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DANCE — The Blessed “Bessie” Award-Winning Amazing Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Jen Rosenblit

 Jen Rosenblit
for a Natural dance
The Kitchen
Outstanding Emerging Choreographer

THE BESSIES      
Produced in partnership with Dance/NYC, the NY Dance and Performance Awards have saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work by independent dance artists in NYC for 30 years. Known as “The Bessies” in honor of revered dance teacher Bessie Schoenberg, the awards were established in 1984 by David White at Dance Theater Workshop. They recognize exceptional work in choreography, performance, music composition and visual design. Nominees are chosen by a 40-member selection committee, comprised of artists, presenters, producers, and writers. All those working in the dance field are invited to join the NY Dance and Performance League, as members participate in annual discussions on the direction of the awards and nominate members to serve on the selection committee. This year’s 30th Anniversary Bessie Awards were held at The Apollo on Monday October 20, 2014.

The fourth annual Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Award. Previous recipients include Beth Gill (2011), Rashaun Mitchell (2012) and Joanna Kotze (2013). This year, the committee’s vote was tied and selected two of the nominees to receive the Outstanding Emerging Choreographer Award.  The first recipient, Jessica Lang, was recognized for the elegant works created for her newly formed company of dancers at the Joyce Theater in her transition from freelance choreographer to artistic director. Additionally, Jen Rosenblit was recognized for a Natural dance, performed at The Kitchen, for a confident voice investigating the fluidity of identity, the pulse of time, and the nature of what it is to dance

 

Talk about your background.

 

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I grew up in Maine dancing at a small studio with one teacher, Debra Lee Irons.  She taught us what she was calling Variant dance.  Many different forms blended together, all really through a jazzy post modern lens which I had no real frame work to understand at the time.  From very early on she encouraged me to make dances.  Improvisation was also a major element in my training at a young age.  I began teaching classes and working with my peers to make small works.  In high school I eventually travelled to Portland, Maine to take Ballet classes with Karen Hurl Montenarro to develop my skill.  I was of course the oldest in the class and my body was very different compared to the 8, 9, 10 year olds and for our final showing my Mom had to sew a skirt for me because non of the ones from the little girls’ catalogue were my size of course.  Karen took me on for private lessons, she got me in point shoes and told me that ballet was meant for my body.  Those 2 women from Maine completely carved a space for me in dance.  I then attended Hampshire College, part of the 5 college system in western massachusetts.  This program was about self designing your education, I was reading and writing as much as possible, being encouraged to think beyond the conventions of academia to articulate contemporary thoughts along side a strong historical lineage.  This is where critical thinking and language surrounding dance making became very important to my practice.  Since 2005 I have been living in NYC, making dances, teaching and traveling.

How did you decide to create a company?

I didn’t create a company.  I work project to project.  I have worked for the past ten years with my dearest friend, Addys Gonzalez.  He continues to expand and question my curiosities.  We have grown up together.  He understands something deep about my feelings that I can barely articulate.  He sticks around even when we are lost in our sense of communication.  Even when he doubts me he returns the next day to rehearsal.  This is how I think about working with other bodies.  I get so lost sometimes in my process, I need to trust that people will go on that tangent as well.  There is something equivalent between “company” and “marriage” to me.  I’m not interested in working that way.  I’m deeply invested in a more precarios translucent arrangement.  Not even money or a contract binds us.  I aim to build alliances with the people I work with.  I also wanted to move away from the demand of making group works that a company model really represents.  Even if I am working with 5 bodies, we are not a company, we keep each other company.
Jen Rosenblit and Jessica Lang win Bessie Awards

What are the challenges of a young choreographer and how do you meet them?

oh. god. I think the challenges must be pretty similar to any age range or qualification.  I do wonder when I will no longer be a shiny new young choreographer.  I’m sure I will miss the shine!  All I know is that I have longed for connections with older artists.  I have made some of those connections deeply.  Job wise it is hard to prove that I am a worth while teacher but that is a whole other conversation about universities and institutional red tape and how there are so many older artists who are much more qualified for the jobs we are all applying for.  This is also that I feel teaching is a part of my work, it is not for everyone.

What is your personal definition of how and why you create?

My friend just asked me if he should stop making work.  He wanted an honest opinion based on the value of what he was producing.  Making dances is a lens for how I begin to organize information.  It is how I sort through things.  It is how I pay attention.  I have a ton of bad ideas.  Sometimes a performer will turn a bad idea into an interesting one.  I’m invested in the process of those exchanges, the outcome if part of the process as well, but not nearly as long as we all have to endure the many many embarrassing ideas.
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Describe the evolution of your favorite piece.

