From Idea to Performance: How MANCC Supports the Choreographic Process
Imagine yourself in the audience at a performance of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. As spectators, we take for granted the ease with which the dancers perform the steps, one movement flowing into the next. But let’s press the rewind button, so to speak. Before the rehearsals, where the lighting and sound and costumes are tweaked. Before the dancers learn the choreography, practicing day after day. All the way back to the kernel of an idea in a choreographer’s mind. This is where dance begins.
The Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography at The Florida State University, better known as MANCC (pronounced man-see), was created to help ease this journey from idea to performance. To put it simply, MANCC provides artists with the space and resources needed to conduct research for new works.
“Visiting artists not only have access to the School of Dance’s facilities, students and faculty,” said Jennifer Calienes, Director of MANCC. ”But also the rich resources of the university and the Tallahassee community.”
Visiting artists have engaged with trombonists from the College of Music and faculty from the Department of Philosophy to help develop their works. During their residency in 2007, members of Jawole Zollar’s Brooklyn-based company Urban Bush Women and Senegal-based Compagnie JANT-BI visited African-American museums in Tallahassee and Jacksonville, a nineteenth-century plantation, a “hanging tree,” and a traditional African American church for inspiration in developing movement. They returned in 2008 to “tech” and light their piece, Les écailles de la memoire (The scales of memory). (They completed a widely praised national and international tour of the work in the 2008-2009 season.)
On the flip side, students in the School of Dance are often tapped to work with visiting artists, offering opportunities for learning and networking. Several students have even gone on to work professionally with artists they’ve assisted during their stay at MANCC. “I can’t imagine a better situation to study dance,” says Calienes.
One such student is Aline Wachsmuth, who, in her junior year, volunteered to work with 2006 Choreographic Fellow Ben Levy and his company, LEVYdance. Their experience together led Levy to invite Wachsmuth to audition for the company. After graduating in 2008, Wachsmuth moved to San Francisco to join LEVYdance.
Another successful student-artist relationship is that of 2009 Choreographic Fellow Nora Chipaumire and Mallory Starling, her student assistant while at MANCC. While developing the movement for her piece lions will roar, swans will fly, angels will wrestle heaven, rains will break: gukurahundi, Chipaumire began incorporating Starling into the choreography. When Starling graduated in spring 2009, Chipaumire asked if she would come to Africa to continue work on the piece, which she did with the help of a MANCC scholarship.
Established with the help of a $1.5 million gift from alumna Maggie Allesee, MANCC celebrates its fifth anniversary in 2009. To celebrate, they have planned a year’s worth of programming, kicking off with a National Forum in August. Partnership projects with the Philadelphia Live Arts & Fringe Festival, the Baryshnikov Arts Center, Dance Theater Workshop and the San Francisco International Arts Festival are planned throughout the year as well as return visits from several visiting artists.
“There has been a need for this type of U.S.-based research center in the dance field for decades,” said Calienes. “These first five years are a remarkable testament of our efforts to date, but more importantly, a positive forecast of our collective potential.”
For more information on the Maggie Allesee National Center for Choreography, visit www.mancc.org.