Life as a Modern Dancer Blog interviews Tiffany Rea-Fisher

Photo: Ayodele Casel

Photo: Ayodele Casel

Recently, Life as a Modern Dancer Blog sat down with 6 questions for EMD's newly appointed Artistic Director, Tiffany Rea-Fisher.  The answers are inspiring, refreshing, and powerful.  We hope you can take the time to read and share!

Can you talk about your growth as an artist and administrator over the past decade with the company? 

I’ve been very fortunate to have what I like to call a 12-year apprenticeship with Elisa Monte. I have been able to observe and work in every facet of the company’s functions from administration, grant writing, budgeting, casting, and choreography, to name a few. To have this type of practical training in all aspects of a business is a real gift. Additionally, to be able to gain advice, guidance and knowledge from the person who founded the company is immeasurable. I have felt supported and nurtured, although not babied, in both the artistic and administrative sides of the company. 

I think what makes my path different from many of my colleagues is that I was on display very early on in my choreography career.  My first piece premiered at the Joyce, and my 2nd was performed for the Duke and Duchess of Luxembourg. Although I am extremely grateful for those opportunities, as they are literally dreams come true, I did not have the option of making early career mistakes in private. Looking back, however, I would not change a thing. Having my person and my work out there so publicly in the early stages toughened my skin and prepared me very well for what was to come.

What has Elisa modeled, taught, and inspired you with?

A former EMD dancer and I were having lunch the other day, and we were discussing how being a woman in Elisa’s company really taught you how to be a woman with a capital W. She taught you how to be strong, forceful, subtle, coy, assertive, sensual, and vulnerable among other things. My Mom likes to describe me as unapologetically myself, and Elisa Monte Dance was a place where I could celebrate and explore all aspects of that self.  In observing Elisa I also learned how to dress appropriately for galas, board meetings and other important events. I was taught decorum and protocol as well as how to fundraise one-on-one and to never take no as an answer. I learned about Elisa Monte in Dance History at SUNY Purchase; I am as star-struck now as I was then. Her belief in my abilities as a dancer, administrator, leader and choreographer has meant everything to me.

What are your goals, objectives, and hopes for 2016 and directing the company?

I have many, many goals, objectives and hopes for 2016! If I have to narrow it down, I would say that my biggest goal is to have a smooth transition into my new position while having an artistically and financially successful 35th anniversary season. I would also like to gain more exposure for my choreography and the company as a whole. The goal that is most near and dear to my heart is to be able to have a direct and positive impact on my dancers. I hope in a decade or so, when they are interviewed about their lives as dancers, that they look back on our time together as a meaningful phase in their careers.

What do you love about choreographing?

Oh wow… what’s not to love. As mentioned before I adore my dancers, so being in the room with them is literally the best part of my day outside of going home to my husband (who is also an EMD alumni). Being able to have people in the room who trust you and who are willing to take risks with you and go on a journey with you is an exhilarating experience. I enjoy the process of choreography, because while I’m creating I feel very little pressure. I’m just playing with ideas, so if I like something I stick with it; if I don’t I toss it, and it makes no difference. Distinctive parts of my personality show themselves, which is always nice, and I feel most like myself while creating. Until the work becomes something, it can be anything, and I find freedom in that process.

What do you love and enjoy about arts administration?

I love the arts, and being able to provide a stable base for the arts is the beginning, middle and end for me. Without strong administration your art is never able to reach its maximum potential publicly. Being able to sign an important contract, have a budget close out in the black, or learn a new formula in Excel is very exciting to me. You need a place to rehearse, you need to pay your dancers and collaborators, and you hope for reviews and commissions. Those items are extremely difficult to come by without strong administrative support.

What questions are guiding your work right now? What’s on your mind?

The broad question that occupies me currently is: What does it mean to be successful in the dance field?

