April’s Showers and Flowers

Teen Editorial Staff April 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Anya Shulka and Lucia McLaren

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As vaccination rates rise, we can see the tail end of the pandemic on the horizon (knock on wood!). In this uncertainty-filled year, it's a huge relief to see improving conditions, though exercising caution is more important than ever. Still, warmer weather is peeking around the corner, and there's plenty of art and media for you to explore this month—no matter what you're looking for.

It’s no secret that the news has gotten everyone thinking about what comes next. For those interested in what life might look like in the future, look no further than Unexpected Productions’ Seattle Theatresports, a now in-person improv show. For those who prefer to see what teens envision the coming years to look like, check out SIFF’s Futurewave, an exciting lineup of movies and shorts curated for youth audiences.

Of course, post-pandemic life—or let’s be honest, life in general—may also evoke a wide range of emotions. For those interested in laughing, crying, or just feeling, we have a great selection for you. UW School of Drama’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist is a comedic farce sure to make you forget about the piles of homework you have sitting on your desk. PNB’s Rep 4 and Seattle Opera’s Big Opera Show are two other pieces—replete with beautiful dancing and singing, respectively—that will give you goosebumps.

So as you coast out the end of a crisis that's sure to make the history books, be sure to check out your local arts venues and their productions! It’s the season to take on the future, good or bad, and our hand-picked selection is sure to help you along the way. Make sure to wear your mask, and stay safe out there.

Lead photo credit: Photo by Boxed Water Is Better for Unsplash.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Announcing the Mentorship for Teen Artists of Color Summer Cohort!

Applications are now open!

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TeenTix, in partnership with The Colorization Collective (a teen-run organization that promotes diversity in the arts) is excited to announce our 2021 Summer Cohort of our Mentorship for Teen Artists of Color (M-TAC) program. This program will specifically allow teen artists of color to hone their artwork under the guidance of professional mentors. This is a great way for teens to better their craft, build connections in the arts community, and present their art!

This mentorship is for teens interested in visual arts (painting, drawing, sculpture, etc.) and performing arts (musical theater, acting, etc.). Teens will be put into either a visual arts or performing arts cohort, and each group will be paired with a professional artist/mentor of color to create or workshop a piece specifically for the program showcase.SCHEDULE

The Summer M-TAC program will meet for 5 weeks (July 7-August 6), every Wednesday from 2-5 PM PST. The meetings dates are: July 7, 14, 21, 28, and August 4. There will also be a one-hour showcase the week of August 9 (exact time TBD).

Teens in the M-TAC program will also have the opportunity to participate in workshops during the school year, as well as present their finished work during the TeenTix Teen Arts and Opportunities Fair in June of 2022.

Applications are open now and close at 12 AM (midnight) PST on May 31, 2021. APPLY HERE!

Applicants must be ages 13-19 and a current TeenTix member to participate. (Not a TeenTix member yet? Don't worry - sign up for free right here!)

If you need assistance filling out this application, please contact Anya Shukla at [email protected]

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Virtual Teen Nights with TeenTix!

Announcing a series of Virtual Teen Nights featuring local performances and discussions led by teens!

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Join TeenTix for a series of Virtual Teen Nights this March and April! Each Virtual Teen Night includes a screening of a performance from a local arts organization and a facilitated conversation and reflection activity on what you just saw. The post-screening discussion will be led by teens from TeenTix programs. Each Virtual Teen Night will focus on a different genre of art including film, dance, and theater, and we have events for both high schoolers and middle schoolers! Did we mention the best part? They’re all FREE! Sign up below to experience amazing local performances and connect with other arts-loving teens!

Each event will be hosted by TeenTix teaching artist Alethea Alexander and two teen facilitators from TeenTix programs. These events are produced in partnership with the Creative Advantage and Seattle Parks Department. All events will be hosted on the Webex platform. A link to Webex for the class will be sent to your email, two days prior to class.

Teen Nights with NFFTY Films

Saturday, March 13, 7-8:30 PM - High School (ages 14-19) - SIGN UP HERE

Saturday, March 20, 7-8:30 PM - Middle School (ages 11-14) - SIGN UP HERE

The NFFTY films that will be screened are:

Joychild by Aurora Brachman - A young child tells their mother "I'm not a girl" for the first time.

Yellow Cards of Equal Pay by Maia Vota - Members of the Burlington, VT High School girls soccer team recount the launch of their viral #EqualPay movement, inspired by Megan Rapinoe and the U.S. women's national soccer team, from its humble beginnings to national media coverage.

GHAZAAL by Ragini Bhasin - A 13-year-old feisty Afghan refugee hustles around in a refugee camp as she experiences her period without having access to any sanitary napkins.

Teen Nights with On the Boards Dance Performance

Saturday, March 27, 7-8:30 PM - High School (ages 14-19) - SIGN UP HERE

Saturday, April 3, 7-8:30 PM - Middle School (ages 11-14) -SIGN UP HERE

The dance performance screening will be of When the Wolves Came In by Kyle Abraham/Abraham In Motion at On the Boards. The performance, by award-winning choreographer and performer Kyle Abraham, presents a new work inspired by jazz great Max Roach’s "We Insist Freedom Now." Watch the trailer here.

Teen Nights with Macha Theatre Works Plays

Saturday, April 10, 7-8:30 PM - High School (ages 14-19) - SIGN UP HERE

Saturday, April 17, 7-8:30 PM - Middle School (ages 11-14) - SIGN UP HERE

We will screen two, 17 Minute Plays from Macha Theatre Works. The two plays are:

Ancestral Trauma and Healing for Dummies, Co-written by Maddy Nibble and Christine O'Connor performed by Maddy Nibble: A tragicomic trauma-romp through the ages exploring the consequences of White Supremacy and Internalized Capitalism on a perfectly well intentioned, deeply abusive Irish-Italian immigrant family. Co-writers Maddy and their actual real-life mom, Christine O'Connor, travel across time and space to delve deep into the origins of false ideologies, shame-based addictions, and other bewildering heirlooms — and all in just 17 minutes!

In the Crosshairs, Written and performed by Roz Cornejo. The story of a mixed chick untangling her relationships with her hair, her skin, and her identity.

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Mark Haim: Finding a Place Within the Wider World

Interview with choreographer Mark Haim, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Lucy Carlin during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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Staring. Bending. Waving. With intention, these movements are all dance. Dance is everywhere. Each and every human being can find it within themselves. From the most well-known choreographer to an individual dancer just starting their career, everyone represents tiny parts of a greater community. This concept, being small parts of a whole, is the driving force behind choreographer and artist Mark Haim.

