THERE IS AN ELEPHANT IN THIS DANCE
"By turns comical, creepy, and uncanny...
The whole dance is like that: disquieting, the cliché pushed past the literal."
—The New Yorker
Playing off a comically overlarge plush elephant costume, worn in pieces or whole, this vividly imagined, adroitly executed quartet from choreographer Lionel Popkin looks at how an individual body can hold multiple histories and align itself with divergent cultural identities. By turns funny, uncanny and disquieting, There is An Elephant... abounds with choreographic eloquence, clever direction and thematic layering: It organically elicits a set of meanings both obvious and unspoken, from the pachyderm in religious iconography to expressions of interior personal space.
Choreography: Lionel Popkin
Original Live Score: Robert Een
Performers: Carolyn Hall, Ishmael Houston-Jones, Peggy Piacenza and Lionel Popkin
Video Design: Cari Ann Shim Sham*
Danspace Project, New York, NY
Dance Place, Washington, DC
REDCAT, Los Angeles, CA
Southern Theater, Minneapolis, MN
Philadelphia Dance Projects, Philadelphia, PA
Velocity Dance Center, Seattle, WA
Grand Performances, Los Angeles, CA
California State University San Marcos, CA
Guangzhou Modern Dance Festival, Gunagzhou, China
COLLABORATOR BIOGRAPHIES Robert Een is an acclaimed composer, singer and cellist. The recipient of a 2004 Obie Award for music composition and a 2000 Bessie Award for sustained achievement, Een has performed his music on concert stages and in unusual venues throughout the world, including the Buddhist caves of Ellora, India; the Shinto shrine in Tsurugi, Japan; a theater above the Arctic circle in Norway; the Pushkin Theater in St. Petersburg, Russia; The Fringe Club in Hong Kong; as well as such New York venues as Lincoln Center, The Whitney Museum and The Knitting Factory. The Village Voice said of his work, "Joyous ... rarely is new music this much fun." Known for his use of extended vocal and cello techniques, he has recorded eight albums: "Mystery Dances," "Expanding Universe," "Fertile Fields," "Your Life is Not Your Own," "Big Joe," "The Rook" and "Mr. Jealousy" soundtracks, and "Music from Blue Earth." His scores for film include; "Ashes and Snow," "My Horrible Year," "Mr. Jealousy," "Trouble on the Corner," "The Rook," "Guts," and the documentaries "Misty Isle Out" and "Carnival Train." Robert Een's music for theater and dance can be heard in the repertories of Dan Hurlin, Liz Lerman, Stephan Koplowitz, David Dorfman, Yin Mei, Brian Selznick, Jennifer Muller, Yoshiko Chuma, Pearson/Widrig, Heidi Duckler and Ron K. Brown, among others. As a teacher he has been a guest lecturer and an artist-in-residence at colleges, universities and professional schools around the globe. His long association with Meredith Monk culminated in their evening length performance duet, "Facing North."
Carolyn Hall is a Brooklyn-based freelance dancer originally from Los Angeles. She has performed nationally and internationally with numerous choreographers/directors and was awarded a New York Dance and Performance Award or "Bessie" for performance in 2002. Most recently she has performed with Third Rail Projects, Lionel Popkin, Rebecca Davis, and Clarinda Mac Low. She is also a marine ecologist and enjoys exploring ways to combine her art and science halves.
Ishmael Houston-Jones is a choreographer and performer. His improvised dance and text work has been performed in New York City, across the United States, in Europe, Canada, Australia, and Latin America. His selected works include Knife, Tape, Rope (1989), Unsafe/Unsuited (1995), The Undead(1999), Calamity Jane (2009), and FCA-supported 13 Love Songs: dot dot dot (2014). His works have been presented at venues such as Dance New Amsterdam, Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Walker Art Center, and Triplex at Manhattan Community College.
Subsequent to his 2013 FCA grant, Houston-Jones was honored with a Doris Duke Performing Artist Award (2015). Prior to his 2013 Grants to Artists award, Houston-Jones's received a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie" Award for Outstanding Production for its premiere at The Kitchen (1984), and received a fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts (1985), and in 2011 received a New York State Dance and Performance “Bessie" for Best Performance of the Year for THEM, a revival at Performance Space 122 of the 1986 work.