I find the varying levels of success, and how we gauge them, fascinating. I look at someone like Elisa, and she has had a career that any dancer would die to have --- she has lead a successful dance company for 35 years, has her work in many leading dance companies both at home and abroad, and she has a beautiful and successful daughter and loving husband. I look at her life and think,  "Yup, she definitely has it all." But on the other hand, the company still has many of the struggles of other mid-sized companies in NYC. So if you asked Elisa was she successful, I don’t know what her answer would be. As dancers we always strive for the impossible, and I think that mentality has slipped over into the industry as a whole. At what point can we look back at our life’s work, pat ourselves on the back, and finally congratulate ourselves?

To read more about Elisa Monte Dance's 35th Anniversary Season, click here

 

Life as a Modern Dancer Blog Interviews EMD's Development Associate, Caroline Yost

Recently, Life as a Modern Dancer Blog sat down with Caroline Yost, EMD's Development Associate.  We are so excited to share Caroline's insightful answers with you. 

Becoming an Arts Administrator: 5 Questions for Caroline Yost of Elisa Monte Dance

Can you talk about your role as Development Associate? How many hours a week do you work, and what are your main tasks?

As Elisa Monte Dance's Development Associate, my main task is to research, cultivate, follow up and (hopefully) bring to fruition an opportunity for the company, be it domestic or international touring, master class experience, lecture demonstration or any combination. Speaking specifically to Elisa Monte Dance, the company is entering its 35th Anniversary Season, which in and of itself is an incredible accomplishment, especially in this day and age with the state of arts funding. Therefore, I am fortunate to work for a company that has already created a name for itself, as well as meaningful relationships. That being said, as we forge into the future, new partnerships are just as important as reigniting old, and that is somewhat where the position holds areas of opportunity. 

Speaking to hours a week, it has fluctuated quite a bit since I stepped into the role back in 2013. I believe operating from a place of urgency, seizing opportunities the minute they become available or there is interest, is key and therefore can adjust "work hours" drastically, especially when dealing in varying time zones. We have set staff meetings in office, and Tiffany and I have set times we meet. Around that I am always answering email correspondence and researching opportunities for the company.

What is the Junior Board for the company? How does it differ than the Executive Board?

The Junior Board was reignited as a vessel through which to cultivate interest as we enter our 35th Anniversary Season. Our mission statement is: "To complement the mission and goals of the Elisa Monte Dance Executive Board, the Junior Board aims to ensure the longevity of Elisa Monte Dance by exposing a younger generation of patrons to dance, and enlisting new supporters to carry the company into the future." This speaks very clearly for what we have set out to do. As a former performer myself, it is undeniable that the arts are majorly funded and appreciated by an older patron demographic. The Junior Board was created to expose a younger generation to dance and therefore fuel the company's success into the future. Personally, I feel the Junior Board is an incredible platform for young artists and art-lovers to come together and pinpoint the "why" behind the lack of funding and to create a plan for future so that dance, specifically Elisa Monte Dance, can continue to thrive well into the coming years.

Are you performing, choreographing, and teaching as well in 2016?

I actually am not performing, choreographing or teaching in 2016. In addition to my time spent at EMD, I also work at a boutique fitness studio, managing the staff, studio and doing all the marketing and community building for the location. For me, leaving dance was an organic transition. While I am actively involved in the dance community and am so very passionate about it, I no longer have a thirst to perform and to be quite transparent, I always knew teaching wasn't for me. I did explore the idea of choreographing briefly, but fell in love with my role as a manager and marketing agent. Working for EMD has really been such a fulfilling experience, and I think it truly satisfies my artistic self.

What do you love and enjoy about arts administration?

The arts, dance specifically, are not for the fainthearted. Anyone who has dedicated even a fraction of his/her life to studying dance, pursuing a professional career, or working in the non-profit sector has a true appreciation and fervor for the art form, and it is evident in all ways of his/her being. I think I love, appreciate and am drawn to the intensity of the lifestyle and perhaps even more so, the act of succumbing to the struggle because the love is so great. The truth is, when people dedicate their livelihood to the arts, they know full well that there may never be any big payoff, that a five or ten year plan, while smart to have, might be a huge waste, as successes are measured daily in simply getting up and keeping on. I've come to find I'm not only in love with the art form but I'm in love with the type of person it demands, and that is what has been so fulfilling regarding working in arts administration and specifically working for EMD for the past almost four years. Our team, our dancers, our board and the patrons we bring in are there with the same vigor, and they return year after year in the same manner, because they are true artists and true supporters themselves.

