Dallas — This year marked a period of change for me. I finished my dissertation and graduated with my Ph.D. in Humanities-Aesthetic Studies, I returned to my full-time faculty position after a year of administrative work, and I embarked on a career as a movement coach and choreographer for theatre companies.
While I dipped my toes into the world of theatre last year, I decided to dive in head first this time. I always had the desire to work with actors and to become more involved in the theatre community in Dallas, but I did not know what that would look like and how to go about it. It was not until Katherine Owens at Undermain Theatre gave me a shot in 2017 that I felt like it could be a real possibility. My first turn at working with a theatre company and actors-only (non-dancers) was when I choreographed so go the ghosts of méxico, part 2. Then came the opportunity to work with director Blake Hackler at Theatre Three on Adding Machine: A Musical.
In 2018, I returned to Undermain to work with Katherine on Sarah Ruhl’s translation of Three Sisters, Alan Govenar and Akin Babatundé's Lonesome Blues, and the world premiere of Len Jenkin’s How Is It That We Live, or Shakey Jake + Alice (as an actor, this time). I also returned to Theatre Three to work on Once with director Marianne Galloway and Solstice with director vicki washington. Currently, I am working at Stage West with director Jake Nice on the Regional Premiere of Everybody.
Now, I have found myself sharing my time between actors and dancers, and helping them use the idea of physical transformation to find their characters, develop a non-verbal language model, and to think of dance as something more than just an eight-count of movement. My goal is to integrate dance within a play and to make it look as seamless and realistic as possible. I seek to find ways to allow dance to indicate the shifting point of a play and to make dances not look like dances at all.
For example, in Three Sisters, I spent a great deal of time researching the postures and gestures of Russian Orthodox icons, women in Chekov’s time, Russian soldiers, and other historically relevant culture moments. I wanted to find ways to integrate as much of the beauty, stoicism, and realism of these physical actions into the play. I wanted to help give each character a certain physicality because it is those little details that can shift the world of the play on its axis. The intention behind each turn of the head, raising of a finger, a gesture of the hand or positioning of the body can drive the story forward. You can see the status of a character falling into oblivion or moving forward with joy and abandon. While there was a small dance moment in the play, much of my work did not involve dance in the typical sense. At times, you might not even realize that anyone had done any physical work, but that is the magic behind choreography. It should look so organic that you did not even recognize the whole play was meticulously blocked and staged.
My experiences this year have led me to a new role, one where I am not just a choreographer and not just a movement coach, but more of a movement director, in which I get the chance to oversee the physical life of a production. Working on these various shows has allowed me to stretch my kinesthetic brain and think of movement as not just choreography, scene changes, and character work, but as a means of working with actors to make character choices and accomplish with identity tricks. A sense of humanness comes forward as I learn how to build trust with actors (and directors) and help the performers feel relaxed and confident enough to go on this physical journey with me and to allow me the opportunity to edit as necessary per the director’s request or the play’s needs.
Further, part of my job and part of what I am discovering is the central facet of my aesthetic, is to enable performers to do what’s asked of them, rather than just setting movement phrases. I realized this year that my choreography is much like writing—it is writing with the body. I am creating a dialogue between the actor and their character. Through research and dramaturgy, I am finding ways to offer information to the actors so that their imaginations can go wild. So many stories are waiting to be told in just the simple act of walking on stage.
While I might have spent the year in a transitionary mode, the Danielle Georgiou Dance Group was still pushing boundaries and the idea of dance theatre in North Texas, and beyond. We started the year off with the release of our contribution to the Pina Bausch Foundation and their Nelken Line project.
In late 2017, we led a series of public movement workshops at the J. Erik Jonsson Central Library to teach the score of The Nelken Line to members of the Dallas/Fort Worth community. In the course of one day, participants learned the choreography and engaged in a professional filming process, bonding over a shared activity. With the help of filmmakers Jonathan Taylor and Trenton Ryan Stephenson, our friends at Kitchen Dog Theatre, and Fine Arts Librarian Tiffany Bailey, we were able to make a significant contribution the project and engage with new community members.
I brought back Fending, a dance I made in 2014 for Contemporary Ballet Dallas (now Ballet Dallas), and reimagined it for 2018. My aesthetic as a choreographer has changed in the last four years, and this particular work has never left my mind. I love it. I love the version that I first made for ballet dancers, but I always wanted to make it more. More aggressive. More physical. More emotional. This year gave me that chance, and I ran with it. The piece was re-cast, re-costumed, re-choreographed, and re-scored. Almost everything changed except for the foundational movement phrases, and it also marked the first time I have ever turned the teaching reins over to someone else. Due to my performance and theatre schedule, I had to trust my Rehearsal Director to bring my ideas to fruition, and I had to believe that the dancers cast could find their way into my aesthetic without me in the room. I am lucky to have a great team on my side with DGDG, and that includes Rehearsal Director and Assistant Choreographer Colby Calhoun. Colby has been with the company for going on five years now, and if there is anyone who might know my brain as well as I do, it’s them. In their hands, Fending took on a new life and new stages, from Big Rig Dance Collective’s Dance Co-Op to Dallas Dances to the 254-Dance-Fest.