Vibrant, laughing, and quite talkative, Haim draws people in. His words and storytelling have a unique quirkiness to them, moving the conversation along in a fast-paced yet informative manner. These personal qualities are reflected in many of his works. His dances open up into impactful and profound reflections of his thinking. Watching clips of his The Goldberg Variations, This Land is Your Land, Overflow or any one of his multitude of works, it takes only a few minutes for the depth of his ideas to hit, pushing one to break down greater reflections on concepts such as humanity and time. In This Land is Your Land, dancers move along a pattern, then explore mutations of it carrying coffee cups, plastic guns, and even cellphones. The bright colorful costumes and everyday objects paired with his choreography in This Land is Your Land are a doorway into Haim’s thoughts on consumerism. There is thoughtful passion and humor in his works emphasizing the connectivity of life. Each little person, concept, and object is relative to the other, their presence ebbing and flowing with the rise and fall of each.

Haim’s choreography is a spirited, everlasting dance of balance between purely beautiful movement and firmly intentional timed expressions of thought. His experiments with this relationship are present in every piece.

“If I’m working on movement—just trying to develop movement—I start to look for the thing that isn’t there, which would be the expression and vice versa,” he said. “I don’t know if I am able to do just one. I think it's important for anyone who is making creations to feel like everything is in everything. There might be less of one thing than another but they’re all still there”

Fans of contemporary dance might remember his piece from 2019, Parts To a Sum, which explores how Haim is impacted by those dearest to him. He created a solo incorporating movements sent to him from 371 friends and relatives, ages ranging from 1.5 to 93. Videos averaging 15 seconds filled with jumping, falling; slow, focused arm movements; and even eating were sent with love and support. The final performance of these movements honored the interconnectedness of humanity. This emphasizes the building of a great artist from a foundation of many, and how the end result is the sum of all those efforts.

Haim is not interested in perfectly packaging his work, preferring to allow audiences to draw their own ideas with his choreography. Audiences are given the freedom to interact with his work in the moment rather than come to a performance with set parameters of how they should experience it. In his newest piece, choreographed in quarantine for film, his goal was to “almost get the focus to go from me to what was around me.” He hopes the audience will engage with parts that speak the most to them. Here, he again explores the theme of a greater whole, however instead of a community of people, it is humans, trees, wind, and air adding up to make the environment. Demonstrating a goal of chipping away at the self-importance of humans and to build towards working in unity with life around us; to respect the environment. Aiming to be part of something that is more than just himself, Haim’s choreography in this piece is almost secondary to the movement of nature around him.

When faced with challenges or lack of motivation in this time of isolation, Haim again brings back the idea of smaller parts of a whole. In the face of uncertainty, he advises people to break challenges down and approach a single part first to trick themselves into achieving the larger goal.

Haim awaits the day people gather together to experience live music and dance as part of a whole audience rather than separate viewers. He recounts “I started to cry… feeling the music live...you can’t replace that'' after watching a live dance performance by Whim W’Him in Volunteer Park this past summer where a mariachi band nearby happened to be playing. Assembling to experience a live performance is something many are craving, and he hopes the pandemic will show people the importance and universality of dance.

In Haim’s upcoming dance film WALDO: 2020 for CHOP SHOP’s virtual contemporary dance festival, viewers can watch him give back to the world around him, blending into the trees and shrubs that characterize the beautiful scenery of the Pacific Northwest. Filmed in the I-90 corridor and on the lands of the Muckleshoot, Coast Samish, Duwamish, and Tulalip peoples, Haim provides a space for people to reflect on being part of a greater whole and humanity in relation to themselves as they are presented during the viewing experience. Emphasizing dance’s ephemerality compared to the seemingly everlasting presence of plants, this work is inspired by his reflection upon nature and its generosity in quarantine. He explores the ways he takes up space in comparison to the greater community and world. Try to spot him, first obviously in the frame, then partially hidden amongst the foliage, and finally almost disappearing into the woods to give the plants a chance to speak. Catch the world premiere of this work on Thursday, February 25, 2021.

You can see Mark Haim's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: Mark Haim performs his solo Parts to a Sum, photo by Deb Wolf.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Mark Haim’s Everlasting Creative Process

Interview with choreographer Mark Haim, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Wyoming Rios-Brennan during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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This year Chop Shop Contemporary Dance Festival is bringing a variety of talented choreographers. One of those creators is Mark Haim. Haim has resided in the Seattle region for about 17 years now, since he got a job offer at the University of Washington to be artist in residence with the dance department back in 2002. In the Seattle dance scene, he is well known for his work and unique creative process. Dance has been his outlet of expression and movement for 35 years. And in those 35 years, he has developed his own individualistic way of expression through the art of dance.

“That being said, I’ve been choreographing for 25 years before I got here so I already kind of had a way of choreographing and an idea of what my work was about.” Was Haim’s response when asked how living in Seattle affects his work.

Haim’s love of dance started when he realized how isolating playing piano was, after playing it since he was six years old. He was already someone who liked to move, so dance was the obvious next step due to its incorporation of movement and human connection.

Haim considers his creative process to be “illogical” and “scattered” so he has an appreciation of dancers who trust him and his process. He ensures that movement and expression are balanced in his work because he feels the utmost need for both.

When Haim reaches a block in his creative process, he takes it step by step. He always tries to keep moving forward by breaking the choreographic process down. And just trying to get something done and tricking himself into getting the task completed by making himself think he is getting it completed. He continues moving forward even when it is hard.

Haim stated that “all artists are queer in their own way.” He means that artists all go in their own artistic directions even if it goes against norms in this “capitalistic, commodity-driven society.” He wants to create works that are different—even if they are harder to sell or a struggle to create—because he believes that dance is constantly evolving. He wants art to be shared with the community and is something that helps people to bond.

You can see Mark Haim's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: Mark Haim performs his solo Parts to a Sum, photo by Opal Patterson.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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The Power of Improvisation: How Daniel Costa Discovered His Love of Dance

Interview with choreographer Daniel Costa, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Carolyn Davis during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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The dancer gracefully approaches center stage, wearing a tight yellow bodysuit contrasting the deep red lighting. He pushes the ground away from him with each step and the smooth movement gives the illusion of the dancer gliding on water, his feet slicing through the surface and stopping cleanly at the center of the stage.

Upper and lower body movements coincide with the beat, creating funky and rhythmic movement while sustaining the grace of traditional dance. Energy moves through his body and distributes force, allowing powerful and delicate movement. His torso and head simultaneously swayed slowly, while his limbs moved silently and smoothly.

What the audience were oblivious of was some of the dance was never choreographed step-by-step. It was instead improv that impressively looked natural on-stage. The dancer closes the performance with a cartwheel into a kneeling position and a downward gaze. It officially concludes when the ruby lights turn off, and all the audience members begin to clap and cheer for the adept dancer. Audience members erupt in applause in response to this transformational experience.

Daniel Costa is the choreographer who incorporates the “beautiful mystery” of improvisation into performances.

“I love freestyle,” he said. “I love dancing—the way I’m feeling to the music, to my body—at that day, at that time, at that hour. It’s going to shift and change all the time so it’s the most authentic, I believe, through improvisation.”