Advice to dancers who are interested in arts administration, but have little experience in it….where and how to begin….

This is a great question, and if allowed, I would always be happy to have a personal conversation with them. The best place to start, perhaps not the most lucrative, is an internship role. I interned with Conde Nast Traveler, Paul Taylor Dance Company Foundation and Doug Varone and Dancers, and all three experiences allowed me the opportunity to zero in on differing facets of an administrative role. Additionally, the opportunity to simply be present to what goes on "behind the scenes," so to speak, is invaluable. If you don't have time for a full time internship, simply reach out to a company's general informational email (we all have them), explain what you're looking to gain and who you are, and I am sure they would be willing to have you donate your time. One of our current team members did just that and now is in the office over ten hours a week helping out; we couldn't imagine our world without him (here's looking at you, Demetrius!). The dance nonprofit world is always looking for additional support and wanting to grow young minds into intelligent, passionate and supportive arts advocates. If I have learned anything from my young adulthood, it is that there's simply never any harm in asking; and if you want something, go out and get it.

To find out more about the 35th anniversary of Elisa Monte Dance, click here.

2016 Winter CREATIVE TOOLS Choreographers Symposium- February 26th

Calling all aspiring modern/contemporary choreographers! We have a wonderful opportunity we are so excited to share with you! 

Melanie Van-Allen, Francesca Harper, and Elisa Monte; By:Ian M.

Melanie Van-Allen, Francesca Harper, and Elisa Monte; By:Ian M.

Elisa Monte Dance is hosting its 2nd installment of the Creative Tools Choreography Symposium for Winter 2016!

  • Are you an aspiring or budding modern/ contemporary choreographer?

  • Are you looking to have your work constructively reviewed by industry professional and the general public?

The goal behind this gathering of creative minds is to inspire an open dialogue between future choreographers and industry professionals of the modern and contemporary dance styles. The symposium will consist of 3 panelist who will review and share feedback of choreographers work. We are encouraging ongoing connections between all professionals involved to help boost an environment for growth. Check out some feedback below from previous Creative Tools participants! 

Submit a complete work sample of a previous work to be considered for the 2016 Winter CREATIVE TOOLS Choreographers Symposium.

One paragraph response: Why would you like your work to be reviewed by the CREATIVE TOOLS panelist?

ALL SUBMISSION MUST BE COMPLETED BY January 25, 2016

Videos submitted DO NOT have to be the work presented at the coming Symposium.

If accepted into Symposium:

Presented work must be a work in progress.

Presented work must be a maximum of 7 minutes. 

Choreographer must be open to constructive criticism and feedback.

Submit HERE

__________________________________________________

Presentation Date : February 26th, 2016

Presentation Location: Ailey School Studios- 405 W 55th St, New York, NY 10019

Time: 7pm (Reception to follow)

__________________________________________________

Feedback from previous participants:

"The feedback was probably the most valuable thing I received from the symposium, it changed the way I look at choreography; it gave me an analytical perspective to my work as well as a safe environment for me to openly discuss it with the audience and the panel." -Ana Sosa
"As the director of a production collective I don't often receive the opportunity to hear honest and powerful feedback. For me, Elisa Monte Dance's Creative Tools Symposium provided me exactly that: the chance to hear from qualified dance professionals who owed me nothing and gave me what I could not see for myself. More than that, this feedback allowed me to turn around and reflect on my oeurve with new eyes. I have habits, and choreographic cheats, and because I am in the middle of it, I cannot see what is really happening onstage. Thank you for providing me this chance to see the truth."  -Juan Michael Porter II; The Moving Beauty Series
"To participate in theElisa Monte Dancer's Symposium was truly a gift! It's not often you get free consultation and constructive feedback on your work as a choreographer from skilled professionals such as Elisa Monte. Thanks to the Elisa Monte Dancer's Symposium, I was able to refine my choreography and am now truly proud of my work!" - Kacie Devaney


May Interview: JoVonna Parks

 

From Philly to NYC, a shy little girl to a powerhouse dancer, JoVonna Parks sits down to talk about her dance career so far. And don't forget the coffee!


