The Philadelphia Matter – 1972/2020
A virtual “Pick Up Performance Co”
Award-winning choreographer/director/writer David Gordon assembled a virtual “Pick Up Performance Co” of more than 30 Philadelphia performers for this new hour-long screen work specifically for the FringeArts Festival, The Philadelphia Matter – 1972/2020. The work was made via remote video material shot by the performers with iPhones to sophisticated cameras – Gordon then dissected, assembled, and collaged this movement with visual scores and archival works in collaboration with video artist Jorge Cousineau. The cast includes Wally Cardona and Pick Up Performance Co(s) members Karen Graham and Valda Setterfield.
This work was nothing like the original work we imagined for this project. We initially intended to present this work for an in-person audience in the Neighborhood House Theater, with virtual components. Due to the pandemic, it became clear that a live version of the production could not occur, so we pivoted. Shifting to a digital environment meant rethinking the whole project from beginning to end. At the links below, you will find essays by performers Megan Bridge, Amalia Colón Nava, and Rhonda Moore, who appeared in The Philadelphia Matter 1972/2020. Their writings describe what it was like to be a performer and creator in these unique circumstances and the kinds of challenges and opportunities that it afforded.
Fringe Festival Talk: The Making of Philadelphia Matter – 1972/2020
Christ Church Preservation Trust Executive Director Barbara Hogue moderates a conversation about the making of The Philadelphia Matter – 1972/2020. In dialogue with David Gordon and collaborators including Wally Cardona, Jorge Cousineau, Alyce Dissette, Karen Graham, and Sarah Gladwin Camp participants describe the working process for this new work created using remote technology in the midst of a global pandemic.
Fringe Festival Talk: David Gordon and The Matter
FringeArts Artistic Producer Katy Dammers moderates a conversation about the layered nature of David Gordon’s artistic practice. Together with archivist Patsy Gay, artist Valda Setterfield, and writer Suzanne Carboneau the discussion considers how Gordon’s piece The Matter has functioned as a palimpsest and archive for his practice.
The New York Times
David Gordon Digs Into His Archives for a Dance That Matters – The New York Times
Founding artist of Judson Church performances and the improvisational dance group Grand Union, Gordon purposefully examines/expands/torpedoes conventional lines between theater and dance as a pioneer of the use of text and textual narrative in movement work. He presaged his later writing and directing for the stage and predated the live theater form that became known as “performance art.” Gordon’s dual status as theater and movement artist was acknowledged when he was awarded a Pew Charitable Trust National Dance Residency grant and a National Theater Residency grant in successive years.
In the last decade he has received 3 NEA American Masterpiece Grant Awards and a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award. His numerous commissions include Actors Studio, American Ballet Theatre, American Conservatory Theater, American Repertory Theater, BBC, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Dance Theatre of Harlem, New York Theatre Workshop, PBS Great Performances, and Serious Fun @ Lincoln Center. Gordon has been the Founding Director of Pick Up Performance Co(s) since 1978.
A Virtual Festival, But Is it Still the Fringe?
David/Valda Over the Years
Why It Matters
FringeArts Festival kicks of its 24th year online
Philly Fringe Fest pivots to 4-week digital arts showcase
Philadelphia Fringe Festival Goes Virtual This Year
Christ Church Neighborhood House
Pick Up Performance Co(s)
Major support for The Philadelphia Matter – 1972/2020 has been provided by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.
Meet Our Performers
Mehgan Abdel-Moneim is a dance, performance and visual artist based in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Studies from Bard College, where she also studied dance technique and composition. While at Bard, she conducted qualitative research on the U.S. census and Middle Eastern and North African identity.
Mehgan has performed for Sheila Zagar, Rosy Simas Danse, Allison Pearce, Eric Ashleigh, MAC Cosmetics and 145 East, a fashion and media brand based in Kolkata, India. She has presented original pieces at The Secret City Art Revival, EDANCO 2019, HOT•BED and KYL/D’s 2020 InHale Performance Series. Mehgan currently works as an Administrative Assistant at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
Megan Bridge is a dancer, choreographer, producer, and dance scholar based in Philadelphia. She is the co-director of Fidget, a platform for her collaborative work with composer, designer, and musicologist Peter Price. She is particularly interested in the historical lineages and discursive frameworks that situate her work, and her teaching and writing practices reflect this interest. Bridge is currently pursuing her MFA degree in dance at Temple University, with completion expected in December, 2020.
As a professional dancer Bridge has worked with choreographers and companies such as Group Motion, Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson, Jerome Bel, Willi Dorner, Lucinda Childs, David Gordon, Susan Rethorst, anonymous bodies, Headlong Dance Theater, and readySetGO, and has taken workshops with Deborah Hay, Xavier LeRoy, Miguel Gutierrez, and Jan Fabre.
