I am pretty open to new “types” of relationships…this is certainly a new one for me!
I am pretty open to new “types” of relationships…this is certainly a new one for me!
For several decades now, since the highly individualistic 60’s, people seem to have gravitated more to group dynamics than to self-expression. Until recently that is. With the election of Trump, and with corporate politics being constantly questioned, people are again realizing the value of forming their own opinions, instead of having their ideas dictated to them via peer pressure.
Too often we put ourselves into boxes and then stick labels on them, so we are stuck with whatever judgment or perceptions these labels have generated. In time we may need to get out! Staying fluid, we may come off as wishy-washy. Is there a way to keep your opinions fluid and on a personal level? Leaving the generalizations and stereo types aside and hence allowing more diversity in our lives.
My show, THE PASS, is very much an individual journey. I have always seen the value of following my own path – listening to my own voice even when there were others doing everything they could to convince me otherwise – was often a challenge especially when I first got started. I titled my first CD SELF and the front panel (a sticker made from Mylar on which we printed only the word SELF and inserted into the package; we went to great lengths to find these!) acts as a mirror when people pick it up. Self-awareness when you pick up my music was the intention.
Be an individual, stand out from the crowd and listen to your own voice. That way you’ll always be sure to be heard.
My interview with composer Svjetlana Bukvich regarding her upcoming June 1-3 performances with Janis Brenner & Dancers at Gibney’s Agnes Varis Dance Center, New York
I had the opportunity to work with Kennedy Moore who runs ASK A NEW YORKER interviewing various artists in NYC for AANY Entertainment column. I really enjoyed the experience and have decided to add the occasional interview to my website/blog. I have been told I ask interesting questions so my asking…continues. Enjoy!
About the Artist: Integrating the leading-edge technology with her classical training and bold, yet sensuous style, Sarajevo born and New York City-based Svjetlana Bukvich has been billed by the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) as a “concert composer/performer whose music defies boundaries”.
Set up & interview:
So I interviewed you back in March of 2016 for Ask a New Yorker when your 2nd collaboration with Carolyn Dorfman Dance Traces was about to premiere at the NJPAC CDD Gala. Now a new piece ONCE YOU ARE NOT A STRANGER, you were commissioned to write for Janis Brenner & Dancers, is having its third premiere in two weeks. The US premiere took place April 8 at the Dance Hall in Kittery, Maine, and the NYC premiere will be June 1-3 at the Gibney’s Agnes Varis Dance Center, New York. The first time the piece was seen was on an international scale, February 10, 2017 at the National Theater Sarajevo as part of XXXIII Sarajevo Winter Festival – The Silk Road Art, which you helped to facilitate. The work received the 2016 O’Donnell-Green Music and Dance Foundation, Inc. grant. My first question is:
Thanks, Denise. The booking of the festival came first. As is often the case, there will be an interest, a spark, an inspiration between those who run festivals and those who (will) populate them. Then, the “how” comes into play, and it is as unpredictable as the next rainbow in the sky.
I believe it did, but then again, the grant that we applied for as well and that was specifically for American artists doing work abroad we didn’t get – USArtists International. In fairness, though, I was the recipient of this grant with another company the year prior, so maybe that had something to do with it.
Grateful for the title. Actually, I just took on the leadership of the artistic section of the Bosnian Herzegovinian American Academy of Arts and Sciences (BHAAAS). I hope to do more work with fellow artists from my homeland that are here and have “two brains” like I do. These times are calling for an increased awareness of, well, everything! This new piece, too, lives in worlds of empathy and “otherness” and attempts to show what it means to try on someone else’s shoes. Knowledge and courage is what we need now.
Thanks! This grant specifically champions new works for music and dance. I think that they have liked the overall package, including the very meaningful and timely tour to Sarajevo, but even more so the chance for the new work to be seen on this turf, and with live sound. It is also a 45 minute multidisciplinary work, with expanded lexicons in all mediums involved, and that’s a good thing.
Still, I believe that getting a grant has to do with the chemistry between the work and the circle of panelists who served in a particular cycle. Their background, expertise, and the type of morning they had that day – all play into the final decision. At the end of the day, it is about emotion. The world runs on that fuel.
