Category Archives: Dance

the LIFESTYLE Farewell

Dear Friends and Family,

After three years of facilitating the LIFESTYLE arts collective, we’ve reached a point at which we’ve decided to move on from this project in light of other endeavors. Although our website will continue to exist as a historical reference of the artists and artwork that were featured in this space from 2011-2014, we will no longer be collecting or publishing new content. However, before we officially sign off, we’d like to take some time to look back at what’s been an incredible experience connecting and building with you all.

When we launched the LIFESTYLE in August of 2011, our goal was to create a space for dialogue, expression, collaboration, and artistic exchange rooted in the active processes of Reflection and Response through the arts. We sought to create an interactive, inspiring, and open space where artists from around the world would be able to share their work and their thoughts, centered around the idea of Reflection and Response. We also wanted to maintain the LIFESTYLE as an independent operation, free of ideological constraints or financial directives.

Our various projects have included the Artist Feature Series, Events from the Collective, Talk of the Town, Snapshots from the Collective, Original Mondays, and the Porch Swing Residency. The way we see it, all of the posts in these series add up to a dialogue exploring Reflection and Response from the perspectives of different people, art forms, mediums, and locations. Each person’s contribution to the LIFESTYLE served as a showcase of individual creative expression, while also functioning as an interactive piece of a larger-scale discussion.

We structured the LIFESTYLE around the framework of Reflection and Response – a concept that we believe drives artistic expression, yet rightfully remains open to interpretation. We believe art – in all its forms – serves as a venue through which people express themselves based on their experiences, perspectives, feelings, thoughts, and desires. However, art is often cautiously viewed as a simple, trivial aesthetic activity, providing a basis for it to be marginalized in educational institutions and omitted from broad economic discussions.

The concept of Reflection and Response stands in direct opposition to these traditional views, positioning art instead as a result of an artist’s active, unique processes of reflecting on their surroundings and their experiences, and, in turn, responding through creating something new, and inherently powerful – whether that’s a painting, an installation, a performance, a poem, a song, or any other creative output. Although these processes can be consciously harnessed, they also often indirectly affect a person’s work. We think this concept of Reflection and Response helps explain the essence of creativity.

We’d like to thank all of you who participated in this project as artists and readers, and we hope this space has served and inspired you as powerfully as it has on our end. We’ll forever respect the views and artworks that were shared here, and we’ll continue to build from this foundation as we move forward with future projects. Much love!

Reflection and Response.

– V & P

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Artist Feature: Alivia Schaffer

Alivia Schaffer | Photo by Cheryl Mann

Alivia Schaffer | Photo by Cheryl Mann

I actually would prefer to use these words in their verb tense- reflect and respond, because of their less passive nature. When I see these words as action, I take more responsibility for creating a response versus responding how the masses may or in a way that is expected of me. With each of my reflections or responses, I am able to create another layer of connection between my work and the work of others, or between myself and the world around me.

– Alivia Schaffer

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AS: I grew up just Northwest of Chicago in Algonquin, IL. Now, I am living in Chicago and working with DanceWorks Chicago.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AS: Reflection and Response are two important parts of my everyday life. The two concepts really are what making work is all about. They are the process of taking the dry technique of an art form from mindless regurgitation, to a robust and personalized statement. The art I put out is always my reflection or response to something. I see others’ work and I shape opinions about it as my reflection, and then I notice what things I found successful or intriguing, compared with which parts I was put off by. From there I create my own work as my response, using my reflection from what I experienced. As an artist, I feel like the world has become my studio and space for constant reflection and response. I often just see everything around me as information. Yet, the information does me no good until it is responded to or reflected upon. I actually would prefer to use these words in their verb tense- reflect and respond, because of their less passive nature. When I see these words as action, I take more responsibility for creating a response versus responding how the masses may or in a way that is expected of me. With each of my reflections or responses, I am able to create another layer of connection between my work and the work of others, or between myself and the world around me. When I am genuinely utilizing reflection and response, I have no longer been simply going through the motions of life, but instead I am truly being present and listening to what’s around me and making a choice of how to propel forward from there.

Alivia Schaffer | colored pencil

Alivia Schaffer | colored pencil

Alivia Schaffer | colored pencil

Alivia Schaffer | colored pencil

  How does your work fit in with that definition?

