Meet our new intern Elise Mele!

My name is Elise Mele and to be honest I am still figuring out who I am. Here are some facts that I know about myself: I am a Taurus, junior at Drexel University, a dance major, a friend, sibling, student, the list goes on. Usually when we describe ourselves we list facts just like the ones I listed above, but that doesn’t describe who we truly are, it just describes what other people see us as. I would like to explain how I see myself, rather than how other people see me.

Elise PhotoMy name is Elise Mele and I am an artist who is striving to find her place in the world. I am a dancer who takes joy in getting lost in movement. I am a choreographer who uses inspiration from theoretical thinking and investigation of life experiences to create movement. I am just beginning a journey in which I hope to develop an artistic focus that is based off the thoughts and experiences that we tend to overlook. In order to grow this new viewpoint I decided to intern with a company that shares the same interests as me.

RealLivePeople focuses “on the spaces between, the quick look away and the light tap on the shoulder.” A company that is built on that philosophy is a company that will help me grow as the artist I strive to be. I have high hopes that once I come out of this experience I will be able execute my views and ideas the way that RealLivePeople has successfully done. I am excited for you all to get to know me as I continue to write about my experience interning with RealLivePeople.

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Megan Quinn: From dramaturg to dancer

megphotoLast year, when Gina and RealLivePeople made The Jobs Project. I served as the dramaturg (the role Jenna now plays). This year, I am performing in Would I Lie to You? Creative adviser versus performer: there are some obvious differences between these two roles. As a dramaturg, I attended rehearsals sitting down with my notebook. I took notes, made observations, and served as a sounding board for Gina. As a dancer, I attend rehearsals to rehearse. I learn and practice material, engaging in the physicality of lying. There are obvious constants as well: same dance company, still run by Gina and still in a dance studio, most often the Latvian society. But the way I enter and experience rehearsals is very different.

When I was a dramaturg I saw my role as keeping an eye on the overall structure and consistency of the piece. I made connections between various sections, I noticed how details applied to the theme (the many faces of jobs) and I helped Gina plan the arc of the piece from beginning to end. This year, as a performer, I am focused on the details and my contribution to the work. I am constantly asking myself how I am able to support the theme of lying, through movement and personal narrative. The difference is a bit like moving from seeing the forest to focusing on the trees. As a dramaturg, I worked hard on observing the information and physicality presented by the dancers. It was important to relate to the work, so that I had valuable insights. But the focus was on seeing others. As a dancer, I need to put myself in the work. The focus is on what I can contribute, physically and creatively.

Gina does ask her dancers to be mentally and creatively involved and so in that way, there is not a solid line between performer and creative contributor. In both roles, I need to find and use the best way for my strengths to be present and useful. But as a dramaturg, I used strength of observing, connecting and articulating, and as a dancer I now am trying to use the strength of being open to share and create, applying both my personality and dance technique to the work.

What it’s like: Dramaturgy for Dance

Jenna_HeadshotBy Jenna Stelmok, Dramatrug

I’m incredibly knowledgeable when it comes to dance. In fact, I spent one of the most formative years of my life (age 3) falling down in a glittery tutu.

When I first met Gina Hoch-Stall and interviewed for the position of dramaturg for Would I Lie to You?, my primary concern was not having enough experience in dance to provide real assistance to the project. While I have dramaturgy and theatrical experience, I didn’t know the difference between battements and a port de bras (I still don’t, I just looked up those terms online), let alone how to express a story through movement. Still, Gina and I hit it off and wrapped our meeting quickly with a “Let’s do this!”

But as I’ve attended rehearsals for RealLivePeople, I’ve slowly gained more of an understanding on the creation of a dance piece. I struggled in the beginning with dropping my logical and narrative-based approach, and opening myself to a physical, more free-form type of expression. Allowing my mind to be open to the movement onstage in front of me, and connecting with the dancers’ impulses and ideas, has become a fantastic experience in engaging with others’ stories. Furthermore, RealLivePeople is the most accessible dance company I’ve seen, offering work that may be fully understood by “normal” (i.e. non-dance) folk.

Photo: Lindsay Browning

Photo: Lindsay Browning

The dancers, while technically proficient and skilled, are not stuffy or traditional; their stories and impulses are clear, raw, and immediately visible the moment they move. Since this is an ensemble-based piece with every dancer contributing new material, Would I Lie to You? is additionally packed with a wide variance of personal (hi)stories and opinions on what it means to tell a lie. Expressed with minimal text, the piece instead explodes with body language and movement to be interpreted by an audience through their personal views.