On tour, Bridge’s performances have taken her to New York, Vienna, Berlin, Bogotá, Plovdiv, Tbilisi, Rennes, Dresden, Dusseldorf, Warsaw, Kraków, Lublin, Bytom, Poznań, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Johannesburg, and Zurich. In 2013 she was named “Best of Philly” for stage performance by Philadelphia Magazine.
Going to Work: a self-interview on dancing for David Gordon, virtually, in the midst of a global pandemic.
What was it like, creating work in a pandemic? When I saw the audition notice for David Gordon’s The Philadelphia Matter, I thought, yes. I have to do this. I needed the work, and I knew I needed the structure. I had resorted to creating hand-drawn spreadsheets with colored pencils, making these elaborate color-coded daily schedules for my family, just so we wouldn’t all drive each other crazy.
Also, and perhaps more importantly, I had worked with David before, and he really challenged me. I grew as an artist in very particular ways because of working as a performer and rehearsal assistant in a project he created in Philly in 2014: Political Shenanigans: Dancing with Brecht and Eisler. David modeled a kind of confidence and clarity in the rehearsal room–qualities that helped him make work quickly. He wasn’t precious about the working process. He was skilled and razor sharp in his decisions, cutting away what didn’t serve the work. Looking back I credit David’s rehearsal process with giving me the chops as an artist to make my first large-scale successful work, Dust.
So, I was excited about working with David Gordon again. But from the beginning of the process, I definitely felt removed. It was virtual, I would be working alone, and I would be learning material from video. All things that are very difficult for me. The instructions and collaborative process all happened over email, and in the videos that were sent back and forth. There definitely wasn’t any kind of group dynamic to tap into, which is what I thrive on. But, as I like to say, I’m a professional! And this was a great gig. Dancing is my job, and just to go to work and feel normal was a very important thing for me in summer 2020.
Another major challenge for me was having to video myself, and consider my setting, costume, background, etc. Yes, I’m an artist, and you are probably saying to yourself “but you’re so creative, I’m sure it was no problem for you.” Nope. Film is definitely not my medium! I also really shy away from staging myself in videos…I’m not even on Instagram! This kind of thing isn’t fun for me, and doesn’t come naturally. I wonder if this is partly because of my age (42). I really admired some of the younger dancers’ choices, like Amalia Colon-Nava’s sublime solo in the rain. For me, I didn’t feel so inspired. I dutifully made my videos and sent them in, and I think what I sent was all decent material (I hope). Again, I’m a professional, so I know how to get the job done. But I have to admit it didn’t feel like a juicy creative process for me. It felt like going to work. Which is okay. Sometimes making art is that way.
And I am absolutely certain that this was a juicy creative process for many of the artists involved, as evidenced by the final product. And as evidenced by some of the dancers’ breathtaking choices. I think The Philadelphia Matter is a really strong piece, and I’m proud to have been a part of it. But I really, really missed being in a room together with David and the other artists.
Did you have a favorite section of the project to work on? I enjoyed all the material…I feel really at home in David’s postmodern, pedestrian style. I think maybe Chair was the most fun for me to learn. I absolutely love watching Valda Setterfield perform, so the repetition of watching the material over and over again was satisfying. I also really enjoyed learning how to manipulate the chair, and treat it like a partner. Towards the end, I scheduled two long rehearsal days to finish learning and shooting this piece, and that was a huge mistake. With all the repetition, I could barely move the next day, I was so sore!
Song and Dance was challenging in a very different way, and I think ultimately I made it harder for myself than it needed to be. At the beginning, I obsessed over getting the song lined up exactly with the dance, in the way that David was humming in the rehearsal video. It took forever! I finally eased up on that when I discovered that the point of the humming was to make the dance feel relaxed, maybe playful. That opened me up to the material a lot more, and let me really dance with it.
I also loved learning Close Up…being able to hug and touch another person outside of my family was really meaningful. And it was a relief to connect with another dancer in this process. I wish that there was more of this.
Was there a favorite location that you shot in? I shot a lot of the material at my work space, Fidget, in the studio. Then my family went to Maine for a couple of weeks, and I got to shoot Chair there, in front of the ocean. I also shot in some really green spaces, in Maine and in my backyard in Germantown. But ultimately my favorite shooting location was the handball courts on the Towey playground, in Kensington. The ground is kind of springy, and it’s painted with these big geometrical swaths of color. I had the traffic passing by in the background. I also used a really low angle so I looked really tall, and I had some cool closeups of my feet. I’m pretty sure this was the last thing I shot. It was so simple. I guess I finally got inspired at the end.
