just do the best I can, take it as far as I can. And trust that there will be help, others who see the beauty in this work and will help bring it to life.

EW: It seems like an enormous project and you certainly can’t do it alone, so who are the people working with you to make this become a reality?

AM: In the beginning it was very much alone – a personal process of research with my own questions driving me. I would chat with friends about some of the questions - that was really enlightening sometimes. I've talked with many, many people, tested the ideas, brainstormed, pondered, questioned together. But around 2009 I started brainstorming more intensively with Nannette Bertschy, a friend and a visual artist. She has also explored the myths and loves digging into them as much as I do. She has a very different point of view and way of thinking, and she would challenge and question things in a way that was constructive and strengthening. And that was the beginning of what has become a collaboration on this work.

I knew when I was starting this piece that I couldn't do it alone. I knew that I couldn't even conceive of the piece entirely on my own, because it is so enormous. Just a single archetype is so rich and complex that no one person could possibly understand an entire array of them and bring them to life.

Photo ©Nannette Bertschy & Ann Moradian.

Nanette and I began tangibly working on the piece together this past year (2010). That's expressed in the way of set designs, and a couple of costumes that shape the movement possibilities – what can be done or what can't be done. We've developed concepts into visual expression and then looked at those visual expressions – whether video, photography, light, sculpture or costume – and begun to translate those into theatrical realities.

We've just begun working with Fred Moreau recently too. He is a French lighting designer, and he's been working with us on lighting ideas. He also has a strong interest in mythology, and he seems to be enjoying the process of questioning and exploring the story and the possibilities too. What I am finding is that the lighting and visual play of things is a principal element in the work.

You know, at first I didn't even realize I needed to develop a “script!” This is new to me, as a choreographer. And it doesn't read like a traditional script in any way! Another friend named Kristina Landa, who comes from theatre and film, has come in to test out ideas and work on some of the scenes. She is a practicing shaman who has a deep affinity with many of the archetypes we are working with, and that is a big help. Her friend Louise Denyer, who is also an actress, has come in too, to test out scenes and characters. In the same way that talking with friends and exposing myself to different points of view is a way of brainstorming, testing out scenes and characters is also a way of brainstorming with theatrical concepts and character possibilities. And it is a way of constantly challenging my choices and assumptions, to verify their strength. This process gives me the information I need to make the call “This way, that way… oh no, not that, but - wow, I hadn’t thought of that possibility.” The principal collaborators are a few, but the work is being born from the collaboration and contribution of dozens and dozens of people.

I’m still looking for a composer to work with, and I haven’t even begun to focus on the video elements. I figured, let me get the first solid draft of the script done and then turn to the music and video.

EW: It’s a multi-media piece evidently, but if I was trying to describe this piece to someone who hadn’t seen a performance by you before, what might I link it to, to give them an idea? Perhaps a ballet, interpretive theater, or dance…where does it fit in?

AM: I don’t know if it fits in anywhere… In Europe there are theatrical works that don’t fit within a singular medium. It’s not purely dance… but it’s not just theater either. Physical Theatre is one term, but it doesn't embrace the visual aspects that are integral to this kind of work. It seems to me that it's as much a physical theater work as it is visualized poetry, as it is art that moves. I would call it something like “Moving Art Performance.” (Though someone I knew in the martial arts would have pushed for Moving Art Perflowance, because the "form" is not at all the focus here. Instead, it is a creation that is driven by the "flow"-ing of it, and its form comes from that.)

The script doesn’t read like a normal script at all. There’s very little text. As soon as text or language comes in, it restricts a huge number of people from accessing that aspect of the work. So I go through and I pull out all the unnecessary words I can. I see how much of it we can say with the action? How much we can say with a visual image or sound instead. Can we “say it” another way? This doesn't mean that the language doesn’t have value. Some things only words can express. Some things video really does best because it can be so intimate, or surreal. Some things the movement does best because you feel it in your body. Or you need to see the picture of the thing, or the relationship. Frankly, the fun-est thing about this work at the moment as a choreographer has been choreographing the interplay of the mediums – how they enter in, inter-relate, which one does what when. That’s what is the most interesting to me right now.

Photo ©Nannette Bertschy & Ann Moradian.

EW: And to wrap this up, what’s the audience that you’re trying to reach with this piece?

AM: I would like the work to reach as far as possible. It could be a challenging piece for some people, because it is not linear, it is not literal, it is not in a singular medium, and it does not rely on spoken expression or familiar dance patterns. A collage is a little like a puzzle where you have to make sense of the pieces for yourself somehow. I suppose the audience might need to be a little adventurous, as the performers must be. It is the kind of work that makes you ponder, think and feel - reflect, if you will.

I would love to see the work not only in theaters around the world, but variations of the work in art galleries and museums. And I would love to see it mounted and performed in universities. I'd like to see it become a vehicle to re-integrate the arts into our educational curriculum. I am fascinated by how the arts and society relate, how the arts affect us and how we affect the arts. I see the possibility here of using the work as a catalyst and springboard for critical thought. It can give us an opportunity to become more aware of the stories we tell, how we tell them, how they evolve, how they influence who we become and what we believe, and how who we are and what we believe influences the stories we tell. I'd love extend the work beyond the theatre, beyond art galleries and museums even, to work with different university departments - like sociology, psychology, anthropology, women’s studies, communications and media, for a start!

* For the complete interview, click here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shining...

Shining... © Ann Moradian. All rights reserved.

Never tell me trust you
It's a promise or a lie
And either way with time
We'll see

With two minds in you
Against one heart
No matter where you start
You break what you build apart

There is no up to climb to
There is no down to fall
Just out and in with a spin
And a little pin of gravity
Dive into one seed in the heart
Forever you fall
but never apart
Not down
Just in
And out

There is no up to climb to
There is no down to fall
Except in your head with its two minds
Warring with all you know

There is no down
There is no up
Just the heart that breathes
in the empty space where
All is
Not a dream in the mind
But a space in the heart
Where we weave threads of nothing
Shining
Shining

With two unyielding minds in you
Against that pulsing heart
Bright and flashing brilliant
Fractured
You shred yourself and your world
Apart

Clenching the known in the fists of your mind
As you slash at your fears
There's no room left to find
Any other way

Peek out of the cell
that contains you
It's a figment of your minds
Closing the blinds within you
to any other way

Let your heart's song guide you
Yield to the space between
Flesh
And air
Breath lives there

Two steel trap minds in you
Hating your loving heart
No matter where you start
You break
And what you build
Falls apart

Dive into the seeds of the heart
Forever we fall
Not apart
Just deeper in
Further out

Not a dream in the air
But a space in the heart
Where no matter how we start
We choose to weave new dreams
Rather than rip the fabric of souls apart
We can weave threads of nothing
Shining....

... shining...


--
Ann Moradian, March 11, 2011, August 9, 2012