We also had the opportunity to produce and perform in Colby’s first full-length work, Elephant Antonyms, at The Underground at the Bath House Cultural Center. It was an emotional romp through the subconscious, and we can’t wait to see what they create next!
Speaking of collaborations, 2018 was full of them. We started the year off with the premiere of a new work created in collaboration with musician Donovan Jones (Black Taffy) and utilized a wolf puppet designed by Justin Locklear. The work, La Trapera, was based on a folktale about a wolf woman who collects bones and gathers souls to resurrect wild spirits from the Underworld. The second collaborative work was our contribution to the 20th anniversary of the Festival of Independent Theatre, Just Girly Things. This original musical comedy co-written with longtime collaborator Ruben Carrazana was inspired by—and used—verbatim text from the performers and centered on the complicated relationships between women and the obstacles that they place between each other in an already tenuous environment. The third partnership we embarked on was with Icelandic artist Magnús Siguarðarson. We had the opportunity to perform and rethink his work, Dances with Whales (Keiko—Always on my Mind) for Dallas Aurora. Magnús trusted me to create a dance piece that complimented his original designed that utilized foam machines and inflatable whales.
Finally, we closed the year out with Run of Show. This site-specific work first premiered at the Arts Triangle Dance Film Festival at the Texas Theatre in September, toured to Austin in October for the 2018 Theorist Fest, and then settled back in Dallas for the first-ever Arts Mission Oak Cliff Variety Show in late November. Run of Show blends the mundane with explosive discoveries and surprising spectacle and is an assemblage of performance art inspirations. We condensed all of these references into one simultaneous moment on stage that is both pure spectacle, all comedy, and quite a bit brutal.
While 2018 was a year of change, it has only shown me what the future might hold, and what the future of my work with DGDG can bring. As we move into our eighth year, it is time to shake things up again. I am looking forward to new adventures, new challenges, and new spaces for 2019.
2018 YEAR IN REVIEW
Friday, December 28
- The Year in Comedy by Chief Comedy Critic Kevin Beane
- Danielle Georgiou's Sixth Position: A Year of Movement
Saturday, December 29
- The Year in Dance by Chief Dance Critic Cheryl Callon
- The Year in New Dance Works by Katie Dravenstott
- The Year in Dance by Emily Sese
Sunday, December 30
- The Year in Music and Opera by Chief Music and Opera Critic Gregory Sullivan Isaacs
- The Year in Music and Opera by Robin Coffelt
- The Year in Music and Opera by Wayne Lee Gay
Monday, December 31
- The Year in Performing Arts Books by Cathy Ritchie
- The Year in Classical Music Recordings by Andrew Anderson
- The Year in Theatrical Recordings by Jay Gardner
- The Year in Film by Bart Weiss
- The Year in Performing Arts News by Mark Lowry
Tuesday, January 1
- The Year in Theater by Frank Garrett
- The Year in Theater by Jan Farrington
- The Year in Theater by Janice L. Franklin
- The Year in Theater by Martha Heimberg
- The Year in Theater by Jill Sweeney
Wednesday, January 2
- The Year in Theater by Mark Lowry
Thursday, January 3
- A challenge for our readers
Friday, January 4
- Looking ahead to 2019
» Sixth Position now appears on the fourth Friday of the month on TheaterJones.com.
» Danielle Georgiou, Ph.D., is a dance educator, critic, and writer. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group) whose work focuses on ensemble-building, devised work. She is a professional dancer and choreographer working in contemporary dance and theatre.
(If a month is missing, there was no column)
- February: Cash Choreography
- March: Make the Fringe Your Future
- April: Don't Freak Out, It's Just an Audition
- May: You Love Dance. You're Not Alone
- June: Persevering Through Movement
- July: Sharing in Success
- August: To the Barre
- September: Method Act
- October: Fear of Flying
- December: The Editor Dance
- January: Community Relations
- February: The Fabric of Movement
- March: State of the Dance
- April: The Dance Mom Complex
- May: Who Wants to Date a Dancer?
- June: Figuring How Men Fit In
- August: Creative Economy
- September: Dancing to Learn
- October: Whose Idea Is It Anyway?
- December: '15 Going on '16
- January: In Memoriam
- Februrary: The Politics of Dancing
- April: Defining Dance Theatre
- June: Dancing for Change
- September: Sweat the Details, Not the Consequences
- December: Louder Than Tweets
- January: Making and Moving
- February: Don't Fudge the Truth
- March: The Collective Unconsciousness of Creating
- April: Professionally Speaking
- May: Dancer Depictions
- July: Where Have all the Critics Gone?
- August: Rain Dance
- September: The Theory of Taking Risks
- October: Get in Line!
- March: Collaboration and the Poetics of Failing
- April: Performance Fear
- June: The 10-Year Dissonance
- November: A Contemporary Understanding of Dance