Marie Brown, originally from Jacksonville, Florida, moved to Philadelphia in 2005 after graduating from Radford University with a BFA in Dance. While in Philadelphia, she had the honor to work with a variety of companies and independent artists such as Scrap Performance Group, Group Motion Dance Company, MacArthur Dance Project, StoneDepotDance Lab, Chisena Danza, Beau Hancock, Jodi Obeid, and Olive Prince Dance. She returned to Philadelphia after graduating with an MFA in Dance Performance from The University of Iowa in 2014 and is most recently working with Chisena Danza and <Fidget>. She is currently an adjunct professor at Temple University, Pilates instructor, and runs her own independent cleaning business. She is grateful to be participating in THE PHILADELPHIA MATTER/2020 project during a time that is uncertain for artists.
Sanchel is a performer,choreographer, and actress originally from Baltimore, MD. She has been based in Philadelphia for the past five years forging forward as an independent artist in multiple projects, performances, and workshops. She currently teaches her original “Afro-Club” dance class weekly at Urban Movement Arts; this class is a cross combination between Baltimore Club and Traditional West African dance forms. Performance highlights include Davido’s Coming to America Concert, let I’m Move You, and Urban Bush Women (Apprentice). She has also served as choreographer on Yale Dramat’s Dreamgirls 2017 and The Color Purple Regional Premiere (Barrymore Nominated for Outstanding Movement). In 2017 she produced “Ode to Black Wombman” and in 2019 “Home to Homeland” and “Wheelz of Life” in collaboration with India Hyman.
Eun Jung Choi
Eun Jung Choi, featured as one of Dance Magazine’s 25 to Watch in 2012, is a movement artist/choreographer who has been working professionally for the past 24 years in the United States, Mexico, and Korea. Between 1996 and 2009, she worked with Sean Curran Co., Limon Dance Co., Allyson Green Dance, Risa Jaroslow and Dancers and other independent choreographers in New York City while creating her own work and presenting multiple times at Dance Space Project and other venues. Since 2008, she has been Artistic Co-Director of Da·Da·Dance Project, a duet repertory dance theater and performed works created by Melanie Stewart, Gerald Casel, Erick Montes, Luke Gutgsell, Helena Franzén (Sweden) and two artistic directors: Guillermo Ortega Tanus and herself. She has taught at the NC Governor’s School, North Carolina School of the Arts, the Center of Choreographic Investigation, Mexico, Movimiento Escénico, La Cantera, Temple University, Bryn Mawr College, Rowan University and many more. In addition to her career in dance, Eun Jung was an interdisciplinary video/interactive installation artist and graphic designer. Her video works have been presented at various theaters, galleries and commercial venues/parties in both Mexico and the United States. Additionally, she practices several healing modalities including Myofascial Release, Thai Massage and others.
Sydney Donovan is a proud graduate of the University of The Arts. In 2019, she received her BFA under the direction of Donna Faye Burchfield in the school of dance. Sydney started dancing at the age of two in New Jersey and then moved her training to Philadelphia when becoming a member of the Koresh Youth Ensemble at age thirteen. Sydney studied Franklin Method under the mentorship of Shannon Murphy for the past nine years. She has also studied the movement language of Gaga under Batsheva Dance Company at the first ever program at Jacob’s Pillow led by Bret Easterling and Ohad Naharin. She then continued her Gaga training at the company’s home studio in Tel Aviv, Israel. While in Israel, she also studied with Noa Wertheim and Vertigo Dance Company in their Eco-Village. Back in the States, Sydney has trained with Bobbi Jene Smith, Paul Matteson, Gallim Dance Company, Tommie Waheed Evans, and Kun-Yang Lin/Dancers. She has performed works by Bobbi Jene Smith, Doug Varone, Sidra Bell, Paul Matteson, Zoe Scofield, Milton Meyers, Jesse Zaritt, David Gordon, Roni Koresh, Melissa Rector, Megan Bridge, and Lilach Orestien. Sydney has performed with the Philadelphia Opera in Turandot choreographed by Renaud Doucet and Semele choreographed by Gustavo Ramirez Sansano. Since 2019, Sydney has been artistic director of Hillary Pearson’s creative film/fashion/and movement agency called “Wear Your Feelings”. Alongside her commercial work with film, she is also collaborating with mover/ maker Brandon Graf on a durational film project called “The Poets Divination”. Sydney has been teaching contemporary at The University of Pennsylvania and BalletX. Recently, she has become a certified Reiki practitioner and is fusing her energy work with her movement practices.
