When worlds coalesce

Choreographers and composers partner up for the dance floor.

Jarrad Powell and Mary Sheldon Scott are playing matchmaker again. Since 1994 their annual Composer/Choreographer series has fostered new connections among dance and music makers, encouraging collaboration between artists and offering them a chance to create without the pressures of self-production.

Composer/Choreographer 5

Velocity MainSpace Theater January 26-28

In a process that sounds just a bit like the board game Mystery Date, producers Powell and Scott interview a group of choreographers, asking them about their artistic patterns and which composers they might like to work with but haven't yet had the chance. The producers then contact the composers and, once the musicians have agreed to participate, choreographers find out who they've been paired with.

One of the goals of this project is to bring together artists who otherwise might never work together, and this roll-the-dice component can provide for some unexpected results.

KT Niehoff, whose recent work for her company Lingo dancetheater has been highly physical and technically challenging, turns her back on that kind of virtuosity in her collaboration with composer Amy Denio. Determined to produce a work that presents them as equals, Niehoff uses a movement vocabulary based mostly on pedestrian activities such as walking and sitting. She wanted "to create a duet where we could both be on equal footing throughout," turning Denio into a dancer and Niehoff into a musician. As another part of that transformation, Niehoff plays the accordion (a new experience for her) as well as sings. "[Mary Scott's ] idea is that this is about trying to break you out of your box . . . not working with a composer to make a [finished dance] like 'you work for me' . . . not to play follow the leader but instead to both be leaders," she comments.

As a composer, Powell uses this opportunity to explore different instrumentation than his usual choices, responding to the kinetic stimuli of movement. Unlike most of the other combinations, Powell and Scott have been collaborating on evening-length projects for several years, so their work for this concert is part of a longer process. Following the same 10-minute time limit as everyone else, though, Powell feels that this smaller scale allows them to experiment with form and personnel.

Although Wade Madsen and Janice Gitek both teach at Cornish College, they've only worked together briefly several years ago, and Madsen wasn't sure Gitek would be interested. Their project uses parts of a score Gitek created for a documentary on architectural draftsman Achilles Rizzoli. The images Rizzoli drew of early 20th-century buildings in San Francisco led Madsen to a specific and elaborate gestural vocabulary. "Looking at all the detail in those buildings, things you can't appreciate [from the ground, they're] fantasy buildings, almost wedding-cakey, all this intricate, beautiful flowery stuff."

Along with these combinations, this edition of Composer/Choreographer includes works by Stephen Fandrich and Amy O'Neal, and Stuart Dempster with a trio of choreographers—John Dixon, Tonya Lockyer, and Sean Ryan.

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