What's So Special About Ballet?

Review of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake presented by Pacific Northwest Ballet

Written by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren and edited by TeenTix Mentor Melody Datz Hansen.

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Swan Lake is one of the most well-known ballets of all time. It is a classic, somber tale of love between Prince Seigfried and Odette, a young woman who transforms into a swan due to a sorcerer’s curse.

As a student of ballet since fourth grade, I was nervous about reviewing Pacific Northwest Ballet’s presentation of Swan Lake, as it was my first time seeing the piece. Would my level of experience do it justice in a review? Would my lofty expectations of it be fulfilled? Tchaikovsky’s music perpetuates just about every ballet class in America, and I was familiar with the performance’s format, but nonetheless, the nerves were there.

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April Showers Bring Art’s Flowers

Teen Editorial Staff April 2022 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Eleanor Cenname and Lucia McLaren

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There is something a bit nostalgic every time spring rolls around. The familiar whiff of flowers that brings to mind the warmer seasons. For those of us going to school, the end of the year starts to come into crisp focus. And best of all, the days grow longer, giving us just a little more time in the day to play. At TeenTix, we like to play by enjoying art. If you would like to join us as we use our new daylight hours, consider visiting the TeenTix calendar for a full list of arts events happening this month. Let us also recommend a few of the April events that we are most looking forward to.

As the weather gets warmer and students get restless, it’s a great month to take a look at some old favorites. If a nostalgia trip feels like the right thing for you this time of year, come down and see a musical adaptation of the classic, fun kid’s book Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! at Seattle Children’s Theatre. Or if you want to engage in some more mature forms of art, Pacific Northwest Ballet will be presenting the unforgettable Swan Lake. Even if you are not much of a ballet enthusiast, this age-old story is truly a delight to watch for everyone, and the dancers performing are sure to be talented and creative.

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Dance Journalism Workshop with Edmonds Center for the Arts!

Registration is now open!

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The TeenTix Press Corps is collaborating with Edmonds Center for the Arts to present a Dance Journalism Workshop! This workshop is a three-weekend experience, with meetings on April 30, May 7, and May 14, 2022. You'll learn how to approach writing about dance, attend a performance of Jacob Jonas The Company’s CRASH ft. Okaidja Afroso, try your hand at writing a dance review.

Register now by signing up on THIS FORM!

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Announcing: Art Begets Art Creative Writing Workshops!

See cool art and respond with creative writing in these new workshops with TeenTix and On the Boards!

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Calling all creative writers! Join us for a new series of FREE creative writing workshops, hosted by TeenTix in collaboration with On the Boards. In each Art Begets Art mini-workshop you’ll attend a performance at the On the Boards, then produce a piece of creative writing in response to the performance. Mini-workshops consists of three meetings: a pre-meeting to learn about the performance you'll be seeing, the performance itself, and a post-meeting to work on your creative writing.

You'll get to discuss the performance with other art-loving teens, meet the artist after the show, and receive individual mentorship from a professional writer on your work. There will also be an opportunity to publish your work on the TeenTix blog and receive a stipend for publication!

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PNB's Nutcracker is Back In-Person and Ready to Thrill You!

Find out how you can see this Seattle holiday staple!

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As all you old school TeenTixers know, Pacific Northwest Ballet's wildly popular Nutcracker ballet is the ONLY PNB show ALL YEAR that is NOT TeenTix eligible.

HOWEVER, because they love us so much, PNB always puts aside a little stash of TeenTix tickets for one day of The Nutcracker each year. It is an AMAZING, annual tradition that draws teens from far and wide. YOU WON'T WANT TO MISS IT!!

