Saturday, May 04, 2019

A Peculiar Career

First let me say that I count myself lucky to have been able to continue making work all these years, adjusting my methods and expectations as needed, occasionally taking long breaks, re-defining what I make, how I make it and who I make it with. Not many people can claim a career - in modern dance! - that's not in some way peculiar. But Lordy, it's been an  independent path, one might almost say on the margins. 

I often wonder how different it would have been if I'd apprenticed myself to a master choreographer, or gone to graduate school - especially now that I'm making films! Hard to believe I've done all this without the benefit of an agent or a booking company except for about 6 months in 1985, at which point I promptly got pregnant with my first son.  Did the fact that I moved to the suburbs and raised a family inevitably lead to a life's work that has become more a vocation than a living? Is trying to measure a life in dollars rather than personal satisfaction just capitalism talking?

[ALERT: solicitation in store !!]
At the same time as I have felt unrecognized, on the whole it's been rewarding, Nothing is quite as engaging as spending time making stuff up - either in a studio with others or editing footage alone. But with age comes The Great Reckoning: if I didn't make any money, did I at least make a difference?

In the past week, I've gotten some data suggesting that what I make has touched people, and might serve a purpose. Below are a series of heartwarming responses edited by curator Eva Campos Suarez with audience members immediately after a screening of Her Magnum Opus in Spain in late April. One thing I know about this peculiar career: it's important to find the audience who understands and appreciates what you make. Because making a difference is not about numbers of views: not everything is for everyone.

[3 paragraphs till fund-raising pitch!!]

I'm also tickled to report that 2 very different pieces of mine will be studied in school: The Woods by students from 3rd-6th grade; In search of lost time by high-schoolers. Brilliant of FAD: Film-Art-Dance Festival in Cary, North Carolina to create this curriculum - naturally, I've asked them to share their lesson plans with me! I can't quite imagine how a 3rd-grade or an 11th grader might be inspired by my short films ... but I love thinking about it.

Looking to the future, there are two rewarding projects on the boards before 2019 ends - one a collaboration in NYC sometime this summer with 10HL, a repertory company of 6 very talented men, to be based on Lewis Hine's photos of men at work. 
Details not finalized, but I can't wait!

I've also been invited to be a part of the inaugural Mabel Residency at the Norman Bird Sanctuary in Middletown, Rhode Island where in 2011 I made Tales Told in the Woods as part of Open for Dancing.  I'm thrilled for the chance to return to that beautiful place - forest, field and ocean - to make a dance film tentatively entitled En Plein Air: Through Mabel's Eyes. However, the invitation to stay there for 3 weeks doesn't include production support ...

... so if you've read this far, PLEASE MAKE A DONATION to help make that new work possible. I'll likely do a Kickstarter campaign, but I would so appreciate the Kick in the Tail that even a hundred-dollars-per-person might guarantee.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My Afterlife

Flyer for Late Harvest, February 19, 2019
I guess you could say my first afterlife was being a choreographer, but no longer for my Project Company, and not dancing in the work myself.

My next afterlife was re-inventing myself as a filmmaker.

The current afterlife is apparently making live work again, see flyer at left for a solo made with and for Anka Sedlackova who I met 25 years ago.

Oh, I get it. It's ALL life. 

Will I ever dance in my own work again? Maybe in the real afterlife ...  
Wait, is there an afterlife?   Say good night, Gracie.

My many lives have been on my mind for the last 6 months or so during which I've alternated between traveling to make work in Slippery Rock University, Rhode Island College and Bratislava, and downtime at home digitizing archives of live performances from the past decades.

I occasionally feel either morbid or egotistical to be digitizing these old dances - for whom, Virginia? But spending time preserving these ancient works for the stage is balanced by creating new works for the screen. So I feel alive and kicking as I simultaneously feel my own history.

And what do I see, from this perspective? 

1. These recordings of all those shows -

Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors [1987-1992]
Central Park Summerstage [1988-2014]; 
Jacob's Pillow [1983-2014] 
Dancing in the Streets [1987-2005] -

prove what the Project Co. was known for at the time: 
a commitment to presenting work outdoors and for free. And the Inside/Out or lec-dem tapes make it clear how much I enjoy a dialog with the audience. 
Marta: This blog is proof of that too, right? 
You: ____________

2. I worked with wonderful people and usually had a grand time. Some of the wonderful people - like Anka - have continued to be in my life and work. Others, like the students at RIC or SRU, appear and disappear ... and re-appear again, as in the case of Angelica Vessella who was in a Renzi project as a RIC student in 1995, and later acted as producer of a RIC film project in 2011, 2014 ... and just a few weeks ago.

Below is the trailer for Strategic Retreat, which we shot about a year ago, and which premieres at the end of this month at 
Sehr Festival in Tehran, Iran. A tiny underground festival in a country where dancing is forbidden: now there's a dialog.

More traveling in March and then some quiet. So do let me know if you need something choreographed - or shot-and-edited. It's what I do ... have done ... don't know how to not do ... 

And so Red Dirt Dances will have its non-Brazilian premiere at Dance with Camera in Poznan, Poland followed by a screening of Her Magnum Opus in Warsaw. I'm apparently very big in Poland.

I've also posted a new Archive in the From the Vaults page of this blogspot. It's an excerpt from Not About Paris Hilton, which was choreographed at about the time this digital blog replaced my famous Newsletters.

