Relay Dance Collective Season 6 Kickoff Featuring choreography by Paula J Peters, Jackie-Lou Breakey, Ella Mahler, Gabrielle Gainor/Austin Sexton, Amber Jackson, and Hailey Burt.
Yaw Theater 6520 5th Ave S Seattle, WA 98108 Cost: Online $15; Door $20
By Gabrielle Nomura Gainor Relay Dance Collective is proud to present a screening of Ella Mahler's award-winning dance film, it can also be this, at our Season 6 Kickoff. This film is part of a larger body of work created in collaboration with dancers Jenna Eady and Anna Krupp among other collaborators. This body of work originated with the piece Ella and her fellow artists created called "this and this, too." Recently, the body of work culminated with "Really, it's this," presented at the 2017 NW New Works Festival. (The dance film we'll be showing was created in between these two live dance pieces).
Relay commissioned the piece, "this and this too," for our show Primein April, 2016, and we're honored to have played a small role in Ella's fruitful past year-and-a-half.
Supporting and nurturing emerging artists is of course, one of Relay's primary goals. Our friendship that spans almost a decade, is simply in addition to my desire to support and curate Ella's work. Ella didn't grow up with a traditional dance background, but her natural talent and creative hunger have led her to accomplish more than many artists I know. With technical chops from dancing for Bellingham Repetory Dance and Catherine Cabeen, a choreographic voice strengthened by mentors like Pam Kuntz and longtime collaborator, Angela Kiser, Ella bears a genuine desire to engage and participate in the art, society, and culture that surrounds her. She is the epitome of an active participant, both in terms of her craft, and in terms of life. (Did I mention, she is also an arts leader with some seriously fundraising/nonprofit skills?). Next weekend, Ella's work will be featured in not one, but two season kickoffs. You can see Ella's dancers perform live at Velocity's Fall Kickoff, and you can see them perform via film (with the artful filmography of Liz Houlton) presented in our show at Yaw Theater. By the way, this is the first dance-film Relay Dance Collective has ever shown! In the past year-and-a-half, you created "this and this, too," "it can also be this," and "Really, it's this." I know you don't like to call this a trilogy, however. Give me some insight into the creative spark that started it all. First, I just set out to make a duet. I didn't go into making work with the idea of a series, but fairly early on in creating "this and this too" it became pretty clear that there were many ways I wanted to unpack the multiplicity of what was surfacing. Also around this time I met Liz Houlton, the videographer and editor of "it can also be this," and we found we make a great match for this kind of collaboration. Liz has a brilliant eye for specificity and design and I was eager to for us to work together on this new installment of the work.
Tell me something about your film that will entice Relay audiences. ;) Film transports us in impossible ways. We can jump into seven locations in two seconds. It toys with our sensations with great detail, different than other mediums. I love that kind of immersive, jarring specificity, and that is what showed up in "it can also be this."
After Relay first commissioned you in 2016, I remember you saying early-on that you envisioned the duet you were creating as a film. Then you actually made a dance film. Then, you created a final piece for NW New Works combined both live performance and film. Tell me more about each of these steps in the process. The series has just continued to tumble - like chasing an unraveling thread down the hill. The more I dig, the more we find, and the more messy and complex it becomes. Each work has revealed a whole slew of new sensations and images, and so we keep examining those and now it has turned into multiple pieces. Sometimes it feels like the work is staring at me before I even see it.
A huge reason why this work has continued is because of the investment of my collaborators - both in the work and in each other. We have found this process to be very fruitful in artistic challenge, building dear relationships, and growing as people. This right here is why I make art.
Aside from the fact that we can clearly see they are amazing, what attracts you to Jenna and Anna as artists? Jenna and Anna are brave, curious, thoughtful, generous, the list goes on. They bring their whole selves to this work, to each other, and to me. My biggest value in a process (not different from life) is creating a space where people can be themselves, uphold respect, and challenge each other because they believe in each other. I make art because I believe it helps create a better world - this is what Jenna and Anna do. :)
What's next for you as an artist? As I said earlier, this work just keeps unfolding. I made "Really, it's this." thinking that is the last of the series. Not true. There is more ahead in a larger scale, but that is about all I know right now. Stay tuned!
Finally, I must know, why are you so cool? I guess I'll just say that for me, part of making art is partly (hugely) about exploring what it means to be yourself and to connect with other people. This takes bravery, curiosity, and trust - critical things for an artistic process, but really I mean life. :)