MOVERS & SHAPERS: A DANCE PODCAST

The personal stories, experiences, and ideas from those who shape the dance field.

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MSP 175: Rachel Damon

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PODCAST 175: Rachel Damon

Release Date: 6.3.24

TO DOWNLOAD PODCAST OR LISTEN:

    • Apple: Subscribe, Listen, Rate Us HERE

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When Decisions are Commitments with Rachel Damon

Episode 175: Show Notes

Joining us today is Rachel Damon, a choreographer, theatrical designer, performer, and co-founder and artistic director of Synapse Arts, a Chicago-based dance theater company. Rachel’s self-made career is a testament to her multidisciplinary talents, blending onstage and backstage roles to create dynamic performance works through collaboration, improvisation, and teamwork. In this episode, Rachel shares her remarkable journey from lovable weirdo at musical theatre summer camp to internationally-renowned production stage manager and performer who lives her life by making decisions as commitments. Tuning in, you’ll discover how her dual passions for choreography and crafting have fueled her personal and professional growth, the power of educating performers to negotiate their value, ensuring that art is recognized as legitimate work, and why diversity is a cornerstone of Synapse Arts’ identity. We also explore Rachel’s love for theatre production, her innovative partnership with the Chicago Park District, and the unique site-specific performances born from this collaboration. Join us for an engaging conversation that covers all this and more!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • An overview of Rachel’s background and what sparked her interest in dance and theatre.
  • The importance of exposing young people to theatre and the creative arts.
  • The immediacy that she loves about theatre production work and stage management.
  • How Links Hall in Chicago acted as a springboard for her career.
  • Insight into Synapse Arts, how it got started, and how it has evolved since.
  • Synapse’s partnership with the Chicago Park District’s Arts & Culture Unit (ACU).
  • Rachel’s site-specific and outdoor performances that punctuate everyday life.
  • The significance of her interdisciplinary work, including her “textile dances.”
  • Challenges she has encountered in her onstage and backstage career.
  • How Rachel empowers artists and advocates for art to be valued as work.
  • Ways that you can contribute to Synapse’s 20th Birthday Bash Campaign.
  • Why a diversity of identities and lived experiences is important in the arts.

“Being with the weird people who are risky, accepting, and idea-driven [is] where I feel safe and inspired.” — Rachel Damon

ABOUT Rachel

Rachel Damon (she/her) is a designer, choreographer, producer, and performer whose career bridges onstage and backstage. As a cofounder and Co-Director of Synapse Arts she has been honored to receive support from MetLife, The Saints, The Illinois Arts Council, 3Arts, and DCASE for projects that have been presented at The Dance Center, The Museum of Contemporary Art, The Detroit Institute of Art, Ingenuity Cleveland, TEK BOX Minneapolis, The Field Museum, Roy Hart International Arts Centre (France), and Vo’Arte (Portugal).

Damon has developed her dance-theatre, site-specific, film, and kinetic textile works through residencies with The Ragdale Foundation, The Morrison-Shearer Foundation, Links Hall, The Chicago Cultural Center, and South House (England).

A Stage Manager at Cirque du Soleil/Blue Man Group and a 2005 graduate of Columbia College Chicago, Damon loves to knit while watching action movies, and she eats dessert every day.

 

Connect with Rachel Damon

Synapse Arts

Synapse Arts on Instagram

 

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Podcast produced by: The Moving Architects
Interviewer: Erin Carlisle Norton

MSP 174: Sydney Skybetter

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PODCAST 174: Sydney Skybetter

Release Date: 5.20.24

TO DOWNLOAD PODCAST OR LISTEN:

    • Apple: Subscribe, Listen, Rate Us HERE

    • Spotify: Follow and Listen HERE

    • Any Smartphone Podcast app: Subscribe and Listen

The Deeper Meaning of Dance, Dance and Emerging Technology, and Navigating an Economy that Exploits Dancers with Sydney Skybetter

