Interview with Michele Oliva and Francesca Dario

In this interview with Oliva Contemporary Dance Project’s Michele Oliva and Francesca Dario, you can read Michele’s answers as Francesca’s thoughts, Francesca’s words as Michele’s sentiments. The two dancers and co-founders of OCDP have found a cadence of speech that jumps from one person to the next while never losing the flow of a sentence. Together for 10 years, since meeting and falling in love while dancing for an Italian version of ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’ the pair buoy one another emotionally and artistically. There is a care evident between them that starts with translating for one another (throughout this interview, throughout their hectic and almost always English-language interactions) and ends in the dance studio, when they dance a phrase together to show the class how their movement should be done. Always, the class is stunned into wondering smiles, wondering how they can physically do what Michele and Francesca do (and with Francesca’s Complexions-influenced leg extensions and Michele’s super-fast isolations, students might not be able to do what they do). But the movement is transcended by the synchronicity and meshing of the two dancers, whose relationship extends beyond the verbal, beyond the mental, and becomes a blending of bodies, a deep understanding that only the two share.

Both from Italy, Michele and Francesca are passionate artists eager to bring their teaching practice and company OCDP, founded in 2004, to audiences' attention here in New York. Michele started dancing on the streets of Italy as a break-dancer; he was initially on a path to a career in soccer, and later had a successful stint as a DJ clubs. Francesca was classically trained from the age of 6. And yet. A fusion. Their newest work, @MozArt, will be performed in the APAP Conference at Peridance Capezio Center January 12 and 13. You can see the two weekly, when they teach their highly technical contemporary movement at Peridance.
The founders of OCDP sat down with me right before the holidays to talk about their upcoming APAP debut, their company, why they dance.
Peridance Capezio Center: How do you describe yourself?
Michele Oliva: As a dancer, dynamic, expressive with a lot of energy and a hard worker. As a choreographer, I try to experience, to grow. To give space to my dreams and work with my sensation, with the music and my heart.
Francesca Dario: I work hard everyday. I push my body and my mind 100%. I’m not lazy. I love this art and I have all of my life to it, but for me the important thing is that dance must make me feel happy and alive. It is not only a good technique or gymnastics. It is love, passion, art. This is how I feel like a dancer. 

Read the rest of this interview on the Peridance blog


Lucy Guerin: "Untrained" Review

- at Brooklyn Academy of Music -
November 30, 2012

"1/2 human.
1/2 alien.
1/2 machine."

There is such a thing as good television, but one of my favorite things to watch are the makeover episodes of essentially any lifestyle channel. Tyra Banks’ “America’s Next Top Model,” Dr. Phil, Oprah; each has their version of transforming a somewhat ragged-around-the-edges individual into the inevitable beauty. Watching Ugly transform into Beautiful in an instance with “before” and “after” shots provides shock value, makes you glad that you aren’t a “before,” and is addicting.

We get this split screen effect for 1 hour in Lucy Guerin’s “Untrained.” The piece begins with a construction that lends itself to comparison: in quick succession, each dancer stands facing the audience and gazes pointedly but easily out at us, until they shift to the right and walk out of a taped square. The square is where most of the action in "Untrained" occurs- a boundary that matches the playful tasks that the dancers attempt, like a game of foursquare on the playground. Yes, the dancers would have won the game of foursquare. To say nothing of the later handstands and improvisations, they are better at standing than the untrained dancers. They are strong in their stance, easy in their bodies. The untrained dancers take their position with a nervous shuffle and when they stare it is hard not to look for signs that they are the lesser; lopsided and hunched shoulders give them away. We chuckle at these differences. Later, we fold in half with laughter when an untrained dancer follows the professional, trying to copy him movement for movement. When that movement is a handstand to a swift plank position, the duplication is more of a tuck of the head to a slow lowering, knee by knee, to the ground. But Jake Shackleton, the untrained dancer, has his eyes glued to dancer Michael Dunbar, and he within his physical limits he is copying this improvisation as closely as possible. It turns out this is not a competition at all. All movement- the awkward, the fluid, the strong, the subtle- is endlessly absorbing if you have a mind to be inquisitive about the minute. 

Guerin, in the Talk Back after the show, said that she is interested in how bodies move, and how the contrast in training for each dancer is physically manifested. Instead of the silliness of an overweight man taking off his shirt to reveal a bare belly, she sees the patterns and the rhythms in the rote action. The silliness that might be someone taking off their shirt becomes intricately involving when the performers each describe how they take off their t-shirt. “I hook my thumbs under the collar like so….I cross my arms and pull upwards…” Paired with a clinical analysis of the taking off of a shirt, they perform each action with staccato control. Guerin is looking at the details, a micromanaging that transcends the humor that enlivens the performance, and reveals the truth and beauty of physicality and thought processes that can be distilled from each movement.