Costa is a multi-faceted artist whose style exists at the intersection of hip-hop, ballet, and contemporary dance. He believes dance can be used to express one’s true self, especially when it’s through improvisation. He understands the power of dance and how it can connect to many aspects of one’s identity.

At 16, Costa’s passion for improvisation was ignited. He enjoyed watching others improvise on YouTube, and these videos inspired his own direction as an artist. At 17 or 18 years old, improvisation furthered his devotedness to dance to the point where he woke up early every day to improvise in the theater before classes began. His beginnings in hip-hop also let him carry his love for improvisation throughout his career, connecting him to his authentic self any time he improvised.

The first person to formally teach Costa improvisation was Laura Peterson, a professor at Rutgers University at the time (where he got his BFA). Her teachings inspired him as he continued to study dance. Costa has always been drawn to improvisation throughout his life and career as a dancer and choreographer.

Sometimes it is important for people to distance themselves from their corporate reality, and Costa understands that movement is a gateway to one’s spirituality, physicality, and sexuality among other things—all aspects of authenticity. Authenticity is an essential part of dance, which is exactly why Costa begins choreographing dances by improvising. He believes it is the best way to communicate with others and “access a part of ourselves that we cannot articulate with other forms of language.” He continues to make improvisation a large part of his choreography, though the audience never knows how much is incorporated. Check out Costa’s upcoming performance as a part of Chop Shop’s annual contemporary dance festival.

You can see Daniel Costa's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

*The dance described in the first paragraph of this article is not a depiction of an actual performance, but instead a creative depiction by the writer inspired by Costa's style of movement.

Lead photo credit: Daniel Costa, photo by Michael Esperanza.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Dance as a Form of Self-Expression: Daniel Costa Dance

Interview with choreographer Daniel Costa, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Yoon Lee during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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Daniel Costa entered the dance scene as a hip hop dancer, but even before going to college he knew he wanted to be a choreographer. Moreso, he wanted people to connect his name to the art he made.

Costa wanted his company to bear his own name because he wanted the work he created to be connected to who he is as an artist.

“The reason I wanted to start Daniel Costa Dance was to make my own work, to be on my schedule, and to focus on what I found important in dance and important in my training,” he said.

Dance as a form of self-expression, a means to share one’s art and emotion with others, is not a novel concept, but it is one that becomes further lost as the dance scene struggles and stumbles. One can only add so much to their particular version of The Nutcracker. One can only deviate from the script by so much.

But with expression comes connection, a chance to show off one’s self to the community around them. And dance is a way to do that, a chance to form powerful connections with audiences and other artists through the expression of their own bodies.

“And how to connect to community and other dancers I feel this powerful connection [with]... and to also know that my work will never be just mine, it’s always in collaboration with other folks.” Costa said.

It is this connection, this collaboration, that forms the basis of Daniel Costa Dance’s contemporary style. Each piece is unique, either through improvisation and/or unique personalization based on physicality or articulation. Costa’s role in this style of dance is not to be a hard-set director, but to be a creator of “dance vocabulary.” This style of working together allows the dancers to manipulate their own movements, altering Costa’s choreography, to their physicality, to their self. This is where dance comes in as self-expression. The dances come about through the expression of the dancer, and of the choreographer, but also through the connection and community they share.

Everything can be embodied in dance: emotions, spirituality, personas, authentic self, physicality, sexuality, gender expression.

“Dance is embodying a language that is beyond words, more primal, for lack of a better word. It is more connected to before we had language; we always had bodies, we always had movement.”

You can learn more about Daniel Costa Dance, and its titular artistic director, at the Daniel Costa Dance website.

You can see Daniel Costa work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: Daniel Costa, photo by Michael Esperanza.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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How to Create Change in the Dance World: A Lesson from Omar Román De Jesús

Interview with choreographer Omar Román De Jesús, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Gracie Galvin during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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2020 was a year marked by social uprising. From protests regarding Covid-19 to the Black Lives Matter movement, change has been seen in all aspects of our lives. But when it comes to the dance world, artists are often left functioning in stagnant and outdated norms. Whether it is strict dress codes that discriminate against dancers of color or harsh competition that infringes on artistic freedom, the dance community fails to allow for individual expression. According to Omár Román De Jesús, the reason why is simple: choreographers and dancers spend too much time comparing themselves. There is not enough support for one another in the dance world.

Jesús’s reasoning comes from a place of worldly experience. His choreography has been shown at a multitude of competitions including at the prestigious Jacob’s Pillow Festival. His theatrical contemporary dance is one that spreads positivity and highlights human empathy. From Seattle’s Chop Shop to Panama’s PRISMA Dance Festival, Jesús has made his mark. And his company Boca Tuya plans to do the same.

But this poses the question, how does one go about making said change?

For Jesús, it starts with focusing on oneself. During the pandemic, he took time to reflect within: to think about what he stands for, what his company is about, and how he can make an impact. In short, he reaffirmed his identity. However, this task of self-reflection is hard to do in a world that he defines as “a constant competition.” He noted that jealousy and comparison outweigh the amount of support artists give each other. He came to the realization that his choreography will never fit into a certain set of expectations. Rather, his art is constantly evolving to fit his desires and the desires of his audience.

As one reflects internally, they must do the same externally by shifting their energy to those around them. Jesús pointed out that his dance is for his community—those who relate to his message. He extended advice to others: if you want to make change within your environment you must “bring dance to that community in a format that can touch [them].” And that’s exactly what he did. Jesús found a cause close to him that needed help from the arts. Boca Tuya has an ongoing connection with Red Rhino, an organization based in North America that makes dance accessible to neurodiverse individuals. Jesús’s company supplies the dance teachers for Red Rhino’s classes and performances that unite the community. Both groups are centered around inclusivity, making this connection even more impactful.

Creating dance that leaves an impact and a lasting image takes time. When referencing the time period choreographers are often expected to make pieces, Jesús stated, “Three weeks isn’t enough to create something memorable.” It takes time to reflect, it takes time to find your community, and it takes time to physically create the art itself. Jesús finds it a challenge to accomplish all three, as his identity and goals are always changing so his dance must follow suit. In order to do so, Jesús has found himself relying on his dancers and on their artistic ability. Rather than follow the standard choreographic process, Jesús has allowed his dancers’ personalities to inform his works. Their individuality is what makes his choreography so relatable; audiences see the unique emotions of each dancer on stage.

Jesús’s lesson on making change can be summed up in a few comprehensible steps: reflecting inwardly, connecting directly to those you want to impact, and taking time to thoroughly think it through. To see how Jesús’s dance follows these steps watch Boca Tuya’s performance at Chop Shop’s virtual festival here.

