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The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York's theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we're passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.
July 20, 2016

Performing for a Young Audience: A Victory Dance Talk-Back


After the July 14th public performance of Victory Dance Program A, four members of the three companies took to the stage and answered questions from the audience. The three choreographers and one dancer were joined by New Victory Teaching Artist, Penelope McCourty, who facilitated the Talk-Back. The questions from the audience ranged from the artists' inspirations to how it feels to perform for young audiences. 

Most of the companies performing in Victory Dance don’t often have the chance to interact with young audiences, these dance professionals got feedback on their work that they never expected! Get to know the insights and stories behind behind Big Dance Theater, doug elkins choreography and the Advanced Beginner Group below.

 

Doug Elkins Choreography
Mark Gindick and company performing with doug elkins choreography, etc. Photo: Jamie Kraus
The Talk-Back panel included: 

Paul Lazar: Artistic Director and dancer from Big Dance Theater
Annie Parson: Artistic Director and choreographer of Big Dance Theater
Doug Elkins: Founder and choreographer of doug elkins choreography, etc.
David Neumann: Founder of the Advanced Beginner Group

What was the initial inspiration for these pieces?

David: I collaborated very closely with the writer Will Eno on the text. We were curious about helping an audience to connect to a puppet through dance. We wanted to comfort audiences if they felt a little lost or confused, since we’re all just people here, trying to get by. 

Annie: The first piece I choreographed that you just saw was inspired by a nocturne written by Stravinsky. The second piece was inspired by page 79 of Costume En Face, notations of work by Tatsumi Hijikata.

Paul, as a performer, how did you step into your inspiration space?

Paul: I didn’t bring my page 79 from Costume En Face to the stage with me, but there are a few examples I remember. One picture was "face flattened by fear," another was "peacock on fire." These are really vivid images. The thing about a picture is that it can suggest very strong movement even if it, itself, is still.  

Did you have a storyline in your head or did you leave it to the interpretation of the audience?

Doug: There are allusions towards stories, but you don’t have to explicitly follow them. The great thing about dance is that you can pay attention to the choreographer's stories or create your very own in your head!

For the last piece, were the dancers trained as puppeteers or puppeteers trained as dancers? What was the puppet made out of?

David: I would say they’re puppeteers trained as dancers, but to be a puppeteer you have to have a very good sense of movement. You have to be able to figure out how the figures walk and move from your own experience. 

The puppet's in the style of bunraku. Underneath the suit, it's made of wood, string and a little bit of elastic. The head was made out of paper mache.

 

advanced beginner group
The bunraku puppet, Steve, with the puppeteers from David Neumann/Advanced Beginner Group! Photo: Susan Cook.
Do you feel different when you're choreographing from when you're dancing?

Paul: It is definitely a different experience. As a dancer, I'm first learning the movement and then discovering how to translate the choreographer's voice into my own style. As a choreographer, I’m giving movement to a dancer to see how it fits. 

 

Big Dance Theater
Aaron Mattocks performing in Big Dance Theater's Short Ride Out (3), Photo: Liz Lynch
What inspires you to do your job?

Annie: A very strange curiosity about how people move in a space and how to arrange that movement.  I don't think of choreography as dance steps, it’s more like building a house. You take the wood and the windows, put them together, and see how the house looks at the end.

It's all about seeing how little things become more than the sum of their parts. Choreography is about turning small movements into something that has a metaphysical meaning.

Since all four of you usually only perform for adults, what have you learned performing these pieces for young audiences that you didn’t know before? 

Paul: I was hugely enthused about being able to do this. This joy and energy from the audience is unlike anything I’ve experienced before.

I love this flow of conversation with the Talk-Backs. All of your questions are so insightful and beautiful, it's like I'm learning about my work all over again. 

Doug: Well, I’m taller than everybody… There’s nothing more joyful than when working with young people. I really feel privileged to be here. 

David: I think that the one thing I’ve discovered is that there are moments where I was surprised how much it affected some of the younger ones. I will definitely revisit those moments to keep digging.

Looking back, showing our work to a younger audience has been a wonderfully chaotic experience. The innocence and the discovery–coupled with the energy from the audience–has been singular. 
 
 
New Victory Thumb Interested in inspiring a #LoveofDance in your family? Make sure to check out Victory Dance this summer!
 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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