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This Sunday, the split bill series Slice & Dice returns to offer NYC audiences “long form dances, deep dialogue, and drinks” with Pamela Vail and The Lovelies. Over the past two years of producing this series, the five women who make up The Lovelies, along with the Joffrey Ballet School and Fractured Atlas, have supported the work of (Alex)andra Taylor Dance, The Architects, Donnell Oakley Dances, and Alex Springer & Xan Burley. { Dd } had a round table with four of these socially conscious and entrepreneurial women in advance of this weekend’s performance to talk about the nature of their collaborations, both in the moment of improvisation as a dance company and as producers and curators seeking to foster responses to art on a local and global scale.

{ DIYdancer }, Candice Thompson: What brought the five of you together?

IMG_3119-1Keeley Walsh: I was inspired to start a compositional improv group after I attended MICI, Movement Intensive in Compositional Improvisation, 3.5 years ago. It is led by The Architects: Pamela Vail, Lisa Gonzales, Katherine Ferrier, Jennifer Kayle as well as Kathy Couch, their lighting designer.  I was so moved by the freedom that happens when one practices the form of improvisation. There magic of 25 people, who just met each other the day before collaborating in the moment, with a live musician, to make a 25 minute dance, with an ending agreed upon in the moment, was just bonkers to me. Then we did it over and over again; completely fresh and new every time. When I got back to NYC, I asked my nearest and dearest, who I had already been working with, if they would consider such an endeavor. Most of them replied with something like, ” I don’t know exactly what this means, but I’m in!”

Joanna Futral: When Keeley first brought up MICI, Movement Intensive in Compositional Improvisation, and The Architects, I was a little confused and unsure. I thought, “A group that only performs improv?”

Katie Vason: I had done improvisation before but was unfamiliar with the specifics of compositional improvisation and the endless possibilities of working with a group in this way.

JF: Agreed. I knew improv was important to me and I wanted to be a part of a group that was doing it. But I had no idea The Lovelies would turn into this wonderful place where we could grow and challenge our art and what art as a business looks like.

Lena Lauer: I had not known Joanna or Katie all that well previously to starting this weekly improvisation practice with these women, but through this form we have grown individually and we have built a company. I now have four best friends and feel tethered to my life’s work; bound to hold and revere it and them.

CT: What are the challenges when collaborating (in and out of the moment) in a group this large?

LL: We tackle differences of opinion in aesthetics, social, global and artistic relevance, with ensemble decision-making. Taking on risks and facing and embracing challenges have helped to define who we are as The Lovelies, namely strong and unapologetic women who are humans and artists.

KW: The challenges of collaborating with 5 dancers and 1 or more musicians are always changing. As soon as we have reconciled one way to handle a situation or proceed in a new direction, something shifts and another frontier has to be explored and negotiated whether it be delegating admin tasks or deciding on costumes. We often say it’s a lot like a democracy. We have actually had to vote a few times when not everyone has been in agreement.

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KV: Holding space for differing opinions is not only important in collaboration, it’s a skill we have to navigate both in and outside of the work. Each of us having a voice in this group is extremely important. While it might not be efficient, we are learning to navigate as we go and is a skill that is so needed in the world right now!

JF: It’s true, negotiation is not an efficient task, but it’s effective and we’re stronger for it. You are forced to ask yourself what’s important, what’s worth standing up for, what worth letting go of, what to prioritize, what means something to you… not easy, but always worth it. And, in my mind, we’re always moving towards a more desired outcome.

CT: How did you choose to present Pamela Vail for this incarnation of Slice & Dice?

JF: Pamela Vail is a co-founding member of The Architects and a wonderful mentor to The Lovelies.

KW: I think I can say for everyone that we are so thrilled she is actually setting a piece on us! Some of us are terrified to have to learn and memorize set choreography, which we never do as The Lovelies.

CT: Do you think curating and producing offers something creative to The Lovelies, beyond the rare occasion when a work is set on you?

LL: Our curatorial process from the outside is relatively informal. Once we have been in touch with the artists, have set some dates for space usage/rehearsals/show time, it’s pretty amazing to also offer so much more: huddled over veggies (or cookies!) and chatting before the show, a professional video of their work (most of the time, we’re working out how to budget this responsibly) which is usually so hard for artists to find the funds for, a thoughtful talk-back so they are walking away with more to contemplate when they return to the studio, a chance post-discussion to meet everyone who came to watch, as well as half of the proceeds from the door. It’s really satisfying to be building something that can provide so much more than just a performance opportunity.

KV: Presenting the work of others has been such an honor in creating community and opening up dialogue about the work and the world at large. Having the opportunity to present longer form/longer work in progress in an informal setting creates room for risks, feedback and conversation that might not otherwise be accessible.

JF: When we first thought about Slice & Dice, we wanted to challenge ourselves and our community with intention. We wanted to have richer conversations, ask stronger questions, and keep curiosity alive. So along with the performance aspect, we thought of this “break bread style” meet up that happens in various ways with each group we present. We’re also starting to develop a more global and social scope to Slice & Dice, so for this particular show, we will be donating 50% of our revenue to the Black Lives Matter organization.

Slice & Dice with Pamela Vail
Sunday February 19th
6:00 PM
Joffrey Ballet School, Studio 6
$10 suggested donation

Written by Candice Thompson

After more than a decade in Brooklyn, Candice Thompson is now an Atlanta-based artist and writer. Prior to dancing with the Milwaukee Ballet Company and ad hoc Ballet, she trained with Kee Juan Han at the School of Ballet Arizona and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She founded LOLAstretch Dancewear in 2000 and has designed costumes for a variety of theater and dance companies across the country. She recently received a masters degree in Literary Nonfiction from Columbia University’s Creative Writing Program and more of her dance writing can be found in the pages of Dance Magazine, Pointe, and Dance Teacher.