You can see Omar Román De Jesús's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: A still from Los Perros del Barrio Colosal, choreography by Omar Román De Jesús, performed by dancers of Boca Tuya, videography by Drew L. Brown.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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How Quarantine Sparked the Re-Evaluation of Omar Román De Jesús’s Artistic Process, Values, and Mission

Interview with choreographer Omar Román De Jesús, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Elena Hamblin during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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There’s no denying that Covid-19 changed peoples’ lives immensely. And for many, that impact has been devastating—especially for dancers and choreographers. As lockdowns were mandated and studios shut down, the dance community persevered, doing relevés and pirouettes in living rooms and choreographing pieces in narrow kitchens.

Therefore, one might assume that up-and-coming contemporary choreographer Omar Román De Jesús would speak of the immense challenges of producing dance over Zoom and being unable to work with dancers in person. Instead, he described the pandemic as “enlightening”.

This optimistic outlook perfectly represents Jesús, who speaks with an easygoing smile and articulates his experiences with deeply introspective, open-hearted, and honest thoughts. And although Jesús admits Covid “wasn’t good for him,” he seized the opportunity to re-evaluate his priorities as a choreographer and the impact he wants to make in the dance world.

Jesús has an impressive resume from performing internationally in Japan, to creating works for the Joffrey Ballet, and winning multiple choreographic competitions. However, he felt pressure to constantly create groundbreaking works to please his growing audience and gain more recognition as a choreographer.

During the pandemic he’s been using his free time to sit and think about what his company, Boca Tuya, is about and what he stands for. He began to pay less attention to people’s expectations and focus more on the company’s central mission of “spreading sensitivity, kindness, and joy in humanity.” Now, every time he goes into the studio he explores new genres and focuses on bringing lighthearted joy to audiences.

And the driving force for his inspiration is the diverse artistic backgrounds of his dancers. Unlike many choreographers who force their dancers to mold to their creative vision, Jesús prefers to take a freer route, letting his dancers and their unique stylistic backgrounds influence and shape the piece.

Furthermore, Jesús sees this collaboration of experiences and styles as the driving force of the central challenge to “find the world where we exist together.” He believes letting the dancers’ personalities inform what the characters are makes things more genuine, and brings out the best of them. And by watching his works, one can see his philosophy come to life. With dancers leaping into air with exhilaration and traveling through abstract patterns, the viewer can feel freedom and self-expression within the dancers that is only possible with an open-minded choreographer like Jesús.

Not only have Jesús’s dancers been shaping his works, but the themes of his work have begun to shift. When starting out, Jesús, like many young choreographers, tried to make his mark by creating pieces that were profound and about social change. And although he acknowledges dance is a powerful tool to communicate these ideas, he states that “to create social change you have to work with the community directly.” And true to his message, Jesús now works in partnership with a community organization called Red Rhino, to teach dance classes to people with disabilities.

But with recent social justice movements like Black Lives Matter, he feels that the dance world has become oversaturated with artists trying to make bold statements about social justice Therefore, he is beginning to transition into focusing on relaying a much-needed message of hope, and a sense of continuity and joy. For example, his premiering piece for the local dance festival Chop Shop is similar to a soap opera and is a more theater-dance style. The piece is called Los Perros del Barrio Colosal and follows six characters that face unique challenges in an adventure-filled imagination.

This evolving growth of Jesús’s style and content of his works seems to be an eternal journey. “I don’t want to be recognized as the person who does one thing. Like the guy who does Hispanic pieces,” he says.

Instead, during the pandemic Jesús realized that he values quality over quantity. Like many well-known choreographers, he doesn’t want to create a hundred thousand pieces all focused on a similar idea. For the future, Jesús is inspired to create work that is progressive and memorable, that “spark conversations or make people feel something.”

Those in the arts world who are struggling with similar obstacles may find inspiration in Jesús. Even in dark, unprecedented times, people can find time to reflect on our values, and our future. And hopefully that reflection lets people discover their real priorities, in spreading kindness and support. Because when it comes to change in the dance world, Jesús said the constant competition is toxic, and the community should “support each other.” This wise yet simple message isn’t only applicable for dance, but an essential message to remind all people of the power of reflection, community, and kindness.

Learn more about Jesús’s company at bocatuya.com. You can see Omar Román De Jesús's work Los Perros del Barrio Colosal, at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead photo credit: A still from Los Perros del Barrio Colosal, choreography by Omar Román De Jesús, performed by dancers of Boca Tuya, videography by Drew L. Brown.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshop was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Two Takes on Isolation and Connection

Review of Choreographic Shindig VI presented by Whim W’Him

Written by Teen Writer Valentine Wulf and edited by Teen Editor Triona Suiter

Whim W Him dancers Michael Arellano seated and Karl Watson in Madison Olandt Mike Tyus Elsewhere for Choreographic Shindig VI Filming and direction by Quinn Wharton

Whim W’Him’s Choreographic Shindig VI is a collection of two filmed dance pieces (Elsewhere and Grassville) that both touch on similar subjects. Confinement, isolation, and our relationship with technology and nature are addressed in both pieces, albeit in vastly different ways.

Elsewhere by Mike Tyus & Madison Olandt begins with dancers in a bleak warehouse, their faces covered, as they leap across the concrete floor, trying to escape from whatever it is that’s trapping them. As the piece goes on, they hold TV screens in front of each other’s faces, showing the faces of other dancers on each other’s bodies. The dance is brilliantly choreographed and the use of the TV heads conjures familiar images of video conferences with rows and rows of disembodied heads in boxes on a screen. The imagery becomes more striking as it transitions from television screen to a field, where the dancers look around—at first confused, and then relieved, as they fall into a pile on the beach and soon end up back in the warehouse. The dancers move with incredible precision and in perfect time with each other—it’s clear this piece has a message to convey, and the dancers execute it brilliantly. While we once used television screens and the online world as a form of escapism from the real world, now that we’re forced to be onscreen and are forbidden from even so much as stepping within six feet of other people, it’s the outside world that seems like a novelty. The message is clear and thought-provoking.

The same cannot be said about Grassville by Anabelle Lopez Ochoa. The brief description accompanying the piece mentioned it was about connection to nature and reconnecting with each other, but this isn’t clear from anything in the houseplant-brandishing choreography. You watch in anticipation for something to click and the message to suddenly make sense—but it never does. Something about the piece feels incomplete, like it desperately wanted to go somewhere profound but wasn’t quite sure how to do it.Whim W'Him dancer Andrew McShea in Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's Grassville for Choreographic Shindig VI. Filming and direction by Quinn Wharton.

Despite the unclear message, the dancers are phenomenal. Wearing houseplant headdresses designed by Mark Zappone, they leap and twirl through a stark white house that feels like something you’d see in a dream. The choreography is as bold and striking as Elsewhere, and the dancers move in such perfect time with each other that it’s like watching one person. Grassville teeters on the line between self-aware humor and raging pretentiousness, but the dancers alone make up for the mediocre through-line. The bizarre camera angles and shaky shots don’t do them justice.