MA: What is your first dance memory? 

JP: I feel that I have a few "first" dance memories, but I'll just choose one and keep it short hahaha....
It was one of my first dance recitals ever. I was chosen to recite a poem or monologue. I was 5years old and I remember thinking why did you choose me....I'm so shy. Immediately I said no, but I had no choice. My mom helped me memorize it and we worked on it for a month. Finally the day came, I knew my lines, but I was terrified. I cried, I'm sure of it. My mom kissed me and pushed me on the stage. I walked out to centerstage and looked out at the audience and froze. All of a sudden I hear my cousin shout " Go Jo Jo!!" So I went and said my lines and passed with flying colors! I went after to my mom and she gave me the biggest hug ever!!!! 

 

MA: Was there a specific moment when you realized "A-Ha!" I'm going to be a dancer? Or did you realize more gradually?

JP: Hmmmm... Once I was a teenager dance was such a large part of my life that it only seemed natural to go all the way with it. It felt like right the thing to do, I wanted to follow my dream and that's exactly what I'm doing. It's pretty awesome. Hard, but awesome! This is also not to say that I don't have other interests that I'd like to pursue. I wanted to go to school for physical therapy or something that has to do with working with the body. The human body is pretty cool in my opinion. All in all I just knew I had to dance.

 

MA: You grew up in Philadelphia. What was the dance scene like there growing up?

JP: Philadelphia has a large dance scene. In the past I don't think people realized all that Philadelphia has to offer including myself -aside from the big name companies- mostly because I was still very young and didn't really delve out too much into the Philadelphia dance scene. I will say that you can receive really great training in Philadelphia and the greater Philadelphia area! I had such great training back home; I don't know where I'd be with out it. It's also pretty diverse as well! You have classical ballet companies, contemporary ballet and modern companies, tap companies( amazing!), post modern. There are also modern companies that still focus on doing the great works of Mary Anthony, Martha Graham and Jose Limon; they keep tradition alive which is hard to do so props to them! A lot of really great companies tour through Philly too. Philly artists definitely work hard to keep the arts in all disciplines alive and vibrant through out of city! It's worth checking out! A bit rough around the edges but Philly has its charm and is worth exploring.

 

MA: Has there been a person or moment that has greatly impacted who you are today?

JP: Tough one! Aside from my parents, in this moment I would have to say..... Gwendoyln Bye. She is my Graham teacher from back home. She is a wonderful woman who gave me so much knowledge of the dance world and the real world. She is one of the most creative human beings I've ever met and I admire that. She exposed me to what the dance world could offer and always pushed me to be better. So, thank you Gwen.

 

MA: When it came time to choosing colleges, what drew you to the Ailey/Fordham BFA program?

JP: Mostly because it program is in New York! I've always wanted to live here. I don't really know why I just had to. In my mind every thing happened here and I was not about to miss out! If I was going to step away from the nest, New York for me was the place to do it. Super cliche but I'm ok with that. HA! But more seriously, I knew the program would fit me and give me necessary tools to make me a professional dancer. Also I liked that you could receive a great liberal arts education as well as pursue your artistic calling. It added up to me to be path for me for success.

 

MA: Since you've been in New York City for a while now, what do you usually do or where do you like to go when you need a break?

JP: There are a couple of places...

  1. My bed to sleep to escape the over stimulation of daily life
  2. A coffeehouse to have one of my favorite things coffee and do a crossword or just space out
  3. The park near my apartment....there's a great view of the sunset
  4. My friend Anthony's apartment. It depends on my mood.

