Thursday, October 29, 2015

Secrets and Seawalls - Funded and Performed!

We did it!

Not only did we surpass our fundraising goal for Secrets and Seawalls, but we created and performed the work in and among the ocean front buildings of Fort Tilden, The Rockaways.

It was an amazing day! The weather started off questionable, but turned into an utterly perfect day for dancing and watching dance on the beach.

Here are photos by Homer Frizzell in an album on Facebook
And, for you reader... a few choice shots of dance in unusual and inspiring spaces.
Video to follow soon enough...
Callie Ritter flying in Act 2, photo by Danielle Brock

Secrets and Seawalls, dancers Zachary Denison and Michelle Micca photo by Homer Frizzell
Secrets and Seawalls, dancer Michelle Micca / photo by Homer Frizzell

Secrets and Seawalls, dancer Lonnie Stanton / photo by Homer Frizzell

Secrets and Seawalls, dancers Callie Ritter, Lonnie Stanton, Katie Brennan /  photo by Homer Frizzell

Secrets and Seawalls, dancer Callie Ritter  / photo by Homer Frizzell

Secrets and Seawalls, dancers Lonnie Stanton, Zachary Denison  /  photo by Homer Frizzell

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Finding the ending - Secrets and Seawalls

Hi loves,
We are in the midst of an exciting time for Secrets and Seawalls - I've set the goal to complete the work by mid-October - we are perfectly on schedule to make that happen.

Currently there are two things at work -
First, we need some support from those of you that love us... the dancers are in rehearsal with me every day for two weeks to make this happen so we can premiere the work in The Rockaways on October 25th -- would you consider supporting this amazing project with these incredible dancers?

And, second, as I work to complete this dance I find that I am going back to the basics of where this work appeared: Hurricane Sandy, questions of NYC's seawalls from 9/11, information, secrets and this long-adored Ranier Maria Rilke poem are all elements from which this amazing work is growing....
poem by Rainer Maria Rilke, dancers from left: Lonnie Stanton, Zachary Denison, Michelle Amara Micca

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why Flashmobs, and why in NYC?

In New York, we move through our days close together on the subway, quickly on the sidewalk and the escalator, dodging through Whole Foods, standing on line at Trader Joes, having a drink with friends, dinner with family and a show with a date.

Our lives are close-up, close-knit, and connected.

What happens when joy surprises us in our days?

Those NY moments when a little one is dancing to music in a subway station, a talented teen singing their heart out, a fantastic horn section in Union Sq. or street dancers with So You think You Can Dance level skills performing for you and 50 others on the A train?

You get a special moment of knowing. 

Knowing it is all because we have a connected, walkable city, a city celebrated in diversity of styles, cultures, foods and ways of emoting.

Now take one more step with me. 

What happens when one person, then three, then 10, then 20 begin dancing?  
When joyful, spontaneous celebration takes over Bryant Park for 4 minutes – Then what?
Smiles. Cheers. Laughter. 

I am a choreographer. I make flashmobs.  I do it because I have a fantastic company of dancers, a dedicated group of flashmobbers and a love of creating spontaneous joy.

Joy emanates from New Yorkers who have just been dancing and the New Yorkers who have been watching.  Smiles. Cheers. Tears. Laughter. It is utterly, beautifully, undeniably contagious.

Pure joy; the reason why so many people have flashmobs on their bucket list! 

New York is huge, full, rushing and busy – yet it has so much space – space for parades, street fairs, civil disobedience and dancing.

This dancing is what I can offer you – I will invent and scheme with you to bring joy to a location, shifting that space and time into a New York Moment of your own.

This is our city.  Here, anything, and any joy, is possible. Let’s dance NYC.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Secrets and Seawalls --- Full production at Adelphi University

Dear ones,
It has been a while -- in that time we've had two residencies at Adelphi - one to create the first act of Secrets and Seawalls, the second to add the production elements so the full vision can be understood.

Over all -- though many challenges happened along the way -- and truthfully, I thought I might be done with making dances and New York City and theaters and my patience for the pain of invention may have been seriously tested...... It all came out right in the end....