I was asked what it’s like to work as a dramaturg for a dance company for this blog, and my first inclination was to try and explain all of the unexpected variances between this project and any dramaturgy I’ve done in the past. Then, I received the instructions “It doesn’t have to be crazy long, or too complex. Just honest.” Honestly, working as a dramaturg for this dance company been one of the most engaging artistic experiences I’ve had. It’s has opened my mind to an entirely new form of storytelling and dialogue. I’ve learned how to experiment and create art with only your body as a tool, and what it means to take a physical risk.

Working with this dance company has given me a deeper understanding of what it means to put yourself onstage, with no significant filter between you and your audience, and share your world with others. Working with these dancers has been real, explosive, and bursting with honest expression— at least, I think it has…

Meet Molly! She is ready to teleport.

As a company we spend endless hours rehearsing, giggling and sharing our lives and we wanted to share a bit of ourselves with you. Rather than posting tired bios with stats and degrees, each company member created questions for another.

Molly fish face

Photo Credit Lindsay Browning

Interviewer: David Konyk

Interviewee: Molly Jackson

1. Do you feel any connection to the Jackson 5?

I don’t know if it is the last name connection, the initials connection (MJ ❤ MJ), or the sweet dance moves connection, but yes….yes I do. One of the first CD’s that I became obsessed with as a young kid was “Kid Rock”. It featured classic hits such as “Rockin’ Robin”, “Who Put The Bop in the Bop Shoo Bop”, “Chantilly Lace”, “Red Rubber Ball” and or course “ABC” by the Jackson 5. I listened to this album until it was so worn in that it would barely play anymore. To this day, every time I hear the Jackson 5, I feel like I’m 5 years old again. ABC, easy as 123! These songs completely formed me into the young lady I grew up to be. A 60’s baby at heart.

2. Without thinking about it, what is the first song to pop into your head right now?

Well, I’m listening to music right now, so I’m not sure that I can answer this question honestly. I had a gig dancing at Sister’s Nightclub last night, so I suppose my brain is on pop song overload right now. I’m cleansing myself with some Velvet Underground radio of Spotify. It is an absolutely amazing station…you should give it a try.

3. Was the answer to question 2 by the Jackson 5?

Now that you mention it, I think I’m sensing an awkward and slightly terrible mix of “ABC” and my current song “Waving Flags” by British Sea Power, happening in my head right now. I hope the rest of these questions aren’t about the Jackson 5, because I’d like to forget about this terrible mix of songs and focus on cleansing my mind of the pop song overload called Sister’s Nightclub.

4. Do you make your bed in the morning?

I’m still sitting in bed right now, actually. I don’t plan on getting out of it anytime soon. I got home from work at 2:30 am and it’s 10:30 right now, so I see going back to sleep for a little while in my foreseeable future. However, on days when I am not still sitting in my bed, yes, I am an avid bed maker. I have trained myself (and my boyfriend, Ryan, for that matter) to not leave the house in the morning without making the bed. It makes me feel calmer. Ryan and I share a moderately small room in a house with 4 other roommates, so it can easily get cluttered and crazy with all of our stuff occupying a small area. Walking into a wild room and seeing an organized bed helps me not feel like I’m going insane.

5. Do you get nervous before going on stage, (performing)? If yes, what things do you do to reassure yourself?

It depends on what I am going on stage to perform. If I feel confident and comfortable with the movement and setting, I would say that I’m less nervous and more so focused and excited. If I am feeling a little uneasy and unsure that I’ve had enough rehearsal, I visualize what I am about to do and steady my breath. I find that if I can see the movement in my mind, then it is a good indication of knowing it in my body. If I am feeling confident about the performance, I shake out my nerves, try to get myself in an excited and positive place, and then focus on coming to a calm state of mind and relaxing my body so that my energy is focused into the ground and not up in my shoulders or in an unstable place.

6. If you had to give up, (lose), one of your five senses completely, (sight, hearing, smell, taste, feeling), which do you think you could live without?

This is a scary question. I’ve thought about it before, and it makes me so sad to think of life without all of these senses.

I am an incredibly visual person. I can’t imagine living without color, texture, visual art, being able to see human emotion and movement.

Hearing is a lifeline for me. Without it, music would cease to exist in my life. Hearing a song and allowing my body to soak it in and respond to all the layers and textures of the beats and vocals. Yes, I”d also miss hearing voices and sounds in the world….but music is what I don’t know if I could live without.

Feeling I also don’t think I could give up. I tend to get anxious if I go for a while without feeling human to human contact. Really feeling and responding to a hug, holding someone’s hand, or feeling a hand rub my head or back. And a life without getting the full enjoyment out of sex….don’t get me started.

