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
Dancing Up Close to Janis Brenner and Her Artistic Throughlines (DanceUpCloseVideo)
History Creating New Histories- Janis Brenner Shares Her Legacies
Janis Brenner & Dancers: Artistic Throughlines/Global Connections
Fridays at Noon, October 11th, 2013; Dig Dance, October 11-13th, 2013
Christine Jowers is @christinejowers and @dancenthusiast on Twitter.
Janis Brenner has often paid tribute to her mentors and the artists who’ve inspired her. Now the 92nd Street Y asks Brenner to switch direction.
Christine Jowers, for The Dance Enthusiast: How did this Artistic Throughlines/Global Connections performance series come about?
Janis Brenner: John-Mario Sevilla who has just become the director of the Harkness Dance Center at the 92nd Street Y is one of the people I discovered. Ok, I’ll say that.
Janis Brenner On Details and Decentralization ( a little bit of history)
He was in Hawaii studying with Betty Jones (original member of the Jose Limon Company) and Fritz Luden. In the mid ‘80s, I came through from Taiwan where I had just performed a solo concert with a duet. I arrived in Hawaii to perform at Betty and Fritz’s studio theater. When I got off the plane I said, “I just made this duet in Taiwan and I want to put it in the concert, do you have a guy?”... John-Mario and I met that day. We rehearsed together for four days straight and he performed with me that weekend. He was probably 22 and I was 31, we were young. Six months, a year later, I returned to Hawaii and we danced the same concert in another town - Hilo- where Eddie Taketa (former co-dancer in the Murray Louis Dance Company now with Doug Varone) is from. When John-Mario moved to New York, he ended up dancing with me for several years, then went to Pilobolus, and when he left that company, after seven years, he came back to dance with us until 2004. That’s almost 20 years on and off that John-Mario has danced with me!
John-Mario and Catherine Tharin (the director of the Friday’s at Noon series at the 92nd Y) basically said, “You know Janis, you’ve spent the last six or seven years honoring all of your mentors in your past three New York Seasons, why don’t you have the people who you’ve mentored on this season?
Wow, what a concept! Nobody’s ever asked me to do that before. I must be old enough to warrant being asked. I loved the idea, it’s a lovely concept. Then I thought, who are these people I’ve mentored? There aren’t that many. Then I thought wait, wait --there are a bunch!
TDE: Can you tell me something about your mentees?
A Dance Enthusiast Minute with One of Janis Brenner's Mentees and Performers, Sumaya Jackson
JB: The first person I thought of other than John-Mario was Helena Franzén. I left Murray (Murray Louis Dance Company) in 1984 and started touring my own work in 1985. In 1986, I went to the Ballet Academy in Stockholm where Helena was in my improv and compostion class. She had never had improv before, but was just memorable. At the end of the summer, I remember a small duet she choreographed with another dancer and I remember some of it to this day. I told her, "Helena if I ever come back to Sweden, I want to find out that you have become a choreographer." I had never said that before.
Franzén, now an acclaimed artist in her native Scandinavia, will present the U.S.premiere of her solo, Trigger Point in the 92nd Street Y's performing series. She will also teach a Master Class.
Kun-Yang Lin, met Brenner in Taiwan in the late ‘80s, later dancing in her company for eight years.
JB: Kun Yang took a master class with me in Tawain in a sea of people. He said we spoke after, I don’t remember that exactly, but he said I said something inspirational. (She smiles) I think he was drawn to me because I am so little and he’s also small. He always says, he has such small hands he can’t partner so well. But he is a great partner. When Kun Yang came to New York I immediately took him as a dancer. He is absolutely poetic.
Now based in Philadelphia and a faculty member of Temple University with his own company and school, Lin returns to show his solo, Moon Dance in the Throughlines concert.
Janis Brenner Talks About the Questions and Improvisations That Sparked Her Latest Choreography
JB: Kyla Barken is also petite. She has said, more recently, that she was inspired because I also was little and had a career and a particular way of filling the space -- a state of presence. In those days -- it was harder to be petite and also very tall. Very tall dancers had the same sob story. "I wasn’t accepted. I had to work soo much harder" (Brenner, originally from Long Island, asserts this launching into a quick caricature of her Island accent.)
Kyla and I met at UCLA. She was in the dance department. Over the course of five years (from 1992-1997) I set dances there and she was in every one of them during her four years (of college 1993-97). When Kyla came to New York, only a year or two later, she was at the same audition as Kun Yang. How could I not take her? She knew half of my rep already. She's been in my company for 15 and a half years. I have known her for 20 years, or as she says, more than half her life. She started making work with Aaron Selissen seriously about five years ago. They have a duet company and they're both still in my company. They had to be on the program.
Barkin and Aaron Selissen will perform a duet from choreographed by Barkin, Reflexive.
A Truth Janis Brenner Has Carried With Her Since Her Early Dancing Days- Her Premise for Survival in Dance and in Life.*
*photo at end of this video is by Julie Lemberger not Ian Douglas.
Brenner herself will contribute the premiere of the Where-How-Why Trilogy to the performances. This new dance consists of three solos, performed by Brenner and two former Juilliard students and mentees, Esme Boyce and Sumaya Jackson. Exploring questions of place, relevance and reasons for continuing on an artistic path, this thoughtfully embroidered trio is set to music by David Lang, Joni Mitchell and the electronic music band Tosca. Brenner's Mind Stuff Variations (2011) will also be danced to live music by composer Jerome Begin. Finally, Lilja Ruriksdottir, the first Icelandic dancer to attend Juilliard (where she met Brenner in 2011) presents her dance Wait.
PERFORMANCES : October 11th -12 pm and 8pm; October 12th 8pm; October 13th 3pm