Meet the Fresh Faces of Fresh Tracks at New York Live Arts
December 11, 2012
Garnet Henderson forThe Dance Enthusiast
New York City may be missing snow this holiday season, but New York Live Arts is still offering the dance community a chance to follow a new set of footprints. New York Live Arts ’s annual Fresh Tracks series is approaching, and this year’s installment showcases an eclectic and compelling crop of artists.
The performances, taking place December 13th through 15th, will feature works by Ephrat “Bounce” Asherie, Franklin Diaz, Michal Samama, Molly Poerstel-Taylor, Megan Kendzior, and Parul Shah. The weekend-long run is just the beginning of the Fresh Tracks program, which is nearly 50 years old. The program is designed for early career artists, and provides them with a creative residency and workshops in fundraising and career development after the performances are over. They also participate in dialogue sessions and one-on-one discussions with the program’s Artistic Advisor, Levi Gonzalez.
“This group in particular is very diverse in terms of dance styles,” says Gonzalez.
Ephrat Asherie [Photo Courtesy of the Artist]
Ephrat Asherie, also known as "Bounce," brings her extensive experience in hip hop, breaking, and house dance to the stage. She will present a solo work - a “remixed” version of an earlier piece for Fresh Tracks.
“The last dance I made was a 45 minute piece for six people,” says Asherie. “It’s been interesting to come back to this after that, to return to an older solo in my new mind state."
Parul Shah [Photo Courtesy of the Artist]
On a different end of the spectrum is Parul Shah, whose background is in Kathak, a form of classical Indian dance. Her work, which explores women’s roles in society, differs from traditional Kathak dance.
“When I do contemporary work, I say that I’m drawing from the classical dance form Kathak. I don’t call it Kathak, because it’s not within the parameters. All the Indian classical dance forms are very codified,” explains Shah. “I don’t necessarily think about the style that I’m trying to create. It’s not about that. It’s about the theme, it’s about the story, it’s about the narrative.”
Shah feels that contemporary works require a different approach. “These forms are thousands of years old, and the traditions, the stories, are thousands of years old,” she says. “I feel if you want to tell a story, a contemporary narrative, you have to take the form to a different place.”
Molly Poerstel-Taylor [Photo Courtesy of the Artist]
Another of the artists, Molly Poerstel-Taylor, has created a piece for four women, each of whom follows a different score. This structure grew from Poerstel-Taylor’s decision to embrace the complicated schedules of her dancers, who weren’t always able to be present at each rehearsal.
“I started to do a series of improvs based on physical instincts, memories and fear, and found that these were the only reasons really that I felt compelled to move,” said Poerstel-Taylor. “I was also really curious about formalism and naturalism, meshing them together, and how if you really go into one, it then transforms into the other. Not that they’re two different things, but it’s the twisting moment. That is what I’m trying to look at.”
The piece also features live music by her husband, Sam Taylor. “I’m not a big fan of sound in any dance,” says Poerstel-Taylor. “But we thought, what if he could just give me vibrations, or what if he could be the thing that shifts the space enough for these changes to happen?”
Megan Kendzior Photography Credits: Andrew Davila
Artist Megan Kendzior has spent the past three years researching the Holocaust, including a trip to the Auschwitz concentration camp in 2009.
“I have found within myself a strong commitment to active citizenship through the constant questioning of value systems and cultural reference points,” said Kendzior. “I spent the past summer creating Rift with a talented actor and collaborator, Dylan Kammerer. The work acts almost as a reconciliation of self and displays ideas of despair and hope, love and loss.”
Kendzior’s work also contains elements of her heritage. “Within all of this rich layered research is a deep personal history with Eastern European folk dance that stems from my Polish ancestry and familial background,” she said.
Michal Samama [Photo Courtesy of the Artist]
In her solo work , Michal Samama, a native of Israel, will look to question the expectations inherent in a dance performance.
“It started from the name, which is The Chicken Memorial. It was just an idea and I felt it was strong somehow, so I decided to go with that. What I’m after in this work is the flesh - at once our innermost and an unremarkable raw material, no different then the animal meat that we process and consume on an industrial scale.”
Samama’s work engages with images of the female body in particular. “Of course there are a lot of feminine, sexual images. This is always in my work somehow. You know, I’m a woman, it’s my body, and it’s there.”
Franklin Diaz [Photo Courtesy of the Artist]
The Fresh Tracks program is constantly evolving in order to support its diverse and innovative artists. A relatively new addition is Gonzalez’s role as Artistic Advisor.
“We don’t call it a mentor program,” explained Gonzalez, who has been involved in this capacity with Fresh Tracks for the past six years. “Usually the first time I see the works is at the Fresh Tracks performance. My role is really around the residency more than the performance.”
Based on feedback and suggestions from the artists, Gonzalez’s position within the program develops. “This year, we added another session with me. It’s called ‘Critical Discourse.’ It’s meant to process press responses to the work, which is usually a big deal - even if there isn’t press it’s a big deal,” says Gonzalez.
As for this year’s group, Gonzalez thinks they have a great deal to offer one another. “They don’t all necessarily have the same aesthetic opinions or values, but they are in conversation with each other."
“Every year is always exciting for me, says Gonzalez. “It’s amazing how each group has a completely different dynamic, and totally different voices. I learn so much from the artists that are coming into the program.”
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