Annnnnd, as if dancing/producing/choreographing wasn't enough, she's also a very talented musician!
By Gabrielle Gainor There's a thing in show biz called a triple threat. I'm sure a phrase like that would be appropriate for Megan Erickson, though the numerical degree of "threats" would be hard to quantify for this multifaceted artist. Megan is an individual fully immersed in the creation and execution of art, through dancing, choreography, stage management, and lighting, as well as singing and making music. Though being so talented certainly gives her bragging rights, Megan is one of the most genuine and humble people you will meet. In addition to dancing for us in works by Wade Madsen and Jerene Aldinger this year, she is also a producer of Au Collective led by previous RDC choreographer, Cheryl Delostrinos. Megan also choreographed a poignant work for our fundraiser at ARC dance last year. We feel so fortunate to have her sharing some of her triple-plus "threats" with us in PRIME.
Proudest accomplishment as an artist? Producing my first evening-length show with Au collective. This is something I never could have imagined I could accomplish, let alone have the opportunity to do it with ten of my best friends in the whole world. I am proud every day to say I am a part of this amazing community of artists.
What's your spirit animal? I would have to say most likely a bird of some kind, or a koala bear…
What's your guilty pleasure? Watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer from start to finish over and over again.
If you were a color, you'd be: Violet.
Three things in life you love are: Friends & family, music, and traveling.
The most memorable thing from dancing in RDC this year: Getting to dance for Wade Madsen has been quite a treat. I love the way he cheers us on as we practice our unique facial expressions for his piece :)
What's next for you? I am excited to continue producing work with Au collective, and hope to present more of my own choreography in the next couple years. _____________________________________________
Relay Dance Collective presents PRIME April 15-17, 2016 Velocity Dance Center 1621 12th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98122
Cost: $20 online and at the door (cash or check) | $30 for "prime" seating
By Gabrielle Gainor Fiona Vigdor is pretty awe-inspiring. Really, she needs no introduction. But here goes: When Fiona dances, it's clear that her mind doesn't wander--if her body's in motion, her spirit is there, too. (Plus, her feet would make any bunhead green with envy!). This purity and clarity she possess are old-school modern dance in the best way possible; she's the kind of artist who who doesn't skip class; a dancer who should pretty much just go pack her bags so that she can join the Limóncompany (she'd fit right in). A few other things you should know about this artist/mother/wife: she danced professionally in New York, graduated from one of the top dance schools in the country (Boston Conservatory), she's been reviewed in The New York Times, and was, once or twice, my ballet teacher in college! Most importantly, as you will learn below, she is strong. When confronted with the absolute worst, she's come out on top. Knowing how special Fiona is, I am sure it's not just because of luck. It's because it's her.
RDC is so grateful to have Fiona involved in our group as a dancer, choreographer and mentor for the past four seasons. This year, in addition to creating a new work "Hiraeth," she also worked with Lauren Edson as Rehearsal Director for "Below the Surface." What inspired your piece for our fourth-season show, PRIME? There are many different things that have inspired my piece. The three main elements are: the image of a metal sculpture, music and my own experience with being a cancer survivor.
The first thing that inspired me was an image of this metal sculpture. The front of the sculpture is of a woman standing, and it almost looks like the wind is blowing through her; there's these pieces of metal flying off the back of her. Something really spoke to me about that image: this strong-looking woman facing the world, and all then all these pieces of her blowing away.
This ties into the second thing that inspired me: My experience as a cancer survivor. To me, the sculpture signified how time keeps moving forward, but there are all these different bits and pieces from our past, that make us who we are. I'm now four years out from my diagnosis, and I feel stronger from the experience of survival, but the cancer is always there. My life has seemingly continued to move forward, but the cancer will always be a part of my existence.
The third thing is the music. I love all the different interesting sounds that the composer, Hauschka, uses. Listening to his music makes me curious to explore different ways of moving either with or against the music. It is a huge inspiration for my piece.
Tell me briefly about the journey you've taken with your dancers? This journey represents a bit of a departure compared to what I've done in the past. I am asking the dancers for more feedback than I ever have before. I want it to feel like it's their journey too, and not just mine. Authenticity is very important to me, and I have been working on getting the dancers more involved in hopes that piece will feel more like their own.