well I was really committed to my recent work at The Kitchen, it was also one of my longest projects.  a Natural dance stole my life for 2 years.  I was so confused by the work and also had a deep sense of exactly what is was.  I started with a completely different cast.  Addys was in Paris and taking some time away from dancing.  At the invitation of Juliette Mapp we performed what was then titled H U R T S as part of the Danspace Project platform celebrating Judson Dance Theater’s anniversary.  Juliette’s proposal or thought was that surrounding some moments in the Judson years was a real relation to nature and it’s discontents.  I was playing with oversized sweatpant costumes.  We were 5 bodies with our own solos, sometimes intended to align with another and most of the time not.  This was an early interest in bodies falling out of relation, physically and spiritually, with a strong curiosity for what togetherness could then be.  I left this work, took some time off to perform for some other artists on their works.  Addys and I started working again and I then asked Justin Cabrillos about his interest in joining.  I met him in a class.  He did a 30 second solo during one of our improvisations.  I will never forget his presence.  I was feeling sassy about how similar he might be perceived when placed next to Addys.  I had also never worked with another male body which is something Addys had mentioned wanting to explore.  Collecting and including desires is major in my process.  We worked for a year, once a week sometimes 2 or 3. I knew from early on that I would work with Effie Bowen on a repetition of text: Helen, where did you go.  On a long night walk in Berlin Effie and I talked about meaning, women and what performance can be.  Elliott Jenetopulos then sent me this guide book for theatrical color gels.  Effie became the anchor for the swing of what is natural into a more absurdist landscape of repetition, slippage and female desire.
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What would you like to tell young dancers? Young choreographers?

1. include everything. treat all information like matter that takes up space and solicits feelings.  Be critical and then find spaces where we don’t always have reasons or intentions, let intuition communicate with design.
2. Try to have a stable job until it proves that you just can’t and you have to find other ways to make money and make your work.
3. we are all deeply confronted inside of dance making, dancer or choreographer, there have to be moments where we are all bodies and hearts working on this thing together while protecting each other’s spaces of commitment and identity.
4. apply for everything until you begin to uncover what is worth it and what you want to be a part of.
5. warm up before class and rehearsal, cross train, stretch after class and rehearsal.
Jen Rosenblit relaxes at Bessie Award nominations

Where do you see your next season? Will everything be thematic? Will your dancers define your aesthetic?

I have no idea.  I have a studio though LMCC this year and will focus on the making.  I am also traveling a lot for a few other pieces I am in.  I am trying to meet curators abroad and trying to think about a new work that can include elements that I would like to work on in new york yet also have a compact/travel dialogue inherent to it’s nature so that I can be working while I am traveling and working!  working while working.

How do you grow your company?

re: the company questions earlier.  But also I don’t know.  I listen to people older than me a lot.  I take advice.  I try to pay attention to grants and make timelines to see what I am ready to apply for.  I also feel like growing my work administratively is hard to do on my own.  It is easy to get behind on deadlines and email correspondence when in the studio.  I think I’m feeling like the key is to just keep making the work and keep asking for help and finding new ways to support that help.

How do you think of music for each dance?

I make my own sound, sometimes it resembles music! It is similar to the visual elements /costumes, I am interested in the crafting of the performance so when I have used other people’s music I have felt like there was some work that I didn’t look deeper into.  Singing is something for me right now.  Im not the best vocal performer of the year, but that confrontation feel important for me as a performer, as I ask other performers to dive into their deep dark spaces.

How does dance relate to memory or cotemporary emotion? Do they mix?

The body can be so gross.  It holds onto everything.  When someone passes me on the street wearing a parfume that my ex girlfriend wore, my body physically has to stop and sit down.  It is in those moments where I understand the brain and all my organs and my hip flexors and my skin to be a part of my body.  It is then when I kind of understand dance.  Much more than when I am doing a cool dance move on stage.  I am reading Heather Love’s Feeling Backward: Loss and The Poitics of Queer History.  She proposes this dystopia of coming together as a group of people and that this backward glance could be a site to consider all of our loss and mourning.  We need not move on necessarily.  I feel a deep connection in dance this notion that is sort of against utopia.  Getting better and being good and whole and finding completion and coming together is not at the  center of my research.

Your Bessie acceptance speech brought many warm smiles and tears to the audience. It reminded me of the philosophy  of the Bill T Jones/Arnie Zane company.  Do you remember most of your speech?

yeah I remember talking about my body and how special it feels that there is a space for me inside a form that is pretty conventional.  Body politics are central in my work.  I think I resisted that for some time but I think I was also resisting my body.  This refusal for definition is still present, I often say things and immediately want to take it back.  But I am truly honored to be seen for inventive work, not just skinny flexible bodies doing technical things.  I love skinny bodies.  I love technical things.  But my work is about something else.
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Were there particular companies or dancers or dances or choreographers that inspire you?

Ya I of course became obsessed with Tere O Connor when I saw his work in college.  I was mad, I asked my professors why no one told me about him earlier!  Hilary Clark is a performer and teacher and in general master at her craft.  Niall Noel Jones’s slippery presence has shifted the way I understand how bodies can come together.  Addys Gonzalez of course is someone who I want to continue to see until I die.  Its like I want to see every decision he makes and every moment that he stumbles into.  God I feel like I could just name everyone.  Meg Stuart’s work has been a huge interest of mine.  RoseAnne Spradlin.  Will Rawls.  I am currently working with Simone Aughterlony in Zurich.  I listen to her proposals in rehearsal and feel like I am in the absolute right place.  I then see her working, improvising and just feel splattered against the floor.  Her casual brilliance will be something I think about on my body forever.

What started you on this path?

I guess my mom put me in dance class in Maine.  But this specific path, I think I put myself here.  With encouragement of many people, this is a place I am still actively working inside of.

 

Thanks, Jen!

 

CONGRATULATIONS!

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October 20, 2014 - Posted by | ART, BUSINESS, CULTURE, ENTREPRENEURS, LIFESTYLES, opportunity, Uncategorized, We Recommend | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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