Well, famous if you've been paying close attention to my career. Which as I just told you, I have been quite a bit lately. Which is as it should be, since I'm me.

NOW say good night, Gracie.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Hello ... 2019!

Welcome to the latest missive from She Who Doubts, composed of that tantalizing and contradictory blend of painful self-searching, self-promotion and breaking news.

painful self-searching

The last few years or so I've spent some time reckoning with my past output - creating the two Volumes of Newsletters, creating Her Magnum Opus whose central question is about what lasts, trying to figure out if it's time for a major pivot. 

Can you believe that this is the 12th year of this blogspot!? To be sure, I browsed back through "older posts" on the About Marta Renzi page. There was a 2006 entry about Acceptance and Rejection which sounded awfully familiar ... and one about my double life which reads: 

for more than ten years, I've led this kind of double life, working with families, often Spanish-speaking, around literacy, advocacy - liberation, really ... this work helps me to feel balanced, feeds me in a different way from making art. If you asked me which of my lives is more rewarding to me, more valuable to my community, more remunerative in the long run, more fundamental to my identity, I'm not sure I could say.

Twelve years later, I'm still "working with families around literacy"  through the Parent Child Home Program, and still being fed by it. Plus ├ža change, plus c'est la meme chose, baby.


She Who Doubts has had a rocky few months, behaving like her own worst critic, not feeling quite as "balanced" as she declared herself to be in 2006. So it was a boost to receive the news that Red Dirt Dances is an Official Selection of Dances with Camera, at Short Waves Festival in Poznan, Poland. 

We selected 18 international short films showing innovative, authentic and original perspective on dance and your film is absolutely one of them. It fits perfectly our programme and we are sure our audience will appreciate it as much as we do.

May this be the first of many. 

breaking news

a few projects coming up in 2019: 

a 3rd videodance commission by my pal Angelica Vessella at Rhode Island College, shot by my pal Jennifer Keller from Slippery Rock. Great young people, 5 days, Catholic school uniforms, one camera. See the previous blog post for my assignments to myself

5 days in Bratislava, Slovakia with my long-time collaborator Anka Sedlackova.  We'll finish the solo about aging that we started in Nyack this past June - and Anka's arranged a screening of Her Magnum Opus. By the way, if you'd like to celebrate the New Year by supporting my work, you can throw me a few dollars by watching it on Vimeo on Demand. Or that DONATE button is sitting over there on the right ...

And finally, here's the trailer for Where Love Leads, shot in September and edited in time to premiere at the December dance concert at Slippery Rock University. For that occasion, the full 15-minute version was screened - including a lovely-and-now-deleted scene at the garden of our cinematographer Jennifer Keller.  Immediately after that screening, She Who Doubts edited a 10-minute version which presumably has a better chance of getting programmed at film festivals.  But is it actually better at 10 minutes?

What does better mean? 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Thank you, some whining and a hat trick

I so appreciate that you check in here when prompted. I'm taking requests - so if there's anything you'd particularly like me to talk about or post, let me know. 

Meanwhile, the big news is that Her Magnum Opus is now available for download through Vimeo on Demand.  The next festival screening for Opus is in Nashville at HerStory Cinephilia Society, with a few more screenings anticipated in 2019. But it's time to move on - and make those big bucks in sales, right? 

In Search of Lost Time, the 9-minute black-and-white short featuring Aislinn MacMaster & David Thomson, continues to travel all over the world, having screened in 22 festivals thus far. 
If you're near New York, please join me at YoFiFest in Yonkers on Saturday, November 3 at noon. Still to come are Breaking 8 in Sardegna, Dance on Screen in Austria, VideoSkin in the Yukon, and InShadow in Lisbon - which has shown my work for 7 of its 10 editions - which I actually plan to attend.

Two new shorts are just beginning to make their way in the world:

Strategic Retreat, shot by Charles Caster-Dudzick in a treehouse in Richmond, Virginia last spring. Trailer here, for you hard core fans. 

Red Dirt Dances, which Gustavo Fataki shot almost a year ago in Sao Carlos, Brazil. [Trailer below, looping as you read.] It had its Brazilian premiere last week - essentially a cast and crew screening minus the director.  Stay tuned for festival updates for both works.

Every film project is recognizably Renzi, especially for longtime followers, like most of you reading this.  But each one is also different, in cast, length, music, location, style.
Where Love Leads, my return engagement with Slippery Rock University dancers, took place in 4 locations, with 15 performers and features a lively soundtrack of 6 songs, and currently clocks in at 16 minutes. Cinematographer-producer Jennifer Keller made my every wish come true during production, so it would be ungenerous of me to whine - but just try and stop me - about the hassle and cost of paying fees to corporate entities for music rights. I'd dearly love to know what percentage of the licensing fees actually makes it into an artist's wallet. HUGE thanks here to the artists who have recently shared their work gratis - among them, Emily Holden, Lorenzo Wolff and Kamel Boutros.

So for my hat trick with Rhode Island College in January, I've laid down a few ground rules, limitations which are a natural and opposite reaction to SRU's Love:

one location
royalty-free music 
cast of 5 or 6
movement vocabulary that is less "easy-going"

I set myself these tasks so I don't repeat myself.
Thanks for listening.
Am I repeating myself?