The effort of mind and body is visible. In both the dancers and untrained dancers, we can see their minds work (at one point, performers take turns teaching a short piece of choreography to one another on the spot, and we hear “yes, I understand,” “umm…hmmmm…..ok….”). This candor and informality is important, as it lends to what might be most essential for the success of “Untrained,”: honesty. It would be easy to make this piece funny by subjecting the untrained dancers to tasks that reveal their incapabilities. The audience would know it was a cheap laugh, but we would laugh nonetheless and it would fulfill our expectations (if they, as I did, had only a hilarious YouTube video featuring 8 minutes of the performance, for reference. Judging by the number of times the video has been viewed – 6,804 – it is likely that they did expect humor).  

Amazingly and blessedly, Guerin does not find this piece funny. At the Talk Back, with a confused shake of her head, she said that even 3 years after the piece first debuted, she cannot fully comprehend why the audience laughs. The audience responded to this incomprehension with their own disbelieving headshakes. Is she watching the same show we are?

Because Guerin does not think of “Untrained” as a comedic piece, it becomes so much more. I hold my breath watching Alisdair Macindoe’s assemble, which almost quivers in the air as though he is lengthening away from the floor with an impossible resistance midair. But Ross McCormack, untrained as a dancer but for the two weeks he has spent rehearsing this piece (dancers are usually cast in the city of the performance, rehearse for a few weeks and then perform), has a groove as he pokes and bumps his way through an improvisation that similarly influences me to move and breathe with him. "Untrained" is as addicting as watching a stay at home mom in a sweatshirt and jeans transform into the woman that you take out to a fancy restaurant for dinner. But instead of leaving the "before" behind, we get to know them. We get to know the untrained dancers as creative individuals and learn that the trained dancers have their own insecurities. There is a leveling, an equaling between 4 very different men. Humor is the result of honesty that we are not confronted with often. If laughter was at first a response to discomfort and only a base understanding of the performers as individuals, the gleefulness felt in the audience with time stemmed from an excitement that the performers were so willing to share themselves with the audience.


Summer Intensive Brochure - Peridance Capezio Center

Outside of brochure

Inside of Brochure

Just ordered! 2,500 brochures for the Summer Intensive! I get sick to my stomach when my stuff is going to the printers, and I hate opening up the boxes (was the bleed correct? where is the one stupid spelling mistake that inevitably shows up?)

But, I'm happy about this one- it's fun to fold and unfold (accordion) - a poster and brochure in 1!


merry xmas



all I got for xmas

No one really wants this - this picture of themselves....but no one really wants the $10 present that I would be able to afford for them. Alternately soap, socks, thoughtful book, repeat. So I hope the effort counts for more than the picture.

Here is a first step I took today towards one picture. Leaving the face blank right now because a) I like the polarization between the face and landscape and b) I'm too afraid to start messing with the face.

 (this looks brighter - the face more vibrant - on the actual paper)

I based my colors and general look on these postcards, which are currently hung over my desk as beautiful images (there are 3 different postcards- triathalon, marathon, 5k) and as a reminder that I should train for the upcoming half-marathon that I'm signed up for!

 (http://www.marintriathlon.com/merchandise.php by Victor Ottavio Marcelli)


Indelible Dance Company

 “There Will Be Cake; A brand new, wedding themed ballet”
November 9, 2012 at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, Brooklyn

The well-tuned stomach of a ballerina, set against the backdrop of a white canvas, is at once subtle (where does skin end? wall begin?) and arresting. Indelible Dance Company and Artistic Director Robin Cantrell have a heightened awareness of what is aesthetic appealing, and their show this past weekend, “There will be Cake; A brand new, wedding themed ballet,” was as visually delicious as the cake that was served during intermission truly was.

I’m guessing the cake was delicious, actually. Looking at all of the smooth stomachs onstage (beautiful costumes by Anna Love often eschew fabric when it comes to the midriff) put me off my desire to eat for the moment. That, and the fact that the dancers had just shoved their faces in the dessert. More on that later. First, the wedding.

This “themed ballet” addresses, through dance, many aspects of a wedding including; “Procession,” “Cake!,” “Always a Bridesmaid,” and “Last Call.” These flippant titles are paired with literal interpretations – the dancers really do walk down the aisle, two by two in "Procession"and as mentioned before, cake(!) is served piece if the same title- but the sections also highlight the great physical capabilities of the dancers and are infused with comedy in such a way that the audience is at once impressed, for example by an unwaveringly high developpe, and unarmed, like when Cantrell pulls a dramatically hilarious face in response to her partners oncoming slow-motion attack. “Cake” begins with a duet in unison but by the end of the piece the two dancers are smearing icing on themselves, simultaneously dancing fiercely and with a quick smirk every now and again acknowledging the absurdity of their sugar-embalmed bodies.