Bethany Formica is a dancer, educator, choreographer and artisan. Bethany graduated with a BFA from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University in 1994. Since then has worked with several New York City based companies including Sean Curran and Company, Pearson/Widrig DanceTheatre, The Kevin Wynn Collection, Michael Foley, Martha Bowers Dance Theatre and with Philadelphia-based companies such as Boan Danz Action, Megan Mazarick, Nichole Canuso Dance Company, Melanie Stewart Dance Theatre, and Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre in Poland. Bethany has received fellowships from the Independence Foundation (2012) and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts for Choreography (2008), and several professional development grants from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through Dance Advance. Her work has been presented in Philadelphia, NYC, and in Italy, Poland, Bulgaria and England. She currently teaches modern dance technique at Swarthmore College and Bryn Mawr College and is the owner of Sawdust Siren, creating wood-centric art.
Beau Hancock is a Philadelphia-based artist educator. A graduate of Temple University (MFA) and the University of Kansas (BA), he began his career performing with Ben Munisteri, Douglas Dunn, and Merián Soto, among others. His teaching has taken him across the globe, most recently as a guest at the SPAN Dance Academy in Lagos, Nigeria and the International Dance Day Festival in Byblos, Lebanon. He has created dances for Rowan University, Franklin & Marshall College, Georgian Court University, and Drexel University (as an Ellen Forman Memorial Award recipient). In 2017, he joined the Stockton University Performing Arts faculty as an Assistant Professor of Dance.
Nile Harris is a performance artist, director, and curator. His work has been presented at the Palais de Tokyo, The Watermill Center, Dixon Place, Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance,Secret Project Robot and Movement Research at Judson Church. He has recently been developing a triptych of performance works entitled ‘The Rise and Fall of the Huxtable Family’ that investigates the blurring of American black identity in mass media and syndicated television and its roots in minstrelsy with support of the Dance Your Future: Artist and Mentor Collaborative Residency produced by Pepatián and Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, the Abrons Arts Center’s AIRspace Studio Residency, and the Brooklyn Arts Exchange Space Grant.He has worked extensively with various artists including Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, 600 HIGHWAYMEN, Bill Shannon, Robert Wilson, Nia Witherspoon, Malcolm Betts X, and Miles Greenberg in venues including New York Live Arts, Museum of Modern Art, Tanz im August, The Walker Art Center, EMPAC, Danspace Project, Stanford Live, Dublin Theatre Festival, and MESS Festival. He has performed in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions including ‘The Inheritance’ and ‘Occupied Territories’.
Justin Jain is an Actor, Director, Teacher, and Wilma HotHouse Company member, previously appearing in Dance Nation, THERE, and Romeo & Juliet, among many others at The Wilma. Recent stage credits include Shakespeare in Love (People’s Light), Man of God (InterAct), This is The Week That Is (1812 Productions), and Broccoli, Roosevelt, & Mr. House! (FringeArts) with his Barrymore nominated alt-comedy theatre company, The Berserker Residents (www.berserkerresidents.com). Additionally, Mr. Jain has performed Off-Broadway and with many regional theaters including: Arden Theatre Company, Lantern Theatre, Azuka, FringeArts, Shakespeare in Clark Park, McCarter Theatre, Theatre Horizon, Passage Theatre, Milwaukee Rep, The Assembly in Edinburgh, ASU Gammage, and Ars Nova NYC, among others. Justin recently won the 2019 Barrymore for Outstanding Performance in a Play for his work in The Great Leap (InterAct). Upcoming: Heroes of the Fourth Turning with The Wilma Theatre.
Shayla-Vie Jenkins is a performer, teacher, and maker based in Philadelphia. Jenkins spent a decade performing with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and serves as a teaching artist and répétiteur. She has worked with many incredible artists most recently including Ni’Ja Whitson, Yvonne Rainer, Okwui Okpokwasili and Peter Born. She is an Assistant Professor in the School of Dance at The University of the Arts.
Jungeun Kim (J.e.) is a choreographer, dancer and digital media designer. Her works have been shown around the US, Europe and Asia including the Korean Cultural Center, Taubman Museum of Art, Movement Research at Judson Church, and Torino Esposizioni. She has worked with artists such as Sarah Skaggs, Thomas DeFrantz/SLIPPAGE, Susan Rethorst, Helen Simoneau Danse and Jane Comfort & Co. She has participated in a number of interdisciplinary collaborations with musicians and visual artists and has been a guest artist at Drexel University, Dickinson College, the American Dance Festival, Hollins University, and The Modern Dance Promotion of Korea.
A member of the faculty at the University of the Arts’s School of Dance and UArts Pre-College Summer Institute, she holds a MFA in Dance and MALS in Visual and Performing Arts from Hollins University. J.e. hails from Seoul, South Korea. She has been focusing on community-based art projects that can become resources for those in need.
Megan Mazarick is a choreographer, performer, and teacher. She earned her BFA in dance from UNCG and an MFA in choreography from Temple University. Her work has been presented internationally (Singapore, Bulgaria, Egypt, Poland, Australia, and Hungary) and throughout the USA (Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Minneapolis, New York City, New Jersey, North Carolina, West Virginia, etc.). She often works collaboratively and curated a dance community class program for nEW Festival (a Philadelphia-based dance festival) for 4 years and was co-director of the festival from 2010-2012. In 2015 she co-produced By Chance Festival at Rawabet Theater in Cairo, Egypt. She has received an Independence Fellowship, an Ellen Forman Award, LiveArts LAB Fellowship, Susan Hess residency, and a Graduate Assistant Scholarship from Temple University. Her choreography has been supported by the US Embassy in Singapore, the US Embassy in Bulgaria, and the US Embassy in Egypt. As a performer she has worked with Susan Rethorst, Keith Thompson, Marianela Boan, Merian Soto, Anonymous Bodies, Black Box Dance Theater, and members of Lower Left. Megan has taught technique, improvisation, and composition classes at studios, festivals, and universities around the globe. She currently teaches dance as an Assistant Professor at Georgian Court University.
Rhonda Moore is a dancer, choreographer, performance artist, and educator. A member of the very first Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company (1983), Moore’s introit into the dance world began as a 2nd grader, accessing after-school ballet classes held by local ballet Mistress Ann Marder in the just-emptied-of-students classrooms of her Mt. Vernon, NY elementary school. The 5th grade brought along with it studies in Katherine Dunham technique with former Dunham company member Floretta Rush, this time in the school gym. The relationship blossomed into a tutelage, collaboration, and friendship, with Moore performing throughout the tri-state area with Rush’s NY-based Akosua Afro-Haitian Dance & Drum Troupe for the next decade.
After a stint at the University of Chicago and four years of immersion in movement and theater studies at SUNY Purchase Moore hit the streets of New York, taking classes as a scholarship student at the Ailey studios, rarely auditioning (”Hate it!”) and then joining Jamie Cunningham’s ACME Dance Company (1980) and performing with many artists involved in the making and shaping of the city’s then “downtown” dance scene.
“I like what I like” adroitly explains the motley list of some of the people who have graced Rhonda’s artistic trajectory: Louis Johnson, Vinnette Carroll, Susan Dibble, David Gordon, Douglas Dunn, Kevin Wynn, Reggie Workman, Max Roach, Maurizio Zanolli, Hua Hua Zhang and other crafters and experimentalists of the 70s and 80s, many still making work today. More recently Moore has lent her talents as choreographer, coordinator, staging and movement consultant to the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, The Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia, the Stockton Barthol Foundation and Temple, Drexel, Cabrini, and Rosemont Universities in the construction of both professional dancer-based and all-inclusive community dance projects.
What Matters About The Philadelphia Matter
They say curiosity killed the cat, but if we give the phrase its fullest possible meaningfulness one must also consider the ancient proverb (of supposed English origin): ”The cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays, for the last three he stays.”
For anyone who has ever brushed shoulders with David Gordon, the use of this quote as metaphorical reference to his way of thinking, his notions and practices of artistic navigation and investigation, and his resulting body of work could be perceived as understatement of the most blasphemous kind. For starters, let’s take 3 + 3 + 3 = 9 and make it 3 x 3 x 10 = 90, the age Gordon–inshallah!–will embrace in just five years. His 2020 work The Philadelphia Matter bears testimony to the playing, the straying, and the staying he’s been busy with for 45 of them.
Philosophically consonant with the West African word and concept known as “Sankofa” (roughly translated as “reaching back to reconnect and recover what has been lost or forgotten), Gordon pulls movements, intentions, and meanings out of their past contexts, wondering all the while about the exponential possibilities of new life, new considerations, and new and heretofore undiscovered points of view that a different time and place can incite. Snippets of David’s ideas, motivations, movements, and machinations from past constructions are “offered up” to dancers, movers, and thinkers. These practitioners hail forth from backgrounds of every sort; it’s a motley crew with lived experience light years distant in time, place, and circumstance from Gordon.But he’s been doing this kind of work from the very start: challenging the presumed, accepted, and ascribed “norms,” while putting himself on the line and in question, always. This is his “shtick,” and you either get it, or not.