What did you learn from the last piece you choreographed, and how has that affected your current work? To try to take more moments of quietness and also to be OK with repetition. The last work I created had a lot of choreography in it. I often feel a need to make all this new choreography when creating a piece, but this year, I am working on incorporating more moments of stillness. When I was working with (former Merce Cunningham Dancer) Alan [Good], I remember him saying that one of the biggest mistakes a new choreographer can make is putting too much movement in a piece and not enough moments of quietness. I am working on creating more moments of stillness to juxtapose the moments of dancing. I think that makes it dynamic and interesting to watch. I am also working a little more with repetition in my work and finding different ways of using it. Again, in the past, I have often created a lot of choreography and this year, I have been interested in simplifying with the use of repetition.
What's the hardest thing about choreography? Being patient with my process. I am a slow processor and sometimes it can take me a while to find my way. I am so grateful to be working with dancers who are willing to put up with my process.
How does your work reflect the times? My piece is just about being human, trying to find balance in life, and also, about how time keeps drawing us forward (and how we can't control that). In my piece, there is always a reflecting back to the past, to the people we used to be and yet, we keep moving forward and can't help it. It's all those pieces from the past that turn us into the people we are. My work is also about how we are always working on finding balance in life. Just when we find balance, we are already falling again.
It was only last year that Amber Jackson graduated from Minnesota State with a degree in Dance and Creative Writing. But this new graduate has already accomplished a lot. In addition to working with RDC choreographers Wade Madsen and Jerene Aldinger for PRIME, she will be performing in Being., which premieres at Velocity on April 1-2, 2016. Somehow, amid all these rehearsals, this lovely dancer has also managed to find time to say "I do" in Costa Rica (see adorable photo, left!). In the past, the new Mrs. Jackson has performed in, and choreographed for many original works at the American College Dance Festival (ACDA)’s Gala Concert. She's also appeared in works by Shapiro & Smith, Stuart Pimsler Dance & Theater, and Lynn Andrews, and by her professors Julie Kerr-Berry, Allison Doughty and Daniel Stark. (I had the pleasure of working with Danny when I was dancing for Bellingham Repertory Dance and can attest to how awesome he is! No wonder his mentee, Amber, turned out so well).
Proudest accomplishment as an artist? My proudest accomplishment as an artist is always getting to see my work on stage. Whether it's a sassy jazz piece or an intense post-modern collaboration, it is so rewarding to see all those months of rehearsal pay off for both myself and the performers.
Most humbling moment? Teaching young kids. They're so eager to learn something new, and seeing the excitement in their eyes when they accomplish the simplest of moves reminds me to keep pushing my own technique and artistry.
What's your spirit animal? An arctic fox. I am from Minnesota, after all. What's your guilty pleasure? My cat Toots. Cheesecake. Bad sci-fi movies.
If you were a color, you'd be: Black.
Three things in life you love are: My supportive and hilarious husband, my family, and living so close to the ocean.
The most memorable thing from dancing in RDC this year: Meeting and dancing with tremendously creative and welcoming artists. Having just recently graduated from college and moved to a part of the country where I didn't know anyone, it has been so rewarding to meet such kind people who are willing to show the newbie around and I'm grateful to have the opportunity to perform with them. What's next for you? Continuing to grow as an artist in performance and choreography.