Because this happened:

And for some awful reason....seeing a vision brought to life by dancers and designers despite many odds...heals even my deepest sense of broken. 
We did it.  I couldn't be more proud of what we created.  And this is only a draft.
Much love,

Friday, April 25, 2014

SECRETS AND SEAWALLS - Program notes...

We are heading into a first-look showing for Secrets and Seawalls today at TheaterLab to wrap up the Hotel New Work Series and get our grounding before residencies over the summer.

I'm excited, and a bit scared - the work has gone in a very different direction than I had originally thought - but, this...this too is perfectly fine and really exciting.

Andrew Broaddus, Callie Ritter, Michelle Micca and Katie Brennan
Here are the program notes for today....
Secrets and Seawalls
a collaboration of dancers, an architect and vulnerability.

Friday April 25, 2014
Theaterlab 357 W 36th St NYC

Dancers: Callie Ritter, Michelle Micca, Katie Brennan, Andrew Broaddus
Choreographer: Melissa Riker
Collaborating Architect: Lee Skolnick
Dramatugy: Pele Bausch

I am honored to be working with so many brave & beautiful dancing souls.
This work began in 2013 with dancers Benjamin Oyzon, Hilary Brown, Jun Lee and Zoe Levine.
Thank you Lee, Callie, Katie Andrew and Michelle for your commitment, creativity and honesty
as we continue to find out what this work is becoming.

Secrets and Seawalls is made possible by
generous individual donations, The KP Leadership Circle
 a residency at TheaterLab via Hotel New Work and
an upcoming Residency at Adelphi University
Performances at Adelphi are on Sept 12th and 13th, 2014.

About the work
What is a secret?
Where does it hide in you?
How might it move through you?
Where would it reveal itself?
How would you reveal it to another person?

These are the questions with which I entered the rehearsal process of this piece.
Over all, Secrets and Seawalls is an exploration of structure and vulnerability –

The initial inspiration for the work was a combination of two major NYC events.
Sept 11, 2001 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

After 9/11, there was a murmur that NYC’s seawalls had been fractured. 
Teams of architects and engineers were brought in as a task force to discover the extent of damage.
As a busy New Yorker, I never learned the outcome.  And I didn’t really think about it again until Oct. 29th, 2012,
as Hurricane Sandy, the full moon, and a Nor’Easter slammed the East coast all at once, I thought of the walls – the possibility of fracture – and what keeps this powerful city safe and our amazing subway system intact….
I also thought of our human reality: We think we are quite powerful; We have all of the structures in place…
But once we lose electricity, NYC is just an island, and our homes at the beach are constantly facing off with
something so much more powerful than us….

So where is power? Is it in the open, honest vulnerability? Or is it in the mortar, the structures we build?
Is it about retaining our information or about releasing it so that others might learn as well?

Thank you for joining this journey of questions with us.

~Melissa and Kinesis Project dance theatre

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Chatty and wonderful - the first ever DANCE DIALOGUES!

Melissa Riker, Jeremy Williams and WT McRae join moderator Melissa Negro to discuss their invention and collaboration during their project REVEALING DANCES at Hotel New Work. They discuss how excitement about making dances spurred them to throw open the doors of development rehearsals for their newest works, and why this new trend is imperative for the field at large. Enjoy!

HOTEL NEW WORK: Revealing Dances
Final session! 
April 6th at 3pm
357 W.36th St, 3rd Fl.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

Revealing Dances, attention to Process and the big WHY for the Dance Field

By Melissa Riker

Process and Engagement – what is process, being ”process oriented”, or “process driven”? Why are presenters and artists talking about it so much? 
What does it have to do with this overused word…”engagement”?

Why does process matter? 

Why would ANYONE be interested in the mess it takes to create a clean, beautiful performance?  Don’t they only care about final product?

Today I’m looking at four points that have made process a part of everyday artist vocabulary and engagement the buzzword of the past four years….and why this conversation is the way to SAVE DANCE from a Contemporary Eric future.
These are my thoughts as an artist that landed in NYC for good in 1997, danced with companies until focusing on my own work in 2006.

