As I mentioned, I've been collaborating with Cassie Meador (Artistic Director and Choreographer), Ouida Maedel (Production Manager), Stowe Nelson (Sound Designer), Cheryl Patton Wu (Costume Designer) and Ben Levine (Lighting Designer) along with dancers Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey, Carli Mareneck, and Dance Exchange Resident Artists Shula Strassfeld and Matthew Cumbie to bring FROM THE DESK OF RACHEL CARSON to life.
Working with these extraordinary, talented and dedicated artists has been such a rich, rewarding and stimulating experience. When Cassie and Ouida approached me about the collaboration, they told me that they had attended a performance THE HAMPTON YEARS at Theater J. They enjoyed the production and appreciated how I had incorporated history into the dramatic narrative. They weren't to know, until that meeting, that I had great respect for Rachel Carson and her work, and also a passion for dance dramaturgy. I knew right away that I wanted to work with Dance Exchange on this powerful and important new work.
FROM THE DESK OF RACHEL CARSON was a devised piece from the beginning. We knew that we wanted to explore the life, legacy and impact of Rachel Carson's writing through movement, sound, and text. We also knew that we wanted this exploration to be deeply personal, immediate and urgent. Our journey brought together a fusion of artists from the worlds of dance, sound, lighting, writing, dramaturgy, and acting. Our time each day began with movement and conversation about the work and the day's intention. We then examined Rachel's writing and created our own. We build movement around the text and then reflected on what we wanted to keep and what we let fall away. We worked at a steady, determined and productive pace. I'm honored and delighted to share our work today, but I'm also quite sad to say good-bye to them.
I've included everyone's bios and headshots along with a few more photos from our time together.
Meet the Artists
Matthew Cumbie is a professional dance artist and collaborator who hails from Houston, Texas, and came to dance in college. Now based in Washington, DC, he has been a company member with Keith Thompson/dancetactics performance group (2011-2012), and has performed with Mark Dendy, the Von Howard Project, Sarah Gamblin, Jordan Fuchs, jhon stronks, Paloma McGregor, and Jill Sigman/thinkdance. He began working with Dance Exchange in 2012. As a company member with Dance Exchange, he works in and out of doors in collaborative art-making and creative research to further develop our understanding of ourselves, our community, and the world around us. He has been on faculty at Texas Woman’s University and Queensborough Community College, and teaches at festivals and schools across the country. He holds an MFA in dance from Texas Woman’s University and is a Resident Artist and the Education Coordinator for Dance Exchange.
Gabriela Fernandez-Coffey is a DC based actress and mover, thrilled to be joining Dance Exchange on this project. Recent credits include Detroit, Gruesome Playground Injuries, and Stunning at Woolly Mammoth, where she is also a company member; The Motherfucker with the Hat at Studio Theatre; Divorciadas, evangelicas, y vegetarianas and Cita a ciegas at GALA Hispanic Theatre; The Lyons and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents at Round House Theatre; and After the Fall at Theatre J, for which she won a Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress. She is a graduate of NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.
Jacqueline E. Lawton was named one of 30 of the nation's leading black playwrights by Arena Stage’s American Voices New Play Institute. Her plays include: Anna K; Blood-bound and Tongue-tied; Deep Belly Beautiful;The Devil’s Sweet Water; The Hampton Years; Ira Aldridge: the African Roscius; Lions of Industry, Mothers of Invention; Love Brothers Serenade (2013 semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference), Mad Breed, and Our Man Beverly Snow. Ms. Lawton received her MFA in Playwriting from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a James A. Michener Fellow. She participated in the Kennedy Center’s Playwrights’ Intensive (2002) and World Interplay (2003). She is a 2012 TCG Young Leaders of Color award recipient and a National New Play Network (NNPN) Playwright Alumna. A member of Arena Stage's Playwright's Arena and the Dramatist Guild of America, Ms. Lawton currently resides in Washington, D.C.
Since 2007, Ben Levine has worked as the Technical Director/Theater Manager of Dance Place. Passionate about modern dance and experimental theater, Ben aims to combine his dance and theater training with his knowledge of theater technology to bring choreographic works to full realization. As Resident Lighting Designer at Dance Place, he has had the opportunity to design lights and stage-manage for many DC-based and touring dance companies including Wally Cardona, Ballet Folklórico Cutumba, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Step Afrika, Rennie Harris Puremovement, City Dance Ensemble, Tiffany Mills Company, Lionel Popkin, Olive Dance Theatre, Universes, Nejla Yatkin/NY2Dance, Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Co, ClancyWorks, Farafina Kan, Next Reflex Dance Collective, Kim Gibilisco Dances, EDGEWORKS Dance Theater, and Rebollar Dance. Ben holds a degree in Theater Arts and Mathematics from Drew University.
