Interview by Justin D. Wright
(It’s slowly becoming a tradition it seems for me to somehow be surprised by these short interviews I keep giving. If I were to blame it on my newness to the dance community, I’d have to also blame it on my apparent inability to learn enough about these groups that I ask them to repeat themselves after a particularly surprising detail comes to light. It has been, at the very least, fun for me during the process. Melanie Cortier, Artistic Director of Eidolon Ballet, was no exception to my eventual surprise.)
JW: So, Melanie, the main thing I try and do with these interviews is to find interesting things about your company and get you to say a few words about them. This way anyone who happened along the interview would hopefully find this to be a reason to come to your show.
(At this point, all is normal.)
JW: On your mission statement I kept seeing words like “management principles” and a lot of different tech or administration type tasks that you assign to your dancers. This is all by design, yes?
MC: Right. There weren’t any opportunities when the three of us first started up the company. We basically jumped in and started learning how to do it from the ground up. Throughout our history the door has been wide open – if you want to learn how to do something then we find someone who knows how to do it so that you can get your hands dirty. It helps build a resume and allows you some opportunities later on. Eventually we have to stop dancing. With this, you’ll have a portfolio so that you can go get work afterwards. We’ve had a lot of success with it so far.
At first we thought about requiring everyone in the company to know how to do every aspect of putting on a show, but we realized that was no good because not everyone wants to make costumes or do lighting.
JW: So what are you bringing this weekend?
MC: The piece we’re performing is called Decology, which comes from “Deco,” being our 10 year anniversary and our doing a Green performance, so “Ecology.” All the material we’re using for the costumes are from Materials For The Arts, so it’s reused cloth or landfill rescues – things like that. Nothing’s new or purchased. Same with props - although in this particular show we don’t have any. We also have slide projections as our programs instead of using extra paper, so we’ll have a projection with the information onto the back wall. Just give people what they need without any waste.
(Here I’m intrigued, as generally speaking I haven’t seen ecology as something that’s particularly important to arts groups.)
JW: Can I ask your inspiration for this? I don’t think I’ve seen it as an important issue for many groups before you. Did you just wake up one morning and decide to be less wasteful?
MC: I just noticed the movement and one day asked “can Dance be green?” What can I do as we’re performing? What can we do to help contribute in our small way?
(Fine idea to reuse costumes and even finer to save something from a landfill, just as long as it’s thoroughly washed of course. Here the artist in me is intrigued at the concept of a green performance rather than just using recycled things.)
JW: Did you have any inspiration for your pieces on the idea of ecology? How did that work? What are the pieces are you performing for us this weekend?
MC: It’s our 10 year anniversary, so some of them are pieces that people have been asking about. For our new pieces we sought out music specifically that was made from old, recycled instruments or found instruments/objects that we could reuse to make the score.
(I actually laughed at this next part.)
MC: One of the pieces the composer used Potato Mashers and beat on anything he could find. Our one live musician Natalia plays the Carpenter Saw, which she carries around in a rifle case. The Thai Elephant Orchestra is one of my favorites. The instruments the animals play are made from things out of the forest. They have a giant cymbal that was made from this circular saw that they found left by some illegal logging companies. We’re just trying to find something new and interesting out of something that was once garbage.
(…and now for one of my more embarrassing questions I’ve ever asked.)
JW: An Elephant Orchestra?! …it’s a recording, right?
MC: Yes. The Elephants won’t be joining us.
Eidolon Ballet will be performing at Joyce SoHo from October 1st-3rd. More information can be found here.