Elsewhere fully embraces the reality of the world we’re living in right now and takes advantage of the opportunity to perform a dance on film. The special effects, cuts, and transition between warehouse and shore would have been impossible to convey effectively in front of a live audience. Part of where Grassville fails is that it doesn’t do this. Grassville immediately stands out as something that should have been performed on a stage. It feels forced and strange on camera, which takes away from the message that choreographer Ochoa was trying to convey—connecting with nature and adapting during a pandemic.

Choreographic Shindig VI is intended to be two pieces about the pandemic. Elsewhere is so obviously about the pandemic that it’s clear even without reading the synopsis. Grassville, on the other hand, could have been about anything. A houseplant rebellion? Not watering your plants? Maybe the real message of Choreographic Shindig VI is that I need more heavy-handed symbolism.

Choreographic Shindig VI premiered online in September 2020 and is available to stream on the Whim W’Him website.

Lead photo credit: Whim W'Him dancers Michael Arellano (seated) and Karl Watson in Madison Olandt & Mike Tyus' Elsewhere for Choreographic Shindig VI. Filming and direction by Quinn Wharton.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Outside the Narrative of Capital-D Dance: Respecting Worth and Identity

Interview with choreographer Lauren Horn, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Paige Olson during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP

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Lauren Horn is reimagining her dance career by shaping it around her own joy. She was dancing in a studio before she learned to read, and “the dream of dance” was explained to her very specifically: Practice dance. Practice some more. Then join a “Capital-D Dance” company.

“Barely anyone can get to that,” Horn said.

Majoring in Psychology as well as Theater and Dance, Horn took a different route with her work. Now, she is working towards the lifelong goal of having a sustainable dance career—one that works for her and brings her joy.

Growing up in small-town in Connecticut, Horn’s vision of dance was shaped largely by the African culture and community fostered in her studio. She was put into class at a young age for exercise. But dance would eventually bring much more to her life. Horn was shy, and used movement as an outlet, starting with tap, moving on to modern and ballet—she just kept dancing. The fact that she didn’t talk much in her youth is ironic—considering that much of her career now is talking while dancing. In the present, she is still struggling with her goal. The thought being ingrained into her that her ideas mean less because she is not in the “Capital-D Dance” industry, Horn is constantly striving to accept herself outside of that narrative, and respect her worth as an independent artist.

One part of this goal is her culture and ancestry. Racial diversity in “Capital-D Dance” is lacking, and Horn is proud of her Blackness. She described this feeling as that she is the sum of her family and her ancestors—a powerful message. Her stage name, Lauren Horn//Subira Vs. Movement, embodies this. Subira is her middle name, something that feels central to her. It is a word with origins in Swahili, and means “Patience is Rewarded.” Horn is constantly trying to be patient—a quality she feels is hindered by the use of social media.

Lauren Horn is Subira Vs. Movement. This is not only a movement company, it is also text based. Essentially, she talks while she dances. This however, is a gross understatement of what her work is. It is not only an exploration of her own identity, but encourages the audience to reflect on themselves. She brings things back to the present: how does one’s interactions through technology make a person feel? Watching Horn perform is an immersive experience, with deliberate setting, lighting, and costuming.

Like many, she has struggled to navigate creating art through the pandemic. “I miss the stage,” Horn says, speaking for both herself and for many performers globally. She asks herself, “What is the standard for art in a pandemic?” and “How does one even create dance when you are stuck inside?” Dance-lovers have plenty of interesting options to choose from as artists try to capture their attention through the screen. However, her work is unique in that even before COVID-19 it involved many digital elements. In fact, technology is the focus of many works of hers. Horn’s personal favorite of her pieces—Techn0Whore— explores identity and the internet, in the same space. She assumes her online personality and asks questions about what identity is on the internet. In talking about the background behind the piece, Horn mentioned the question “Why did posting in seventh grade feel so fun, and now it doesn't?” Asking questions like these is her constantly changing process in creating—having conversations with people about her feelings, and their feelings, channeling that into movement. She had a lot of fun creating this piece, something that ties back into her goal of working to bring herself joy.

Horn has been thrown into the focus of her work, namely technology, which is a lot. Her upcoming piece @Me, will be showcased in the CHOP SHOP: Bodies of Work festival on February 4, and explores this concept. In her words, @Me is an immersive piece that looks at the chaos of being trapped in a pandemic with a computer being the only outlet to reach people. This piece made Horn realize what her art is and how it makes her feel. It helps her deal with the struggle that her art is smaller right now than it ever has been. She questions herself—“Maybe I’m a Luddite,” or wakes up wishing she was a “Capital-D Dancer” at times. But that is the point of her work, to ask questions, and to explore them.

You can see Lauren Horn's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: A still from @Me, choreography, videography, and performance by Lauren Horn.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Lauren Horn: Dancing Her Way Through the Unanswerable

Interview with choreographer Lauren Horn, presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Esha Potharaju during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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Illuminated by cool lights that switch from moonlight blue to pale green to an ethereal violet, Lauren Horn dances lithely. Her powerful figure, clothed in loose white pants and a flowing shirt, catches text and images projected onto the stage. She is dancing her own choreography, in a piece called Techn0Whore. Through this dance, she takes on the personality she assumes online and through social media to invoke the audience to question their own internet identities. To Horn, that’s what her work is about: Using performances to incite conversations about one’s identity and worth. Worth can mean a lot of things. The worth of an art form. The worth of a person. The worth of a relationship.

Some of the first things people tend to notice about Horn are her brilliant grin and clever words. When asked about her stage name, Lauren Horn // Subira Vs. Movement, she responds that it reflects much of her identity. Subira is her middle name, which means “patience is rewarded” in Swahili. Horn constantly challenges herself to be patient. “Vs. Movement” is a postfix communicating how she never cowers in the face of new things, but rather prefers to face them head-on. On the topic of identity, Horn has deep pride in her Blackness, a core piece of her work.

“I’m proud of the fact that my family is here,” she said. “I’m proud of the fact that I’m the sum of my family and the sum of my ancestors.”

Horn’s work is unique. A movement-and-text-based artist who describes herself as one-of-a-kind, she fuses written text, speaking, and dance into beautiful performances. Her choreographic process begins with an exploration. First, she comes up with a prompt, or some sort of question she wants to answer. Then, she answers organically—both through her words, and through movement. Talking while dancing, that is her craft. After going through multiple prompts, her body and mind are in the zone to create. This art form that she has created for herself is expressive and distinctive.

Professional dancers often face many external obstacles in their careers, but Horn’s biggest struggle is the “dream of dance.” In the professional dance industry, the worth of a dancer depends on their success.

“If you’re good enough, you can make it to a top dance company, perfect and happy. But what happens to everyone else who tried to get to the top? If I'm in a higher level dance company, that means my ideas are meaningful and others’ aren’t?”

Battling with the lie that is “what it means to be a dancer,” Horn is always asking herself how to make dance something for everyone, without some people’s ideas being deemed unworthy.