Today, many of the dancers who eventually work with David Gordon “know” him from a book they’ve flipped through, pictures they’ve seen or a video watched in a dance history class; this is just one of the few disadvantages of youth and, by the way, no one gets to pick when they come into this world. The Philadelphia Matter is Gordon’s latest foray into reaching back and stretching forward, with no caveats or apologies allowed. It’s exactly that kind of boldness that drew young Philadelphia movement artists to the 2020 project and me to David almost 40 years ago.
As a young dancer in my mid-20s, David’s way of thinking, especially around ways of perceiving movement of the most ordinary kind, was intriguing. The opportunity to get closer arrived when I auditioned and became one of the movers invited to play, speak, and dance with David Gordon in the early 80s. The piece, Trying Times (Dance Theater Workshop – New York, 1982) was one of my earliest dabblings in New York’s “downtown dance” world (for more on that, we’ll need to sit over drinks). Suffice it to say that I got especially hooked on the unexpectedness and unpredictability of it all–the work, the places, and the people. I’ve always shivered at stereotypes, and at the time and in that place–New York in the 80s–uptown and downtown dance could be paralleled to a city divided by train tracks,. If you don’t get the reference, you might need a wake-up call, bigtime, and I say this with love.
Fast forward to 2014: By sheer serendipity I notice a call for volunteers wanting and willing to work with David Gordon (and this generally means working with the incredibly elegant, able, and apt Valda Setterfield, his wife and a whole ‘nother wonderful story). Answering the email call, I mention my prior, 32-year-ago interaction with David Gordon and his Pick Up Company, and am offered the consideration of being a paid performer in Gordon’s Political Shenanigans.
Joining the main cast of this new “revisited” work, I am reunited with David and Valda for the first time in a long while–me with all my baggage culled from 25 years of life abroad, newly returned to the US, with partner and 3 offspring. David was proposing, rethinking, and newly configuring repertory of his past, this time based on the writings of Bertold Brecht. This was a month-long experience that reunited me with the feisty, ever-questioning, ever challenging Gordon, and connected me with some of Philadelphia’s most prolific front-runner artists for the first time. He hadn’t changed at all; all he’s always done is ask people to try, to be open to something they may not be used to, to consider things they’ve never done before–no judgement allowed in the room–well, there is his to contend with, but this is clearly a personal battle. To put it simply, he knows what he wants when he sees it; he seems to feel his way through. It’s a strange combination of fascination, frustration, and fright, that somehow makes you feel special just being in the room.
Forward again to 2020: When The Philadelphia Matter presented yet another possibility to work with David, I initially jumped at the opportunity, but was later self-doubting, both about the relevance of my presence and the physical commitment. It was six years after Political Shenanigans and 36 years forward from that first very physical and mental encounter with David Gordon. I just wasn’t sure that I could completely get on board with getting a chair, learning essential movement from watching online videos, and attempting to be as true-to-the-original while executing the studied steps, all within a proscribed timeline. It all appeared overwhelming to me, plus Covid-19 had reared its gnarly head, making logistics even trickier. And then there was my inside voice that I both love and hate, saying, “…you are now a 64-year-old; dancer, yes, but with a lot of fine print even you don’t care to read…”
So The Philadelphia Matter held a lot of personal “ifs” for me; I will spare all the gory details around knees, memory, and mobility in general. Suffice it to say that I wavered for more than a minute: could I/can I/what if/what if not/am I still relevant/do I still have a valid place in that strange and rarefied world I know and recognize as the art of dance?
So much of growing up is about transformation and shape-shifting, and here I am after it all, still walking, talking, and making sense–at least to myself. Working on The Philadelphia Matter leaves me with a sense of timelessness. It brought me into contact, albeit virtual, with dancers 40+ years my junior; a strange, uncanny flip-flop of my first Gordon encounter. What really matters to me is the gift of renewal, revival, and relief (honestly) at discovering my immediacy, openness, spontaneity and attraction to risk and the unknown all still intact, even fortified by this latest dive-in with David, and I thank him for the consideration.
I am filled with gratefulness at my participation in the past and present, and look forward to being a presence in a room somewhere, sometime in the future. Kudos to David for making it all possible.
Guillermo Ortega Tanus (Dance Artist-Educator-Lighting Designer). is a Mexican artist who lives and works in Philadelphia, PA, United States. Together with Eun Jung Choi he co-directs Da·Da·Dance Project (US-Mexico), a duet repertory company that has been presented at International venues and Festivals in Korea, Unites States, and Mexico. The company has performed the choreographic work of Melanie Stewart, Elise Knudson, Helena Franzén, Luke Gutgsell, Gerald Casel, Erick Montes, Eun Jung Choi and Guillermo’s work.
