Kenneth Olguin in ‘Not then, not yet.’ Photo credit: Susan Allen.
The evening-length dance piece, which “explores states of transition and transformation” takes inspiration “from the liminal space between endings and new beginnings.”
“Ruminating on what it means to be in between, the collaborators now look at portals and passageways through a 21st-century lens,” reads the production’s press release. “Weaving movement, an electronic score, and live vocals, the artists map internal landscapes, as well as external ones (chairs are used as objects of comfort, support, options, and obstacles), as they consider the often surreal space one dwells in between past/future, young/old, and even life/death.”
The new piece which puts its conceptual examination directly in the middle of what is both past and what is future, seemingly also lands with a focus on the present. In an interview with the Dance Network featured podcast, ‘Pod De Deux’, Mills explained how she and her company colleagues took insight from the writings of author Mary Shelley — the novelist behind ‘Frankenstein’ — to use liminality and betweenness as a fruitful inspiration motif for movement.
“We, in the studio, started talking about our own personal experiences of liminality,” Mills told 'Pod De Deux'. “We then started improvising on our own personal states and places — both in terms of sound and in terms of movement. So, we [then] had a sort of our bucket of ideas from this seminal inspiration from [Mary] Shelley — but then, we also had [input from] our own lives.”
Emily Pope in ‘Not then, not yet’. Photo credit: Susan Allen.
Much of Mills’ conceptual choreography derives from the improvisational work the company frequently uses as a building block. For ‘Not then, not yet’, Mills implemented improvisation through the use of task, explorative movement, and the generative inspiration of Shelley’s writings. After Mills selected choreographic phrases that seemed to warrant further investigation, the choreographer and her colleagues then began to build and shape their movement further.
“From that point — over a year and a half ago till now — it has grown much more into our own lives and our own experiences. But, I think [Shelley’s inspiration] really set the tone and the mood, and [provided] some initial ideas from which we then sprung.”
Mills, who founded her company in 2000, has always found innovative movement and choreographic ideas from interesting sources. For instance, she’s followed lines of creativity deriving from her younger years growing up during the 1970s freedom of expression era, from her deep study of both theatrical tap dance and hoofing, in gymnastics, and even skiing.
“I have inspiration from dance [world], and then I have inspiration from the greater world,” Mills said.
Though, she went on, “over my career, which is now 19 years with the company, I have become more and more interested in how you can allow different mediums to influence each other.”
“I’ve worked with filmmakers, I’ve worked with visual designers, I’ve worked with poets — just bringing in different mediums to continue to grow what we’re creating, the form, and [to] influence choices,” Mills said.
Jordan Morley in ‘Not then, not yet’. Photo credit: Susan Allen.
Mills, who consistently strives for character-driven momentum and progression-infused theatrically throughout her work, still, however, attempts to keep it all in the abstract. To continue that objective with ‘Not then, not yet’, Mills brought in her dramaturgical collaborator, Kay Cummings.
“With dance and theatre being a huge interest of mine at this point in my life — I now work with a dramaturg, Kay Cummings,” Mills said. “Because I’m now so interested in the journey — [both] emotionally and psychologically through the arc of a piece —, through characters and personas within a piece, [and] through individual differences, I’m thinking about work a lot more theatrically now.”
‘Not then, not yet’ is performed by Mills, Jordan Morley, Kenneth Olguin, Nikolas Owens, Emily Pope, and Mei Yamanaka.
The original music for the piece features an electronic score by composer Angelica Negrón and live vocal arrangements from and vocalist Muriel Louveau.
Nikolas Owns in ‘Not then, not yet’. Photo credit: Susan Allen.
Tickets are $20 (general) and $15 (students/seniors) and can be purchased online at www.theflea.org.
Listen to the full Pod De Deux interview with Tiffany Mills:
Michael Mahany serves as Dance Network’s New York City correspondent and a co-host of ‘Pod De Deux’. He also appears nightly in the 10th Anniversary production of 'Rock Of Ages' in New York City. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.