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 performoutdoor and socially distancedher 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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This November, Let’s Give Thanks to Art

Teen Editorial Staff November 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Eleanor Cenname and Mila Borowski

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We’ve made it to November, and we’ll need thirty more chicken scratches drawn on the wall before we can say we’ve made it to December. Between now and then, our calendar is full of activities—all of which will be happening in the confines of our own homes. If you, like us, need an escape from the same, familiar backdrop of wherever you Zoom from, we suggest going on some audio adventures.

This month, as we brace ourselves for the election, check out It Can't Happen Here, a satirical audio drama written in 1935 about a president promising to return the country to greatness; can it get any more relevant than that? Mustard Seeds, part of Pork Filled Production’s Unleashed Festival of pulp stories, explores the Underground Railroad through a staged reading. Explore a different underground phenomenon through Northwest Film Forum’s Newcomer, described as “A Seattle Hip-Hop Mixtape.” Newcomer packs in hundreds of local performances from Seattle’s vibrant hip-hop underground into 82 minutes.

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The Dance Must Go On: Pacific Northwest Ballet Returns with Online Performances

Review of Pacific Northwest Ballet's Rep 1

Written by Teen Writer Carolyn Davis and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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Ballet is a raw expression of emotions. Pacific Northwest Ballet’s Rep 1 includes excerpts from Jewels, inspired by iconic choreographer George Balanchine’s trip to Van Cleef and Arpels, the elegant and romanticized story of Swan Lake, a story of forbidden love between a man and a black swan, and Mopey, a ballet I had never seen before that transcended the constraints of typical ballet, offering a contrast in performances. Anyone can appreciate Rep 1, which offers a complex mix of divergent emotions that keeps you on the edge of your seat and is enjoyable both for ballet newcomers and veterans.

What intrigues me about ballet is its artful conveyance of emotion and message through movement. Most of us think of it as a structured dance form because it is commonly formatted the same way, but costumes, movement, and music can vary, producing different emotions in the audience. In Jewels, dancers embodied different types of gems through costumes and acting. Emeralds had one dancer with a flowing dress, elegantly dancing to the music. Rubies was performed by two dancers, dancing with a fiery passion to quick-paced music. Diamonds features two main dancers who, along with background dancers, dance around the stage gleefully and innocently. In all three of these performances, dancers kept their weightlessness and intention, each provoking a specific emotion for the audience to enjoy.

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XALT: Unraveling Distanced Chaos Reveals Self-Identified Truth

Feature on Whim W'Him's XALT

Written by Teen Writer Sumeya Block and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson

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Pandemic life is nothing new: it’s in the headline of every arts event, and it’s the center of every news story, hashtag, and home. It is shocking how rapidly a single word can trigger dread and create a sense of isolation, or even mania, within an entire population. In these many months, the world has faced a great deal of change, and while isolation has proven to be one of the biggest challenges, we all have found ways to create the personal interactions we so intensely crave. Art has been a surprisingly integral part of these interpersonal interactions—watching a live stream from your favorite singer can be just as engaging as a phone call with a friend, and viewing short films on Zoom together brings us that much closer to the ones we care about. The opportunity to become invested in art and creativity is, in many ways, more accessible than ever. Arts organizations have adapted to COVID-19 by utilizing their websites to increase interactivity with hope of adding the personal touches that help thaw the loneliness of their audiences and supporters. Theater and dance companies have faced the same challenge: how can a theater bring audiences the gift of a show and continue to offer cherished community spaces when they aren’t physically open? This summer season, the artists of local dance company Whim W’Him had to find that answer for themselves.

“We decided to pivot into making dance films” says Whim W’Him artistic director Olivier Wevers. Before COVID-19, the dance company’s summer season XALT was set to consist of two live shows—MANIFOLD and The Way It Is. These pieces intended to explore the human journey and bring the audience into an intimate storyline, latching onto the personal, yet universal, emotions of the audience members and artists alike. But COVID-19 spun the arts world on its head, leaving many dance companies unprepared and in search of new ways to reach audiences. XALT’S MANIFOLD, choreographed by Penny Saunders, and The Way It Is, choreographed by Wevers, use dance to perfectly capture the loneliness of quarantine. It is strangely comforting to see the socially distanced dancers in these performances tread carefully, so as not to step into each other’s space. Whim W'Him dancer Andrew McShea and company dancers performing Olivier Wevers' The Way It Is during a pop-up appearance at Myrtle Edwards Park in Seattle. Photo by Stefano Altamura.

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The October Anthology

Teen Editorial Staff October 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Lily Williamson and Lucia McLaren

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Today, it seems as though nothing is united. The world is a chaotic, nuanced place as always. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing—our local arts venues are exploring how parts of a whole can be complementary, inspiring thought instead of confusion. Whether you’re desperate to know when your favorite show will be reopening or just want some fun art during this fall season, we hope our reviews will help you guide your October arts exploration.

If you’re looking for a true collection of short pieces, then there are plenty of events for you to choose from. There’s The 5th Avenue Theatre’s Rising Star Project’s 10 Minute Musicals, a collection of teen-produced and teen-inspired musicals; Pacific Northwest Ballet kicking off their first online season with excerpts from classic dances like Swan Lake in Rep 1; and Hugo House’s Spotlight Poetry, a show with visiting poets Julia Guez and Tess Taylor. Each of these events provides a plethora of diverse topics, all within the same medium.