Yes, thank you, they are incredible. Carolyn Dorfman found me online and called me on the telephone. We went on to create a very strong bond – our visions for our work combined are aligned. Jeanette Stoner heard of me through her dancer whose son goes to school with my son. Jeanette and I were love at first sight. Our work was a hyper strong match, and I don’t know how to write about Jeanette without writing a litany. I was fortunate to take Janis Brenner’s Moving, Sounding and Acting workshop at Movement Research in NYC in 2004. Her work with Meredith Monk intrigued me deeply and I just love everything she did with Michael Moschen, and a plethora of other unfathomable creatures. She sings and talks and moves and thinks while inhabiting multiple highways. I do that in my work too. I call it ‘the flow’. It’s what interests me more and more. It is also how it was when I was little. Then there was this ‘huge and nasty’ specialization gap. “License they mean when they cry liberty!” rings true in arts education today as it does in Milton’s 17th century. But back to Janis. We also have mutual friends. After I came from the Sarajevo tour in April of 2016, we started talking.
Janis and I conversed about things that interested us and empathy came up right away, as did the need to really hear one another. I spoke about walking in someone else’s shoes – feeling wise – and how that impacts the strangeness in any relationship. Next time we got together Janis had the title and it stuck. I can’t imagine it now being called anything else, especially after the Sarajevo tour and workshops Janis and the company conducted there and in the city of Mostar.
Visually, the piece unfolds in wavy patterns which “freeze” on occasion, or so was our intention. There is a hanging set piece onto which video is projected in the same fashion. With each unfolding, messages becomes clearer, there is a shedding, a letting go, a cutting into deeper layers of pain and, yes, beauty and goodness which lurk in all of us. Like taming a wild animal, the piece comes to terms with its audience. The music is complex and electronic at first, then becomes gradually acoustic, with a string quartet, then a voice, a scrape of a shoe, and into silence. Art-rock-meets-electronic experimental-meets-old world sentimental.
It was ongoing, back and forth, helped with video clips sometimes. Meeting and seeing the dancers is always a must. We had probably 5 rehearsals together. Janis was wise to put me in their hands to move and speak with them. We work-shopped a difficult subject – my dad’s passing in Sarajevo on 9/11. I was in NYC at that time. There was a feeling of trust and interdependence established. I gave them a piece of my heart, as they gave me theirs when I sent them to Sarajevo to do good- and as they do every time they move to my sounds.
Everything is connected, but the choreographer/composer playground is where the final shapes are manifested. Janis consistently gave me succinct and musical feedback. A blessing, really. In this way, working with choreographers can be more rewarding than, say, with the type of filmmakers who solely rely on temp tracks to do “the talking” with the composer. For me, getting the feel for the right tempo is the same in dance as it is in film. The body is key and it doesn’t lie.
These terms can be found in publications (such as Meet the Composer Commissioning Guide) which help composers and those seeking to hire them determine the fee. Most of the times the context determines the amount. Both parties need to want to make it work- for the work to happen, often times, one side ‘gives in’ a little. Professional experience is supremely useful here.
This is a very good question. Collaborating first time around is a more sheepish dance and if the work is successful, the thrill is that much bigger later on. There is wonder in discovery and a sense of ‘love is in the air’ as the work gains ground. The second time around there is more freedom to “go for it”, and also more counting on the collaborator to do the right thing, because now you know his/her strengths. This can amount to more work for one side or the other, however in the end, it is like watching a glorious sunset. I feel calm and accomplished.
Collaboration is an art form. In my experience, usually the more well known the person, the kinder and more egoless the person tends to be. I learned this in grad school when working with composer Robert Ashley. I was impressed by him beyond measure. At the time I came from Europe in my twenties, thinking I knew everything, ha!
Mark Morris Dance, New York City Ballet, and New York City Ballet.
Thanks Svjetlana, and we wish you the best of luck with this project and all work ahead!
For more about Svjetlana please visit: www.svjetlanamusic.com
For more about the event: https://gibneydance.org/venue/gibney-dance-agnes-varis-performing-arts-center/
Visit Denise’s company: www.keymediapublicrelations.com
There is so much entertainment on offer everywhere these days; it is a pleasure to go to real theater. Nothing beats its authenticity. Last week I saw “Sweeney Todd” at the Barrow Theater. I did find the violence of the story a tad bit unsettling, as it was more in your face with this intimate production. It was still–pure entertainment. Not only were the voices and the performances powerful and intense, particularly that of Norm Lewis who has just taken over the lead role, but the pies were tasty! Obama himself said it will be “the best pie you have ever eaten.” Having enjoyed the vegetable pie immensely, I concur.
On a more serious note, I also saw Eugene O’Neil’s “The Hairy Ape.”
