Updated: Sep 1, 2021
Pictured from left to right: Wesley McIntyre, José Lapaz Rodriguez, Anysia Kelly, Camille Moten, Nayaa Opong, Taja Fooks-Thornton, Damani Van Rensalier, Kennyth Montes de Oca
To Artists & Friends:
We are off to a great start! The Company of Collaborative Artists (CoCA) has been busy since launching earlier this summer, and it has been three months of creative joy, movement, landscapes, learning, and collaboration.
In our inaugural "outdoor" season, we have been navigating what it means for us to make dance art in this current complex society, while also balancing our individual lives, interests, and capacities. Coming together as a company has been a mix of nostalgia and relearning, both in our physical bodies and in the greater context of being a dancer in 2021. With this in mind, it was important to address two basic needs of our collective of dance artists: (1) the need to train & work creatively, and (2) the need to perform & present our work for people, preferably live and in-person.
It made the most sense to use the summer weather to our advantage and to open our rehearsal process to the public, training and working together in the morning in-studio, and then grabbing our sneakers, speakers, and camera equipment after lunch to resume our work outdoors. In three different locations we travelled on foot, repetitively performing or "playing" with choreographic material on public sidewalks, boardwalks, river fronts, and streets. This inevitably introduced a new and normally surprised audience of spectators into our live art-making environment, as well as opportunities to add elements of photography, film collaborations, and live music to the mix. Thus, an experimental popup workshop performance format began to emerge, eventually being named the "CoCA movement & process workshop."
By placing our physical bodies in open public spaces, we immediately included the audience into the atmosphere of our creative flow. This heightened the experience for the dance artists as they existed both in performance and in process at the same time, working through complex movement tasks while still maintaining the art of embodied performance inside an environment of constant activity, moving bodies, traffic, sound, landscapes, and other variables. This also heightened the experience of the unsuspecting audience spectator as well, now having to decide whether to move forward with their plans in that moment, or to pause, stop, watch, record, participate, or engage with us in their own unique way. Although this was a different experience from being on stage or in the studio, it challenged and encouraged the artists to take artistic liberties, make improvised choices with confidence, and to lean into the inspiration and natural impulses from within and from one other. As a choreographer looking at the whole picture, I was excited to observe new subtleties, details, scales, patterns, and perspectives of the art happening. Not to mention, it all read so beautifully on film, inspiring more ideas to share and curate CoCA work.
As we end our inaugural summer, we shift with the season and embrace changes in our world, our society, and our industry. And as we prepare for what's to come, one question on my mind remains: will this new world continue to make room for dance?
Our first outdoor workshop rehearsal took place in downtown Hoboken, New Jersey alongside the restaurants and parks of the Hudson River waterfront. Next, we popped up street-side in front of the marquee doors at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center (nbpac.org) in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Shortly thereafter, we were hosted in residency by Stockton University's dance department in Galloway, New Jersey (stockton.edu). While there, we also hosted a CoCA movement & process workshop on the Atlantic City boardwalk outside of the Stockton Atlantic City campus. (Video performance can be viewed below). We finished our month of workshops with a full-day event at Greenpoint Terminal Market in Brooklyn, New York (greenpointterminalmarket.com), dancing on the waterfront at their outdoor vendor market, supported by our team of volunteers, collaborators, and friends.
Looking ahead to the fall, the company is preparing for a movement installation commission for the March2RUGardens Project at Rutgers University on Saturday, September 25th from 10am-1pm. CoCA will also be holding auditions this September for dance performance artists to join our company. More details and registration info will be available on our events page: cocamoves.com/events
Thank you for reading and we hope to see you soon! Please feel free to reply in the comment section below.
Founding Artist & Director
Company of Collaborative Artists
"breaking down the fourth wall"
Company of Collaborative Artists (CoCA) is fiscally sponsored by Dance New Jersey, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. To learn more about how you can support CoCA, please visit: cocamoves.com/donate