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A Socially Distant September

Teen Editorial Staff September 2020 Editorial

Written by Teen Editorial Staff Members Anya Shukla and Triona Suiter

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This is a strange time for the arts world. Art is a community effort, a group-bonding experience… yet right now, we’re all watching these pieces in separate locations, isolated and alone. We hope our reviews provide the connective tissue between your viewing experiences and someone else’s—a chance for you to reflect on artwork alongside our writers. If nothing else, we’ll offer you arts recommendations to brighten your socially distant September.

If you want to get dressed up, grab some snacks, and make the most of your at-home viewing with pieces that would have been shown physically in any other year, then sit down to watch Pacific Science Center’s online footage of Laser Dome 360, Whim Whim’s XALT, or NFFTY 2020. Extra points if you bring $5 and your TeenTix pass!

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Introducing Art as Activism: TeenTix Summer Sessions

Join TeenTix for a series of workshops on how art can be an act of resistance, of protest, and of activism.

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Join us for a series of FREE online TeenTix workshops exploring how art is a powerful tool for activism and the fight for racial justice. Each Summer Session will focus on a different genre of art including theater, dance, and performance art. You’ll learn about the history of social justice movements and how art has played a role in both the past and present movements.

Use the links below to sign up for individual workshops, or all three! Theater as Protest with Jasmine Mahmoud

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Swan Lake: Flying Away from the Flock

Review of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake by Pacific Northwest Ballet
Written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Jaiden Borowski and edited by Teen Editor Kendall Kieras

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Welcoming the viewer with a red curtain and the strong classical notes of Tchaikovsky’s legendary score, Swan Lake (via YouTube) begins. Free on the virtual platform for a limited time, this piece, danced by the Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB), granted home-bound viewers an escape to the arts. Obviously, the virtual platform had its own distinct advantages and disadvantages in comparison to the live performance. With easy accessibility and free viewing, the online version surpassed the live performance, but the sometimes fuzzy video and the small screen left it lacking in other respects. Though I doubt many people clicked on the video expecting an equal experience to live performance, it’s noteworthy to mention that the different mediums give distinct advantages to their audience.

Although confined to a small screen, the obvious precision of every movement was incredible. It seems standard to expect the ease of perfection from ballet, but the dancers’ fluid grace still astounded me. The movement was not cookie-cutter neat; instead, it was tailored to fit each character’s personality, a key aspect to the success of the ballet. Whether it was a lilting, drunken friend at the party or the great swan herself, the message of the dancer’s persona was very apparent. But no matter how beautiful the method of storytelling was, the dance had the potential to be quite confusing, especially to someone new to the story, such as myself. Thankfully, a previous YouTube video by PNB outlined the simple story of the ballet and gave details on the characters, primarily the two main characters, Siegfried and Odette. Siegfried is the prince who falls in love with Odette, the main swan. Pacific Northwest Ballet principal dancers Seth Orza as Siegfried, and Noelani Pantastico as Odette, in Kent Stowell’s Swan Lake. Photo © Angela Sterling.

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Commemoration and Confusion

Review of When the Wolves Came In by Kyle Abraham/A.I.M on OntheBoards.tv
Written by Teen Editor Anya Shukla and edited by Press Corps Teaching Artist Imana Gunawan

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I first watched When the Wolves Came In without looking at the program notes, and I was more than a little confused. In the performance, I saw wigs, hip-hop, ballet, images from apartheid, police brutality, but no central message. What did it all mean?

Although I did not know it at the time, When the Wolves Came In is based on Max Roach’s jazz album We Insist Freedom Now, created to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, but released early in response to Civil Rights protests. The dance itself consists of three shorter pieces, the abstract “When the Wolves Came In,” “Hallowed,” and the more narrative-driven “The Gettin’.”

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Part 3: Keeping Cultured During Quarantine

Find out how some of the TeenTix-ers are staying artistically engaged while socially distant.

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This is the third installment of our “Keeping Cultured During Quarantine” series. Enjoy these recommendations from TeenTix Newsroom writers, New Guard members, and Press Corps teens about how to fight the collective cabin fever!Daisy

Ok, so actually, my favorite kind of art right now might not even be classified as art (but in my head it is)! My favorite kind of art right now is . . . . PEOPLE!! (People are art!) The best quarantine activity EVER is to watch people tell me things about their life (over a socially distant video call, don’t worry!), or things that happened when they were little, or anything that’s happening in their heads! Good art = stories. Stories = people. People = art!!! Seeing people that I love, even from far away, and getting to know them better, learning more about the stories-that-make-up-who-they-are, is the best quarantine art obsession I can imagine! (Also Parks & Rec.) Hana

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Happy International Dance Day!!!

To celebrate #InternationalDanceDay, we've compiled a list of content from the TeenTix Blog highlighting some of our amazing Arts Partners in the dance space!

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In honor of International Dance Day, here is a collection of reviews at our Arts Partners, written exclusively by teen writers. Help us celebrate young writers, dancers, choreographers, and venues alike by reading and sharing this article with your network, and thank you to all of the dancers worldwide for sharing your art with us! TeenTix Newsroom review of "Dark Matters" via On the Boards.TV

"The piece pays homage to the Frankenstein-horror sub genre through a dramatic tale of a creator and his puppet, sprinkling in sometimes out-of-place bits of humor before diving fully into themes of manipulation and connection, which can be seen throughout the entire piece, from the loose, puppet-like motion of the dancers to the music." Click here to read the full review, written by TeenTix Newsroom Writer Lucia McLaren. Teen Reviews of the Hiplet Ballerinas at Edmonds Center for the Arts

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