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Jennifer Edwards

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Australian Dance Company Chunky Move Featured in Mass MoCA + Jacob's Pillow Collaboration

Posted: 03/21/2012 8:56 pm

"... a fascinating interplay of human, machine, and movement."
-- Ella Baff, Executive and Artisic Director, Jacob's Pillow

On March 24th, Jacob's Pillow Dance and MASS MoCA will co-present Chunky Move in Connected, a contemporary dance and moving sculptural work and living exhibit. Keith Gallasch of Australia's RealTime calls Connected "...an engrossing creation, intensely and rewardingly collaborative, passionately danced to exacting choreography." In a conversation with choreographer and director of Chunky Move Gideon Obarzanek, we spoke about the piece -- both the choreography and the sculpture by Reuben Margolin.

Connected was a first for Chunky Move on many levels. Obarzanek collaborated with a Berkley-based sculptor, Margolin, and therefore created a good part of the work in the United States. Then there was the process by which this piece took shape. Obarzanek described his first meeting with Margolin wherein after a short conversation, the sculptor began fastening bits and pieces of raw materials to the choreographer and asked him to move with them. In one day a loose sketch of the sculpture was formed and the process had begun. Obarzanek talked about the final product as a working machine that "allows concrete forms to transcend their own forms. "Similarly," he said, "a dancer is a person with a personality, but once in motion, they can transcend their own personality." The sculpture is the center piece of this work as the dancers build, interact with, and then discuss the experience of viewing art while acting as the sculpture's guards. Part of the research for this piece was conducted through interviews with museum guards who were asked about how the public interacts with and views art.

This sentiment of co-mingled collaboration, and a willingness to try new things, echoed in a subsequent conversation with Executive and Artistic Director of Jacob's Pillow, Ella Baff. We spoke about what was necessary for a collaboration like this to take shape. "It's a confluence of people and circumstances," said Baff, crediting the boards of both Mass MoCA and Jacob's Pillow. She highlighted the board chair of Mass MoCA, Hans Morris, who also sits on the Pillow's board, and the Irene Hunter Fund, and the Hunter family, whose support has been very important to the sustainability and growth of both organizations. Baff shared that a key ingredient for any organization, whether older -- like Jacob's Pillow, celebrating it's 80th anniversary this summer, or fairly new -- like Mass MoCA, opened in 1999, is to "have a clear understanding of your mission and keep a hand on the rudder." She spoke about transcending the personal and keeping eyes on the big picture while working for the good of the whole.

Baff also shared some of the Pillow's history with Chunky Move. They have hosted the company several times over the years and she is clearly a fan of the work. In fact, the film Never Stand Still, which documents Jacob's Pillow's history, acquired it's title from a statement made by Obarzanek. He is captured in the film saying, "... that's the thing about dance, it can never stand still."

For more information about Chunky Move at the Hunter Center visit: www.massmoca.org/event_details.php?id=696

In addition to two public performances (March 24-25), on March 23, Chunky Move will conduct a daytime master class and open rehearsal for dance and visual arts students from Williams College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), and Bennington College.

 

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