Smell. Hmm….living in the city, sometimes I wish that I didn’t have the sense of smell. Is it true that if you lose the sense of smell, you also lose the sense of taste? I think it comes down to either smell or taste. I have always said that although I appreciate and fully enjoy and LOVE tasting a delicious milkshake or bowl of mac n’ cheese, I am a very texture based person when I’m eating or drinking something. If something tastes good but has a creepy texture, I can’t eat it. And vise versa, if something is bland or sort of foul, I’ll eat it if it feels interesting in my mouth. So, as long as I could still feel food, then maybe life wouldn’t be absolutely terrible….and maybe I wouldn’t want to have that 8th serving of cake.

7. If you could have one special ability, what would it be?

One special ability. Of course my go-to answer is the ability to fly. It would be amazing to soar in the sky and feel completely weightless. However, I think that it would still be hard to get to places long distances away….and would I be able to carry any bags with me? Questions questions. Probably not. I would like the able to teleport and have the ability to teleport anyone who I was touching. I want to travel to every inch of the world, but it’s hard to do things like that living on the salary of a barista/dancer and when your schedule is full of rehearsals, gigs and work. If I wanted to grab lunch, I could teleport to a cafe in the South of France. If I had a day off and was sick of gloomy weather, I could suddenly be lounging on a beach in Brazil with a few friends. Or if I simply missed my family, I could zip to Boston and take a yoga class with my mom and dad.

Meet Hedy! She is probably wearing black underwear.

As a company we spend endless hours rehearsing, giggling and sharing our lives and we wanted to share a bit of ourselves with you. Rather than posting tired bios with stats and degrees, each company member created questions for another.

hedy growling

Interviewer: Adams Berzins

Interviewee: Hedy Wyland

1. If you could change someone else’s life, who would it be and how would you change it?

I wouldn’t necessarily change anyone’s life because its not my place but I would have made my moms life easier as a single mom with three kids.

2. What is your favorite color underwear?

Black, because I’m really pale and I like the way they contrast my skin tone. On someone else: any color, I like to see people in their undies.

3. What would you do, if you couldn’t dance anymore?

If I couldn’t dance anymore that would mean that I was really old or lost my legs so I would probably become a talk show host. The show would be called, “Hed from the bed” and I would broadcast from my bedroom. Guest would have breakfast with me in bed and we would discuss inappropriate topics.

4. Why do you hate cilantro?

You know it’s funny, if you had asked me this question five years ago I would have said that it tasted like dish soap. Recently I have been eating it in soups or dips and I’m slowly becoming a cilantro fan…sort of.

5.  What 3 people, alive or dead, would you like to have dinner with?

At this moment I would have to say my grandma Peggy, Marilyn Monroe and Mick Jagger

6. What’s so great about Pittsburgh, anyway?

Pittsburgh is so great because its where I’m from and where my family lives still. People are super friendly and humble. We have the best football team in the U.S and we make a mean sandwich.

Meet Adams! According to him the egg came first.

As a company we spend endless hours rehearsing, giggling and sharing our
lives and we wanted to share a bit of ourselves with you. Rather than posting
tired bios with stats and degrees, each company member created questions for another.

adams jumpingInterviewer: Sara Nye

Interviewee: Adams Berzins

What would you do if you got laid off tomorrow?

Get another job as quickly as possible and start determining what assets I have that could be liquified.

Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

The Egg. The fallacy is that a chicken would be a required to lay an egg that would produce another chicken, however, a chicken could be born from an egg laid by an organism that, genetically speaking, would not be considered a chicken. Evolution at work. The conundrum comes when needing to determine how that chicken would then be able to create more chickens without a similar mutation occurring in another egg that created a genetically similar organism that could procreate and beget more eggs and similar chickens.

What keeps you dancing, despite how busy you are?

Social interaction that detaches me from my 9-5 life. The opportunity to be creative in an embodied way that I’m not afforded in my day to day life.

What is a moral/ethical question with which you struggle?

The marginalization of masculinity and manliness in popular culture and society. I’m not sure its a moral/ethical questions but it is a broader societal phenomena that I struggle with understanding and try to document it and reverse it. In the realm of moral and ethical, I struggle with the advancement of technology and the applications for privacy and health. The alternate uses of information that is gathered for beneficial purposes, such as medical data or even shopping habits being used for targeted campaigns based on sweeping demographic assumptions. And the private control of that information beyond the initial use.

If you had a million dollars, what would you do with it? What in your life would change?

