Archived Interview: newMoves Festival 2012 by David Bernabo

The newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival is back next week at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater from Thursday, May 10 through Saturday May 12. Check the Facebook page for more info. Choreographers from Hungary, New York, Philadelphia, and Ohio will be coming to town. Also, Pittsburgh's own Pittsburgh choreographers will be presenting new work. The newMoves festival is a great chance to see some emerging locals. Beth Ratasis a local dancer and now choreographer that will be presenting a brand new piece. Beth's piece will be performed Thursday, May 10 at KST alongside Jamie Murphy and Renee Danielle Smith (PGH), Simone Sobers (NYC), Alan Obuzor (PGH), Jasmine Hearn (PGH), Shannon Murphy (PHL). Beth shared a little about her work process and what we can expect next next Thursday.

DBWhat piece are you performing at newMoves? Who is involved in the ensemble?
Beth Ratas: I am creating a new work. It is a work-in-progress with the working title 'I dare you'. I am using 3 dancers plus myself. The dancers names are Alyssa Mayfield, Mariana Batista, and Jasmine Hearn.

DBWhere does your piece originate? What themes are you hoping to explore?
BR: My piece originated with the idea of women feeling the need to cover or veil themselves in society. As I became more clear, it shifted to the focus/idea of forbidden fruit/temptation. Through dissecting this topic, I started to explore the words allure, devour, and retract. If you are tempted by something, what do you choose to do, devour it or retract from it? 

DBHow does the choreography process start? Is improvisation involved?
BR: I like to start with a guided improvisation. Allowing the dancers to become aware of how their structure is working. Often times, I gravitate to how the body feels from the inside, out. Inspired by skeletal structure, blood flow, connective tissue and working my way out to the epidermis. Then I start to add words that relate to my piece like: allure, devour, retract, sensual, bound, violent, and orange just to name a few. I allow the dancers to create movement based on improv, and then I start to structure the piece around their own improvised movement language. 

DBI noticed a new facebook page (LINK) - can we expect more Beth Ratas work in the future?
BR: Yes, you should expect to see more of Beth Ratas! I actually have a performance coming up on Friday July 6th @ 6pm @ The Union Project titled 'Relative Positions'. Curated by Shana Simmons, it is a multi-media/multi-room art happening that will bring many different artists together.

We continue our interview series of newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival choreographers with Pittsburgh's Jasmine Hearn. Jasmine has danced with Dance Alloy, STAYCEE PEARL dance project, and others. newMoves will see her present a new piece called, "if god left the lights on could we walk alone at night." newMoves starts this Thursday at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater and lasts through Saturday May 12. Check the Facebook page for more info. Check out the last week's interview with Beth Ratas here.

DB: What piece are you performing at newMoves? Who is involved in the ensemble?
Jasmine Hearn: I will be presenting an excerpt from a new work titled "if god left the lights on could we walk alone at night". Movement artists include Alyssa Mayfield, Riva Strauss, Beth Ratas, and me. Just so you know there is partial nudity in the work. 

DB: Where does your piece originate from? What themes are you hoping to explore?
JH: My piece is a simple, sensual moving collection of images that have been remembered from literature, film, and experience. While humanizing the many labels bestowed upon women, the piece focuses on one question: why has the female sex been so over valued but her sexuality so underappreciated? 

DB: How does the choreography process start? Is improvisation involved?
JH: There are many different processes that we have tried; creating a phrase and teaching the dancers to see how they interpret it, guided improvisation, and asking the dancers themselves to contribute phrasework are some examples.

DB: What else is going on? Any upcoming performances or projects?
JH: I will be presenting another section of "if god left the lights on..." at Pittsbugh's Pride Festival Sunday June 10th. I also hope to present the entire length work here in Pittsburgh, and also in Houston, Texas and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Also for more info go to my facebook artist page:

DB: Who else are you looking forward to seeing at newMoves?
JH: Honestly everyone. The line-up is pretty amazing this year.

Next, we catch up New York City's Marjani Forté. Marjani is a touring member of Urban Bush Women Dance Co. (who performed in Pgh in the '07/08 season), half of LOVE|FORTÉ with Nia Love, and has worked with Earl Mosely's Diversity of Dance, Garth Fagan, Blondell Cummings, Camille A. Brown, and others. Marjani will perform Friday, May 11 alongside idiosynCrazy Productions (NYC), anonymous bodies (PHL), and August Wilson Center Dance Ensemble (PGH). Check out the interview below and head over to Kelly-Strayhorn Theater's website for ticket and performance info:

DB: What piece are you performing at newMoves? Who is involved in the ensemble?
Marjani Forté : I'll be performing EGO. EGO is solo, choreographed and performed by myself Marjani Forté (, with an original composition by Everett Saunders/Ngozi Flux ( The work was our second collaboration.