This play was also intense; with a human – animal comparison throughout the piece. I admired it, as “enjoyment” is not the right word to apply. Set in 1922, pre-Depression era New York, the main character Yank finds himself “at sea” in a life dominated by wealth and greed. He longs to be valued as an honest hard worker, skilled in the ways of sailing and coal slinging, yet his values are not prized in the world that employs him. When he sets his eyes on the President of the company’s daughter, his life is altered forever. I left the theater feeling a little bewildered, curious yet inspired. I can’t imagine anyone else other than Bobby Cannavale playing the lead role. The venue and the production were incredible; I thought holding it at the Park Avenue Armory really fit the material.
One of the sweet things to come out of my theater-going experience was meeting Elaina, (Sweeney) who runs Big Smile Entertainment out of Boston. Looks to me like she runs an outstanding organization!
Giving thanks in a very profound way this Thanksgiving! It is my favorite holiday after all. This year I am grateful for so much including all the support I have received for my new project THE PASS.
When I do anything for the first time, it’s a big deal. There’s the initial idea, the process of putting it together and the emotions that go with attempting something new. Then there’s the Euphoria once I do it… I actually did it! Next up, what’s next?
THE PASS had its first run through last night at Gretchen Cryer’s house with Brendan Littlefield at the piano and yours truly singing and reading the 16 vignettes created to tell my story. I was in a very numb state of mind before and after the run through. I was pushing myself so hard to get it done and then realized it had taken me less than a year to put it together. I am so very excited to keep polishing the show and share it!
Here’s a photo of myself with Gretchen Cryer, my teacher and director and pianist Brendan Littlefield just after we did the run through. It was the first time we all met and first time since I finished the script and added the songs in order, and it went thanksgivingly well.
OK so I did it. At yesterday’s concert on 10.16.16, I read a few vignette’s from my show THE PASS interspersed with songs at yesterday’s concert. I really did it and I am excited and also feeling such a sense of euphoria. Here is a photo of me, Brendan Litttlefield and my new Behringer Europort PPA 200 with Klark Teknik Effects built in, after the concert. Having my own PA is amazing, it is a much needed tool, compact, powerful with great effects.
Brendan and I rehearsed quite a bit and we had two rehearsals back to back on the 2 days before the show. We put together a strong set and worked on new arrangements and played my songs from the past 4 decades – from the 80’s thru 2016! and it was a blast and the audience really enjoyed and told us so! I am really fueled up now to work more and harder on THE PASS.
Library gigs are cool. The good news is they pay for the programs they bring in. Some of the libraries have bigger budgets depending on the size of the town and population. Libraries offer programs to their communities for free.
We performed in the Palmer Museum in the Springfield Library where they have a very old piano – one that Brendan truly enjoyed playing. There’s an exhibit as well and the current exhibit is from Sam Caponegro. Here’s one of Sam’s paintings:
This was my second concert at Springfield Library in Springfield, New Jersey and I loved it. I had the chance to test the waters for THE PASS and the audience was entertained.
And I am still basking in the delight of the euphoria…
Last spring I went to a reading at the York Theater of “Call My Publicist!” written and performed by Joshua Ellis, the very well-known and accomplished Broadway publicist (“The Elephant Man”, “Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby”). The show was directed by Gretchen Cryer. I was so impressed that I thought to myself that’s exactly who I need to direct my show, “The Pass”. I googled her, sent her an email with a link to my own website and told her I was working on a one woman show. She then got in touch; we arranged a meeting so we could assess how we might gel.
I was honored when Gretchen agreed to work one on one with me. It has been one of the most rewarding and invigorating projects of my career. She is an extraordinary force and I can understand why she is considered a theater legend.
Gretchen is well known for writing the book and lyrics and starring in “I’m Getting My Act Together and Taking It On the Road” (with music by Nancy Ford). The show, originally produced in NYC by Joseph Papp’s Public Theater, was followed by a 3 year run at the Circle in the Square. With Nancy Ford, Gretchen also wrote other shows, including “Now is the Time for All Good Men” and “Anne of Green Gables”. Gretchen has recorded two albums with Nancy for RCA and has starred on Broadway in her own cabaret act, in addition to performing off Broadway and on film. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild Council and is President Emeritus of the Dramatists Guild Fund. In addition to these accomplishments, she has received various awards and degrees, among them a Phi Beta Kappa from DePauw University and a MAT degree from Harvard.
Gretchen’s enthusiasm for “The Pass”, as well as her vast experience, have been a stellar inspiration. I wish to thank my friend Terry Castillo for suggesting I go to “Call My Publicist!”—not only did I meet a mentor, I also enjoyed Joshua Ellis’s play for its candor, humor and verve.