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City News Reviews Aria

““Aria” opened on Sunday to a nearly full audience. This year’s iteration of what’s come to be an annual collaboration between BIODANCE choreographer Missy Pfohl Smith and digital media artist W. Michelle Harris, every bit of the performance was an absolute masterpiece. This year the collaborators were joined by soprano Kearstin Piper Brown and chamber ensemble fivebyfive, as well as several guest dancers. 

As in previous Fringe performances, a subtle prelude was performed while the audience settled in, featuring dancers moving almost trance-like about the space. This time, one white-clad performer perched in each of the tall stained glass windows, while all along the front pews BIODANCE members in rosy crimson satin and linen shifted slowly between holding graceful poses. 

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The first piece, “Constant,” combined gentle music with almost martial arts-like movements where limbs became arrows, with shimmeringly vibrant projections and shadow play from the dancers falling against the stage’s gorgeous back wall.

The co-conceivers of this performance brilliantly puzzled together some seemingly disparate elements: Traditional opera, freeform interpretive dance, and Harris’s appropriately gentle-yet-turbulent digital media projections (that, by the way, never failed in making impressively clever use of the space’s unique quirks like the columns that frame the stage’s back wall). And each of the several times that Brown released the siren from her depths I forgot that I haven’t really cared about opera and just sat there, jaw dropped, entirely enthralled. 

My face started leaking during my favorite piece of the evening, “Parlour Games” — I have been waiting and waiting for something to crack me open during a particularly numb low I’ve been stuck in, and this did the trick. An absorbing red light fell on the dancers as they moved fluidly in time with urgent, flowing music. Their bodies became flames licking at the air, at once chaotic and restrained. All elegance, the work also seemed to convey a feeling of frustration in limitation, as though all of the wondrous world were set out for consuming, but just out of reach. As the music slowed and became both more deliberate and hesitant, each cautious piano note haltingly pounding and peeling out into the cavernous space, the dancers sped past one another in rapidly pivoting stops and starts. And then in resonant silence, they each made slow, sweeping, wonder-filled gestures skyward. 

In “Phantom Waltz,” Rose Paquarello Beauchamp and Nanako Horikawa Mandrino navigated the small stage and one other, while connected by a long red train that was tied around each of their waists. By turns, the draping fabric billowed and was tugged, formed shelter and swaddling. 

I sincerely hope there’s an opportunity for “Aria” to be presented in the coming year after Fringe closes…”

https://www.rochestercitynewspaper.com/rochester/rebecca-reviews-world-music-and-yoga-ballet-and-aria/Content?oid=8025452

ROC the Day for BIODANCE Nov. 27!

Happy Thanksgiving! This year’s #GivingTuesday is on November 27! Send some love our way this #ROCtheDay.  You can give any time here and 100% of your tax-deductible donation will go directly to BIODANCE!  Or you can give through ROCtheDay here and join 1000’s of community members supporting all of the not-for-profit organizations doing great work in the nine-county Greater Rochester area. ROCtheDay is a secure, 24 hour online giving platform, and on the odd hours during ROC the Day, one donor will be randomly selected to designate a gift of $500 to one organization of their choosing that will be in addition to their own contribution.  What a gift!

Please consider contributing to BIODANCE on #ROCtheDay on Tuesday, November 27.  And of course, we all really appreciate your generosity and support all year round!

With gratitude for our collaborators and audiences that keep us creating, dancing and innovating,

Missy and BIODANCE

 

 

Source of Light – VSW residency/First Friday Dec. 7

BIODANCE, fivebyfive and video artist Josh Thorson receive month-long artist residency at Visual Studies Workshop!

Residency will culminate in a public performance on First Friday, December 7

As a tribute to composer, vocalist, dancer, choreographer and filmmaker Meredith Monk, the quintet fivebyfive will pair up with artist Josh Thorson and choreographer Missy Pfohl Smith/BIODANCE to explore Monk’s music visually through movement and video. This collaboration will explore three mediums in which Monk herself actively works: music, film and choreography/dance.

Recognized as one of the most unique and influential artists of our time, Meredith Monk’s work thrives at weaving together new modes of perception. Accepting the Gish Prize, Monk said “art can be a healing force and a source of light during dark times.”

The project will combine music arranged for fivebyfive by the quintet’s bassist Eric Polenik, with visuals and movement that will be developed over the four-week residency, Nov. 5 – Dec. 8, 2018. The residency will culminate in a performance on December 7, 2018, and the group return to the collaborative work in future performances.

fivebyfive’s mission is to engage audiences in the collaborative spirit and creativity of modern chamber music by commissioning, arranging and performing a wide range of works for flute, clarinet, electric guitar, bass and piano.

Missy Pfohl Smith (Artistic Director/Choreographer/Performer) is the founder and Artistic Director of BIODANCE, a non-profit contemporary dance company based in Rochester, and the Director of the University of Rochester Program of Dance and Movement. Smith enjoys collaborating with multi-disciplinary artists in music, visual art, sculpture, film and technology.

Josh Thorson is an artist, writer, and designer. In 2018, he will design the projections for a production of Oklahoma! at St Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn, and continue his collaboration on a new opera with composer Nick Hallett. Thorson is an Assistant Professor of Fine Art in the Photo School at RIT.

Source of Light by fivebyfive, Missy Pfohl Smith and Josh Thorson

ROC the Day for BIODANCE 11/28/17

ROC_banner_fb_2017On November 28, please consider ROCing the day for BIODANCE.