DB: Where does your piece originate from? What themes are you hoping to explore?
MF: EGO came from my observations of who and what I became in crowds, among strangers, or even close acquaintances. As it evolved, the piece began to capture, at a glance, my journey towards self-acceptance, and Everett's journey towards self-acceptance. It manifested in 3 distinct personalities, that held the multi-faceted and complex nature of over and under compensating.

DB: How does the choreography process start? What steps occur along the way?
MF: I began this work drawing inspiration from a song, that seemed to speak my frustrations with self- "Out my mind" by Erykah Badu. It quickly evolved beyond the song and into my body. It was first presented as an idea at New Orleans McKenna Museum. It later found its way into my journal. I began writing about the work, thinking about who or what I was trying to protect by "putting on". What if the song was really addressing the emphatic destructive commitment to one's own EGO or ideal self. I later fashioned my words into a Haiku Structure, then deconstructed the product of that work. The text spoken in the score is the remnants of that work.

DB: What else is going on? Any upcoming performances or projects?
MF: I have an ongoing creative "marriage" with choreographer Nia Love, called LOVE|FORTÉ, a collective committed to making work with social and politically conscious weight, that challenges norms, and shifts the performance and witnessing experience. We'll be performing this month at Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, and Movement Research's Judson Church. I am currently an Artist-In-Residence with Movement Research. I also recently premiered a new work at Danspace for the PARALLELS: Platforms Series curated by Ishmael Houston-Jones. I'll be looking to develop this work, titled Here..., over the next few years. Here... was an observation of Mental Health in the face of systematic oppression, and will evolve to examine Addiction through the same lens. 


This one comes from Texture's Alan Obuzor.

DB: What piece are you performing at newMoves? Who is involved in the ensemble?
Alan Obuzor: I will be performing a new piece titled "Taken". It will be a solo on myself. In the future, I plan to extend the piece so that this solo will be the 2nd movement, and I will add a 1st and a 3rd movement that will include more dancers. The music is by Philip Glass.

DB: Where does your piece originate from? What themes are you hoping to explore?
AO: The starting point for this piece come from the music, that is mostly true of all of my work. In this piece I am exploring the emotions that one goes through after a tramatic life event. 

DB: How does the choreography process start? Is improvisation involved?
AO: A lot of listening to the music, then playing around in the studio with movement, sometimes improvisation sometimes not. Basically creating/finding movement or material that supports my vision for the piece.

DB: What else if going on? Any upcoming performances or projects?
AO: Texture will be performing a new work at "Speaking of..." on June 16th. Then we will be having Texture's 1st Birthday Party on July 7th, there will be new work presented and performed throughout the evening. Then we will be having our main summer show July 19th - 22nd at the New Hazlet Theater.
From more detailed info on any of our upcoming events you can visit our website:

DB: Who else are you looking forward to seeing at newMoves?
AO: I am Happy the be performing on the same night as The Murphy/Smith Dance Collective as I personally danced with them last year, but I am excited to see all of the other performances.

Archived Interview: No Reduce by David Bernabo

This Saturday, 09/22/2012, NoReduce, a new Swiss jazz quartet is coming to Pittsburgh to kick off the first Hear/Now Performance Series event at The Alloy Theater. They will be supporting their fantastic new album, Jaywalkin'. Check out the facebook event here: and the website event here:

I caught up with NoReduce's Chris Benedict for a short Q&A. 

DB: How did NoReduce start, especially since Nasheet is in NYC? Have you spent time in NYC?
Chris Benedict: Last year the three of us swiss guys spent coincidentally each half a year in NYC. We haven't planed to be there together. So we wanted to set an aim for that period and decided to do this album with Nasheet. 

DB: Where does the name NoReduce come from?
CB: NoReduce is originally based on the letters of our firstnames. N(asheet) R(affaele) D(avey) C(hris). Then we played around with that and came to NoReduce. It's a term in programming language. But for us it means: "No risk, no fun."

DB: The Jaywalkin' album has a great mixture of composition and improvisation. How does the writing process work for the group? It appears that there are three main composers?
CB: All the three swiss guys brought some compositions for the album. That was part of our work in that period, when we lived in NYC. Now, everybody brings in new stuff. Everybody has his own writing process. But the pieces have a lot in common. They are all inspired by places and the way of living in NYC. 

DB: A handful of Swiss musicians have visited Pittsburgh in the past few years bringing a number of different styles. How do you find the Swiss jazz scene? It feels like there is a shared approach with Chicago where a lot of new jazz is emerging.

CB: There is a lot of jazz going on in switzerland and we have a lot of exchange with the US scene, especially people from Chicago and New York. I guess, the character of this generation is to be open for any kind of style and playing, no matter if this is in US or in Switzerland. Everybody is checking out and trying to find different solutions. Nobody has to define himself in just one way, like musicians in the old days had to. It's a great privilege of this generation to have this freedom.

Catch NoReduce along with Jil Stifel dancing in Blaine Siegel's inflatable art, plus an opening performance by Rafael Abreu-Canedo/David Bernabo/Taylor Knight/David Pellow. More Event Info: