Wednesday: Jen Guy Metcalf

October 9, 2013 § Leave a comment

Jen--Rehearsal (1)Our marketing intern, Olivia Mitchell, interviewed Jen Guy Metcalf, artistic director of Greensboro-based TERRANOVA Dance Theatre, to get the inside scoop on her NCDF 13-14 touring work, Words and Deeds, and Jen’s process as a choreographer:

Tell us a little bit about this work; what was your inspiration for it?

J: The music was the main source of inspiration for my work, “Words and Deeds.” It is a contemporary ballet duet set to music by Swood. The original sound score for this piece included electronic music with the voice of a German woman having a phone conversation. I wondered what could have been said on the other end of the phone conversation and collaborated with Dr. David Neville, Assistant Professor and Director of Language and Learning Technologies at Elon, who provided the male voice for the track. The music served as inspiration and the German dialogue provided a framework for the piece.

I found the contrast between the black and red in the costumes to be striking, what inspired your costume design?

J: The costumes were meant to look like the couple had just returned from a night on the town. The male is in a black suit and the woman a red dress. I cannot tell you why I chose red because it may give away the ending of the piece.

Still from "Words and Deeds". Photo by Jen Guy Metcalf.

Still from “Words and Deeds”. Photo by Jen Guy Metcalf.

Would you say this duet is representative of your choreography for your company TERRANOVA Dance Theatre?

J: “Words and Deeds,” is a representation of the choreography performed by TERRANOVA. In addition to work like this, I create site-specific dance, dance films and collaborate with other artists to create multi-media dance work.

How do you choose dancers for your company? Do you hold auditions?

J: I hire dancers per performance throughout the season.  After company performances and residencies are booked, I hold auditions or invite dancers to perform with the company. I announce auditions via email or on my company facebook (Terranova Dance Theatre) and twitter (@TERRANOVAdance). This year, I have six performances booked throughout North Carolina and I will hire 8-10 dancers to perform or work with the company.

What do you love most about contemporary ballet?

J: My contemporary ballet class is structured like a traditional ballet class but incorporates contemporary movement ideas. I challenge dancers with aerobic sequences, improvisation, and extreme deconstruction of the classical form. Contemporary ballet is a way for me to find freedom within structure. I love the process of creating contemporary ballet in addition to how it looks and feels.

Do you have any upcoming workshops or performances other than your work in the festival?

J: In addition to performing with the North Carolina Dance Festival, my company will perform at two other venues this year. We have performance at SPARKcon and at the North Carolina Dance Alliance Annual Event.

Outside of being a choreographer for the stage you’re also a photographer and have done dance for the camera work. How has that influenced your perspective on choreographing? 

J: I could probably write a book about how film and photography has influenced my perspective on choreography! I am experiencing this with the duet that will be touring with the North Carolina Dance Festival this year. While in Los Angeles this summer, I am making a film version of “Words and Deeds.”  My cinematographer, J McMerty, and I make decisions about what the camera will capture. At times, the camera may capture a dancer’s hand or a look on their face rather than two bodies in the space. I found that I have slightly altered the choreography to make the intention of the piece clearer. This could be timing, spatial arrangement, movement quality, etc. Working in film has given me a better understanding about how to manipulate movement to communicate an idea. When watching the work I ask, what do I want to audience to see? What is important about this movement or position?  In film, all that matters is what is in the frame. How can I apply that to my stage work?

A behind-the-scenes photo while working on the film adaptation. Photo by Jen Guy Metcalf.

A behind-the-scenes photo of J McMerty and the dancers, while working on the film adaptation. Photo by Jen Guy Metcalf. Dancers for the film are Allynne Noelle and Bruce Weber.

What do you enjoying doing outside of teaching, performing, and choreographing dance?

J: My husband and I enjoy going to the movies, playing games with family, and taking walks. I often make jewelry or paint in my spare time. [This past summer, I was] living in Los Angeles and I visit museums, go to the beach, hike, explore, listen to live music, attend dance concerts, and spend time with friends.

What’s your all time favorite dance movie?

J: Two of my favorite dance movies are, “The Turning Point” and “Black Swan.”

Who is your all time favorite dance artist/company?

J: My favorite dance company is Nederlands Dans Theater. I love the repertoire, the dancers, the artistic staff, and the mission.

Any advice for up and coming choreographers?

J: I would advise that young choreographers work on developing their unique voice. It may also help to find a mentor or choreographer whose work you enjoy. I learned a lot about creative process when working as a professional dancer and assistant for various choreographers. It was extremely beneficial for me to observe HOW others create dance works.

Check out “Words and Deeds” on tour with the NCDF–click here for the schedule.

Tune in on Friday, October 11 for more fun with Jen!

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