Episode 174: Show Notes

Creating a successful career as a dancer in a world where there are few opportunities to thrive is particularly challenging. However, today’s guest has created a fascinating career for himself in the world of academia, research, and even dancing robots! Sydney Skybetter joins us today to discuss his life as a dancer, dance educator, and entrepreneur. In this conversation, you’ll hear all about how Sydney was introduced to dance, the beauty in the chosen family he created at art school, and his incredible Conference for Research and Choreographic Interfaces (CRCI). After Sydney’s studies, he was forced to hustle his way through a variety of odd jobs to survive financially and he tells us all about the important lessons he has learned from every job he’s ever had. We also delve into why dance programs should consider the dangers of sending dancers out into a world and economy that isn’t built for them, the connection between dance and emerging technology, potential problems for dancers and AI, and much more. Tune in now!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • An overview of Sydney’s life and how he got into dance.
  • The connection between dance history and emerging technology.
  • A commentary about the body-type expectations for dancers.
  • Insight into Sydney’s dance training and the chosen family he created.
  • All about the Conference for Research and Choreographic Interfaces (CRCI) he started.
  • Comparisons between writing and performance.
  • Some of his “weird jobs” and why he did them.
  • The danger of pumping out dancers into an economy that will not make good use of them.
  • How Sydney got into academia and what his experience at Brown University has been like.
  • What he is most excited about right now and the research he is currently doing.
  • How artists and dancers are being exploited, especially when it comes to technology.
  • What Sydney is excited about for his career in the near future.

“I came to realize that the academy was one of the few places where artists held longitudinal power.” — Sydney Skybetter

ABOUT Sydney

Sydney Skybetter is a choreographer. Hailed by the Financial Times as “One of the world’s foremost thinkers on the intersection of dance and emerging technologies,” Sydney’s choreography has been performed at such venues as The Kennedy Center and Jacob’s Pillow. He has lectured at SXSW, Yale, Mozilla and the Boston Dynamics AI Institute, and consulted for The National Ballet of Canada, Bloomberg Philanthropies, Hasbro, and The University of Southern California, among others. His work has been supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and a Creative Capital “Wild Futures” Award. He is a Senior Affiliate of metaLAB at Harvard University, a frequent contributor to WIRED and Dance Magazine, the Founder of the Conference for Research on Choreographic Interfaces and Host of the podcast, “Dances with Robots.” Sydney serves as the Deputy Dean of the College for Curriculum and Co-Curriculum, is an Associate Professor of Theatre Arts and Performance Studies, and was the first choreographer at Brown University to receive tenure.

 

Connect with Sydney Skybetter

choreographicinterfaces.org

danceswithrobots.org

Skybetter.org

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

 

Podcast produced by: The Moving Architects
Interviewer: Erin Carlisle Norton

MSP 173: Giada Matteini

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PODCAST 173: Giada Matteini

Release Date: 4.29.24

TO DOWNLOAD PODCAST OR LISTEN:

    • Apple: Subscribe, Listen, Rate Us HERE

    • Spotify: Follow and Listen HERE

    • Any Smartphone Podcast app: Subscribe and Listen

Dance for a Violence-Free Future with Giada Matteini

Episode 173: Show Notes

Today’s guest, Giada Matteini, embodies the belief that artists have the extraordinary ability to shape a world free from violence. As a performer, educator, choreographer, and cultural producer, Giada founded WADE (Wandering Avian Dance Experience), a women-led performing arts company that brings awareness to gender-based violence and offers healing through the transformative power of dance. In this episode of Movers & Shapers, Giada shares a panoramic view of her international dance career, brimming with hope and inspiration for those driven by their passion for art, movement, and self-expression. She speaks candidly about her personal experience with domestic violence and the profound role that dance played in her healing process; emphasizing how WADE emerged as a platform to raise awareness, initiate important conversations, empower survivors, and build a compassionate community of creative minds. You’ll gain insight into Giada’s journey, her dedication to her craft, and her unwavering commitment to using art as a catalyst for social change. This episode is a testament to the boundless potential of dance and resilience, so be sure to tune in today!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • Giada’s love for movement and teaching and an overview of her dance career.
  • The story of how she first came to the United States (and what made her stay).
  • How she learned English from The Cure and honed her American slang with TV.
  • Her early days in New York and how she began to build a career for herself.
  • Insight into her passion for learning and her formal dance education.
  • The haven that dance provided for Giada when life was difficult.
  • How WADE was born and how it became so much more than a dance company.
  • The bird that inspired the name and the four foundational pillars in the logo.
  • Touching stories about some of the most poignant moments from Giada’s career.
  • Why Giada refers to ballet as “the greatest equalizer” and her somatic approach to it.
  • Insight into her plans to use dance as a tool to build a violence-free future for all.

“My life was hard; emotionally hard, physically hard, financially hard. Dance was – my haven.” — Giada Matteini

 

ABOUT Giada

Giada Matteini is an Italian performer, educator, choreographer, and cultural producer based in New York City. She is the Founder and Director of WADE (Wandering Avian Dance Experience), a women-led multifaceted performing arts company working at the intersection with social justice and focused on supporting the voices and artistic expressions of women and historically underrepresented artists. WADE offers numerous points of entry into art and activism through educational programs and curated festivals in the US and Europe. Her WADEintoACTIVISM Festival began during the Covid-19 Pandemic lockdown as a response to the global increase of violence against women and continues its efforts today. The Festival joins the Global 16 Days Campaign, launched by the Center for Women’s Global Leadership and feminists from around the world and has forged collaborations with artists across the globe and with organizations fighting all forms of violence in schools, college campuses, dance studios and work places such as Speak About It: Consent Education, Project Callisto, Dance Data Project, Dance Education Equity Association, and White Ribbon.

Giada is an Assistant Arts Professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts in NYC and has traveled as a guest artist to Germany, Sweden, Austria, Finland, Spain, China, The Philippines, Mexico and across the U.S. and Italy.

Her 30 year long and on-going ballet research is based in debunking the idea of elitism in the art form, by nurturing the appreciation of the many shapes and sizes of the moving body and of gender fluidity, with the intention to support the training of her students who might feel marginalized in the studio.

As a company director, Giada has produced and/or facilitated over 60 residencies with international artists including Roy Assaf (Roy Assaf Dance), Davide Di Pretoro (Sasha Waltz), Janet Wong (Bill T Jones), Diane Madden (Trisha Brown Dance Company), Kirsten Foote (Limón Dance Company), Cindy Salgado (Crystal Pite), Rashaun Mitchell (Merce Cunningham Dance Company), Shamel Pitts, Rena Butler, Netta Yerushalmy, Stefanie Batten Bland, Bobbi Jene Smith, Loni Landon, Gregory Dolbashian (Dash Ensemble), Shannon Gillen (Vim Vigor), Nathan Trice, Vita Osojnik, Charlotte Boye-Christenson, Cora Bos-Kroese (NDT), Richard Chen See (Paul Taylor Dance Company), Arcell Carbuag (Ronald K. Brown Evidence), Madboots, Sonya Tayeh, Studio Wayne McGregor, Ori Flomin, Sadé and Kristina Alleyne, Molissa Fenley and Company, Sarah Cernaux, and many more.

Giada holds a BA in Dance and Education from Empire State College, an Embodied Social Justice Certificate from the Embody Lab, a Parent Leadership Certificate from Rise Magazine, and she is working on her Moving For Life Certification with Martha Eddy.

 

Connect with Giada Matteini

Wade Website 

Dance Hub: Italy

 

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Podcast produced by: The Moving Architects
Interviewer: Erin Carlisle Norton

MSP 172: Mimi Garrard

By Podcast

PODCAST 172: Mimi Garrard

Release Date: 4.15.24

TO DOWNLOAD PODCAST OR LISTEN:

    • Apple: Subscribe, Listen, Rate Us HERE

    • Spotify: Follow and Listen HERE

    • Any Smartphone Podcast app: Subscribe and Listen

The Journey of Creating Dance for Video with Mimi Garrard

Episode 172: Show Notes

Video dance work has become increasingly popular as technology has advanced, but not many dancers and choreographers have made it their primary medium of work. Today’s guest, Mimi Garrard, is the exception, having spent most of her extensive career focusing on video dance. In this episode of Movers & Shapers, we hear all about Mimi’s life, what led her to dance, her training under Alwin Nikolais, why she chose video dance, and what she loves about it. We delve into how she combines video and live dancing before Mimi expands on how technology has changed her work, the lighting system her husband designed for her, and some of her biggest influences throughout her career and life. Mimi feels that intuition has always been a driving force for her, and today, she tells us how that has served her work. We even discuss how AI might impact her work and what’s next for Mimi Garrard Dance Theatre. This is a fascinating episode filled with unique perspectives carved from Mimi’s special journey, so be sure to tune in!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • An overview of Mimi’s life and what led her to dance.
  • Her training and touring program with Alwin Nikolais and the pieces she did with him.
  • How 9/11 influenced her career and how her video dance work has evolved over the years.
  • Mimi’s move to the country, her outdoor work, and how madness is a theme of her work.
  • What informed her decision to combine video with live dance and how it has been received.
  • Dancers and composers that Mimi is currently working with.
  • Who has influenced her work most throughout her career.
  • What Alwin Nikolais was like (according to our guest!)
  • How Mimi got hooked on video dance and how her work has evolved with technology.
  • The lighting system her husband came up with for her dance videos.
  • How Mimi’s intuition has served her throughout her career.
  • The importance of learning and continuously working as a beginner.
  • What’s next for Mimi and her curiosity about how AI will affect her work.
  • Why she doesn’t attend screenings of her own work.

“If I don’t know what to do, it’s my intuition that tells me what to try next.” — Mimi Garrard

 

ABOUT MIMI

Mimi Garrard was a dancer with Alwin Nikolais. He produced her concerts at the Henry Street Playhouse for ten years and then she toured under the National Endowment Touring Program for many years. In collaboration with James Seawright, her work was commissioned for CBS Camera Three and WGBH Boston television. She created more than ninety works for
the stage that were performed throughout the United States and in South America. She received two grants for choreography from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Most recently Mimi Garrard is experimenting in new ways, creating dance for video using digital techniques to transform the dance material. Her work in this area is unique and is gaining increasing attention. This work is shown internationally on television, in museums and galleries, and in festivals. It was also shown on the dome of the planetarium in Jackson, Mississippi, and on the BBC BIG screen throughout England. Over the last four years she participated in 2305 international festivals and won 1280 first place awards. She won the Distinguished Alumnae Award from Sweet Briar College in 2019.

She has a half hour monthly television program on Manhattan Neighborhood Network in Manhattan, New York that is streamed live at the time of broadcast. (247 programs to date) She received a life- time achievement award from the INSTITUTE OF ARTS AND LETTERS in Mississippi for her outstanding achievement in dance both for video and for the stage.

 

Connect with Mimi Garrard

mimigarrarddance.com
@mimigarrarddance on YouTube.com

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Podcast produced by: The Moving Architects
Interviewer: Erin Carlisle Norton

MSP 171: Stefanie Nelson

By Podcast

PODCAST 171: Stefanie Nelson

Release Date: 3.11.24

TO DOWNLOAD PODCAST OR LISTEN:

    • Apple: Subscribe, Listen, Rate Us HERE

    • Spotify: Follow and Listen HERE

    • Any Smartphone Podcast app: Subscribe and Listen

Finding Your Artistry Beyond Words with Stefanie Nelson

Episode 171: Show Notes

One of the beautiful things about dance is the ability to express yourself without words. You can just dance. Joining Erin on the podcast today is Stefanie Nelson, Founder and Director of Stefanie Nelson Dancegroup (SND), a contemporary dance company based in NYC. Stefanie also established Dance Italia, an international summer dance program in Lucca, Italy. Today, she shares what kickstarted her lifelong love of dance and the influence that Alice Teirstein had on her journey. She also offers insight into her college journey and what it takes to make it as an artist in New York City. Tuning in, you’ll learn how she transitioned from dancer to choreographer and how 9/11 ultimately led her to Italy. She details her time dancing and choreographing in Italy before returning to America and shares her vision for Dance Italia. To learn more about Stefanie’s career highlights, challenges, and the different projects and initiatives that keep her busy, be sure not to miss this episode of Movers & Shapers. Thanks for listening in!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • How quitting piano led Stefanie to a lifelong love of dance.
  • Alice Teirstein and what led her to become a dancer.
  • What it means to “make it work” as an artist in New York City.
  • How Stefanie eventually transitioned into creating her own work as a choreographer.
  • Running away to Italy after 9/11 and how it played out.
  • Highlights from her time dancing and choreographing in Italy.
  • Returning to America while keeping the connections to Italy with Dance Italia.
  • Details about the Dance Italia festival and the vision behind it.
  • How the organization and planning for Dance Italia have changed over the years.
  • The different projects and initiatives that Stefanie is busy with.
  • Insight into her upcoming work in 2025 and beyond.
  • Highlights, challenges, and other obstacles from Stefanie’s career journey.
  • Her hopes, aspirations, and dreams for the future.

“There’s something very beautiful about being able to express yourself without having to articulate words, ideas, thoughts, and sentences in a linear way.” — Stefanie Nelson

 

ABOUT STEFANIE

Stefanie Nelson is the Founder and Director of Stefanie Nelson Dancegroup (SND), a contemporary performance group based in NYC; DANCE ITALIA, an international summer dance festival in Lucca, Italy; and Motore 592, a bold, new, center for contemporary movement practices in Lucca, IT.

Founded in 2000, SND is a New York City-based contemporary performance ensemble producing original work in close creative partnership with performers, visual artists and composers. The company’s work is driven by a distinctly conceptual impetus and characterized by a visceral and strikingly visual approach. For over two decades, SND has evolved from an artistic endeavor into a public service-driven and education-focused organization, invested in using dance as a tool for healing, community building, and empowerment. Mission-driven community service programs include: EVERYONE DANCE: working with NYC’s disabled population in collaboration with AHRC NYC, a disability service organization, since 2014; The MOVING MEMORY PROJECT: a festival series of professional art performances and movement classes for seniors with dementia, since 2019; DANCE ITALIA, summer dance festival for pre-professional contemporary dancers since 2011, and CREATIVE MOVEMENT classes for children ages 5-7 at Hunter College Elementary School, since 2009.

Beyond community programming, SND presents work at the foremost contemporary performance venues including Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Jacob’s Pillow, LaMama Moves!; internationally in Canada, Mexico and throughout Italy at festivals such as Fabbrica Europa, Florence Winter Dance Festival, & Festival de la Ciudad. Residencies include the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Bessie Schoenberg Residency at The Yard, Indiana University, SUNY Purchase (NY), FLYING TIGER (NY Store Opening).

Entering the dance field as a performer, notably as a soloist with Anna Sokolow’s Player’s Project, Nelson is an accomplished teacher having taught at studios and educational institutions worldwide. The New York Foundation for the Arts (NYFA) identified her as an ‘Emerging Leader’, providing a yearlong mentorship. She’s served as a Choreography panelist for NYFA’s prestigious Artists’ Fellowship awards as well as for the Joyce Theater and local NYC dance festivals. Recent company support includes funding from the National Endowment of the Arts, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the West Harlem Development Corporation. Independent choreographic projects include collaborations with fashion designer Terrence Zhou / Bad Binch TONGTONG’s New York Fashion Week SS23 debut and SS24 show, Plan-B, a feature film starring Diane Keaton, & the NYC store opening of Flying Tiger.

 

Connect with Stefanie Nelson

sndancegroup.org
danceitalia.com
motore592.com

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Podcast produced by: The Moving Architects
Interviewer: Erin Carlisle Norton

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