AS: I prefer never to make work that is a narrative of my own life, but instead I aim to create work that acts as a platform or framework for dancers to find themselves in. In this method, my work asks dancers to do the reflecting and responding themselves. Thus leading them to connect with their fellow dancers, myself, their audience, and the world. My choreographic process feels much more like a conversation and constant exchange of responses between myself and the dancers, versus me as the hierarchy handing out instructions.

 What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

AS: I am proud to say that I just finished my first season working as a professional dancer with DanceWorks Chicago! We recently returned from performing at Spring to Dance, a dance festival in St. Louis. Next up for me will be choreographing a quartet for Dance in the Parks Chicago. This summer, I will also be teaching dance and visual arts classes at the Auditorium Theater’s Heart to Art Camp; a camp providing art outlets for children who are coping with the loss of one or both of their parents.

Alivia Schaffer | oil pastel

Alivia Schaffer | oil pastel

Alivia Schaffer | oil pastel

Alivia Schaffer | oil pastel

 Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Joanna Poz-Molesky

Joanna Poz-Molesky

JUNTOS addresses the need for human connections to inspire one another to create positive change and simultaneously to heal suffering…By using community outreach in art, I hope to offer expression, inspiration, healing, sharing, and most importantly, love.

– Joanna Poz-Molesky

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

JPM: I was born in Berkeley, California and currently reside in Oakland. Although I spent most of my life there, I’ve also lived in Guatemala and New York City. 

I recognize that as artists, we all share part of our story and message. I was born into a bi-cultural household – my father a Maya from a rural village in the Guatemalan highlands who finished high school, my mother an ex-nun with her Ph.D from a middle-class San Francisco family. I realize that as a bi-cultural woman, life presents me with wonderful opportunities to experience the richness and understandings of various heritages as well as offers me possibilities to communicate with these cultures. I recognize art as my way of celebrating my heritage as well as sharing my knowledge, especially with those living in isolation.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

JPM: I really do believe that if anything has a chance to create a more peaceful world, it’s art. We don’t decide to be artists: we are called. Our voices are all so different – each stemming from past experiences, how we view our environment, time we share with individuals, and cultures we are surrounded by – but each voice speaks to its own truth. We have a responsibility to respond to hate, violence, and pain we humans bring this world. If we use our varying voices to speak to these issues, we shine light that becomes truth and beauty. I have come to recognize artists as therapists for the soul, spiritual versions of chiropractors. Art is healing and we are its vessel. Sometimes, we too are the ones that are in need of this healing and when we create and share, we gain strength and knowledge.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

JPM: My work is not an individual piece of art. I founded and direct JUNTOS Collective – a non-profit dance company that empowers individuals and inspires community building across national boundaries with a strong focus in Latin America through teaching, learning, and exchanging dance.

JUNTOS Collective

JUNTOS Collective

JUNTOS addresses the need for human connections to inspire one another to create positive change and simultaneously to heal suffering. It is the first collective comprised of university students at various competitive dance conservatories dedicated to creating community across international borders through dance. In partnering with various communities in Central America and the United States, JUNTOS introduces an innovative method in which participants maintain and strengthen national and international relationships while encouraging individuals to become persons serving others. JUNTOS recognizes the many problems humanity faces and attempts to reconcile differences, offering a new method to create change.

JUNTOS Collective

JUNTOS Collective

By using community outreach in art, I hope to offer expression, inspiration, healing, sharing, and most importantly, love. Being in love does not consist of loving everything; being in love with life and with what you do exerts kindness, imagination, drive, how you live your life and can lead to a compassionate and honest world. I propose to offer a piece of this love with my company. I hope to inspire others to share love, weave communities, people, and differences together to create a more peaceful world.

JUNTOS Collective

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Annie Rigney

Annie Rigney

[As a dancer] I enjoy putting myself in physical situations where I’m not sure how my body will respond. For example, allowing myself to be perpetually off balance, no matter how subtly,  in order to be in a constant state of fall and recovery, where each action that follows is a response to the previous one.

– Annie Rigney

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

AR: I grew up in Berkeley, California on sunshine, meyer lemons, and an infinite number of ballet classes. I majored in dance performance and choreography at SUNY Purchase, in New York and after graduating, moved to Tel Aviv, Israel, to follow my dreams of dancing with the Batsheva Ensemble. This led me to a contract with Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollack Dance Company, the following year, with whom I had the opportunity to tour and travel the world. We performed in theaters in Israel, Norway, Macau, Brazil, Uruguay, Colombia, Ecuador, Japan, Malta and the U.S.. After almost 4 years abroad, I’m finally back living in Brooklyn, New York, a place that is home to many of the people I love.

