Choreographer Pam Tanowitz is the second recipient of BAC’s distinguished award established in 2015 to support artists who embody John Cage and Merce Cunningham’s commitment to artistic innovation.
The Cage Cunningham Fellowship, awarded annually, includes $50,000 distributed over two years in support of the Fellow’s work. In addition, BAC provides use of the John Cage & Merce Cunningham Studio for eight weeks, as well as significant administrative support for project development. Tanowitz will use her fellowship to create new interdisciplinary works.
The Cage Cunningham Fellowship is made possible thanks to the generous donors to the Cage Cunningham Fund.
Choreographer Pam Tanowitz received a New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Award in 2009 for her dance Be in the Gray With Me, presented by Dance Theater Workshop. She was awarded a Foundation for Contemporary Arts award in 2010, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2011, and the Hodder Fellowship from Princeton University in 2013-14.
She has received commissions and residencies from The Joyce Theater, Bard Summerscape Festival, New York Live Arts, The Guggenheim Museum’s Works & Process series, Danspace Project, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Chicago Dancing Festival, Baryshnikov Arts Center, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, Duke Performances, Peak Performances, FSU's Opening Nights Series, and the Institute for Contemporary Art/Boston. Her work was selected by The New York Times Best of Dance series in 2013, 2014 and 2015. In 2016, Tanowitz was a Resident Fellow at NYU's Center for Ballet and the Arts, the Juried “Bessie” Award Winner for her work the story progresses as if in a dream of glittering surfaces, and a recipient of a production grant from National Dance Project. In the 2017-2018 season, Tanowitz will premiere new works at Vail International Dance Festival (August 2017), and for Ballet Austin (February 2018). Her newest collaborative project with pianist Simone Dinnerstein, New Work for Goldberg Variations, was commissioned by and will have its world premiere at Duke Performances in October 2017, followed by a four city national tour. Tanowitz has also created or set work for City Center’s Fall for Dance Festival, The Juilliard School, New York Theater Ballet, and Saint Louis Ballet; and has been a guest choreographer at Barnard College, Princeton University, Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University, Marymount Manhattan College, and Purchase College. She holds dance degrees from The Ohio State University and Sarah Lawrence College, and currently teaches at Rutgers University.
BAC Story by Ain Gordon
Dec 23, 2015
I arrive 1 day before the showing that will culminate Brokentalkers’ residency.
They are IN the theater in that long-haul-concentrated-frayed-edge-work-mode that often takes root in the final hours before making a private process public.
Gary Keegan (co-director) is onstage facing ¾ away from me hunkered at a console on which sits a laptop running projections. Feidlim Cannon (co-director) sits in the middle of the front row, legs crossed, his forehead in his right hand. To his left is a young man named Neimhin Robinson Gunning who (in the fragment I see) will voice a man throughout his entire life all in one moment. He wears a gold lamé jacket and sunglasses. Across the stage in the shadow with his back to me is the Sean Millar the composer. I never see Jessica Kennedy the choreographer.
Feidlim asks the young man in gold to stand in the spotlight (well, once there is a spot. They are in tech mode and lights are flipping on and off. Feidlim says maybe “it could just be him.” The lights settle, the young man rises.)
My paraphrasing memory recalls him asking and answering the following:
“Where’d you have your first kiss? On a boat.”
“What age were you? 25.”
The narrative timeline speeds up but not the pace of delivery:
“I’m 31.” (Sometimes the young man speaks in German with Gary projecting subtitles- I learn later this is their first go and all are relieved they work.) “I’m 38. I’m 42. I’m bald and have a potbelly, I’m 53. I’m 60. I’m 64, 68, 72…” I remember thinking, they have crossed right through my own age and that it does sometimes now feel that fast.
A break is called so Gary, Feidlim and I head toward coffee
I ask about the genesis of the pixelated aging material I just watched. Gary says it was happening all around them, his parents, himself, his children: that it is one of the few things that happens to every community. “…and we have assumptions about how kids should feel as they grow up….how parents should eventually maybe slow down a bit…”
Feidlim says, “We’ve been working on this idea in different ways for a couple of years.” First, we interviewed senior citizens on film asking their predictions for the world after they’re gone - that became Future Forecasts. That project led to another called Frequency 783. Gary: “from these different shapes we started thinking about assisted suicide – about ‘Body Autonomy’ – and we decided to get more focused on telling a story.
About a year ago they began work in Dublin via a process “that didn’t really work for us…” “This is a second chance, a lot of material didn’t make it over here…” But it always focused on some version of an “18 year old man (Neimhin) and a “woman in her 40’s (Adrienne Truscott, the other performer, who apparently was being interviewed by Sandra Bernhard that morning). “They are the two onstage playing the two onstage or playing two who talk about the two who are onstage – both narrating and being. They play instruments but are not ‘professional’ but they are being ‘a band.’”
The residency fortuitously kicked off at a book launch party for St Mark’s Is Dead by Ada Calhoun - at which former members of the Beastie Boys and Bikini Kill played together. Feidlim describes how redolent the whole event was of an 80’s “punk” scene in New York that has now been paved over. “…it brought a tone that New York could bring to this work – we are here because it is offered by BAC, an opportunity to work on this, but this also allowed us to have a taste of New York as a starting place for the work– Adrienne led us to that event and we had made our way to Adrienne (who is New York based) for what she could authentically bring… this rubbed off on us very early in this residency and seeped into the work.”
I know the piling up imperatives the day before a showing, so I ask if there is anything else they would like said before we stop?
They both say: this time has been crucial, “…very supportive but also the people at BAC just let us get on with it.” Feidlim smiles and says, “we’ll see how we feel tomorrow.
Ain Gordon is a three-time Obie Award-winning writer/director/actor, a two-time NYFA recipient and a Guggenheim Fellow in Playwriting. Gordon’s work has been seen at BAM Next Wave, New York Theatre Workshop, Soho Rep., Public Theatre, 651 ARTS, Dance Theater Workshop, PS 122, Baryshnikov Arts Center, and HERE (all NY); Mark Taper Forum (CA), George Street Playhouse (NJ), Vermont Performance Lab, Flynn Center (VT), Krannert Center (IL), OnStage at Connecticut College, MASS MoCA, Baltimore Museum of Art (MD), DiverseWorks (TX), VSA North Fourth Arts Center (NM), Jacob’s Pillow (MA), LexArts (KY), Dance Space (DC), and others. Gordon’s Art Life & Show-Biz; A Non-Fiction Play is published in Palgrave’s “Dramaturgy Of The Real.” Gordon has collaborated with Sō Percussion at the Walker (MN), BAM Next Wave (NY), River To River (NY), Philadelphia Fringe, and more; with Bebe Miller at Wexner (OH), Helena Presents (MT), and others; with David Gordon at American Repertory Theatre (MA), American Conservatory Theater (CA) and American Music Theatre Festival (PA). Gordon was an original Off-Broadway cast member of Spalding Gray: Stories Left To Tell and toured with it to UCLA, Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (OR), ICA Boston (Elliot Norton Award nom), the Walker (MN), and New Territories (UK), and more. Gordon has been a co-Director of the Pick Up Performance Co(s) since 1992.
Photos by Janelle Jones, Reel by Nel Shelby Productions