Thursday, September 27, 2012

SoMoS: Interview with Olive Prince, dancer-collaborator for SoMoS

SoMos is a Branch Dance performance spectacle bridging nature and the urban landscape, to be presented in a parking lot in the North Philadelphia barrio on October 12, 2012, at 8pm as part of Taller Puertorriqueño’s performance series, Café Under the Stars: Spotlighting the Arts in El Barrio. In contrast to the urban landscape, the parking lot at 5th and Huntingdon Streets will be transformed into a quiet carnival of nature images, sounds, and movement invoking the four seasons. This is a free event.

Interview with Olive Prince, dancer-collaborator for SoMoS.

Olive Prince in SoMoS  Photo: Lindsay Browning
Q: How would you describe SoMoS?

Olive Prince: SoMos is “carnival” of branch dancing. The audience has the opportunity to wander through a world that presents a sensory experience on nature. You will see dancers moving with massive branches, tents that capture videos of each season, bodies moving in response to the environment that is created, and leading to an overall experience that the audience can immerse themselves in. You can walk through the parking lot at your own leisure and take in what you choose from this feast of branch dancing. It is like taking a walk in the woods where you can take the time to stop and watch the slow evolution of the leaves moving in the wind or you can wander off the path to what interests you.

Q: How long have you been working with choreographer Merián Soto on branch dances?

Olive Prince in OYWPP  Photo: Pepón Osorio
Olive Prince: I started dancing with Merián on branch dancing in 2004. It was an idea she had and I was a graduate student at Temple and went into the woods to investigate it with her. We weren’t even holding branches at that time, but I was dancing on a tree trunk and connecting with the weight and gravity of the environment. This later evolved into her first Wissahickon Project and that was the first larger investigation of the work I did with her. We performed four times for each season.

Q: What was the process like to develop the branch dances and at what point did you feel you "got it"?

Olive Prince: It has been a pleasure to witness how this work has evolved. Performing in this work is a constant evolution and practice of committing to the connection, sensitivity, and the body’s response to finding an energetic balance with the branch. I don’t believe there was one point where I suddenly got it. It evolves—the practice becomes a part of how you work and an approach that takes discipline, patience, and a heightened awareness. Each practice is different but it calls on me to not only commit all of my focus to this one task, but I feel like I become something else in the process of slowing down, listening, and connecting with the branch.

Q: What are you doing for SoMoS?

Olive Prince: I am doing a solo with two massive twenty-foot long branches. The journey will last for an hour and takes me to places that continue to surprise me. The weight of the branches becomes intense and it immediately requires me to sustain this constant awareness of my body and the branch moving in space. The smallest shifts in the wind or how I am moving my spine can alter my entire relationship with the branch. There is an emotional journey that evolves in this solo. I will be outside for the entirety of the performance.

Q: How does the scale of SoMoS affect your approach?

Olive Prince: We have all worked on each component of this work. The scale of the work defines the larger context in which I will be relating, but the practice is the practice. When it comes time to perform the work I will be situated in the middle of this grand spectacle of sorts. I will be working to listen and connect to the emotional and physical landscape of my own journey and trust that it will resonate in the context of the whole.

Olive n the parking lot. Photo: Melissa Putz
Q: Merián has talked how SoMoS is something of a culmination of her branch dance work. How do you see this evolution?

Olive Prince: This evolution has been thrilling to be a part of. It’s amazing to think about how we started branch dancing with one tiny branch and now we are using huge branches or multiple branches. We are relating to video images and other dancers in ways that have grown organically out of the process. Merián is amazing at giving the workspace to evolve. It seems to happen very intuitively and in the process of how she works with dancers and performs the practice. I’m thankful to have been a part of this process. The practice teaches you something every time.

September 24, 2012
Interview by Josh McIlvain

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