Tag Archives: Lisa Niedermeyer

A Day of Dance: 24 at Jacob’s Pillow

Jodi Melnick and David Neumann in July; photo Cherylynn Tsushima

If a tree could take a bow,  it would most likely happen at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.  Perhaps it did.  Read on.

My summer travels began and ended at Jacob’s Pillow, the best place I know to dance binge while enjoying the great outdoors. The day began with the natural high I get from seeing Pillow dance banners lining Route 20. This thrills me every time. Why don’t we do this more?

Trisha Brown Dance Company in Set and Reset; photo Julieta Cervantes

Trisha Brown Dance Company celebrated its 40th anniversary with a program spanning several decades, from the freshly minted les Yeux et l’ame to the 1973 witty classic Spanish Dance. It was Brown’s 1993 Set and Reset, with sets and costumes by Robert Rauschenberg and music by Laurie Anderson, that reminded me how deeply Brown’s vocabulary is engrained in my postmodern generation. Forming and un-forming, taking shape and letting it dissipate, sculpting space with a profound nuance, these are the characteristics of Brown’s wonderfully idiosyncratic style, all of which were in full evidence in this set of works. Yet, embedded in this sea of flow is a compelling palette of exquisite detail. It’s truly extraordinary that such richly textured movement can have such a fleeting feel.  Shape sans permanence, that’s Brown’s gift to us.

Jodi Melnick in Fanfare; photo Cherylynn Tsushima

What a set of dreamy movers in the pairing of David Neumann and Jodi Melnick , who teamed up at the suggestion of Pillow artistic and executive director Ella Baff.  (Neumann was last seen in Houston dancing the bittersweet A Day of It , his collaboration with Jane Weiner.)  I could watch these two move all day long, they’re that interesting.  Neumann possesses a slippery quality, looking as if a prat fall might occur at any minute, while Melnick’s calculated delicacy evokes a quiet authority.  Her breathtakingly subtle Fanfare combined an intricate gestural language with Burt Barr’s visuals of an electric metal fan.

David Neumann in Tough the Tough (redux); photo Cherylynn Tsushima

Neumann plays mankind, or “Steve,” with a droll wit in Tough the Tough (Redux), which featured an oddly upbeat existentialist text by Will Eno. The magnificent bowing tree comes in during Melnick and Neumann’s gorgeous duet July, where their understated grace seemed to stand in perfect balance to the nobility of the pine tree on full splendid view through the open back doors of the Doris Duke Theater.  In an “only at the Pillow” move,  Melnick and Neumann motioned to the tree at the end.

Maura Keefe, Lisa Neidermeyer, Debra Levine, Jennifer Edwards, Nancy Wozny; Photo by Cherylynn Tsushima

In between performances,  I hopped on a Pillow Talk  “Dancing Online” panel moderated by Scholar Maura Keefe,  sharing the stage with Virtual Pillow project manager Lisa Niedermeyer, and Huffington Post writers Debra Levine and Jennifer Edwards . The consensus is that people are watching and reading dance online, but we need more evidence of it to make a stronger case that we have a solid audience.  So hit those share buttons people, but don’t forget to actually read the piece first. Be less passive, and comment, should you feel the need. Writers alone can’t up the value of web based dance writing,  or dance writing in general.  We need engaged readers, and lots of them.

zoe | juniper in A Crack in Everything; photo Christopher Duggan

Catching up on most of what I missed in the archives took up the in between hours. I caught Jonah BokaerZoe|Juniper, and Big Dance Theater, all of whom have Houston connections in the upcoming season. Zoe | Juniper will be at DiverseWorks on Jan. 19-21, Bokaer will be an artist-in-residence at University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts and Big Dance Theater’s Paul Lazar directs Suzanne Bocanegra in When a Priest Marries a Witch on Nov. 1, also at the Mitchell Center.

Artist faculty of The School at Jacob's Pillow created work on the dancers, who then performed for the public duringthe free Inside/Out series every Saturday throughout the Festival.

No Pillow experience is complete without a visit to the Inside/Out stage. Nestled between a cherubic four-year old and my brother, each of us enthralled by the mountain view setting and earnest performances from the Jazz /Musical Theater students from all over the globe, it occurred to me that dance is something you can learn to love at any age. What better place to do it than the Pillow?

Reprinted from Dance Source Houston.

Trisha Brown Dance Company at Jacob’s Pillow

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Dancing in the Twittersphere

Gary Schaufeld, Jennifer Jones and Kristen Arnold in Sydney Skybetter's Temporary Matters; Photo by Christopher Duggan

Reprinted from Dance Magazine.

Alex Wong got his cast off, New York City Ballet’s Kathryn Morgan is heading to Prada, Houston Ballet’s Melissa Hough feels narcoleptic after the fall rep, and Miami City Ballet’s Rebecca King is taking five before a Bugaku rehearsal. How do I know all this? Simple, I follow them on Twitter.

I was born to chirp random thoughts over a noisy bed of chatter. I grew up in a loud, Italian-American family, where you had to fight to be heard. Twitter works for me as a way to keep informed, inform others, and just stay connected to my field. Dancers hopped on the micro-blogging network faster than they did Facebook. You can find high-profile ballet dancers intermission tweeting, choreographers broadcasting details about their next show or the So You Think You Can Dance clan updating their gaggles of followers. Twitter is a cross section of life as it dances by.

Founded in 2006 by Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey, and Evan Williams, Twitter was originally designed as a way for people to broadcast their whereabouts or status to friends. Users had other ideas. In fact, no other social media platform has been more shaped by its participants than Twitter. The popular “RT” (Retweet) is a perfect example of something first started by users, then adapted by Twitter.

Once individual ballet dancers like San Francisco Ballet’s Maria Kochetkova and ABT’s Daniil Simkin joined the tweetstream, dance companies like Ballet Austin and Houston Ballet followed. The Twitter voice of any dance company determines the effectiveness of its communication.Just broadcasting your show details rarely works here, while pithy inside comments or insights engage and tease your followers. Curiously, independent choreographers are less active on Twitter than individual dancers and companies.

For Drew Jacoby, of Jacoby & Pronk, Twitter mixes business and entertainment. “I am a freelancer, so it’s a necessity for me,” says Pronk. I hear her pain. Freelancing means seeking out more gigs, assignments, and a lively net presence. “I am sillier on my personal account,” says Jacoby. “The networking possibilities are great. I always mention where I am performing. I try to follow interesting organizations and people.”

Jacoby built her network by searching “ballet” and “dance.” I did the same thing to get started. I followed every name that popped up. I have since trimmed my twitter tree down from 1,400 to 700.

Jacoby, a dancelebrity herself, has broader interests in her follow choices. “I like that slice-of-life quality coming directly from that person. I get a glimpse of what’s inside their mind, what their personality is like,” she says. “I also like that we are in control. We have a voice. I love it when non-dance people follow me.”

Jacoby has since become a more discerning tweeter. “I unfollow people who hog the feed.” She has a point: Overtweet at your own risk. I have days when I manically tweet and retweet. Other days I’m missing in action. Don’t get too paranoid about it, advises choreographer and Design Brooklyn co-founder Sydney Skybetter. “Twitter is pure syntax. It’s 140 characters, do with it what you will,” says Skybetter, New York’s reigning dance social media geek. There are no guiding principles. It’s the wild west out there.”

Skybetter sees some central advantages with Twitter. “With Facebook, updating your status more than once a day annoys people. With Twitter, you can share info more quickly,” he says. “Posts tend to get lost on Facebook; on Twitter there’s a different shelf life as a tweet can re-circulate longer.” Skybetter is right, if you follow your mentions, you can watch a sassy tweet travel all over the place.

