Between September 2017 and April 2018, Nimbus Dance Works (NDW) will create and premier Songbook, a project that uses American folk songs and the pervasive language of dance to create a uniquely inclusive and integrated community experience of dance. Pairing a community choir and professional dancers together on stage, choreographer Charles Moulton and composer Kim Sherman create a participatory audience engagement experience that blurs the lines between performer and audience, thoroughly integrating communities in the experience of concert dance. Songbook is devised as a project template where musical and choreographic movements are replicable in distinct communities; creating new avenues for dance participation in communities. By including community members directly in performances, Songbook becomes a living testament to the very themes that the piece itself explores: identity, cooperation, and the co-mingling of folk and concert-based performance.
Moulton’s experience in creating large-scale community movement scores for dancers and amateurs alike will inform the creative experience of Songbook and speaks to NDW’s goal of community integration. The community choirs will not serve merely as a backdrop providing live music to the choreography, they will become a fully integrated “moving chorus.” The tradition of storytelling through song is part of the heritage of American folk music, and Moulton draws on these lyrics to connect the dancers and moving chorus to each other and subsequently to the audience. Composer Kim Sherman arranges selections of both seminal and less known American heritage folk music – hymns, spirituals, work songs, and Appalachian music.
Songbook will premier in March 2018, at Jersey City Theater Center’s White Eagle Hall, followed by a second performance in April 2018 at the Putney School’s Michael S. Currier Center in Putney, Vermont. The Jersey City and Vermont premieres of Songbook will highlight the differences of these two communities both in demographic makeup and in vocal style of the choruses (Jersey City’s North River Sing and Putney’s Madrigals). Partners in the two initial project sites will do extensive marketing and publicity in their respective communities, as well as offer in-process studio showings. The process of working with each community and the distinct audiences, melds with the content and message of the work itself. NDW investigates how audiences from rural and urban settings contribute and experience dance and dance-making. The initial performances reveal community responses to the project, providing information and insights for future incarnations of Songbook.
Songbook adds to NDW’s collection of community engagement dance works, including Memo and Lynchtown/Thistown (please see overview of these projects in programmatic activities notes), where community participation builds inroads and energizes dance performance for a widely diverse audiences. Predicated on the idea that audiences and communities resonate powerfully when dance ties into their own lives, Songbook will be a replicable project template; and thus represents an investment towards ongoing community experiences with concert dance.
Ms. Sherman met playwright Eric Ehn in 1993 at the height of the genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were compelled to create “Service for the Dead in Bosnia-Herzegovina” an a cappella oratorio, giving voice to the nameless. “Graveside,” the penultimate movement, was recorded by Musica Sacra, conducted by Richard Westenberg. “Graveside” has been performed by choirs throughout the US. Notable in Graveside, and relevant to Songbook are: the counterpoint of formal and discordant themes, a sense of ambience/landscape, theme-based composition.
By way of a 12 foot square patch of artificial grass, Patch of Turf tells of Man/Womankind in a diminishing natural environment. Set to a commissioned score by Qasim Naqvi (New Music USA project grant 2014) , the work is an intense, 18 minute, tour de force for four virtuosic female performers. Patch of Turf is ironic in it’s depiction of nature vis-à-vis the artificial grass, and poignant in revealing both our estrangement from the natural world and insatiable appetite for its resources. Choreographed by Nimbus Artistic Director Samuel Pott.
Start and End Dates
03/09/2018 — 04/07/2018
Jersey City, New Jersey