(Becket, Mass.) – Two highly respected contemporary artists and choreographers, Jodi Melnick and David Neumann, will dance together in a unique collaboration choreographed expressly for their residency at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival this week, as their respective company’s share the stage in the Doris Duke Theatre on August 10-14.
In her Pillow debut performance, two-time Bessie Award-winner Jodi Melnick presents Fanfare, a sophisticated dance of rhythm and gesture set against a kaleidoscope of light and sculpture designed by visual artist Burt Barr. Neumann and his company, Advanced Beginner Group, also take the stage with signature wry humor and creativity in Hit the Deck and Tough the Tough. This exclusive program also includes the world premiere duet, July, commissioned by Jacob’s Pillow, and choreographed and performed by these two original artists.
“I am truly excited about this engagement. I want people to discover Jodi and David, two of the smartest, most respected artists in the dance world,” comments Ella Baff, executive and artistic director of Jacob’s Pillow. “This is the first time they’ve worked together, and I asked them to create a program especially for Pillow. Audiences will see how funny, subtle, intelligent and original, they are. And, there’s live music and a world premiere. These are the kinds of things that happen only at the Pillow.”
Fanfare, a duet for Melnick and Dennis O’Connor, originally premiered in 2009 and marks Melnick’s Jacob’s Pillow debut. Methodic, sweeping movements combined with evocative gestural phrasing and quick pivots set a compelling atmosphere. Claudia La Rocco of the New York Times, wrote, “In Ms. Melnick’s finely wrought creations, the smallest adjustments can mean a great deal. Subtle weight shifts, almost recognizable gestures and deft joint rotations hint at seismic internal happenings.” Visual artist Burt Barr’s lighting, video, and a sculpture made of oscillating fans silhouetted by spotlights are all integral parts of Melnick’s work, highlighting her purposeful movement. “Trying to convey Melnick’s brilliance is like trying to grasp a silver trout in a running stream. She is indeed a force of nature,” wrote Deborah Jowitt in the Village Voice.
David Neumann and his company, Advanced Beginner Group, perform Hit the Deck and Tough the Tough. Hit the Deck explores the collision of chance operations, dance, and music. An unpredictable series of musical and theatrical events, the work is set to the music of Igor Stravinsky with live piano and vocal accompaniment by pianist Carol Wong and tenor Timothy Fallon. Claudia La Rocco of the New York Times wrote, “By now the line on Mr. Neumann is well established: He is the smart joker of dance. What’s not said as often is how deeply felt and deeply moving his work can be.”
Neumann, an “engaging, committed, humorous, and wildly kinetic performer” (Nancy Alfaro, Dance Magazine), segues into his solo Tough the Tough, previously performed at Jacob’s Pillow’s 2011 Seasoning Opening Gala. Defined by comical antics and interaction with recorded “voice,” the work is intellectually ambitious, dynamic, and funny. Dressed in a casual grey suit and sneakers, Neumann seems to embody the everyday man. Throughout the work, he follows the directions of an omniscient narrator, encountering stumbling blocks in the form of folding chairs and his own feet. Set to fast, electronic-like music and surrounded by flashing lights, Neumann’s “way of framing human movement—glorious or mundane, graceful or clunky—reveals its beauty and fascination.” (Tom Strini, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).
The evening culminates with the world premiere of July, a duet commissioned by the Pillow and choreographed by Melnick and Neumann. As the first collaborative work between these two choreographers, they exchange movement approaches and fall into a union wrought with images of decay, joy, and the intricate, unspoken language of two people. With original music designed by Melnick and Neumann and lighting by Joe Levasseur, the pair will perform the work in this self-choreographed piece.
A former member of the Twyla Tharp Dance Company, Jodi Melnick is a New York City-based choreographer, dancer, and teacher at Barnard College. As an assistant director, Melnick worked with the Trisha Brown Dance Company. As a performer she has worked with choreographers such as Vicky Shick, Susan Rethorst, Sara Rudner, and Donna Uchizono; she also recently collaborated with John Jasperse and Becky Hilton in the original work Becky, Jodi, and John. Melnick’s own work has been commissioned by the Rex Levitates Dance Company based in Dublin, Ireland and performed in venues such as the Irish Museum of Modern Art, for the Dublin Dance Festival, and for Maiden Voyage Productions in Belfast, Ireland. In addition, her work has been performed in Russia, Japan, and across the U.S.
David Neumann is the artistic director of Advanced Beginner Group and as a performer has been featured in the works of Susan Marshall, Jane Comfort, Sally Silvers, Irene Hultman, Cathy Weiss, Big Dance Theater, and Willi Ninja. He is also a former member of Doug Varone and Dancers, the Doug Elkins Dance Company, and performed Beckett Shorts with Mikhail Baryshnikov at the New York Theatre Workshop. Known for his sophisticated use of humor within a multi-disciplinary approach to dance-making, he choreographed the creature movement on the movie I Am Legend with Will Smith. Neumann previously performed at the Pillow in 2000 with Big Dance Theater, with his own company as part of the Inside/Out performance series in 2003, and at the 2011 Season Opening Gala.