Make an online TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donation at:
www.biodance.org/contributions (proceeds go directly to BIODANCE without a service charge)
or at:
https://roctheday.org/Causes-to-Support/BIODANCE as part of a community-wide day of giving sponsored by the United Way.

All of us at BIODANCE truly appreciate your support. We would not be able to continue our work without it. 2018 is a big year for us as we celebrate our 12th Anniversary with “12 for 12” – 12 performances in the community celebrating 12 years of BIODANCE. THANK YOU FOR YOUR BELIEF IN OUR WORK!!

BIODANCE receives Decentralization Grant 2016

BIODANCE receives maximum award from Decentralization Community Arts Program in 2016 to continue its BIO/DANCE & Social Justice Series and its partnership with Community Place of Greater Rochester’s Senior Center! Thank you NYSCA, Governor Cuomo and Livingston Arts, a member supported organization, for supporting BIO/DANCE & Social Justice again!  We are honored to continue this work in our community.

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Smith nominated for City News Rochester 10!

BIODANCE Artistic Director Missy Pfohl Smith was nominated and featured for City News Rochester 10: Rochesterians Doing Great Things Behind the Scenes in December 2015.

Click here for news article.

Text excerpt copy from City News, Dec. 30, 2015:

DANCE: Missy Pfohl Smith

Missy Pfohl Smith, the artistic director of the local modern dance company BIODANCE, has a unique talent for creating socially-conscious works — works that reflect on our interactions (or lack of) with others. Her dance pieces are challenging and thought-provoking, nudging audiences toward self-reflection.

Over the last year, she and her company have presented Pfohl Smith’s “Social Justice Series,” a body of work that addresses injustices in today’s society and comments on inequalities. The 10-member dance company has performed in libraries, senior centers, and other community venues, particularly reaching out to seniors to help them tell their stories.

A good example of what she is accomplishing with this series was “Compartmented,” a site-specific, multimedia, pop-up event co-curated by Pfohl Smith and Evelyne Leblanc-Roberge, assistant professor of art and lens-based media at the University of Rochester. The event took place in early December in the former Sunday school space located in the back of what is now the Lyric Theatre on East Avenue. The pop-up was created specifically to be performed in this unique space (the former home of First Church of Christ, Scientist) which has rounded walls separated into 20 tiny reading rooms on two levels.

This installation piece featured the work of 17 artists and included video sculpture, performance art and storytelling along with dance. Artists were isolated in the reading rooms; their performances reflecting their inner musings. Senior citizens from Community Place — the downtown Rochester center where Pfohl Smith offers movement classes and leads discussion circles for the occupants — appeared in the show, literally telling their own stories while BIODANCE interpreted the tales through movement.

“Our elders truly have so much wisdom to share,” Pfohl Smith says, “but we rarely pay attention to them in our culture. I wanted to give them an opportunity to be seen and listened to.”

Part of the work Pfohl Smith is doing with BIODANCE has to do with intimacy, she says. “I think we’re losing understanding of human to human intimacy. We’re exploring that.”

At 45, Pfohl Smith has had her own company for nearly 10 years. She originally formed BIODANCE in 2002 in New York City where she spent more than a decade dancing and traveling with Randy James Dance Works, a company whose work incorporates elements of both modern dance and ballet. After relocating to Rochester, Pfohl Smith re-established BIODANCE by 2006.

“I’m interested in contact improvisation,” she says. “Improv is big in my creative process. I’m working not just with myself but with eight other artists. What is created comes not just from my body but from their bodies, too. People I work with have been with me from the beginning. You really understand each other’s language.”

Last fall, BIODANCE appeared at the Rochester Fringe Festival’s Friday on the Fringe event with Grounded Aerial in front of 13,000 audience members. While the modern dance and aerial arts company scaled the side of the One HSBC Plaza building downtown, BIODANCE performed atop the “Tribute to Man” sculpture in Manhattan Square.

That wasn’t the first major project for BIODANCE at the Fringe. In 2013, the company presented “Anomaly,” a site-specific work performed in the four-story dome of the Strasenburgh Planetarium in collaboration with Sound ExChange and W. Michelle Harris, a media artist and associate professor of Interactive Games and Media at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

BIODANCE has also appeared in many festivals and locales outside of Rochester: The Yard in Martha’s Vineyard; The Heidelberg New Music and Dance Festival in Tiffin, Ohio; University Settlement in New York City; and Danspace at St. Mark’s Church in New York as part of the Remember Project. They have also performed at many colleges and universities.

Pfohl Smith started dancing as a 3-year-old in Buffalo, where she grew up, but entered her freshman year at SUNY Geneseo on a pre-med tract. Once she switched to Brockport the following year she changed course.

“I realized that dance was such a way bigger field than I had thought, and I decided to major in it. At first I thought maybe dance therapy, but I was performing and doing well so I decided that dance was my path.”

When she moved back to Rochester, Pfohl Smith started teaching at the college level, and has held classes at Brockport, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, and The University of Rochester — where she is now the director of the Program of Dance and Movement.

By Casey Carlsen

 

 

Open Call for Artists – Dance and Social Justice Series

As part of its upcoming Dance & Social Justice Series, Rochester-based modern dance company BIODANCE is now accepting dance-related proposals from artists of multiple disciplines. This is an opportunity to develop new socially-conscious work and to collaborate with BIODANCE.