Horn spoke about how shifting as a dancer from in-person to virtual performances has affected her work. “Smaller,” she started. She doesn't like to feel this small. The shift made her realize what matters is not what her work is, but what her work makes her feel. @Me, her newest piece premiering in the CHOP SHOP 2021 festival on February 4, is immersive, meant to express these feelings of being trapped in a house in a pandemic with a computer as her only outlet.

Horn’s big-time goal is to create a sustainable career for herself. Not something determined by external standards like whether or not she’s a dancer from a prestigious company, but a career where she can set the standards herself. She seeks creative liberty, and wants to be compensated for her worth. And that’s what she’s all about. Always seeking to make choices that respect her worth.

The worth of artists is often dismissively decided on the surface level by viewers who will never glimpse the blood, sweat, and tears that went into the artist’s work. But Horn pushes back by determining her own worth. She’s unique for getting her viewers to reassess their own worth. Dancing her way through unanswerable concepts like worth and identity is what makes Horn an artist.

You can see Lauren Horn's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: Lauren Horn performs her work FemmeFactional.mp4, photo Ernesto Galán.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Nicole von Arx Explains Her Creative Process During a Pandemic

Interview with choreographer Nicole von Arx presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Kenna Peterson during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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A trio of dancers flow through breathtakingly graceful motions. They fly across the stage, sweeping their arms up above them and reveling in the fluidity of their movement. Audience members sit before the performers. Many of the viewers appear to be lost in awe at the artistry and communication between each dancer.

Audiences are essential to the performing arts. A piece might be thought-provoking for a viewer, or make them see a reflection of themselves in the work performed on stage. Dancers on stage paint a vivid image; it’s up to those seated under the dim light of a theater to interpret it.

Unfortunately, audiences no longer get to experience the thrill of live theater. COVID-19 has put a temporary halt on the world of live performing arts that dancers and audience members alike crave. Over the course of the past year, many artists have had to alter their creative process due to challenges, such as social distancing, putting the dance community on hold. Brooklyn-based choreographer Nicole von Arx, for example, is exploring ways of performing to reach a new audience in a new world; in many cases, that audience is a virtual one.

Her dance film titled Bright Night, premiering at Seattle’s virtual dance festival CHOP SHOP on February 4, embraces these challenges that quarantine has brought to both performers and audience members. As the pandemic rages on, theaters that many dancers call home and the hundreds of seats that fill them have been left dormant. Von Arx’s latest piece is inspired by the feeling of isolation the pandemic has brought. While filming Bright Night, she felt a lot of sadness, as did the dance community as a whole, not being able to perform live or connect with audiences in real-time.

“I didn’t want to put a facade on top of that feeling,” von Arx said. “I actually really wanted to embrace that feeling of desperation and loneliness.”

The title of the piece is a contradiction in itself; it’s about brightening the darkness we feel. According to von Arx, “... it’s important as artists to allow people to feel sad, as well as happy.”

Von Arx has a powerful relationship with her dancers who bring her visions to life and play a key role in her work. She often collaborates with dancers who are already familiar with her movement style and choreographic vocabulary, in order to communicate with them best.

“There’s a moment in the rehearsal process where I really have to step back and look at what I have to say,” she said. “You can give emotions and imagery to a dancer, but there’s a point where you have to step back.”

What she has to say with her choreography often has a lot to do with the audience.

Von Arx explains that her recent creative process has more to do with the audience ark, what the audience members feel, than the performance on stage. She believes a performance is relative to the viewer, and instead of just the performers on stage going on a journey, she wants to have the audience be involved on that journey as well.

In December 2020, she premiered her solo Nine. Von Arx had the opportunity to perform for a limited live audience, in which everyone was spread apart and wore masks to adhere to social distancing guidelines. Having not performed for months, she wanted so desperately to connect with the people seated before her who were also yearning for performance. For that reason, during the performance, she incorporated moments of collaboration with the small and intimate audience. She performed a free and easy-going monologue, in which she asked questions such as, “How are you?” and “What are you feeling?”, and gave them directions to stand up or turn around 360 degrees.

For von Arx, witnessing these moments of interaction, laughter, and joy after months of their absence was extremely compelling. In regards to her creative process and inspiration, she said, “I think that’s my journey and how I’m going to delve more and more into connecting with audiences and taking them into a journey because, why not?”

You can see more of von Arx’s work on her website.

Nicole von Arx's work is featured in CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: A still from Bright Night, choreography and performance by Nicole von Arx, videography by Dan Gross.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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Nicole von Arx: Changing the Definition of What It Means to be an Audience Member

Interview with choreographer Nicole von Arx presented by CHOP SHOP Dance Festival

Written by Clara Kang-Crosby during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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In our world today, we eject our opinions onto others. We lack the capacity to merely listen. However, choreographer and artist Nicole von Arx does not want to continue with this norm. With her art, she hopes to connect with the audience and give viewers a space to raise questions, find answers for themselves, and be able to engage in ambiguous discussions with those around them.

During the pandemic, people have been isolated in their homes, not interacting with others as much as they used to. The global pandemic, social unrest, and changing economic situation has led people to question the world that we live in, and finding answers to those questions proves to be extremely difficult. But, von Arx offers audiences a unique and fulfilling experience through dance; one that is not typical to stumble upon. She provides an immersive experience where the audience is a part of the journey that the dancers are creating. Through this mutual relationship between the audience and von Arx’s choreography, emerges an area for one to unpack questions and attempt to find the answers we all need.

Open, grounded, and present. Inquisitive and real. Strong, passionate, with expressive brown eyes; von Arx is a storyteller, not only through dance, but also through words. Earlier this year, she was able to perform—outdoor and socially distanced—her solo Nine. There’s a part in the show where von Arx is not dancing, but instead asking the audience specific questions such as: “Hello. How are you?” and “How are you feeling right now?” In addition to her monologue, von Arx incorporates moments of interaction and has the audience stand up, do a 360 degree turn, or raise their hands.

She vividly remembers the audience laughing, engaging with the show, and talking to those around them.

“It was beautiful… To be on stage and witnessing that after months and months of not interacting with audiences and having them go through all of these emotions, was super powerful,” von Arx said. “I think that’s my journey and how I’m going to delve more and more into connecting with audiences and taking them into a journey.”

This was the moment von Arx knew she wanted to make art not only for herself and the dancers on stage, but for and with the help of the audience.

The revolutionary idea von Arx has reintroduced of allowing others to work ideas out for themselves starkly contrasts with how our society operates. Instead of viewers choking on a barrage of various opinions, von Arx instead allows one to breathe and think for themself.

“I want to raise questions that give answers,” von Arx said. “I’d rather give a chance for people to express themselves than try to tell them what to think.”

Von Arx stands out in the dance community. She is an artist who cares about the audience and whose purpose is to connect with them in order for the viewers, or rather participants, to grow individually.