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The Formation: A Performance of Pride and Power

Review of Let ‘im Move You: This Is a Formation at On the Boards

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

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It was with a force of a lion that the dancers gracefully contorted their bodies to the grand bass of the music. The earth-shaking tracks vibrated through Merrill Theater at On the Boards, mixed live at the sound table. Black dancers displayed their choreographed finesse and pride through This Is a Formation, the final work in jumatatu m. poe and Jermone Donte Beacham series Let ‘im Move You. Though the choreographed performance imbued Black Queer pride into a powerful visual performance, it contained elements of full-body nudity that were not highlighted beforehand, creating a somewhat startling performance experience for me. However, the performance skillfully melded ideas of sexuality, beauty, and playfulness into a piece that supersedes the boundaries of dance.

As poe and Beachman guided visitors into the performance space, onlookers noticed that Merrill Theater was transformed to fit the engaging nature of the performance. The seats were blocked off by a long black sheet, eliminating the use of a traditional ‘audience’ structure. Instead, onlookers of the performance were immersed into the formation of dancers. There was no allocated space for the dancers to perform on, no partition or separation between the performers and the viewers. Instead, people circled around the performance to get a closer look at the turns of the dancers’ bodies: the specific positions of their fingers, the darting of their feet to move them to different levels from the floor. This created an intimate and special atmosphere, calling back to a time where performance art was shared in the streets with crowds passing them in the big city.

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Told in Shadow with Catapult

Review of Catapult at Edmonds Center of the Arts

Written by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren and edited by Teen Editor Triona Suiter

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If you’ve ever seen a talent show before, you know the deal. They’re flashy, short performances that get across impressive qualities to the audience—be that someone’s neighbors or a huge crowd and TV audience. Catapult is an ensemble of dancers that got their start on one of the most famous (or infamous) talent shows of them all: America’s Got Talent. They get their reputation from their quirky, creative choreography done behind a screen, such that the audience can only see their silhouettes in shadow. It’s not something done by many. But with such a niche performance, what happens when they break free of the glossy sheen of television?

I went to see Catapult at Edmonds Center for the Arts, once a high school in a smaller area called Edmonds just outside of Seattle. The theater was smaller and the audience was older than their call to fame in Radio City Music Hall. It’s a step down, by most standards, but it meant fewer distractions from the performance itself—something I, as a dancer, was very interested to see. Photo by Peter Dervin

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Finding a New Appreciation at Beyond Ballet

Review of Beyond Ballet by the Pacific Northwest Ballet

Written by Newsroom Writer Haley Zimmerman and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

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I came to Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Beyond Ballet with a bit of skepticism, or maybe insecurity. My experiences of ballet—dance class at age five, occasional viewings of the Nutcracker—were few and far between, and I was supposed to go “beyond”? But I set my fears aside, put on a dress I hadn’t worn since March 2020, and made it to my seat in the very last row of McCaw Hall.

I found myself behind a trio of honest-to-God ballet students, apprentices at PNB, who chatted away about someone’s partnering and someone else’s port de bras, leaving me somewhat in awe. Before the show, three dancers took the stage to be promoted—promotion, I realized, is a big deal in ballet. After the applause from the audience faded, they ducked behind the curtain, where a muffled cheer went up backstage from their fellow dancers. It was a refreshing reminder that for all ballet’s mystique, it’s also a career, and the dancers are out there working hard and celebrating their co-workers. Then the curtain rose, and the mystique was back. Photo by Angela Sterling

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Fall 21: Whim W’Him’s Unique Explorations of Liminality

Review of Fall 21 by Whim W'Him

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

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As we move into the shorter days, Whim W’Him opens their season with their annual Fall Showcase, this year featuring “Nova” by Alice Klock and Florian Lochner, “Underlove” by Mark Castera, and “E=16-0163-TSX” by Rena Butler. Presented as both live performances and as films on Whim W’Him’s streaming platform IN-With-WHIM, these three dances traverse the lands of unreality in ways that manage to hit startlingly close to true.

(The following is a review of the films only, not the live performances.)

