The Latest Update
SKETCH 4 “Music Mirror” score now on iTunes
Through the generous support of New Music USA, the recording of “Music Mirror” (the score for SKETCH 4), is now available at the iTunes Store.
This recording features cellist Clarice Jensen, alongside pianist and composer Kevin Keller.
SKETCH 4 | Music Mirror review in the SF Chronicle
“These performers feel that musical impulse in a way that gives Sketch 4 its universal appeal.”
Sarah Griffin on dance, music and language
The Imagery dancers and choreographers have finished up the last full week of rehearsals, and now we prepare ourselves mentally and physically for a week in the theater and a week on tour to Walla Walla. This year’s SKETCH has been a real joy. We have all eight dancers from last year’s project, and that familiarity has brought so much ease, intimacy, cooperation, and laughter to the process. I’m fortunate to have worked with both Adam and Amy in the SKETCH environment in previous years as well, so I’m also familiar with their movement languages and creative processes.
In the few days before opening, I focus on adding nuance and thought to my work with the performances in mind. It’s important to find my footing, timing, spacing, and breath, both on my own and with my partners, so that we can develop a cohesive and consistent approach to performance. All of the work continues to evolve on stage, with each performance unfolding in a new way. The greatest joy of performing is the feeling of total presence and immersion in the “now”, the complete trust in the moment and in my body, my partners, and the musicians. It’s a great privilege to have live music in performance, and I’m very excited to begin working with the musicians and to see how my appreciation of the music may change. The energy of an audience also adds an element of communication to the work, particularly in an intimate theater like ODC.
The theme of SKETCH 4: Music Mirror is that we are dancing two ballets to the same piece of music. When Amy proposed this idea to the dancers months ago, I was intrigued. I am an attentively musical dancer, and have found few challenges in this process. I’ve been getting to know the music the way I would any piece of music I dance to, and I’ve been learning choreography the same way I would approach any new movement. If anything, dancing (and watching others dance) to the same music in very different ways has made me appreciate a broader idea of what dance and music can be in relation to one another. I feel that I’ve learned the music more instinctively with a depth of perspective informed by two very different approaches.
Another way to explain it is with a language analogy. I’m fluent in both English and Spanish. I know that when I speak Spanish, different parts of my brain are working; my thoughts are in Spanish, my inflections and tone of voice change, I use my mouth and tongue differently, and even my body language changes. Movement language is very similar. Both Amy and Adam have very distinct movement languages, and the two ballets they’ve created couldn’t be more different for me. I dance en pointe in Amy’s work, defying gravity and stretching phrases in long, curvy, precise balletic fashion. Her choreography requires a flexible posture and highly articulate feet, and the partnering work is intricately cooperative. Amy relates to the music as a musician (something I’ve always liked about her), carrying around her score and helping the dancers hear the music as it’s written. In Adam’s ballet, I dance in socks, which radically changes my connection to the floor and the way I articulate my feet and legs. His movement feels more weighted, and has a fluid, almost relaxed muscularity, with release and a sense of surrender to gravity underlying moments of tension or stillness. Adam approaches music with the mind and ear of a dancer, so there are some unison sections that we count and others where timing can develop naturally with the movement and may vary slightly with each performance. In these ways, it’s nearly impossible for me to confuse the two ballets simply because they use the same music; my body feels so completely different, and the way I process the music intimately reflects how my body feels. I’m sure a fancy brain scan would show different parts of my brain working for each ballet, much like synaptic patterns with multiple spoken languages.
I’m so grateful to have been a part of SKETCH from the beginning, and I look forward to the future. The opportunity to learn and grow in an open and encouraging environment is a blessing that few people enjoy in any career. The creative skills and invaluable lessons I’ve learned from the dancers and choreographers through the past four summers have made me a better, stronger, smarter, more joyful dancer. I’m moving to Portland to join Oregon Ballet Theatre just a few days after we return from Walla Walla, and I feel that SKETCH has given me a great advantage in approaching new work and repertory work in the context of a larger company. Thank you, dancers, choreographers, audiences, and supporters. And thank you, Amy, for taking a chance on me.
Photo by David DeSilva
Sneak peak on rehearsal and process.
After four weeks of working with two distinct ballets to the same score, how are the dancers holding up? Thoughts from them, plus a sneak peak at the choreography of Amy Seiwert and Adam Hougland.
Thoughts on dancing 2 different creations to the same score. By Imagery dancer Weston Krukow.
Week three!!! (Little known fact about Amy: if she reads three exclamation points, she imagines the writer wagging their respective tail.)What a journey so far! Having now spent a week with Adam’s creation it’s safe to say the dancers have a feel for the challenge of two dances to one song. Here are some of the benefits that I have experienced so far:
+ The musicality is more developed. Because we have been listening to one score for over 100 hours, we are beginning to understand its’ nuances and how we can incorporate our dancing to fit different stylistic elements within each segment. Because of the complexities Kevin has composed, every time I listen to the score, I discover new things about either the rhythm, dynamic, or melody. This makes the process all the more artistically satisfying:there is always more to learn!
