METdance and Apollo Chamber Players Mix Mediums
By Nichelle Suzanne
Collaboration between artists is derived by a certain alchemy – part methodical exploration and part magic. On April 10, Houston’s METdance venture a little experimental magic of their own when they come together for An Evening With Apollo Chamber Players.
As the two Houston ensembles join forces for a two-act performance, live music and light (by long-time METdance lighting designer, Kris Phelps) are the connective threads between a restaging of The Vessel, choreographed by METdance veteran company member and resident choreographer, Kiki Lucas, and the premiere of choreographer, Jessica Hendricks’ Clearly stated and evenly applied?.
With original composition by Ben Doyle, METdance Artistic Director, Marlana Doyle’s husband, The Vessel incorporates musicians into the action on stage. During Doyle’s search for a musical ensemble that would feel comfortable playing The Vessel for its revival, Houston Arts Alliance recommended Apollo Chamber Players.
Collaborating with a dance ensemble is a new experience for Apollo but Artistic Director, Matthew Detrick explains that it is one the group has been hoping to cultivate for some time.
“Performing with dancers helps liberate our minds to new possibilities, feeding off of and complementing each other,” says Detrick. “In particular, it’s easier to feel the motion and flow of the music with dancers. It may even help us express the music in a more compelling way.”
While playing an instrument can be physically demanding, Detrick explains that musicians can also learn from the physicality of dancers.
“Playing an instrument can be tiring for sure, but we are more ‘small-muscle’ athletes – it’s quite helpful in this respect for musicians to internalize the large, elegant movements of dancers.”
The Vessel, which premiered in 2013, was shown last summer on the historic Inside/Out stage at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Inspired by conversations with hearing-impaired dancer/choreographer, Jason McDole and visits with deaf children at The Center for Hearing and Speech, The Vessel is an entire act dedicated to the sense of hearing.
“It has life; emotion and breath that so many of our patrons and audience members want to see again,” says Marlana Walsh Doyle.
For An Evening With Apollo Chamber Players, Lucas has given her work a bit of a “facelift,” according to Ms. Doyle, with seven new dancers, including Doyle herself, who was pregnant at the time of its creation.
Enjoying the additional dimension and energy that live music can bring to dance, and dance to music, METdance and Apollo will take their collaborative relationship to another level by coming together for Hendricks’ work on the dance company as well.
Hendricks, a New York-based choreographer and teacher who has also been an instructor and mentor of young students at Dance Industry studio in Dallas, has choreographed musicals, music videos, television commercials, and is on faculty at Pace University. She has previously worked with the METdance student company, METtoo but Clearly stated and evenly applied? marks the first time she has choreographed on the main company.
According to Marlana Walsh Doyle, the musicality, stamina, athleticism, clarity, and humor of Hendricks’ work is stretching the dancers of METdance, many of whom are in the midst of their first season with the company, in a postive way.
Clearly stated and evenly applied? is choreographed to Apollo Chamber Players’ arrangements of Italian folk dance songs and two works that are a part of Apollo’s multi-year commissioning project, 20×2020, the aim of which is to commission 20 new folk music-inspired works by the end of the decade.
Having only started the 20×2020 project last year, Detrick expresses surprise that two of the works should be choreographed to dance, especially so soon.
“The composers probably did not envision this as well when they were writing the pieces,” muses Detrick. “But I think this is why art is so amazing and cool – it can be successfully combined with other mediums to create an even more enriching and powerful experience.”