Since 2011, Ouida Maedel has worked as the Partnerships and Production Manager at Dance Exchange, where her first major project was to produce Cassie Meador’s 500-mile walk and community engagement tour to a coal mine in West Virginia during How To Lose a Mountain‘s development phase. Passionate about the use of the performing arts for social change, Ouida has performed with a traveling theatre troupe in Zambia, and has worked in conflict transformation and public health in Ghana and in the U.S., activating theatre and creative movement for education and civil society engagement. Ouida has performed in, or stage managed a multitude of productions in DC and in New York, she holds a BA from Sarah Lawrence College, an MA in International Communication and Arts Management from American University, where she was a teaching and research fellow, and she currently serves as a Helen Hayes Award Judge.
Carli Mareneck holds a BFA in Dance from the University of Utah. She has taught children and adults in Lewisburg, WV since 1982. As a founding member of the Trillium Performing Arts Collective she continues to broaden community involvement with modern dance through her teaching, choreography, and performance. Her work has been featured at James Madison University, Hollins University, Yes, Virginia Dance, Goose Route, FestivALL, on tour with the West Virginia Dance Company and in New York with Monica Bill Barnes at Context Theater and Dancespace. In addition to her work as a dance professional, Carli teachers workshops on Learning Through the Arts for public schools, conferences, and teacher trainings.
Cassie Meador is a choreographer, performer, educator and Artistic Director of the Dance Exchange. Her work is imbued with a passion for her surroundings, a belief in the human capacity for change, and a conviction that art can be a potent form of research and communication. In recent years, Cassie’s choreographic investigations have tackled numerous social and environmental issues through the synthesis of movement, sound, and striking visual images. She was recently selected as the sole artist representative to a research initiative of the International Human Dimensions Program on Global Environmental Change. She is an Associate Artist of the Center for Creative Research, and her writing has been commissioned by Dance Magazine and the National Association for Interpretation. Cassie received her B.F.A. in dance from The Ohio State University. She joined the performing company of the Dance Exchange in 2002 and assumed the role of Artistic Director in 2011.
Stowe Nelson is a sound designer and engineer who specializes in new and devised work. Recent & upcoming designs include: Crimes of the Heart (Everyman); Take Me Home (Other Forces Festival); A Civil War Christmas (Center Stage); Buyer & Cellar (Barrow Street Theatre): How to Lose a Mountain (Dance Exchange); The Aliens (Studio Theatre); Cafe Variations (SITI Company). As a company member of The Mad Ones, he has designed The Tremendous Tremendous, the as-yet-untitledBiopic Project and Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War for which he won the 2010 NYIT Award for Outstanding Sound Design and was nominated for a Drama Desk in 2012.
Shula Strassfeld began dancing “too late” and has been dancing ever since. After training in NY with members of the Jose Limon Company and Collete Barry and Susan Klein, Shula lived in the US, Israel and Canada. She has danced with choreographers Susan Rose, Joy Kellman, Flora Cushman, Mirali Sharon, Jan Van Dyke and Sandra Neels. Shula has an MA in Dance Education from Columbia University and has taught at Trinity College (Hartford CT), Rubin Academy of the Hebrew University, York University and at the professional schools of Canadian Ballet Theatre, Ballet Creole and the Kibbutz Dance Company. She joined Dance Exchange in 2007.
Cheryl Patton Wu freelances as a costume designer in the Washington Metro area. She was a founding artist, Costume Director, and Costume Designer at 1st Stage in Tysons Corner designing twenty productions in their first three seasons. Credits include Side Man, Three Bears, Parfumerie, Don’t Dress for Dinner, By the Bog of Cats, and The Game of Love and Chance. Additionally, The Last Five Years (Limelight Theatre); Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You (The American Century Theatre); and The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Washington Savoyards), as well as Sweet Charity, The Drowsy Chaperone, Cabaret, La Voix Humaine, Suor Angelica, Trouble in Tahiti, and The Medium for The Catholic University of America. Cheryl is thrilled to be back working with the talented artists of Dance Exchange, where, she designed the world premier of How to Lose a Mountain and won the 2013 DC Dance Award for Best Overall Production.
The Modern Moves Festival showcases twelve world-class contemporary dance companies that call DC home, each with different points of view. Experience the rich field of modern dance in the Greater DC Metropolitan area!
Modern Moves Festival
Sunday, January 5 at 4:00pm
At the Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002
Saturday, January 4 at 8pm: alight dance theater, Bowen McCauley Dance , Christopher K. Morgan & Artists, Dana Tai Soon Burgess & Company , Daniel Burkholder/The PlayGround , Human Landscape Dance
Sunday, January 5 at 4pm: Company E, Dance Exchange, Jane Franklin Dance, Naoko Maeshiba/Kibism , Rebollar Dance, VTDance/Vincent E. Thomas
For venue transportation and parking details, click here.
For information about the entire festival, click here.
Online sales are sold out, please call 202.399.7993 for more information.
Dance Exchange is an intergenerational company of artists that creates dance and engages people in making art. We serve as an incubator for creative research, bringing ideas to action through collaborations that range from experts in the field of dance to unexpected movers and makers. Through these exchanges we stretch the boundaries between the studio, stage, and other environments to make dances that are rooted in the particularity of people and place. We recognize the body and movement as an essential resource to understand and investigate across disciplines. Through local, national, international, and online projects we gather and create community to contribute to a healthy and more sustainable environment.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!