I don’t think I’d change all that much. I’d make things around me better and more comfortable. A part from paying off school for Adi and other debts, paying off my house, donating $50,000-$100,000 to the Latvian for renovations and upgrades (new bar, kitchen, theater apparatuses).  If I have significant money left over, I’d start a fund to pay for arts administrators in Philadelphia. A for-profit management company that would provide administrative services to artists large and small at a subsidized rate to allow companies to grow and manage their company for maximum benefit and sustainability. That is probably about as far as a million would go. I’d hope to have enough left over to take a nice trip, like a really nice trip to the Seychelles or the Maldives.

Meet Sara-without-an-h! She is a thoughtful kisser.

As a company we spend endless hours rehearsing, giggling and sharing our
lives and we wanted to share a bit of ourselves with you. Rather than posting
tired bios with stats and degrees, each company member created questions for another.

Sara at the lakeIntervierwer: Mason Rosenthal

Interviewee: Sara Nye

How do you think you would have been different had you been named Sarah with an “h”?

Growing up, there were frequently other Saras or Sarahs or Sarais in my classes. Having a slightly rarer spelling of the name always made me feel a little special. However, there are other things about me that make me feel special or unique, so I don’t think I would have necessarily felt one of the crowd even with an “h.” I certainly wouldn’t have had to correct people as much, so I believe being a Sara cultivated my desire for precision and my tendency to pay attention to details. I try to spell other people’s names right the first time because it matters to me. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been like that.

What is the best part of your work?

Most of my work schedule follows the academic school year, so though September through June is usually super busy, I love having holidays, a spring break, and a summer break off. I enjoy the fact that not every day of the year is the same.

How old were you when you had your first kiss? Describe every detail.

I was 17, nearly 18. Late bloomer. My boyfriend Matt senior year of high school was only my boyfriend for a month, mainly because I didn’t know what to do with a boyfriend at that time in my life, so I broke up with him. However, I did manage to get my first kiss. He came over to my house, and we sat close together on the couch and watched a recording of (nerd alert) a production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. I waited for him to lean in, because, again, I did not know what I was doing. I remember the entire time thinking, “Oh my God, I’m kissing him! I’m doing that thing that people do! Huh, so this is what it’s like? Pretty cool. Interesting. I wonder if I’m doing it right.” I was really analytical about it.

What websites do you frequent?

I’ve been very into Philebrity.com lately. I get a lot of news about festivals, concerts, other events in town. NYTimes. I spend a lot of time on Google Maps and airline travel sites and Airbnb.com. I like to plan trips, even trips that aren’t in the near future or imaginary trips.

What’s a fashion trend that confuses you?

I hate jean shorts that show the pockets sticking out past the bottom of the shorts. I’m all for Daisy Dukes. I have several pairs. But don’t show the stupid pockets. What’s the point? Are you proving how short your shorts are?

What is your worst habit?

I procrastinate. I’ve wanted to start writing poetry again for 5 years now. And it hasn’t happened.

What teacher or mentor has most influenced your dancing?

For me, there were two people. Emily and Rachel were both interim dance professors at Dickinson College my senior year. They co-led the Dance Theatre Group and taught the improv and choreography classes that year. They challenged me all the time. They were young and incredibly full of energy, and they made me want to move to a city and try my hand at a professional dance career. I had lunch with Rachel after I had decided to move to Philly, and she got real with me about the challenges that often arise when you pursue the life of an artist, financial and otherwise. I always appreciated that – knowing, however slightly, what I was getting myself into.

What performance skill do you think you are best at?

At first I thought “remembering detail,” but that’s more of a rehearsal process skill, isn’t it? I think focus. Focus is tied to detail and precision. I really try to focus on the elements of a performance that are truly important for me. In this piece, how much do I need to focus on the audience and their reactions (for things like comedic timing purposes)? How much do I need to focus on what other performers are doing or saying (for unison moments or realistic responses)? Am I losing focus on my spatial awareness, facial expression, core strength? Am I focusing on the notes my director gave me? When I perform, I feel like I am constantly asking myself these things.

Which sense is most important to you?

Sense of smell. It is so tied to memory. I love the waves of nostalgia that can wash over me when I smell something that jolts me back to a specific place or time. Because of that, I get angry at myself if I can’t place a smell, if I can’t figure it out. I smelled bacon the other day, and I knew I knew the smell, but it took me a couple minutes to place it. It was weird.

What super power would you want the most?

Super-strength. I feel physically weak sometimes. I imagine what kind of dancer I would be were strength not an issue. I could lift anyone. I would never get tired. My wrists would not give out as they sometimes do. I would be graceful in my strength.