He has danced for numerous companies and artists in both Mexico and the US including UX Onodanza (Mexico), David Gordon’s Pick Up Performance Co. (NY), Risa Jaroslow and Dancers (NY), Group Motion, Nicole Canuso (Phila), and many others. He holds a BFA in contemporary dance from the “Escuela National de Danza Clásica y Contemporanea” as well as a MFA from Temple University. Currently, he is an adjunct professor at Rowan University. Guillermo is also a licensed massage therapist in PA.
Rebecca Patek is a choreographer and performance artist creating work that utilizes elements of dance, theater and comedy. Patek is a Greater New York Artist 2015-16 and a 2014 Brooklyn Arts Exchange Space Grant recipient. She is a inaugural recipient of The Award as well as a 2014 Queer Art Mentorship Fellow. Patek has been an Artist in Residence at Movement Research, Atlantic Center for the Arts and at New York Live Arts as part of Fresh Tracks Performance and Residency Program. Her work has been presented at MoMa PS1, Impulstanz Vienna (winner of the Prix Jardin D’Europe Fan Award 2014), The Kitchen, The Museum of Arts and Design, The Chocolate Factory Theater, Abrons Art Center, 92nd Street Y, and Movement Research at Judson Church, among many other venues. She is co-founder of Mascher Space Cooperative in Philadelphia.
Dawn Pratson is a dancer, musician (flute, piano, percussion), choreographer and educator with a background in creative arts in therapy. She earned her BA in music and dance from the University of Hartford/Hartt School of Music and her master’s degree in Creative Arts in Therapy from Hahnemann Medical College, now Drexel University. She also earned a license in Dalcroze Eurhythmics.
From 1983-2003 Dawn had an active career in performance, teaching and arts in therapy in and around Boston, MA. She was a member of the children’s theater troupe “Music Alive” from 1998-2002 and founded and directed a women’s a cappella ensemble called ‘LEVEN, from 1991-2003. During that time, she created and directed several, evening-long performances of her choreographic, music and collaborative works.
Since moving to Philadelphia in 2003 she has performed with Workshop for Potential Movement, Nicole Bindler, Leah Stein, Tara Rynders, Pamela Heatherington, Choral Arts Society, the Anna Crusis Women’s Choir and currently plays with pianist Barbara Golden and violist Soo Kyong Kim. She is a Resident Artist at Mascher Space Cooperative. She was the founding music teacher at the Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School where she taught from 2005-20015. Since 2019 she has been a volunteer musician with Musicians On Call, playing music at the bedside of patients in medical care facilities.
For more info: Dawnpratson.com
Lauren Putty White
Lauren Putty White, received her BFA from University of the Arts in 2005 along with the Choreography Prize and Outstanding Performance in Modern Dance award. She has toured internationally with world –renowned companies Parsons and PHILADANCO, as well as performed locally with Waheed Works and Dawn Bazemore Dance Project. Lauren has choreographed for companies and schools such as Ballet X , Grace Dance Theatre, Bryn Mawr College and Drexel University; as well as taught at University of the Arts , Stockton University and Temple University. White also has done guest artist residencies at Mercy High School and Carver Center for Arts and Technology in Baltimore, MD, and has taught for AileyCamp Baltimore. In 2012 Lauren founded Putty Dance Project, a collaborative company with her musician husband, producing socially conscious critically acclaimed works. Putty Dance has presented at the Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, PA, the K Dance Yes Invitational, Richmond, VA, the American Dance Guild Festival, NY, NY, That Which Connects Dance Festival in Camden, NJ and Baltimore Dance Invitational. Lauren recently received her MFA in Dance from Montclair State University.
