Guest Artists 2015-2016
Kathleen Hermesdorf is a dance maker, teacher, improviser and producer based in San Francisco. She is the Director of la ALTERNATIVA & Alternative Conservatory, in collaboration with musician Albert Mathias. la ALTERNATIVA is an apparatus for deeply integrated dance and music via creation, improvisation, performance and production. Alternative Conservatory is a modular, mobile and intensive training ground in dance and related forms. Hermesdorf was a member of Bebe Miller Company, worked extensively with Sara Shelton Mann/Contraband, and was a member of Margaret Jenkins Dance Company. She co-directedHermesdorf & Wells Dance Company with Scott Wells, and is in collaboration with Stephanie Maher in Berlin and Stolzenhagen, Germany, creating performance work and training opportunities through Ponderosa Festival and PORCH. Hermesdorf holds a BFA and MFA in Dance alongside extensive experience in the field and performs, creates and teaches around the world.
Kirstie Simson has been a continuous explosion in the contemporary dance scene, bringing audiences into contact with the vitality of pure creation in moment after moment of virtuoso improvisation. Called “a force of nature” by the New York Times, she is an award-winning dancer and teacher who has “immeasurably enriched and expanded the boundaries of New Dance,” according to Time Out Magazine (London). Simson’s eternal subject is freedom, as she dares to go beyond the boundaries of form and structure to create movement out of the rhythm of life itself. For the past 30 years, Kirstie has collaborated with many dancers and musicians who share an interest in improvisation, including Steve Paxton, Nancy Stark Smith, Simone Forti, Michael Schumacher, Adam Benjamin, Julyen Hamilton, and Le Quan Ninh. She teaches throughout the world with notable companies, such as Cloud Gate in Taiwan and Sasha Waltz and Guests in Germany, and leads open workshops and classes in institutions of learning, including the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London, the Danish National School of Performing Arts, and SNDO in Amsterdam. Kirstie was awarded a Dance and Performance Award from London’s Time Out as “a unique figure in the dance world,” and Jennifer Dunning of the New York Times wrote that “Kirstie Simson is justly celebrated in Britain for exquisite, sensuous dancing.” She is renowned today as an excellent teacher and captivating performer who is a leading light in the field of dance improvisation, and she has created a film about dance improvisation with filmmaker Katrina McPherson. Kirstie currently holds a professorship in the department of dance at the University of Illinois where she teaches dance improvisation and contact improvisation.
Daniel Davis has taught Contact Improvisation, Axis Syllabus, and Composition internationally in Estonia, Finland, Greece, Spain, Germany, Denmark and Mexico. He has applied and adapted learning from these physical inquiry practices in activities as diverse as acrobatic stilts and body work. Both his teaching and creative practices are driven by awe and wonder for humanity and an equally poignant curiosity and respect for the more-than-human world.
His performance work liberally combines dance, text, video, new media, original sound scores, installations, and audience interaction. His work has been presented at the Imagining Bodies Symposium in Tallin, Estonia, the San Francisco International Arts Festial, SoWat Now Contemporary Performance Festival, and Looking Left Festival in California, and at the SEEDS Festival at Earthdance Center, MA. He has performed in theaters, on submarines, desert rocks, construction scaffolding, and art galleries. He’s made pieces about dementia, gender, war, heritage and identity. Recently he has been directing performances for EchoTheaterSuitcase project, a model bringing together veterans of war and non-veterans to create original performance installations based on their stories. He has been blessed with opportunities to perform and collaborate with Nita Little, Nancy Stark Smith, Guillermo Gomez Pena, Half Machine/ Live Art Installations, Felix Ruckert, Kira Kirsch, Erika Tsimbrovsky, Scott Wells, Krista DeNio and many other inspiring body/minds.