In addition to his choreographic and performance projects, Houston-Jones serves as Curator of Draftwork at Danspace Project, an afternoon series of works-in-progress. He was also the curator of PLATFORM 2012: Parallels at the Danspace Project. He is on the Board of Directors of Movement Research, is a Board Member Emeritus at Danspace Project, and is Chairman of the Board at Ashley Anderson Dances in Salt Lake City. Houston-Jones is an adjunct professor in the Experimental Theater Wing at New York University.
Peggy Piacenza is a longtime Seattle choreographer and performer who has toured both nationally and internationally. Her work focuses on a wide spectrum of experience and draws from her explorations in improvisation, performance-related studies, and inter-disciplinary collaborations. Her choreography has been commissioned and presented by Bratislava Movement Festival in Slovakia, Dance Theater Workshop in NYC, and in Seattle as part of Velocity Dance Center's Guest Artist Series, On the Boards, Composer/Choreographer, D-9 Dance Collective, Northwest Film Forum, and 4Culture. In 1992, she co-founded Seattle’s repertory dance company, The D-9 Dance Collective.
Her contemporary dance career began in Seattle in 1991 when she first performed with Seattle-based choreographer Pat Graney, touring signature works such as Faith, Sleep, Vivaldi, Colleen Anne, and Jesus Loves the Little Cowgirls throughout the US, Europe and South America. From 1996-2004 she worked in collaboration with co-directors Dayna Hanson and Gaelen Hanson of the Seattle-based dance-theater company 33 Fainting Spells, performing and touring works including Sorrow’s Sister, Maria the Storm Cloud, September September, and Dirty Work. Since then, she has performed in the work of many choreographers, such as Stephanie Skura, Deborah Hay, Lionel Popkin, Beth Graczyk, and others. Most recently, she performed in two evening-length works conceived by Dayna Hanson, Gloria’s Cause (2010) and The Clay Duke (2014). She can also be seen in an acting role in Hanson’s feature-length film Improvement Club.
Piacenza is a 2010 graduate of Smith College, where she was enrolled in the Ada Comstock Scholars Program. In Spring 2011 she became the inaugural recipient of the Helen Gurley Brown Magic Grant, offered to Ada Comstock Scholars by Smith College, underwriting her creative project to bring Cambodian and American artists together in Cambodia for a month of cross-cultural dialogue and dancing associated with classical and contemporary dance forms. In December 2012, a documentary film based on her time in Cambodia was completed, and subsequently hosted by Velocity Dance Center’s Speakeasy Series.
Along with Dayna Hanson and Dave Proscia, Piacenza is a co-director of Base, a new nonprofit organization dedicated to elevating risk and invention in dance, performance and multidisciplinary art.
Cari Ann Shim Sham* is a wild new media artist who loves hunting edible mushrooms, collecting antique doorknobs and recently left la la land for NYC. Her video art has shown nationally, at notable venues such as Jacob's Pillow, PS 21, Peak Performances, and the Joyce Soho. Her film work has screened at Laemmle Sunset 7, Mann Chinese Theater, and the United Nations General Assembly, 190+ festivals internationally garnering numerous awards. She is the recipient of the Surdna Arts Teachers Fellowship and Chime's Choreographer Mentorship Exchange. Current projects include directing a VR 360 episodic Opera Horror Film project for Opera on Tap, designing video art for three touring dance theater shows (Roussève, Popkin & Williamson), Director of Photography on a feature dance film by David Roussève and Filmmaker/Photographer for the NYU Global Institute of Dance and Music, a global investigation into dance and music at cultural, geographic & economic borders. She is over the moon happy teaching Dance & New Media at NYU TISCH Dance. www.cariannshimsham.com
A project of 501 (see three) ARTS, supported in part by the Jerome Foundation through the 2008-09 Danspace Project Commissioning Initiative, the City of Los Angeles (COLA) Fellowship, with additional funds from the Council on Research, UCLA and the Djerassi Resident Artist Program.