Meet the Artist: Jennifer Guy Metcalf
August 15, 2011 § 2 Comments
Rachel Silver, our Dance Project intern, chatted with dancer/choreographer Jennifer Guy Metcalf recently about her company, TERRANOVA Dance Theatre, and her choreographic process. Interview: July 8, 2011
Dance Project: First of all, thanks for taking the time to do an interview for the Dance Project! TERRANOVA Dance Theatre will be touring with the NC Dance Festival for the first time this coming season. Give us a little info on the company as far as when it was founded and what drove you to start your own company.
Jennifer Guy Metcalf: Thank you, Rachel. I am excited to be a part of the NC Dance Festival as a touring artist this year! I founded my company, TERRANOVA Dance Theatre, in June 2008 right after I earned an MFA in Dance from UNCG. I wanted to create a company that produced innovative work for various places such as: the stage (concert dance), site (site-specific dance) and screen (dance for the camera). Our company name is derived from TERRA: meaning earth, land, territory, ground, place, topography, etc. and IN(NOVA)TION: featuring new method; introducing new ideas; original and creative in thinking.
DP: For the 2011-2012 Festival, Terranova Dance Theatre will be performing “The Form of Things.” When did you create this work?
JGM: We are currently in rehearsals for “The Form of Things.” This work will include material from, “Upon the Remembered Earth” (2010), along with new material generated by the dancers and myself. Only two of my six company members have worked with me in the past and I felt it necessary to investigate and harvest new material with my latest cohort of dancers.
DP: We would love to know a little more about you as a choreographer. Tell us about your process when coming up with a new work.
JGM: My creative process is different each time I set out to make a new work. Inspiration may come from many sources including: music, art, video, architecture, text, etc. One part of my process that is happening right now is what I call “harvesting.” While in the studio, the dancers and I generate a great deal of movement material without placing emphasis on designing or organizing. Outside of the studio, I take time to harvest/research text, images, sounds, ideas, etc. that may or may not feed my creative process.
DP: Your repertory includes many pieces that have been performed by a variety of companies, including Greensboro Ballet, Salem College Dance Company, Goldsboro Ballet, and more. Are there any differences between being a guest choreographer and working with your own company?
JGM: I really value being a guest choreographer and working regularly with a core group of dancers. In most guest choreographer situations, I find that I am given the task to create a work in a short amount of time while I have weeks or months to create work with company members. Although I love to indulge in a lengthy creative process, I find the speedy dance making to be refreshing from time to time. Another difference as a guest is that I must choreograph with dancers who are new to my work and process. I have a company member who knows what I’m thinking just by looking at my face. That sense of familiarity may not exist in a situation where I am a guest. I value the understanding between company member and choreographer, but I also find it Imperative to work with new dancers on a regular basis.
DP: Out of all the works you have created, do you have a favorite?
JGM: I don’t think I could say that I have a favorite work. There are certain moments in each of my works that I love. There are also rehearsal processes that are very near and dear to my heart. Right now, “The Form of Things” is the frontrunner!
DP: Terranova Dance Theatre has done outreach performances in the past. What are the goals of your outreach?
JGM: I have many goals for TDT’s outreach in the future. Providing free dance classes and dance performances are important to our company. Recent outreach included visiting and performing for some senior citizens in Greensboro, NC. Other outreach will include fundraising for the American Cancer Society. I am in the process of organizing a concert this spring and a portion of our ticket sales would go toward the ACS.
DP: You recently held auditions for your company. What do you look for in a dancer?
JGM: It depends on the kind of work I’m doing at the time. For, “The Form of Things,” I needed strong female pointe dancers and male dancers who were trained in ballet and modern. When doing stage, site or screen work, I like dancers who are open to a collaborative creative process–I want to be able to throw my creative ball and get it back. It is important for me to use dancers who can be given choreographic ideas that are very specific or completely ambiguous and be able to run with them. I highly value dancers who have a passion for their art. I think Balanchine said it the best, “ I don’t want people who want to dance, I want people who have to dance.”