Guest blogger Danielle Marie Georgiou is the Artistic Director and Choreographer of DGDG: Danielle Georgiou Dance Group. She also serves as the Assistant Director of the UT Arlington’s Dance Ensemble.
On Saturday, as a part of the Out of the Loop Fringe Festival held at Addison’s WaterTower Theatre, Muscle Memory Dance Theatre will be presenting a reincarnation of Black is the Color of that Kettle.
Beginning my fourth season with M2DT, I have watched us grow from a six-member ensemble to a 15-member company that is constantly performing in the area. The intimacy that has developed between co-artistic directors Lesley Snelson-Figueroa and Amy L. Sleigh, and the dancers has allowed for the creation of this ultra-personal show and for a healthy collaborative process to occur.
Originally staged in October 2010 to benefit Dallas’s Genesis Women’s Shelter, the mission of this production is to increase awareness of domestic violence and to show how therapeutic dance, and the arts, can be. Yet, the genesis of the production began in the spring of 2010 as Snelson-Figueroa and Sleigh began collecting stories of female abuse to create narratives that illustrated battles of love, control, abuse and self-worth.
For Sleigh, creating dances for a purpose, specifically for the purpose of the heart, has becoming important for her as dance continues to change and mold the shape of her life. She sees M2DT creating a new mission for itself.
“We are always in sync with what is happening around us and forging a path to connect a dancing voice to an audience,” Sleigh says. “When we create work, we do not enter the process with the assumption that the audience is available to just view a dance, but it is our mission to create work that is accessible for them to comprehend, to feel, to emote and to discuss.”
The original works were re-examined to determine how a full-length concert could be constructed. Part of that collaborative process involved adding a multi-media dimension. There are three films that now indicate specific emotional transitions. “This process allows an extension of art to include images that support and sustain the voice. The use of image not only enhances the intention of the work but it allows the audience to have breathable eye-lid space,” Sleigh said.
The first film, a hyper-short created by company member Bethany Nelson, introduces her work, “Copiah County” – an exploration of the Southern matriarchal tradition. The film shows a lone woman, suitcase in hand, facing a long and rocky road ahead of her. The second film is a piece of found footage from a 1950s archive of television and film. Introducing co-director Lesley Snelson-Figueroa’s “Leftovers,” it gives a comedic take on the domestic life of a housewife. Immediately following company member Andrew Coronado’s “SoRoar” is a short that I shot and edited. Taking the concept of two women sharing an experience, and the ideas behind company member Meghan Cardwell-Wilson’s “Inflammable,” – which features a quintet attached by history and isolated by raw, individual responses to being burned – I mixed provocative images of women undressing with a flaming candle and little surprise at the end.
Other additions come in the form of solos created by Sleigh that act as the echoing narrative voices of Kettle, and a duet created by Snelson-Figueroa that illustrates the push-and-pull relationship between a needy woman and absent man.
The collaborative process that developed as Kettle matured was Sleigh’s favorite time. “What I most enjoy [as co-artistic director] is taking a step back and having the company and collective members insert their voice and ideas in the process. This is how we [M2DT] are at our best working towards the common goal while carefully attending to the intention of a successful outcome,” she said.
And this process has truly been an accomplishment for the company as whole, as it has personally pushed all of us as dancers to grow technically, performatively and emotionally.