The choreographer also cleverly—with style and intrigue—enlists Twitter to build a buzz about his upcoming shows. I followed Skybetter’s every tweet leading up to his company’s performance on the Inside/Out series at Jacob’s Pillow last summer. His tweets reflected how honored they felt to perform at the Pillow. For those following him from afar, the emotion of the experience was palpable. “It was frackin awesome,” he remembers about performing at the Pillow, tweeting and all.

The creative possibilities inherent in limitations appeal to dancer and choreographer Lisa Niedermeyer. We connected while live tweeting using the hashtag #DUSA at the Dance/USA conference in Washington, DC. A hashtag designates a topic/idea/event with the # sign, which allows you to use the search function. During the conference, a live feed of tweets scrolled on the screen during some of the sessions and on the Dance/USA website. It’s one handy way of knowing what the guy behind you is thinking. By the time Niedermeyer and I grabbed lunch, we already had an idea of each other’s interests. It’s like starting a friendship in the middle.

“It’s fun composing a tweet. For me it’s more of a collaboration tool, less of a come-see-my-show tool,” says Niedermeyer, who has danced with Jane Comfort and Doug Elkins. “I come from a place of working with narrative and theatrical artists like Jane Comfortwho taught me to look for what story the structure or form of something can tell. The structure of a twitter feed tells a real-time and unedited story of the community that is self organizing. I find it fascinating.”

Once, Niedermeyer de-constructed a review in tweets. “I blew it apart into juicy bits,” she says. “Twitter is more nuanced than Facebook; it’s not just a place to blast information.” Not remotely interested in building her brand, developing hoards of followers, or moving into “twinfluential” (twitter slang for being influential) status we could say “a twitter star”, Neidermeyer’s “handle,” (username) “MsRemixt,” says it all.

It’s not unusual to tweet from a handle different than your name, as it gives you a chance to play with your persona. Your profile can inform followers of your real name, website, or blog. Niedermeyer sets her TweetDeck to search “redefine,” “remix,” “reimagine” and “repurpose” to connect to like-minded folk. Platforms like Tweetdeck and HootSuite help users track their mentions, follow lists of people, and search key words. (The new Twitter is pretty snazzy too.) “Regardless if those people are in dance, I want to know what they are thinking,” she says.

Twitter isn’t just all about you. It took me my first 600 “read my story” tweets to figure that out. These days, I am just as likely to retweet a cool article in, say, Dance Magazine, tell you about a great show I saw, or some random, possibly silly thought that’s floating across my mind.

Editing elevates all that we do. Twitterese pushes us into being succinct in a way that can be downright fun. As Niedermeyer says, “Who better than a choreographer to be creative within a structure?”

Update: Twitter endless tweaks itself, making it easier and easier to use. I continue to follow dance people on twitter because I don’t know a better way to keep up with the flurry of activity happening in my field all at once.  Yet, I also believe that not everyone needs to be on twitter, like my dear mom.  I’m one of the few who doesn’t mind if you tweet your lunch. I follow food writers, they know how tweet lunch with style.  Since this piece was published Martha Graham became a trending topic the day of the Graham Google doodle, I won best “arts tweeter” from Houston Press, Google + emerged as the new shiny social media thing, and I watched Lisa Niedermeyer get ready for 45 minutes as part of Jane Comfort’s Beauty at Jacob’s Pillow.  I often  know what airport Drew Jacoby is in at any given minute thanks to her tweets, while  Sydney Skybetter continues his double life as Artistic Director of Skybetter and Associates and Founding Partner of Edwards & Skybetter | Change Agency, along with Jennifer Edwards.  Skybetter is  still my go-to smart techno arts geek of choice.  Edwards & Skybetter land on Houston shores to consult with Fresh Arts Coalition this fall. I still hold out hopes to get a grant for my work as a hashtag artist #delusionalandlovingit.

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