Moriah Evans choreographs Another Performance at Danspace Project.
Moriah Evans talks about Another Performance, a collaboration with visual artist Alan Calpe at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church
Sun Feb 17 2013
Photograph: Nir Arieli
Moriah Evans talks about Another Performance, her first full-evening work that will be performed at Danspace Project at St. Mark's Church. The production, created with visual artist Alan Calpe, takes a look at four American dance legends: Isadora Duncan, Martha Graham, Trisha Brown and Lucinda Childs.
In Another Performance, Moriah Evans unveils her first full-evening work in which four American dance legends are examined close-up. Presented in collaboration with visual artist Alan Calpe at Danspace Project beginning February 21, the piece is a complex interweaving of dance history, the choreographic notion of task, the body as a vessel for transformation (or as a trap with a tight lid) and, not least of all, the pivot step. Mylar also figures in prominently. For Evans, whose relationship with dance began at an early age—she trained extensively at BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio, before turning to art history—the work explores ghosts of the past. How she frames it in the present is the trick.
Time Out New York: How did you start dancing?
Moriah Evans: I started dancing when I was little. I got serious when I was 12 or 13 and was training at BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio. I was in the pre-professional program. There’s a certain point in the studying there—I think it’s at level four—when they do this horrible selection thing and say, “You can go to level 5-A or 5-B”—5-A being the pre-professional track. They screen the students at that point. It’s very old-school ballet ideology of what kind of body you have, line, et cetera. At that point, I was selected to go to 5-A and that was when I started leaving school early. I would only go from 7am until 2pm, and then I had dance everyday from 2:30 till 6:30pm. And after that I was in pre-pro. I trained very technically everyday. I actually think BalletMet has a really good training program, or they used to.
Time Out New York: Who was in charge?
Moriah Evans: When I first started, the artistic director was John McFall. He went to Atlanta Ballet and David Nixon was the artistic director and his wife, Yoko Ichino, brought with her a more radical approach to ballet training with a lot of somatic information and Alexander technique. I think the technique itself is quite good, but it’s a finishing technique. After you learn the basic skills, you go back and retrain how your body is being accessed. There was a lot of work from the skeleton. We would spend time taking class blindfolded, not leaving the barre for six months; in some sense, it’s the way Janet Panetta approaches ballet. In terms of the mechanics of how my body is asked to do this thing, it was much more along that theoretical line. But we also had George and Violeta Boft, a brother and sister from the Bolshoi Ballet. So we had extremes; it was extreme in juxtaposition to what Yoko was suggesting, which was a more internal awareness and moving from the bones. And because it’s right by OSU, the modern department teachers like Karen Eliot, who was a former Cunningham dancer, and Susan Hadley, who has taught at OSU for a long time and was a Mark Morris dancer and part of the downtown scene when she lived in New York, were our modern teachers. April Berry is a former Ailey dancer and she taught us jazz and Afro-Caribbean. I was quite privileged to be exposed to all these different styles. And good teachers too. Quality technique. It was also still a bit of a crazy ballet world.
Time Out New York: Were you always in The Nutcracker?
Moriah Evans: Yes, yes.
Time Out New York: Did you attend summer programs?
Moriah Evans: Mostly I stayed at BalletMet. My parents thought dance was great and wonderful, but they also believed in well-rounded educations and they thought that the power—especially in the pre-professional program—that the teachers and the administrators of the school held over the students was kind of problematic. All the things that go on with extremely disciplined training: We had weigh-ins on Monday afternoons—it didn’t last for the entire time, but there was a period when that was going on. Or just the idea that everything in your life should be focused on this one thing; they wanted me to be a high-school student. The way I was training, most of my friends either stopped and went to university or they just didn’t dance anymore or they went into professional companies. That was the situation that I was in and there wasn’t much encouragement to go to schools like Tisch or Juilliard. It was more polarized. Either you danced professionally in a ballet company or you keep training or you go to college and say bye to the form.
Time Out New York: That’s so sad. What happened to you?
Moriah Evans: My parents believed that I needed to be educated—properly. And that did not mean educated in dance. And that did not mean studying dance at university. They were on the side of, dance is great as a hobby but as a profession you have very little power in the world and why would you do that to yourself? And do you want to spend your whole life being subject to some very antiquated old-school power structure that is present in the ballet world? I think that’s how they viewed it. We all had to go to good schools. There are six kids on my family and everybody had nice educations.
Time Out New York: Did anyone else dance in your family?
Moriah Evans: Everybody did. We all did gymnastics, ballet, sports. My younger siblings ended up doing more sports. My brother even danced for years, but then he was an athlete. My mom would take dance classes too. It was an activity. In terms of how to raise children, I think my parents had a well-rounded idea that your children should be exposed to all these things and we were, but they did not think that I should be a professional dancer. It was a fight. And they won. And I went to college. And I stopped dancing.
Time Out New York: So you actually wanted to keep dancing?
Moriah Evans: I did. And that was not easy for me. That was hard for me. It felt like a loss. But I went to college.
Time Out New York: Where did you go and what did you study?
Moriah Evans: I went to Wellesley and I studied art history and English literature. I double majored. I got obsessed with art history in a weird sort of replacement way. But they have an amazing art history department, and I got a phenomenal education. As someone who is focusing more on being a choreographer than being a dancer, I’m grateful for my education—do you know what I mean?