K.J. Holmes is a dance artist, actor, singer and educator who has been exploring improvisation as process and performance since 1981. She has been fortunate to collaborate extensively with forerunners of dance improvisation Simone Forti, Karen Nelson, Lisa Nelson and Steve Paxton, as well as with poet Julie Carr, performer Keith Biesack, and trumpeters Roy Campbell Jr. and Dave Douglas, among many other outstanding artists. Instrumental in developing methods of inquiry into performance, the body and the mind through her experience with BMC ™, Ideokinesis (with Andre Bernard), Contact/Improvisations and Release techniques, K.J. is a graduate of the School for Body-Mind Centering (1999) and the William Esper Studio (Meisner acting) (2009), of which the play between is essential to her current practices. She is based in Brooklyn NY and her work has been presented in NYC at Danspace Project, DTW, Movement Research at the Judson Church, Dance Works in Progress at The Kitchen, PS122, The Vision Jazz Festival, among many other venues. Her most recent dance piece This is where we are (or take arms against a sea of troubles) premiered at The Chocolate Factory Theater in Long Island City, March 2011, and she is currently developing a new work as a 2012-14 Movement Research Artist in Residence. K.J. teaches at NYU/Experimental Theatre Wing, Eugene Lang/New School for Social Research and Movement Research in NYC, as well as traveling nationally and internationally conducting workshops and performing. She continues to be a student of Richard Armstrong, Fay Simpson and Raina von Waldenburg.
Chris Aiken received his M.F.A. from the University of Illinois in Urbana and his BA in English from Brandeis University. He is an internationally recognized teacher and performer of dance improvisation and contact improvisation. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Dance at Smith College and is the Director of the MFA program at Smith. Aiken has received numerous awards for his artistic work, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Bush Foundation Fellowship, funding from the Jerome Foundation and commissions from the Walker Art Center, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, Dance Theater Workshop, Bates Dance Festival and the National Performance Network. He teaches and performs internationally on his own and with his collaborator Angie Hauser. Aiken teaches improvisation, contact improvisation, contemporary dance technique and theory as well as the science of dance, somatics and choreography.
Albert Mathias has been creating music for movement in San Francisco since 1991, he is a multi-disciplinary musician whose focus contains accompaniment, composition and sound design for dance/theater, CD and film , as well as solo works for the stage. Since 1998 Mathias has been Music Director of La Alternativa, a perpetual experiment of dance training, choreography, improvisation and performance with dancer/choreographer Kathleen Hermesdorf. La Alternativa has produced three evening length works for the stage and released five works for CD Audio since 1999. Albert is also a founding member and primary percussionist for international touring/recording artists LiveHuman, an improvisation-based trio, with bassist Andrew Kushin and DJ Quest. Mathias was a member of the multi-disciplinary performance group, Contraband from 1995-97 and has worked independently in the dance field with Raisa Punnki – Red xing & All Blue, Group Six – Improvisations, Kim Epifano & Kathleen Hermesdorf – Polar Shift, Sue Roginski & Mercy Sidbury – S.O.S., Deborah Slater Dance Theater – A Hole In The World, Dominique Zeltzman & Hermesdorf – Nostalgia Sea, Norman Rutherford & Marintha Tewksbury – Brittle and Scott Wells – Rebound. He has accompanied classes for Kim Epifano, Sara Shelton Mann, Bill T. Jones, KT Nelson, and Knee Jerk Dance Project.
An improviser and instrumentalist since the age of nine, Mathias began with cello, choir, trap drums and musical theater in Chicago, then relocated to study North Indian percussion at Ali Akbar College of Music and California Institute of the Arts, training in traps, tabla, voice and accompaniment under the guidance of masters Amiya Dasgupta, John Bergamo and Leonice Shinneman. He has also had the honor of private study with legends Pandit Swapan Chauduri, Sri Ravi Bellare, and the late great Tony Williams. Albert proudly plays a custom wireless electronic midi percussion controller called Zendrum. Please visit www.zendrum.com for more detailed technical information.
Angie Hauser received her M.F.A. from Ohio State University and, since 2000, has been a member of the Bebe Miller Company and contributed to the company’s award winning body of contemporary dance work. In 2006 she was awarded a BESSIE (N.Y. Dance and Performance Award) for Creation and Choreography for her work with Bebe Miller. Hauser has also collaborated and performed with key artists in contemporary and postmodern dance including Liz Lerman, Elizabeth Streb, and K.J. Holmes. She co-directs and creates interdisciplinary performance projects with long-time partner Chris Aiken. Hauser and Aiken teach contemporary dance technique and theory as well as dance science, somatices and choreography. Their creative and extensive performance experience in various practices of improvisation will benefit and expand the scope of the Smith College Department of Dance and the Five College Dance Department.
