Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Out of the Vault

Next week the Emory Dance Company performs their fall concert, Vault. The concert focuses on the idea of the choreographers taking old pieces and ideas "out of the vault" to revamp them and propel us forward. Greg Catellier, senior lecturer, answers a few questions about the original version of his piece "Of Kiltering" and the process of modifying the work for the concert. 

Tell us a little bit about the idea behind the original version of your piece "Of Kiltering".
The original idea for "Of Kiltering" encompassed several notions of balance. One could watch "Of Kiltering" and think only of the balance of space, that is, where and how the dancers are distributed throughout the stage space. However, I was also contemplating the balance of relationships, the balance of power, and the homeostasis of power that groups fall into. I was so fascinated by balance at the time (2006), that I asked each dancer how much they weighed hoping that I could somehow figure out how to balance the stage mathematically by adding the different weights together. That didn't go over so well with the dancers.

At the time, I was also reacting to my somewhat new environment: the cast is matched in number and in gender to that of the Emory Dance Program full time faculty. I'm not making any direct statements about my colleagues with this work, but like all groups the balance of power shifts between us. 

Why did you choose to take this particular piece "out of the vault" and not another one of your works?
I considered bringing back several pieces but I was able to cobble together a great cast of student dancers that matched the number and gender of dancers needed for "Of Kiltering". Furthermore, it is one of the pieces that I really like, which is unusual. I find most of my works abhorrent a year after making them.

Looking at it with fresh eyes I see that it started me down the path of the work I'm doing now. The evening length works I create take a subject and approach it from many different angles. "Of Kiltering" is a mini version of that formula.

What about this new version is different from the old one? How do you think these changes affect the work?

In the old version there was a section where Lori Teague and I were attached to ropes that went through a pulley system above the stage and attached to the two chairs that are used in this piece. As we moved through the space the chairs would fly up and down. I was really trying to get at the visual balance of vertical space. The mechanism was also a kind of upside down scale. The section worked in and of itself but stood out as something foreign within the work as a whole. We ended up cutting it for a version at the Modern Atlanta Dance Festival.

In this new version I added to a trio section that focused more directly on the balance of power. The trio is kind of comical and I always felt that it got short shrift in the original piece. I also feel that this change has allowed me to tailor the work to the talents of these particular dancers. I'm pleased with the new "Of Kiltering".

The Emory Dance Company Fall Concert Vault shows November 15-17 at 8pm and November 17 at 2pm; tickets are available for purchase here.  Please see our Facebook page for more details. For information on the Emory Dance Program, please go to our website

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Ending a Series With New Inspirations: George Staib and Gaga Technique

As our last Opening the Space event arrives, we ask George Staib, Senior Lecturer, to delve into his experience with Gaga technique after journeying to Tel Aviv for a Gaga intensive. Staib shares with us how Gaga has influenced his technique classes and helped shape his upcoming evening length piece, Versus. Staib will be teaching a technique class next Tuesday, November 6 at 7:30 pm in the Schwartz Center Dance Studio.

When most people hear the word “Gaga” we think of a crazy pop star.  For those who don’t know, what is Gaga technique?
Gaga is an improvisational technique developed by Ohad Naharin, the current artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company in Tel Aviv, Israel. The technique is founded upon vivid imagery, used to provoke specific movement qualities and assist in developing a keen awareness of the entire body while moving. Participants are asked to work internally, always using sensations as a source for movement, rather than psychological triggers. This allows for greater individual exploration and helps the mover become acutely aware of his/her habits, offers keys to new movement inventions, and strengthens the performer's ability to communicate physically. 
When did you first come across Gaga? What was your initial reaction?
My first experience was in New York while watching the Cedar Lake dancers perform Naharin's work Deca Dance. I was transfixed; moved by their physicality, intrigued by their ferociousness, and in awe of their command over their bodies. Since that experience, I stalked Batsheva on-line and became obsessed.  Never having been an improviser myself, I was skeptical; but having had the experience in Tel Aviv, I must admit that I am a believer.
How do you incorporate Gaga into your technique classes? 
I found that since studying, my eye is now more focused upon subtlety. I believe that I am gaining more insight where finding "glitches" might be concerned, and I feel better suited to offer advice. Certainly, I do not wish to turn everybody into a Gaga inspired dancer, I simply wish to provide a different perspective from the things I am able to understand more fully now. I do use imagery I obtained in Israel, and use the freedom I felt as a point of departure. When something is especially wonderful to you, you want to share it. And although I am by no means a certified Gaga teacher, I can offer a little of what I learned while studying in Israel. I must admit, that becoming certified is on the horizon for me, and I will be returning to Tel Aviv this summer for the Gaga Intensive.

Has Gaga inspired any of the movement in your upcoming work, Versus?
Gaga, or rather the study of Gaga, I guess you could say, has certainly opened my body to new movement and that freedom has brought new vocabulary. I would say that, yes, I do feel as though "Versus" will look and feel different, not only because of the subject matter, but because my dancers are moving differently and we are all feeling ideas differently. It is an exciting time. I believe we will always like what reminds us of home, but sometimes, it is nice to redecorate - for me that's what Gaga has done - like fresh paint on familiar walls.
All Opening the Space events are free.  Please see our Facebook page for more details. For information on the Emory Dance Program, please go to our website