The Dance Enthusiast Celebrates Black Choreographers:
"Dance is my medicine ... Dance is the fist with which I fight the sickening ignorance of prejudice. Instead of growing twisted like a gnarled tree inside myself, I am able to dance out my anger and frustration." Pearl Primus
Nelly van Bommel and Company prepare for Their New York Premiere of "Pinguli, Pinguli" at the Baryshnikov Arts Center.
Air Conditioning,Obsessions, and How Food Relates to Choreography.
The Dance Enthusiast Goes Behind The Scenes with Nelly van Bommel and NØA DANCE as they prepare for the New York Premiere of Pinguli, Pinguli
Air Conditioning, Obsessions, and How Food Relates to Choreography.
©Christine Jowers, Founding Editor of The Dance Enthusiast reporting : Original Video by Christine Jowers :Photography by Julieta Cervantes courtesy of BAC
A French native of Dutch descent, Nelly van Bommel moved to New York City in 2002, and, in 2004, established her company, NØA DANCE. Recently named among Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch,” van Bommel has developed a choreographic language that draws from multiple cultures and dance forms, resulting in a textured physicality deeply rooted in a celebration of movement and music,
Pinguli, Pinguli was developed in residence at BAC during summer 2011. For Tickets and Show Information Click Here.
The Dance Enthusiast: What does NØA stand for?
Nelly van Bommel: It’s a Scandanavian o. The truth of why I chose this interesting graphic is because it means several things in several languages and since I am interested in cultures...In Swedish it means “people” and it refers by extension to Noah of the Bible. It means movement in another language which I cannot remember. I also liked the look of it - a little different- AND I have Viking ancestors.
Two Minutes Without Air Conditioning - The Origins of Pinguli,Pinguli
( Editors Note... apologies to Ms. van Bommel and our readers , in the video credits, we switched the ng and ng without noticing to gn and gn .The text should all read Pinguli, Pinguli not Pignuli,Pignuli.)
TDE: Tell me about your dance background. Did you start as a child? I heard you put on musicals in your bedroom.
van Bommel: Pretty classic dance education. I started at five years old, ballet and movemement classes. We moved a lot when I was little, so I was switching schools. I didn’t have one school that I went to. It was pretty eclectic; I loved theatre as well. And, yes. It’s true.( I put on musicals in my bedroom as a child) I still do sometimes. I was inventing them, and I was particulary fascinated by characters from traditional tales. I had two main branches: one was the classical Brothers Grimm, Pierrot, Germanic, Eastern European tradition and the other big inspiration was, One Thousand and One Nights, The Arabian Knights. The Middle East is a part of the world that has always fascinated me, especially the women characters. It is something that I am still trying to understand.
TDE: How does it feel to be one of Dance Magazine’s “ 25 to watch” ? And to be commisioned by the Baryshnikov Arts Center? Is this success something you expected?
van Bommel: I always felt that I was going to do extraordinary things, but in a very modest way. I am coming from a modest background, my family didn’t push me to dance. I had a lot of imagination, and I always had this image, I dreamt about it several times, me standing in front of an audience and people clapping, clapping, clapping. I was very much into putting musicals in my bedroom. And it was every, single weekend. I would create a show, and tickets and my parents would come and my sisters... I have two sisters...my younger sister was part of this as well, but I was the super star. Still, I was shy. I was only doing this for my parents and people I really knew. I knew I had things inside me, that later got nurtured by my studies.
I came to this country specifically as an exchange student for one semester as a Masters student at Purchase University. I was working on my PHD in France in Dance and Cinema.I came here ,basically to access the Public Library at Lincoln Center and to study Graham with real Graham teachers. It was difficult , at first, the conservatory style training, (at Purchase), but then I started to find my way in improvisation and choreography classes. I told myself, "I really need to work hard on that." That was my forte - the creative part. I was not going to be a ballerina. Then things just started. I met some dancers who I am still working with today - beautiful performers and collaborators- and then I was offered a scholarship to stay.
I didn’t realize choreography could be a real activity or profession until I came to this country. This country helped me to gain confidence. I am so grateful. Culturally I felt at home here right away. I always felt different than a French person- my dad is not French, my mom is from the north, near the Belgium border. We didn’t have the formal classical French education. I never felt quite right. When I moved here ...there was an incredible energy ...people just do things. I felt at home.
Two Minutes on How She Starts
TDE: It seems you are hungry to learn and learn from your dance explorations, what interests you?
van Bommel: Yes,it is wonderful when you really dig or dive into traditions. Traditional music, and the lyrics. I am always naturally fascinated by people and cultures. The questions I am asking myself are pretty basic. (What is) the role of man and the role of woman in the traditional society of the culture I am studying? Men, women, love, lifes' events- from birth till death. It is always, in a way, about life cycles.
I like very simple things: my choreography is simple. I have been using such beautiful music lately that I would like the dance to invite people to listen to it. It is about finding room for the music and the dance to come together in harmony... I am not looking to produce work that provokes. I don’t have a tortured aesthetic. It doesn’t mean that I don’t create works that are disturbing. I just don’t think about it... I am looking for grace.
In Pinguli ,Pinguli I am using wonderful music by the Greek singer Savina Yannatou. She is a celebrated artist in the world music niche and known for her specific way of singing. Her elocution is influenced by Baroque singing and it's beautiful. It’s music of the Mediterranean, all traditional with a very interesting orchestration - a little jazzy. This is the third piece I am doing with a Yannatous' music and the last piece of the trilogy. Then I am going on to another phase. I have phases.