Gabrielle Revlock is a performer and dance-maker whose work often depicts complicated but relatable interpersonal relationships using a vocabulary that embraces pedestrian movement, abstracted by degrees. Described by the press as inventive, mesmerizing, and a gifted comedian, Revlock has performed in Japan, Netherlands, Singapore, Hungary, India, Russia, across the USA. Her work has been supported by the Independence Foundation, Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, a LAB Fellowship through FringeArts, PA Council on the Arts, SCUBA National Touring Network for Dance, Puffin Foundation, Foundation for Contemporary Arts, Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, American Dance Abroad and the US Department of State. In 2018 she was named ‘Newcomer of the Year’ by tanz, the German journal of ballet, dance, and performance. In 2019 she was an Institute Fellow with the experimental theater company, Target Margin. As a dancer, she has performed for Lucinda Childs, jumatatu m. poe, Meg Foley, Susan Rethorst, Leah Stein, Christopher Williams, Vicky Shick, Bill Young, and is a company member with Jane Comfort. Revlock is the creator of Restorative Contact, a mindful touch-based empathy practice as well as a practitioner and teacher of contact improvisation and experimental hooping. She created the online video “So You Think You Can’t Understand Contemporary Dance?,” a two-minute conversation with her favorite five-year-old which has 20.6K views and is the co-founder of The Apocalypse Singles Club, a group for people looking for love, sex, romance, flirtation, camaraderie and support during the global pandemic. More at GabrielleRevlock.com
Nick Schwasman is a theater artist based in Philadelphia, PA. He holds a BFA from The University of the Arts, as well as a graduate certificate from The University of the Arts/Pig Iron School. He is a co-founder/co-director of Drip Symphony, a local experimental performance company, and serves on the board of Plays & Players Theatre. Most recently, Nick was an apprentice at the Lantern Theater Company. He has worked with Pig Iron Theatre Company, Lightning Rod Special, Brian Sanders’ JUNK, Arden Theater Company, The Renegade Company, and The Lantern Theater Company. (DripSymphony.org)
Margot Electra Steinberg
Margot Electra Steinberg is a Philadelphia-based dancer, choreographer, improviser, contact dancer, and teacher. She currently teaches movement at PlayArts, Philly InMovement, and in Philadelphia Public Schools through Koresh Kids Dance. Margot has performed in works by Donald McKayle, Sharon Vazanna, Noa Eshkol, and Randall Anthony-Smith, and has performed for The Naked Stark, Leah Stein Dance Company, Vervet Dance, Lyons & Tigers, Meredith Stapleton, Paige Phillips, Mira Treatman, Sean Thomas Boyt, and more. Margot’s recent solo work has explored intimacy, care, sensuality, and consent through moving and improvising with objects.
Katie Vickers is an American artist, a graduate of PARTS (2014) and of The Ohio State University (2010). She has danced for and with Daniel Linehan (USA), Albert Quesada (SP), Martin Nachbar (GE), Benjamin Vandewalle (BE), Vera Tussing (GE), Rósa Omarsdóttir (IS), Kendell Geers (ZA), Thierry de May (BE) and as a guest artist for the Cullberg Ballet’s ‘Figure a Sea’, choreographed by Deborah Hay. She has conducted workshops internationally, and spearheaded the Mercersburg Academy Summer Program for Dance and Theatre in the USA as well as Practicing Performance at The Ohio State University and Philadelphia.
Her own work and research spans through a variety of interests yet their common ground is to question the use of the body to find the unfamiliar in the familiar. She has created several works in different collaborative constellations such as Slogan for Modern Times (2015), 5 Seasons (2016), and We Will Have Had Darker Futures (2017). These pieces have been performed and premiered in the festival Bouge B in deSingel and have been supported by institutions such as Dommelhof TAKT, Vooruit, School Van Gaasbeek, STUK, wpZimmer, Uferstudios, Schloss Bröllin, MDT Stockholm, Swedish Arts Council, CCBerchem, among others.
In Spring 2018, she choreographed ‘Tribute’ for the amateur group Degenoten in Belgium and recently finished ‘The home of Dance’, a research project on alternative spaces for performances, rethinking the theatre home (supported by Flanders government). She is currently on tour with Albert Quesada in the production Flamingos and studying for her MFA at University of the Arts in Philadelphia.
I am an LA native who moved to Philadelphia to start a new world of wonder. For the majority of my life, I’ve been surrounded by artists who have exposed me to new possibilities and have furthered my thinking for new creations. I hope to gain even more life changing experiences, evolve as a human being, and learn from those around me. I want to interact with other artists with the same degree of passion for their craft, and continue to develop artistically, which will allow me to evolve as a well-rounded artist, and hopefully even make a name for myself. My biggest goal is to share my ideas with others through my art and to have people respect me for my creativity which may even spark an interest in the arts in someone else. On my career path in pursuing my goals as a contemporary dancer and future choreographer I’d also like to make my passion for film photography a suitable career for myself as well.
Jacinta Yelland is an Australian physical theatre performer and creator based in Philadelphia, USA. Jacinta has collaborated with companies across Australia and America including Almanac Dance Circus Theatre, Tribe of Fools, Quintessence Theatre Group, Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists, Visual Expressions, Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre, Elbow Room Productions, and RealTV. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Devised Performance from The University of the Arts led by award-winning Pig Iron Theatre Company, a Bachelor of Creative Industries: Drama from Queensland University of Technology, has completed the Zen Zen Zo Physical Theatre Company Internship and was supported by Arts Queensland to study at École Philippe Gaulier, Paris. Her projects have been supported by Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Queensland, Network of Ensemble Theaters, and American Australian Association.