+ The voice, style, and intention of the choreographers are so developed that it’s almost impossible to confuse the two. This helps prevent confusion when we run each dance. It is rare when we accidentally switch dances midway through the song because Amy and Adam have structured their pieces so well that we have no room to second guess our actions. There will be days that because the movement is so different, it sounds like another score entirely.
The challenge that this has provided has given everyone a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. When friends and family of mine come to see a show they usually comment on the amount of memorization needed to accomplish a piece. “So much movement, How do you remember what goes where and when?!” This added challenge is a gift to push ourselves and answer the question “can we do it?”. Like bob the builder, Imagery says “Yes we can!”
Although I’m usually one to say “Come and Play, Everything’s A-Okay,” there are some challenges to this process that are hard to ignore:
– Musicality is hard to switch between pieces. This is most challenging for synchronized sections where the musicality is spoon-fed to us. Ironically enough those are my most challenging moments but they have turned into my favorite moments because I then get to watch Ben and Katherine and see all the details that I strive to achieve.
– Finding a different atmosphere in the same music. Amy and Adam has different intentions and therefore the mood is unique for each piece. Finding the individual voice is difficult when your inspiration is from the same music. It is making me realize that there is so much influence to be had through the development of a personal story. I love making the story relevant to my life making it a personal experience and therefore offering a realistic presentation to the audience. This has been fun finding motivation in the music and then having to go away from it to find another shade to the spectrum.
I am looking forward to the process and finding new discoveries this week in myself and from those I am dancing with and for. What a joy to be in a place that is motivating, challenging, and inspiring all in one little bundle of sunshine (tail wagging)!!!
July 15, 2014
Thoughts on week 1
Imagery artist and SKETCH series veteran Ben Needham-Wood shares his thoughts on week 1 of the rehearsal process.
What is the SKETCH series?
This mini-documentary on the SKETCH series showcases the need for such risk-taking forums in the creative world.
Kevin Keller’s Guest Blog on the Imagery website
Check out Kevin’s blog, “Gazing into the Music Mirror,” on Imagery’s website. This offers insight on how he managed the challenge of creating one piece of music for two unique choreographers.
SKETCH 4|Music Mirror, is a commissioning project and creative residency presented by Amy Seiwert’s Imagery (ASI). Choreographers Seiwert and Adam Hougland will collaborate with composer Kevin Keller in the creation of new works, culminating in public performances at ODC Theater. SKETCH 4|Music Mirror will be an exploration of how these two very different ballet choreographers interpret the same piece of original music by Keller. The commissioned music will performed live.
The SKETCH series was launched in 2011 as a platform for experimentation and innovation in ballet based choreography. Each choreographer self identifies a risk and uses that as their departure point for creation. Opportunities for pure choreographic exploration and development are almost non-existent in the ballet world, and rarely do they come with the freedom or resources that choreographers need to truly experiment. The SKETCH series was created specifically as a resource for choreographers to abandon their comfort zones.
Each year the series has a theme, which gives the outreach events surrounding the series a focus. For 2014, that will be the relationship between music and dance. Along with the four public performances at ODC Theater in San Francisco July 24-27, there will be an open rehearsal with a facilitated Q&A on July 12, an opening night reception on July 24, and a post show “talk-back” on July 26.
The impact of SKETCH on both artists and audiences is significant. For the composer and choreographers, it is a chance to revel in possibility and creative ambition. For the dancers, it is an opportunity to participate directly in creation. After SKETCH, these artists will go on to other creative pursuits with changed perspectives that alter the way they work, creating a butterfly effect and having an impact on countless artistic institutions. For audiences, SKETCH provides access to the creative process. The works-in-process showings, performance talk-backs and receptions allow for a deep exchange between the audience and artists.
Amy Seiwert serves as the Artistic Director and primary choreographer of Imagery. Her collaborations with artists of other disciplines and commitment to experimental work from a classical base make her a unique voice in the SF dance community. She is honored to be the Choreographer in Residence for Smuin Ballet as well as an Artist in Residence at the ODC Theater.
Adam Hougland is the Principle Choreographer for The Louisville Ballet and has created five critically acclaimed original works for the company including Rite of Spring with special guest artist Wendy Wehlan (principle dancer, NYCB). He is Resident Choreographer for Cincinnati Ballet and has since created a new evening-length Mozart’s Requiem and a new Firebird for the company.
Kevin Keller specializes in contemporary classical music for modern dance and contemporary ballet. His aesthetic aim is to create music that purely expresses movement and emotion, in synergy with the choreography. Keller has worked with some of the brightest stars in contemporary ballet. He has previously worked with Seiwert at Dayton Ballet.
Commissioned and performed by the Dayton Ballet
Composer: Kevin Keller
Choreographer: Amy Seiwert
Premiere: Victoria Theater, 10.18.12
“Chasing Ghosts” was the first time Seiwert created to Keller’s compositions. This was pre-existing music, not composed specifically for Seiwert. Since the premiere of Chasing Ghosts in 2012 Seiwert and Keller have been looking forward to the opportunity to work together with a commissioned score, performed live.
This excerpt is performed by Dayton Ballet, not by Seiwert’s own company, Imagery.
Start and End Dates
03/01/2014 — 07/23/2014
San Francisco, California