Our 2016 Rhythmically Speaking choreographer orientation/ program kick-off meeting pretty much totally looked like this (except those people are models and not actually us, and there were four rather than seven people video chatting in, AND we were using Google Hangouts not Skype, but we were all smiling just like them!). We were all smiling not only because we share a love for the discussion topic of jazz and rhythm-driven dance, but also because this meeting was going much better than we (well, at least I) thought it would!
I for one am a big proponent of getting people together IN THE ROOM. Physical presence. As creators and performers of live dance, I can say with an amount of confidence that my colleagues agree. That said, sometimes it’s impossible to get everyone you need physically present in the room. This is where we ended up for our meeting in May. I was very nervous about accomplishing our goals when less than half of our seven were in the room, but we ended up having what I’d deem the best choreographer meeting we’ve had in our eight year history as an organization!
I attribute this primarily to the conciseness we achieved, which I believe to be the result of somewhat difficult communication conditions. It can be tough for three people watching one laptop to track video and audio feeds that are digitally representing four people while tracking each other, and visa versa! That said, these difficult conditions became a challenge we met by listening carefully and contributing when it was most beneficial. As a result, our meeting was shorter and more fruitful.
So. Modern meetings. Sometimes the bane of our productivity existence, and, pleasantly and surprisingly for me, sometimes totally awesome. Want to see what this meeting got us? Come see the show!:
Rhythmically Speaking 2016 runs August 18 – 20 at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis. Find out more here!
Meet Pat Taylor, our fourth feature of the seven choreographers of RS 2016:
Pat Taylor is the founding artistic director of the Los Angeles-based JazzAntiqua Dance & Music Ensemble, a concert jazz dance company dedicated to celebrating the jazz tradition as a vital thread in the cultural fabric of African American history and heritage, and a defining element of the American experience. Her roots in Katherine Dunham and Lester Horton techniques, West African dance, American vernacular and classic jazz dance, along with her love of jazz and blues music, visual art, spoken word and the collage nature of improvisation, meld to form her distinctive style and approach to telling stories through jazz. She has taught and choreographed across Europe (Sweden, Finland, Germany, England) and most recently in Brazil. Her work in the US has been presented at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, Lehman Performing Arts Center (New York), Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts, South Coast Hotel and Casino (Las Vegas), Nate Holden Performing Arts Center, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, California African American Museum, Barclay Theatre (University of California, Irvine), Dance Mission Theatre (San Francisco), Mesa Performing Arts Center (Arizona), and many other venues. Taylor is the recipient of a Brody Arts Fund Choreography Fellowship and grants from the Doolittle Foundation, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, California Arts Council and The Center for Cultural Innovation, along with finalist awards for the Dance Under the Stars Choreography Festival and the Leo’s Choreography Competition (Jazz Dance World Congress).
Meet Rush Benson, our third feature of the seven choreographers of RS 2016:
Rush Benson | Rush Benson is an actor, dancer, teacher, musician, and choreographer originally from Minneapolis, MN. In 2013, Rush graduated with a B.A. in Theatre and Dance from Gustavus Adolphus College and is currently a company member with the Flying Foot Forum directed by Joe Chvala. Rush works as a musical theater choreographer and dance teacher at Washburn High School, Ramsey Middle School and Henry Sibley High School. Most recently, Rush has performed at The Guthrie (“The Music Man”), The Ordway (“A Chorus Line”) and The Old Log Theater (“The Wedding Singer”). In 2014, Rush traveled to Hong Kong to perform as a musician and artist in the Pier Windows Project with Folded Paper Dance and Theatre directed by Kanta Kochar. Rush has performed in choreographic works by Jamal Sims (Choreographer from the Step Up film series), Phillip Flickinger, Heather Klopchin, Stephan Koplowitz, and Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater. He has also performed locally with the James Sewell Ballet, Collide Theatrical Dance Company, Bloomington Civic Theater, Minnesota Dance Theater, Keane Sense of Rhythm Tap Company, Youth Performance Company, and in the jazz-based dance show “Rhythmically Speaking.” Rush teaches regularly at Zenon Dance School in Minneapolis. He enjoys a solid jam session, ciphers, colored pencils, animals, nature, and the feeling you get from a deep intellectual discussion.
Meet Rae Charles, our second feature of the seven choreographers of RS 2016:
Rachel (Rae) Charles made her professional performance and choreographic debut in 2011 as a Guest Artist & Choreographer for the Threads Dance Project in Minneapolis, MN. The following year, Charles was awarded a BFA in Dance with honors from the Tisch School of the Arts and was also recognized as one of the most “up and coming young choreographers” participating in the 2012 Young Choreographer’s Festival in New York City. She has danced for the likes of Erin Bomboy, MBDance, areadance, and Mike Esperanza’s BARE Dance Company while continuing her work as a freelance choreographer—self-producing showings in New York as well as setting work as a teacher and choreographer throughout the Twin Cities. Ms. Charles also has performed the repertoire of Robert Battle, Ron K. Brown, David Dorfman, Larry Kegwin, Alonzo King, Nicholas Leichter, Sydney Skybetter, Kate Weare, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar among many others before joining Threads Dance Project as a full-time company member and Development Manager in 2014. Today, she is thrilled to continue growing as an educator and fulfilling her passion of empowering the next generation of dancers as a full time instructor at Main Street School of the Performing Arts.
As we lead up to the show, we are excited to share with you more about each of the Rhythmically Speaking 2016 choreographers! First up: Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner!
Cynthia Gutierrez-Garner is a teaching specialist and creative practitioner in the areas of both contemporary post-modern dance and American concert jazz technique. Gutierrez-Garner received her B.F.A. Summa Cum Laude at the University of Minnesota, and her M.F.A. as an Advanced Opportunity Fellow at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts. Original works by Gutierrez-Garner have been commissioned by numerous colleges and universities across the U.S., and by regional repertory companies including the Minnesota Dance Theater, Zenon Dance Company and Dulce Dance Company. Her work, which has been produced nationally and has seen support from organizations such as the Jerome Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, the Walker Art Center, and the Arizona Commission on the Arts. She has taught on the dance faculties of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities and Gustavus Adolphus College, as well as the prestigious Bates Dance Festival in Lewiston, Maine. She currently serves on the faculty of Western Oregon University.
Keep your eyes peeled for more on our 2016 choreographers!