A pivotal moment in von Arx’s creative journey was when she received an enlightening piece of advice. The advice? Listen to others. When the moment comes, when one feels like inserting a comment into another’s story, “That is the moment where you have to take a deep breath and let the person tell the whole story,” von Arx said. “Let them shine and go through that journey because they also need to let out those emotions and tell you that story. And it will feel different… you have to let people express themselves.”

Von Arx allows her audience to shine and have the space to disassemble and explore ideas, so that we can better understand ourselves and each other. And from there, move forward.

And now, von Arx is giving audiences a chance to utilize this priceless space to engage in her journey and explore ideas for themselves. On Thursday, February 4, CHOP SHOP is presenting the world premiere of von Arx’s dance film Bright Night.

“The moment we filmed it, I had a lot of sadness, and I think in dance, there is a lot of sadness right now for our community and not being able to perform and connect with audiences. I didn’t want to put a facade on top of that feeling, I actually wanted to embrace that feeling of desperation and loneliness.”

It’s a contradiction between the utter darkness of the night and how we can brighten up those moments. In von Arx’s short film, she allows us to reflect on those darker moments and validate them, so that we can begin to engage in conversation around our harder times.

See the CHOP SHOP premiere of von Arx’s short film Bright Night on Thursday, February 4 to embark on a journey, explore questions and answers, and to participate in von Arx’s connective craft.

You can see Nicole von Arx's work at CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offering. The dance films are available on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: A still from Bright Night, choreography and performance by Nicole von Arx, videography by Dan Gross.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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CHOP SHOP: From Studio, to Stage, to Screen

Feature on CHOP SHOP’s adaptation to COVID-19 and the future of dance

Written by Jack Haskins during TeenTix’s Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival

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Mere weeks after a successful CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival in February 2020, the world was fully enveloped by the maw of a 100-year pandemic.

When festival administration duo Lizzy Melton and Eva Stone began conceptualizing what next year’s performance might look like they were left wondering…

“How do we plan for this?”

What quickly became clear was that CHOP SHOP would rely on artists unlike ever before in the event’s 13-year history as a virtual approach—while uncharted territory—was a given.

“[The choreographers are] all artists that have already been presented at CHOP SHOP, and they’re artists that we each chose...not just for loving their work, but because we thought they would have a particularly interesting perspective creating dancework in this moment,” Melton said.

Rather than following their typical process and operating under an application period, Melton and Stone believed letting go of the reins was a more appropriate model for this season.

“We love these artists and we trust them so...we just got out of the way,” Melton remarked. “Artists are dealing with enough, they don’t need a couple of arts administrators telling them what to do.”

The virtual format also lent to surprisingly broader horizons that wouldn’t have occurred otherwise. For instance, at least four different states were represented in a Zoom Master Class hosted by choreographer Nicole von Arx last month, a scenario which would have never occurred any other year.

Accessibility is a recurring theme this year, and not only with respect to schedule accommodations or distance. All of the programming involved with CHOP SHOP 2021 is either free or “pay what you can.” Melton reported that such a model wouldn’t be possible if they were dealing with the typical challenges and costs associated with gathering in a physical space.

“I think we have to explore these opportunities because even after the pandemic, so much has to change...this moment is asking us to get more creative than we have been in the past, and I think we have to.”

When asked for her prediction on where the arts will fit into society in a post-pandemic world, Melton’s definitive appreciation for creators is more than apparent.

“If you’ve enjoyed [books, music, movies, TV, furniture, housing, food] and any of those things have made the pandemic easier for you or lifted your spirits, then you have relied on arts and culture to get through this,” Melton said. “I think we have to honor that.”

Following a year marked by civil strife, loss, and isolation Melton believes artists should serve as a primary inspiration as people move forward.

“Artists embody so many qualities that I think we need more of in the world—collaboration, recognizing each other for our unique gifts, willingness to be vulnerable with one another and share, the way artists build trust with each other to get their work done...I want to see arts and artists embedded into every aspect of society”

In the meantime, Stone and Melton will continue to serve their community the way they know best, and that’s through sharing the joys of dance.

"As the producer of CHOP SHOP, I am thrilled that despite a pandemic and a devastating blow to the dance community, we have kept this festival alive!” said Stone. “Creating a platform for these brilliant choreographers to be innovative during a very challenging time is the one true joy. With careful thought, collaboration with our artists, and good planning, we found a way to pivot our festival to an online format that supports these incredible artists and benefits them as well as our viewers."

You can see CHOP SHOP Dance Festival’s online offerings of dance films on their website through March 31, 2021.

Lead Photo Credit: Fausto Rivera and Michele Dooley of Spectrum Dance Theater perform Donald Byrd’s OCCURRENCE #8 REDUCED at CHOP SHOP 2020, photo by Bret Doss.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

This review was written as part of an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival which was held January 10-31, 2021. The workshops was taught by Press Corps teaching artist Gabrielle Kazuko Nomura Gainor.

This workshop was generously sponsored by Case van Rij and the Glenn Kawasaki Foundation.

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2021… A New Beginning?

Teen Editorial Staff January 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Anya Shukla and Eleanor Cenname

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For many of us, 2021 has been the light at the end of the tunnel as we begin to envision a pandemic-free future. We do not see a return to normal on the horizon — and maybe that is a good thing— but we can see the inklings of hope. As we continue to social distance and meet with each other over Zoom, we can let art fuel this desire for a better future.

Maybe you will find hope in the future leaders and art creators… if so, be sure to look into KEXP’s 90.Teen, a radio program created by Seattle teens. (For those interested in audio-based storytelling, be sure to check out our next TeenTix Arts Podcast!) Or you may want to learn about history’s arts activists through Jeffrey Jackson’s livestream, The Artists Who Risked Their Lives Using Art to Defy the Nazis, hosted by Town Hall Seattle.

MOHAI’s Fabulous Footwear program will guide you in an exploration of the history and stories of shoes, one garment that we might be wearing less of from behind our computer screens. And if, during this gloomy month, you would like to stay inside and watch a movie, Northwest Film Forum’s screening of Film About a Father Who will transport you through three decades during which filmmaker Lynne Sachs researched, filmed, and explored the life of her father. On the flip side, for those who doubt whether any of this is even real, Whim W'Him’s Season 11 of their Choreographic Shindig is based on the idea that we are all living in simulated reality.

While we continue to live in this new normal, let art be your guiding light, helping you maintain your equilibrium amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic. And hopefully, we will be back to seeing artwork in-person soon.

Lead photo credit: Photo by Edwin Hooper for Unsplash.

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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Written in Water: A Dance of Snakes and Ladders

Review of Written in Water by Ragamala Dance Company at Meany Center for the Performing Arts

Written by Teen Writer Linda Yan and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shukla

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Presented by the University of Washington’s Meany Center for the Performing Arts and performed by the internationally acclaimed Ragamala Dance Company, Written in Water is a stunning masterpiece for both the eyes and ears. Despite being only educated in Indian culture at the surface level, I was repeatedly touched by both the emotional and artistic qualities of the musicians and dancers.