By Gabrielle Gainor To quote my mother, one of RDC's number-one fans: "I like to watch (Ian Howe) dance. Also, he can seriously rock a skirt." Rocking a skirt, as in Eva Stone's End of a Year isn't all that Ian can do. I've seen him break it down in a performance worthy of MTV in work by Markeith Wiley and Xaviera Vandermay (though he assures me that he isn't a B-boy), whip out pirouettes with balletic strength and grace, and also step outside of his comfort zone like this year, when I (admittedly, a little greedily) asked both Ian and Warren Woo to start dancing for me almost NINE months ago. In summer, 2015, we started playing in the studio to get to know each other, and generate movement for my piece. For Ian, someone who danced professionally on cruise ships, was inspired by Savion Glover growing up, and could easily whip anyone on Dance Moms into fighting shape, I know that my weird, modern-dance process was far from home base. I asked him to make up gestural moves to words, become less of the dynamo that he is and more of a pedestrian, plus I gave him and my dancers very little to hang on to as my non-linear brain figured this dance out -- much editing occurred, and a lot of original ideas and choreography were tested, then scratched, a process of clarity for me, but I'm sure a cause of frustration for Ian and my dancers. Still, all of them gave generously; they gave so much of themselves to my process even in the moments where I was fumbling. Ian's patience and openness gave me the gift of being able to grow and discover as a choreographer. For that, I'm truly grateful. In addition to my piece, which is inspired by old Hollywood and media archetypes, you will see Ian dance in Austin Sexton's Surface, Emerge, Arise. as well as in Lauren Edson's Below the Surfacewhen we present PRIME.
Ian teaches at dozens of studios all over the Pacific Northwest (you should totally hire him if you need an awesome master-class teacher!). And, in addition to technique and performance quality, I hope his students are able to pick up on his graciousness. As a dancer, he is the perfect combination of both humility in-person, and totally owning it onstage in a way that the audience can't resist. How do you continue to evolve as an artist? I continue to take classes and surround myself with people who inspire and push me to be better. I try to find projects that will make me think outside of my safe zone.
What's the hardest thing for you as a dancer? Letting go and not worrying so much about the perfection of the movement.
What do you excel at? I feel like I excel in making things that feel weird on most people, feel alright on my body when I dance.
What's the best dance show you've seen in Seattle recently? I had the opportunity to go see Jerboa do their Valentine's Day performance and it was a nice mixture of technique and slap stick numbers. Very enjoyable to watch.
What's inspiring you lately? Life. Watching other dancers enjoy their time on stage... where I want to be by the end of the year.
What do you want to see more of? I honestly want to see more letting go of things and people exploring new things. I want to see not just amazing technicians in dance, I want to see great story tellers.
How would your loved ones describe you? Compassionate.
What's one thing that's challenged you or pushed you to grow in RDC this year? The variety of numbers I've had to take on this year. Each one of them has been different in their process and feel. I'm not a contemporary dancer by nature, so I've had to let go of a lot of things that I held onto as a dancer, and explore new ways to move and think.
What's the most memorable moment from RDC this year? Connecting with new people, learning more about their back stories. Not just as dancers, but as people.
Best post-rehearsal treat? Extra, extra dirty Grey Goose Martini. ;)
Over the past two years, our group has strengthened its ties to the UW dance community -- a development I've watched with glee. I love the diversity of the UW dance graduates. I've danced with Huskies who are former Irish Dance champions, as well as contact improv experts, jugglers, and hardcore ballerinas. I also love the fearlessness that these purple-and-gold artists possess. To generalize, I can't think of a dancer I've met from this community who hasn't been open-minded, collaborative and curious, and new RDC dancer Hailey Burt is a great example. I knew that I would likely Hailey from the moment I saw her really performing (and, well, smiling so beautifully!) at our audition this past summer. In addition to being a delight to watch, Hailey is also an outstanding teammate, leader and choreographer. She is someone who can do it all, and she brings people together. As my friend Hannah put it, "Hailey is someone who does even better the more responsibility you give her."
Proudest accomplishment as an artist: Seeing my work onstage. I’ve choreographed a few pieces over the last few years, and every time I see my work onstage I am so excited and want to make more.
Most humbling moment as an artist: I currently teach little kids ballet, and every time I show them something new I am reminded that we are all beginners, no matter our age. They teach me so much.
What's your spirit animal? An otter. Did you know they hold hands when they sleep so they don’t float away from each other? So adorable.
What's your guilty pleasure? Cupcakes.
If you were a color, you'd be: Purple!
Three things in life you love are: My family, my friends, and the fact that I can watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix.
Memorable thing from dancing in RDC this year? So far, the most memorable thing from RDC this year has been meeting so many wonderful people! I feel so lucky to know all of these amazing, talented dancers and I can’t wait to keep getting to know everyone.
What's next for you? Aside from performing with RDC, I am continuing to pursue choreography in Seattle, and I also hope to continue teaching throughout the city!