 

MA: Do you have any pre and/or post performance rituals to share? Warm-ups, meals, drinks etc... 

JP: Working with Elisa we have a set warm up with pilates/yoga combo which is so hard, but so hard in a good way! Then one of the company members teaches a ballet Barre before the show. However after that:

  1. Coffee/snack
  2. Hair
  3. Make-up (no lipstick)
  4. Costume
  5. Gum
  6. See the stage- ritual: slide the soles of my feet on the stage to make sure I'm connected to it before the curtain goes up
  7. Lipstick
  8. Lose the gum
  9. Plank/ stretch my calves
  10. Bathroom
  11. SHOWTIME 

That takes about 35 mins

 

MA: Describe your perfect day off.

JP: The perfect day off: Sleep in, make a breakfast of Pancakes, eggs and bacon and of course coffee. Then watch tv, nap for a few hours and then go for a walk in the park

 

MA: A little bird told me you love to read. What was the last book you read? Did you like it? 

JP: Yes, I do like to read! The last book I read was Frankenstein.... but I couldn't finish it...it just wasn't my cup of tea. Now I'm reading Vanishing Languages by Jodi Picoult.  So far I'm into it.

 

MA: If a young dancer came up to you and said he/she wanted to pursue a career in dance, what's one piece of advice you'd share?

JP: I would tell her or him if this is what you want, to be a dancer, you have to fight for it. It's going to be fun but it will be hard. Stay confident and be a good person.

 

MA: If you could perform any piece of choreography (besides Elisa's and Tiffany's) anywhere in the universe, what would you choose?

JP: I would choose "Arenal" by Nacho Duauto. I would love to do any of his repertoire. I am LITERALLY OBSESSED with this dance. I performed part of it for my senior solo in the Ailey/Fordham BFA program. I love his choreography; especially how he uses the music. No beat is left untouched by movement. It's amazing.

 

MA: What has been the most memorable experience dancing with Elisa Monte Dance so far?

JP: I have had such a wonderful experience thus far working with the company!! Honestly the most memorable moments are the times we spend in the airport when we're on tour. We really just don't have the best travel luck. I don't understand it. In those moments we bond and stick together plus we get a good story out it. I'm laughing out loud right now at all the funny airport moments we have had even though we definitely had some not so funny moments as well. Also, one big memory that stands out is when I performed Pigs and Fishes for the first full time. I survived; it's a tough dance and it makes me anxious, but I trusted myself and all went well. I was really happy with myself.

 

MA: My favorite question. You're hosting a dinner party and can invite 3 guests, dead or alive. Who would invite?

JP:

  1. Obama : he really seems like a cool dude
  2. Rihanna
  3. My best friend

 

MA: And finally, what's your motto JoVonna?

JP: Have a coffee and take a nap

  

Proust Questionnaire - JoVonna Parks

 
 

EMD nods its head to Vanity Fair and uses the Proust Questionnaire to find out a little more about Artist-of-the-Month, JoVonna Parks.


What is your current state of mind? Currently sleepy and frazzled. I am just waking up.... need coffee!

Who is your hero? My mom is definitely my hero! She is a great example of what a woman and mom should be! She is the strongest person ever and I want to be just like her.

What is your idea of perfect happiness? Hmmm... my idea of perfect happiness.... honestly, it is being happy and healthy; being happy and comfortable with myself. Loving and being loved. Oh and a LARGE plate of bacon :D

What do you consider your greatest achievement? Hands down graduating college! It was probably one of; if not the happiest day I've ever had!

If you could have any talent, what would you choose? SINGING!!!!!!!!

What is your greatest extravagance? FOOD.

Who is your literary hero? Hermione Granger

You're trapped on an island and you can choose one book to keep with you. Which book would you choose? I love to read.... how can I pick! For the time being I will say Joyland by Stephen King. It was spook good....especially since I wasn't expecting that type of writing from him.

Which phrases do you most overuse? "I'm sleepy" (#1)

What is your greatest fear? Failure.