Originally founded in 1992 in Minneapolis, the Ragamala Dance Company is today led by the mother-daughter duo Ranee and Aparna Ramaswamy, who also serve as the directors and choreographers of the company’s productions. Both first-generation Indian-American artists, the two, in their own words, are driven by their mission to create productions “influenced by their cultural hybridity” that “explore the myth and spirituality of their Indian heritage.”

As a Western viewer, I did not have a lot of context for the dance form, nor the cultural and historical events it was inspired by. Lacking this information, I likely missed many of the subtle cues and symbols hidden in this performance. However, as a self-proclaimed board game enthusiast, the first thing that caught my eye was the artwork projected on the auditorium floor, which reminded me of the classic board game snakes and ladders. As it turns out, Written in Water was inspired by the second-century Indian board game Paramapadham, also known as the original snakes and ladders. Deeply rooted in Hindu mythology, the grid of this game is representative of a person’s life. The snakes represent sins such as theft and anger while the ladders are representative of virtues including honesty and humility. The Paramapadham board projected during this performance was designed by Keshav Venkataraghavan, a cartoonist and illustrator for The Hindu newspaper. Written in Water performed by Ragamala Dance Company, Photo credit: Bruce Palmer

Written in Water is performed in the style of Bharatanatyam, an ancient Indian classical dance form. It follows the epic Sufi Poem, “The Conference of the Birds,” in which the birds of the world meet to determine who their sovereign leader will be; as well as the Hindu creation story, “The Churning of the Ocean of Milk,” where the world, along with all its evil and good, is created by the churning of the Ocean of Milk. In doing so, Written in Water explores the journey each of us undergoes throughout life as we search for the answers to our personal identity, as well as our connections to the spiritual world. As the dancers travel up and down the game board, they tell stories of individual encounters with good and evil throughout their own game of life. Through delicate hand gestures and facial expressions, the dancers convey complex emotions such as sorrow, joy, and hope as they each navigate through life’s struggles and delights. For instance, melancholy sections of the dance were slow and labored as the performers used their hands to accentuate acts of crying, defeat, and hopelessness. In contrast, the joyous movements were energetic and filled with fast-paced footwork. In the unique Bharatanatyam-dance style, the torsos of the dancers remain upright throughout the performance while their body movements are concentrated in the arms and legs.

The score for this performance was written by Amir ElSaffar and is performed by the company’s own South Indian musical ensemble, which consists of vocalists, as well as musicians playing the nattuvangam, santur, mridangam, violin, and trumpet. Unfortunately, the recording did not provide translated English captioning, so I could only guess at the meaning of lyrics, but they were sung and spoken in a poignant mix of Arabic, Tamil, and other languages. While this language barrier detracted a bit from my experience, the music was truly mesmerizing and successfully accentuated the emotions and energy of the performance.

What I found especially intriguing about it was that each dancer has bells secured around their ankles which tinkled every time they moved. In other words, the music came from within the dancers. Because of this artistic choice, part of the music featured in this performance is actually improvised based on the movements and actions of the dancers.

Written in Water is a beautiful piece that weaves music, visual art, movement, and history to create a unique show that explores South Indian culture and dance. If you, like me, were completely amazed by this incredible production and just wish that you could see it live, then you are in luck! Next year the Ragamala Dance company has plans to come to Seattle live to perform their newest work, Fires of Varanasi.

Lead photo credit: Written in Water performed by Ragamala Dance Company, photographed by Bruce Palmer

The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE.

The TeenTix Press Corps promotes critical thinking, communication, and information literacy through criticism and journalism practice for teens. For more information about the Press Corps program see HERE.

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December, a Time For Expression

Teen Editorial Staff December 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Lucia McLaren and Mila Borowski

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When the weather outside is frightful, it’s the best time of the year to curl up with a hot drink and watch some socially-distanced entertainment! This December, we hope this wide variety of arts programs will have a treat for just about anyone.

To explore the realms of dance, Written in Water by the Ragamala Dance Company and presented by Meany Center for the Performing Arts, takes a refreshing, multimedia take on one’s journey to connect themself with their emotions and spirituality. If you’ve been craving a more comedic escape, take a look at Jet City Improv’s Twisted Flicks. Their improv-dialogue over classic movies of the past is sure to give you the laughter you need. When it comes to missing the experience of your favorite local restaurant, SIFF presents Bread, Love, and Cinema, a class on Italian food and how it’s interconnected with Italian film history.

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Announcing an Arts Journalism Intensive with CHOP SHOP Dance Festival!

Join us for a FREE Arts Journalism Intensive in January 2021!

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Join us for a FREE Arts Journalism Intensive, hosted by TeenTix in collaboration with CHOP SHOP. In this four-week series, you’ll be mentored by a professional arts journalist, interview contemporary dance artists, and write an article about one of the artists featured in the 2021 CHOP SHOP Contemporary Dance Festival. You'll learn arts journalism skills that are applicable for all genres of art. All participants will have their writing published on both the TeenTix Blog and CHOP SHOP’s website and receive a stipend for their article!

Sign up RIGHT HERE! WORKSHOP SCHEDULE:

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Liminale: The Art of Transition and Resilience

Review of Liminale at Cornish College of the Arts

Written by Teen Writer Disha Cattamanchi and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

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Even after eight months of a pandemic and the constant quarantine and mask protocols, the reality of COVID-19 and its predicaments has yet to set in for many. We are in a suspended limbo where events around the world pass through us like the wind, all left in our rooms peering at our computer screens for work or school. It’s exhausting, to say the very least, and without the reprieve of art or performance to look forward to, it seems even more hopeless. This very feeling of entrapment is thoughtfully explored through Liminale, a Zoom-adapted dance performance at the Cornish College of Arts, which escapes the boundaries of our homes as it transforms living spaces into a blank canvas. Performed by students Margaux Gex, Ashley Glen, Vivian Larsen, Lola Mahaney, Hannah Owens, Alexandra Pelzer, Kennedy Polovich, Madeleine Selby, Kristin Skelley, and Audrey Wright of Alice Gosti’s Dance 257-Creative Process for Remote Spaces, it utilizes the Zoom platform, altering our perceptions of proper creative spaces into something new and interesting in this transitional period of COVID-19. Liminale by Alice Gosti. Photo credit: Sarah Haskell

Critically acclaimed and award-winning choreographer Alice Gosti sought to transform the boundaries of Zoom into new horizons by expanding the reach that dancers had in their own homes. As viewers, we experimented with Zoom’s multitude of features, switching back and forth between viewing the dancers through gallery or single speaker mode. It was interesting to play around with these features and to see where I wanted to focus my attention the most. I found that I liked the gallery more, as I could draw parallels on all the dancers and their synchronous movements all at once.

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