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

AR: I think that reflection and response are the essence of the artistic process. An artist reflects on his or her experiences and feelings, and then funnels them through whatever medium he or she chooses, be it music or paint or movement, in order to create a piece of work: a response.

What interests me most about this question, is understanding the ways in which I use reflection and response in my body when I dance. When I think of the word “Response”, I think of my nervous system and my sensory system and how they respond to stimuli. How this response of the nervous system creates an instantaneous action; a movement. I’m interested in making myself available for things to happen to me when I move– for my body parts to affect and respond to each other. For example, if I rotate my forearm far enough, the rotation of the shoulder and the twisting of my spine are both almost inevitable responses. It’s a chain of events that happens out of necessity. I enjoy putting myself in physical situations where I’m not sure how my body will respond. For example, allowing myself to be perpetually off balance, no matter how subtly,  in order to be in a constant state of fall and recovery, where each action that follows is a response to the previous one.

Similarly, “reflection” can be a look back or a processing of something that has already occurred, but it has another meaning–it can be an echo. The act of reflection in sound is when a sound wave bounces off of a surface and returns. Movement can behave in the same way. It can create an echo. I’m interested in riding this echo; listening to the memory and resonance of an action in my body and allowing my whole sensory system to process it. I often ask myself “What does the movement feel like?” while I’m performing, to help keep me in the moment. Cold, tense, empty, sweaty, or powerful, these are all physical sensations that have abstract connections to emotion. I guess the ultimate point of it all in dance, is that an audience gets an emotional response to viewing the physical events happening within the body of the performer. Ideally, it makes the viewer feel something. Feel alive.

How does your work fit in with that definition?

AR: I’m in the very early stages of a solo for myself…it’s untitled at the moment.  After becoming so deeply embedded in the community and aesthetic of Israeli modern dance, I now find myself back in New York, with an ocean separating me from the dancers and people who formed and defined most of my professional career thus far. Now I feel I can begin the real process of reflection. From this distance, I can decide what in my dancing I want to hold on to and take with me. What was someone else’s vision of me, and what is my own? I think in the research for this solo, I’m trying to understand myself in this new context of NYC. How will I chose to move, now that I am filled with  knowledge that I didn’t have 4 years ago, last time I was New York? It will be a solo about sorting and searching and re-searching. Unwinding myself and my habits or familiarities. The time I’m spending in the studio is really just an exploration of how I want to move now. I hope that the solo will be some sort of  response or answer to the questions I’m posing for myself. But we’ll see! I’m more interested in what I don’t know yet…

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

AR: I’ve been working as a practitioner in a method of therapeutic bodywork called the Ilan Lev Method. I am very excited to introduce the Ilan Lev method to New York as it’s mostly being practiced in Israel and is fairly unknown over here. I fell in love with the work during my time in Israel, and I find it to be revolutionary in the way that it can help people who are suffering from pain, as well as being a source of never-ending inspiration for my work as a dancer and choreographer.

Annie Rigney - Ilan Lev

In the method, we use gentle movement to create a rich and thoughtful dialogue between the patient and the practitioner. In this way, new maps and pathways are formed between the body parts and movement is restored to parts of the body where communication was cut off or blocked, due to pain, injury, or emotional obstacles. From Ilan, my teacher, I learned that the body has immense capabilities to heal itself, that pain is not an enemy but an indicator that there is a problem, and that movement can surpass physical limitations, break down emotional barriers and undo old patterns or habits. The possibilities are endless when you learn to let go, and when you release yourself into mess (“Ballagan” in Hebrew) and chaos. From chaos we can find the things we didn’t even know we didn’t know; a possibility will arise that wasn’t there before, a possibility that is usually the solution to the pain. The method has also taught me the value of laziness—something that many years of dance instruction was specifically designed to combat. Now I understand that laziness is a wonderful tool we possess to actually become more efficient. To do less, and with less effort, and to get bigger results. It’s something that’s very important to hold on to and remember in a city as busy and hectic as New York.