In slow motion and at high speeds, the dancers of Indelible Dance Company compose themselves with the high-strung grace of ballerinas. Each step is an entrance; each gesture a story in itself. Impressing each movement with great purpose makes every moment a fleeting picture. The beauty of the dance finds a great partner in Anna Love’s costumes, which are often light sandstone in color and fill in the gap between the starkness of the white walls and the flesh tones of skin. Walls, skin, clothing: the three merge into one seamless image. One piece's costumes (I don’t remember the title) diverges from the elegant simplicity other costumes in the performance. They are a complicated amalgamation of light effects and extravagance. A female dancer wears a skirt that might well have been fashioned out of a parachute, and which extends to the walls above the audiences heads when it is pulled upwards by ropes attached to its edges. Once the parachute skirt is raised, the dancer's torso disappears and instead we see just legs and underwear. The legs are muscular and crisply specific as they pointe and extend. The underwear is emblazoned with LED lights that glow harshly. This costume comes from a distinct point of view, and one assumes that the choreographer and costume designer were aligned in their aesthetic desires to create such an extravagant piece, but the two art forms clash in this instance. 

Find yourself of Indelible Dance Company's website and find yourself on a page thick with photoshoots celebrating the form of the body. "There will be Cake" was at its strongest when the dancing might as well have been posing for the camera. The choreography was initially strong, with interesting use of costumes as prop and a playfulness with timing, however group pieces later in the evening were reliant on using one dancer as counterpoint to dancers in unison. This weakness is forgotten, however, when the parachute-skirt lifts above your head, or the muscled torso twists to accept a bite of white-frostinged cake. Indelible Dance Company is at its core a dance company, but is most sumptuous when collaborating with other artists. 


Peridance Capezio Center - Poster for Student Concert

Recent poster, created to advertise student applications for Peridance's Student Concert, February 2013.



He rests cupped palms, facing inward, atop her head. The silhouette is clear, if not explicit or even intentional. Combined – the perked hands of one dancer, the head of another – this is LoudHoundMovement.

photos by Nir Arieli, edited by me.

The free show Saturday night (ticket sales were refunded in response to Hurricane Sandy) at Center for Performing Research premiered LoundHoundMovement, a collective founded by 3 artists, Catherine Coury, Brendan Duggan and Mallory Rosenthal.

Can dancing be sign language? There is nothing to translate in this assemblage of choreography. No symbols or motifs that demanded interpreting, but the bodies are saying something. Gestures, like that of a sign language interpreter, are intense and with intent. And they move beyond the (sensate) hands and (focused, calm) eyes to the legs and the floor. (If dance is going to say something, it better say it with everything it’s got!) The body is signing, sharply and softly and fluidly, telling us what matters. 

This is important, a hand says. This is important, a shape demands


Dance online makes me giddy!

I have blog/website envy. The Dance Enthusiast is only 5 years old, but is already wise beyond its years. The site employs 8 dance critics. They see dance. They write about it. This is normal (but not easy to achieve). What is exciting and new is the fully-fledged 'audience reviews' section that publishes the writing of the everyday dance viewer with as much respect and confidence as they do their staff. The site is beautiful, their ideals are beautiful, and reading about people's varied perceptions about dance can be beautiful, initiating dynamic and complicated thoughts and debate.

Last night, the Dance Enthusiast celebrated their 5th birthday with a gathering of supporters, writers and some passerby who were just getting out of their class at DNA. The event was small, with maybe 50 people in attendance, but it felt like an important moment in the Dance Enthusiast's career. Christine Jowers, Founding Editor of the Dance Enthusiast, hosted the event. Writer and dance critic Eva Yaa Asantewaa, of InfiniteBody, was there. Dancers, and husbands of dancers, and friends of people who kind of knew dance but knew they loved the idea of dance, were there. Wonderfully, SARA du jour and was there with TJ Spooner for a quick performance (if you don't know SARA, you must go to this blog too! Blonde wigs are but an exclamation point of excitement for these unbridled and confident personalities, housed within flirtatious bodies).

I have posted most of my reviews on the Dance Enthusiast as an 'audience reviewer' since I moved to New York, and the excitement of reaching so many people is invigorating. I will continue to post my reviews there (and then link them back to this blog...in a good for the goose, good for the gander relationship that is at once generous and good for business). 


Interview with dancer, choreographer Enzo Celli

An interview with Enzo Celli, the Italian choreographer of Botega Dance Company.

Enzo Celli recently finished his workshop series at Peridance, although he will continue to teach at the school. Class with Celli is a lesson in developing self and in performing courageously. No moment is lost as a simple technical lesson; every turn and twist is a chance to hone your personal dance vocabulary in the guise of Celli's movement. He celebrates the differences within each dancer. And in turn they can celebrate themselves. 

Some of the questions that I asked Nathan Trice for my first interview did not seem like they would translate well for this interview, which was decidedly blurred through a language barrier. Celli is very, charmingly, Italian. Any attempts at irony were lost in translation; instead revealing Celli's insanely kind heart. Here is a preview of the interview. More can be read online at periblog.com

Informal Floor: The three songs at the top of your play list?

Enzo Celli:

I.F. What is your signature move?
E. C. Probably something about the density of the movement. I like density very much. This is the core of my dynamic (sensibility).

I.F. What are the three things that you think that are most beautiful?
My wife.
The Holy Spirit. It’s the most beautiful thing in the world.