Tuesday, January 28, 2014

New Faculty Work in the Community!

Ellen Bartel is currently one of our Modern teachers, if you’re not in one of her classes you’re missing out! I have yet to leave her Modern II class without being drenched in sweat, which every dancer knows is the first sign of a successful dance class.

This Thursday at 8 PM at the Hyde Park Theater, Ellen is presenting a new work, Hazy Eyes, as a part of the 21st Annual FronteraFest in Austin.

Dancers from Left to Right: Dany Casey, Amy Myers, Angie Johnson

Living in Austin since 1994, Ellen holds an MFA in Dance from UT and has her own company, Spank Dance Company.

Q: What kind of work do you like to do and what are you trying to show your audience?

A: I’ve done site work, butoh, and worked with a lot of different levels of movement. Butoh improvisation for me is about practicing performance. If there’s an audience, there’s nothing for [them] to gain. But I like challenging the audience in what they see and challenging myself to be a better performer.

Site work is all about understanding places and the impact of those places on the people who use them. It’s about the audience seeing space and place differently. It’s a quality of life thing; knowing about shared space and recognizing the differences and similarities of the people who share that space. People know all this but they forget. This work is about snapping people out of their busy lives to be present. 

Amy, Angie, and Errin Delperdang (on the far right) have a moment together mid-dance.

Q: What was your choreography process for this piece, Hazy Eyes?

A: Since grad school, I’ve been working more with dancer generated movement. So I didn’t always show up with steps to be memorized. I did start with an idea. I can’t just show up and say “let’s play!” That doesn’t work for me. But the dancers did work a lot with improv and setting.

Q: Is there a difference between presenting a work at a festival and producing your own dance concert?

A: Yes, the outcome is different. For festivals, it’s about sharing the diversity of modern dance, or any dance form, it doesn’t have to be modern. But it’s about showing something that speaks to different hearts and minds. Concerts are about sharing my own idea. They’re both a lot of work though.

Dany and Angie reaching together.

Q: Do you want to eventually produce you own dance concerts again?

A: I’m trying not to over plan my life – that feeling of being scheduled until 2015. I don’t want to miss out on different opportunities because of obligations. Looking back at 45, I feel like I’ve missed so much and I want to be more present. I don’t mean going wherever the wind blows but breaking out of the rat race. Getting out of the rut of obligations.

Q: Would that be your advice to dancers or choreographers? Not to get overwhelmed?

A: It’s good to have experiences, sitting in rehearsals every night. It’s important to build your resume, to show “I can do this and this.” But it can make you sick if you can’t slow down, and it’s really hard on relationships. It all comes down to finding that work-life balance. And some people choose not to be in relationships or not to have children and that’s totally fine; especially for women. But you have to be aware that it’s a choice.

Dany and Amy doing floor work. 

Here’s a link to purchase a ticket to see Ellen’s piece, Hazy Eyes, this Thursday at 8 PM at Hyde Park Theater: http://www.fronterafest.org/site/index.html 
You have to do a little searching to find the right day or you can call the box office: 512-479-PLAY

Ellen’s piece has a chance to make it to Best of Week and Best of Fest based on your votes. Go support your teacher and your community!

Check out Ellen’s dance company, http://www.spankdance.com/, and watch their great repertory videos!

Pictures by Anne Wharton

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