The “Process” conversation - Why has process become so important?

After Sept 11, 2001, EVERYTHING changed. The entire landscape of NYC art changed. Funding for the arts disappeared in NYC (trauma, people suddenly leaving the city, money locked, general fear, war, etc…). Choreographers who were on the edge of breaking through between 2001 and 2003 were dragged through the funding desert –project after project crashed and burned from lack of support.

We began limping back in 2005, growth seemed possible, but the hit of the preceding 4 years had taken a toll on NYC artists.  There was a sense that nothing was safe, and we should just keep creating with whatever was in front of us – we had to stay scrappy.

With the global financial crisis in 2008 (Lehman Bros. crash, etc), we entered a new era of dance-making. This time period created some gorgeous dances, but also spurred the community into a “just make a dance” mode, in no time at all, with as little cost as possible. 

NYC dance was weakening, as if the craft of choreography was getting lost.  Sure, there are a million funding reasons for this – but the final reality is just as hard.  Our work was losing global esteem and being seen as “less than”.

I believe the process discussion moving out of Movement Research and into the mainstream of the field is a rebound from this. 
Dance/USA’s Engaging Dance Audiences (EDA) was a beautiful answer from Dance/USA and the Doris Duke Foundation to the above issues. A clear means to save live art from a television and you-tube watching population.

The craft of choreography takes investigation.  Sure, I’ve created one or two of my favorite dances after waking up from a short nap, they were clear and crisp in my head, I found the dancers, and we built the dance.  But that doesn’t mean it was perfect immediately, it just means the inspiration was crystal clear. There still needs to be work done.  We have to allow ourselves the TIME to play. To make mistakes, to EDIT and to discover the landing point on the cross-roads between what we THINK the dance is about, and what it ACTUALLY IS.

Knowing our own WHY helps us make our dances.  This why is how we choose our topics, choose our dancers, and generate movement.  It isn’t often linear, takes hours and often makes a mess before it makes something riveting (sometimes it makes something really great, then a mess, then something nice, then another mess…) THE MESS is the only way in. 

Our audiences admire dance, but often feel like they don’t “get it”. Allow them inside our realm, let into the “how/why” of what we do ---- so much more would become clear.  I believe in breaking down that wall.

 The potent ideas behind increasingly popular notions of “True Engagement” or “Deep Engagement” or “Active Audience Engagement” are too often obfuscated by mucky marketing lingo. For me, EDA’s current working definition of ENGAGEMENT is clear, straight-forward, and true:
  • Invites audiences to be participatory rather than passive and values their involvement. By being actively two-way rather than presentational, it empowers people to better understand, appreciate, and connect with the meaning and impact of the art experience.
  • May be tied to specific performances, but also may occur independently. Some practitioners see "audience engagement" as blurring the line with the art making itself. It deepens relationships with existing viewers and also builds connections among prospective audiences.
  • Plans in good faith that a more knowledgeable and involved audience will lead to better sales or donations and will attract new faces. The outcomes of engagement practices, however, are not attendance or ticket sales alone, but other kinds of impacts. It appreciates that everyone will react differently to the art, and celebrates the diversity of impact.
  • Inevitably involves risk, investment and innovation.

It’s no wonder there are so many questions around what it is…
True engagement is a complicated, fantastic thing that is clearly so much more than $$ and butts in seats.

It is about RESCUING LIVE art from itself and it’s self-referential tendencies, opening it up to welcome in the world beyond our insular community.
It is about LETTING YOUR AUDIENCE IN so they become your COMMUNITY.

A community is deeper than fans, who may love the final product of an artist’s work, and more informed than a one-time audience member.  They are committed to art and art making. They understand and appreciate the work of an artist, and they can excitedly translate the creative problem solving that they’ve witnessed in our process to their own lives.

Be brave. Take a risk. Let them in.  You will both appreciate it and learn from it.

Have questions? Come join us at Hotel New Work: REVEALING DANCES this Sunday, 3pm at TheaterLab 357 W. 36th St, 3rd Fl.