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Celebrate the Holidays with Art

Teen Editorial Staff November 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Esha Potharaju and Triona Suiter

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As we settle into the cozy fall weather, November beckons a slew of holiday celebrations. One way to get into the spirit is by enjoying some good old art, maybe to bond with a loved one you haven’t caught up with in almost two years, or maybe to treat yourself on a solitary afternoon. In the coming month, the TeenTix Newsroom will be hurtling through ballet shows, film classes, timeless plays, and holiday thrillers—and we hope you can join us in the journey.

To kick off the month right away with a healthy dose of feminism, we highly recommend checking out From Heartthrob to Movie Star at SIFF on November 4th. This virtual class focuses on the power of stories written specifically for a female audience and the importance of continuing to tell these stories despite the film industry’s increasing disregard for their value. Or, if you’re interested in female empowerment but want something a little more self-guided, Henry Art Gallery is hosting Diana Al-Hadid’s Archive of Longings exhibition, which will showcase sculptures exploring the natural world, Syrian and Muslim histories, and the female body.

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Come Home to Safety, Love, and Joy

Review of HOMECOMING Performing Arts Festival presented by Intiman Theatre
Written by Teen Writer Ava Carrel and edited by Teen Editor Lucia McLaren

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Last weekend’s HOMECOMING Performing Arts Festival from Intiman Theatre was a true celebration of joy. Walking into the festival, the love and effort could be immediately recognized: the patterns on the wristbands were beautifully drawn and the staff had towels on hand, constantly wiping seats off to make the event more accessible for their disabled or older guests. The pride was clear and well deserved.

The media constantly bombards us with news and images of trauma, loss, and marginalization—with the immense suffering of marginalized people becoming a staple in news today. Desensitization to such topics is becoming increasingly, and worryingly, normal. While it's essential to recognize systemic challenges to be able to invoke change, it’s just as important to showcase the togetherness and joy of POC and LGBTQIA+ communities.

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Back in School, Back in Business

Teen Editorial Staff September 2021 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Disha Cattamanchi and Lucia McLaren

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While 2021 renews the all-too-familiar challenges of last year, it also brings something a bit more hopeful: a fall season full of new opportunities. The pandemic may not be defeated, but we are learning to adapt and minimize its spread, which means (you guessed it!) in-person events are returning. So as students pack their bags for the semester and the weather gets cooler, look to see what art we’re reviewing this September.

If starting school again makes you want to get on your feet and dance, then going to an in-person dance event may be just for you. Let ‘im Move You: This is a Formation, a contemporary dance performance at On the Boards utilizes themes of Black Femme and queerness to tell a vivid portrayal through dance. Whim W’Him is also presenting exciting performances with Fall 21 to get your spirits running high and ready for school. If dance isn’t what you’re looking for, you’re in luck. TeenTix LA has recently expanded to LA, and we will be are featuring the TeenTix LA staff to learn about the arts landscape in LA and what it’s been like to open a new branch of TeenTix.

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Rep 4: Online vs. On-Stage

Review of Rep 4, presented by Pacific Northwest Ballet

Written by Teen Writer Serafina Miller and edited by Teen Editor Anya Shulka

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From The Nutcracker to new works, if you’re thinking about dance in Seattle, you’re probably thinking about the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB). In their most recent online release, the PNB showcased several premieres—designed to be performed in a virtual world, as well as filmed in early February and March by dedicated PNB dancers—along with older pieces that had been recorded in years prior. As a lover of dance, I was quite excited to see how a professional company had been adapting to this new presentation style.

The show opened with a Western-inspired piece by Donald Byrd. The dancers explored this new frontier with a dance style to almost mimicked line dancing. Using sharp angles and movements one would be hard-pressed to deem classical, the dancers shadowed a style that the audience would typically associate with the Old West. Yet, the movements still held a rigidity typical of older ballets, a far cry from the unfettered appearance I associate with Western dances. This first piece was interesting to watch; the concept was fairly easy to grasp but felt too removed as an audience member. Without being able to feel the collective environment of a theatre, it almost felt too peculiar to grasp through a screen. Rep 4. Photo by Angela Sterling.

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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.

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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 movementjust trying to develop movementI 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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