I recently started dancing for LeeSaar the Company, and I’m happy to see where it will take me. Lee Sher and Saar Harari are a couple of Israeli choreographers who started a dance company in Israel, and in 2004, brought their company here to New York. Beginning to work for Lee and Saar has made many things in my life come full circle. I left New York immediately after graduating to dance with the Batsheva Ensemble, where they train in Gaga- a movement language rooted in sensation-based improvisation, with no mirrors and no pre-determined form. When I joined Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollack Dance Company, the work took me into a different direction entirely. Pinto and Pollack’s bizarrely imaginative and magically twisted aesthetic allowed me to explore my theatrical side. I found parts of myself hidden in mysterious characters and ways to stretch my body’s ability to tell a story. Working with LeeSaar feels like a sort of strange homecoming. I’m coming home to the States, where I can speak the language more fluently, and I’m returning to the movement language of Gaga: the raw and textured aesthetic that first grabbed my imagination and ripped me quickly away from the world of ballet. It’s a welcome comfort for me in this new chapter to wake up each morning and begin the day with an hour of Gaga- or a meditation on my bones, my flesh, and my groove.

Who or what inspires you?

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Artist Feature: Kate Phillips

We met up with Kate Phillips through LIFESTYLE Collective member Steve Laciak. The two have been performing together for some time and it was dope to hear more about Kate’s creative story. Originally from upstate New York, Kate has lived all over the United States performing as a singer and dancer and in musical theater. Kate brings up various dope fresh ideas to the Collective touching on creative reflection and response and growth within artistic communities, the important role of the performer as a provider of solace for an audience, and other themes from the perspective of a creator that has always stayed true to the craft. Kate Phillips continues to forge a creative path filled with new and exciting projects  in her current home of Tennessee and we are lucky to feature encouraging words of wisdom from an experienced and invigorating creator.

Kate Phillips

 An entertainer provides a moving sound, a fresh look, and quite often a new perspective. That role is essential in our society, allowing imaginations & expressions to cultivate change and growth.

– Kate Phillips

Leading off with some basics, where are you from? And where are you at?

KP: I lived in upstate New York as a child, riding my bike to the village library and along the Erie Canal, through a lovely town called Fairport. Growing up there was a wonderful experience, but since I couldn’t wait to live in a big city, I moved to Manhattan on my 18th birthday. After spending 6 years in “the big apple” because of a couple of dance scholarships, I was fortunate enough to begin a career that involved travel. For 2 years I sailed around North America, while performing on cruise ships as a singer and showgirl. I have lived in 8 different states and toured the country as a “triple threat” in musical theatre. The latest adventure I took a leap for has led me to a beautiful place, nestled in The Great Smoky Mountains, as I’m thrilled to now call Tennessee my new home.

Kate Phillips

What does Reflection and Response mean to you?

KP: Recognizing that all of this is a true gift that I was meant to share and ultimately ‘giving back’ to people in my community. First, I give credit to the creative education I received; understanding how I have been influenced by such amazing teachers. Then, I recall moments of excellence I’ve witnessed, gathering inspiration from other talented artists and friends… always studying their methods. I was, and still am, surrounded by people who dedicate their life to their art, and I believe we are all reflections of each other. 

Listen to more of Kate’s music here: http://www.reverbnation.com/KatePhillips

How do your performances fit in with that definition?

KP: All of the extensive training and sacrificing a singer-dancer goes through can be difficult at times, but I have a personal theory about this. For the duration of the show, each member of the audience is given a chance to escape. They are encouraged to sit back and relax since someone else is “on” for the moment. Whatever may be causing them grief, sadness or pain, just disappears for that short amount of time.  An entertainer provides a moving sound, a fresh look, and quite often a new perspective. That role is essential in our society, allowing imaginations & expressions to cultivate change and growth. That person on stage is what I call “Brasilient” (brave and resilient). Considering numerous auditions, disappointing rejections, painful injuries, missed holidays with family, and ongoing challenges, we continue developing as a seasoned professional, because it is our purpose.

What else have you been working on recently? What are you looking to work on next?

KP: This has been a pretty exciting journey! Last year, I performed at The Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. A holiday song I recorded played on the radio for 2 years in a row. Recently I reunited with the love of my life after several years apart, and together we have fulfilled a life-long dream by combining our musical talents as a duo. This year I began volunteering again with at-risk children & teens in my community by teaching workshops in the evenings. Next, I look forward to announcing a few new projects that are still in the works, including a music video and more collaborations with local songwriters.

Kate Phillips

Who or what inspires you?

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