Born in 1960, Frey Faust began performing at the age of 8 with his family as a traveling troubadour. He is a second generation contact improviser and an alumnus of the 80´s New York dance scene. Some of his more important early influences came from: Shekhinah Mountainwater, Nita Little, Pavel Rouba, Rene Bazinet, and Janet Panetta. He has worked with and for a number of artists (order of appearance: Ohad Naharin, Donald Byrd, David Parsons, Gina Buntz, Howard Katz, Merce Cunningham, Meredith Monk, Randy Warshaw, Bob Een, Stephen Petronio, Danny Ezralow… to name a few. He founded or co-founded three dance companies, and has created or co-created over 40 choreographic solo and group works. Following an independent study of anatomy, biomechanics, and physics, he has been able to build a pedagogical approach that has made him a sought after teacher, personal coach and technical counselor. After fifteen years of research, he consolidated his findings in a book, ‘The Axis Syllabus – human movement lexicon’, which he continues to edit with the help of the Axis Syllabus International Research Community. Founded in 2009, the ASIRC is a rapidly expanding group of experts from many related fields in the human movement and education sciences. Recently, his work on the AS has been focused into the construction of a symbol set with the potential to streamline movement documentation and analysis. He also makes shoes, speaks 4 languages, and continues to create and perform dances.
Mirva Mäkinen graduated (MA) from the Dance Department of the Theatre Academy of Finland in 2000, before that she did masters of Physical Education from University of Jyväskylä. She did her PHD at the Theatre Academy in Helsinki on Somaesthetics of Contact Improvisation. Since 2000 she has been a dance teacher, choreographer and lecturer for dance at the Kallio Upper Secondary School of Performing Arts. She has taugh at a variety of International dance and contact improvisation festivals. Mirva is a company dancer for Karttunen Kollektiv, New Circus Company Circo Aereo and with choreographer Joona Halonen. Her collaborations with Antonio Alemanno, Frey Faust, Joerg Hassmann and Ilona Kenova has been influencing her way of dancing. ‘In dance I am interested in the feeling of flow and soft movement. I love to investigate movement, its rhythm and different ways of inhabiting the body. A feeling of dancing is created by being able to switch the body from total relaxation to extreme intensity and tension. I call this the body’s ability to breathe and create movement. My ideal is total presence, which makes every moment true and meaningful.’
Tom Weksler has been practicing Capoeira, Martial Arts and different forms of acrobatic disciplines from a young age. Raised in Isreal, Tom graduated in 2009 from “The Workshop For Dancers and Choreographers” in Haifa. Since 2010, Tom has been dancing with “Inbal Pinto and Avshallom Pollak Dance Company” and performed with the comapny’s productions in many theaters and festivals around the world. Tom is currently performing around the world the performance “Collective Loss Of Memory” – choreographed by “Rootlessroot” (Jozef Frucek and Lind Kapetnea) and produced by “Dot504”.
Daniel Lepkoff is a dancer, dance maker, improvising performer, teacher, and writer. His work looks at functional movement as a finely tuned physical dialogue with the environment and explores the form and composition of this interaction as a language for making dances. He has developed techniques based on this approach that form a dance practice as well as a research into moving and living in the world. He is known for his commitment to composing dance works that bring the process of living movement onto the stage.He was one of the founders of Movement Research in NYC (1975). He played an active role in defining the initial conception of this seminal organization: designing new programs, curating events, teaching regular classes and offering intensive workshops. Living in New York City in the ’80’s Daniel performed in the works of several choreographers including: Trisha Brown, Mary Overlie, Judy Padow, & Nancy Topf. In his own solo and group work he experimented with the elements of voice, text, film & video, photography, interactions with physical objects, and constructing sets for performance. Over the years Daniel has engaged in several long term and important collaborations with other performing artists including: Lisa Nelson, Steve Paxton; Paul Langland, Saira Blanche Theater in Moscow (Oleg Soulimenko and Andrej Andrianov), Hungarian experimental musician Dora Attila and Japanese dancer, Sakura Shimada, among others. He has published numerous articles articulating concepts that are central to his approach to dance making. These writings appear in Contact Quarterly, The MR Performance Journal, and Contredanse Publications in Bruxelles.
Previous Guest Artists include: Nancy Stark Smith, Ruth Douthwright & Kelly Keenan (Axis Syllabus), Heidi Henderson, Gadu, Zena Bibler, Katie Schetlick, Brandin Steffensen & Nita Little.