BWW Interviews: Marisa Gruneberg
White Road Dance Media, a contemporary dance company based in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, will premiere Marisa Gruneberg's 12th full-length contemporary dance work, Neon Brave, at Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn on February 19, 2015. GoPro cameras will be attached to dancers, i.e. the audience will see "what the dancers see" via projections, including the nude soloist, for a different type of audience immersion. A quartet of women investigate life's challenges, becoming alternately entangled and inter-reliant, empowered and individualized.
Marisa sat down with Broadway World to talk about her company, her inspiration, and what we can look forward to from this young NYC-based multidisciplinary artist.
Q. When did you first begin to study dance?
A. I owe my mom big time for getting me into dance at a very early age. I was two, I think, in a place called Pascagoula, MS. I started out with whatever ballet looks like for two year olds. I continued to study primarily classical ballet until I was 15 or so, when I took my first modern dance class in Charleston SC. It blew my mind, dancing so freely with no shoes on.
The second more hidden part of this question, for me personally, might be when did you start directing? From a really early age, like five, I would gather all the neighborhood kids together and direct them in overly elaborate dance theatre productions I had designed that our parents were cool enough to endure. Movement, scripts, set, programs, tickets, music - the whole nine yards.
Q. Any influences such as teachers, parents?
A. The biggest influence on my dance making, besides my mom, who always encouraged imagination, was one of my college professors at the University of Southern Mississippi, Patti McConnell. Patti was this amazing, graceful, knowledgeable being, and an excellent choreographer. She taught me how to truly dedicate myself to the craft and helped me find things in myself I did not yet know were there. My second major influence was Mark Dendy, whose composition class I took at the Bates Dance Festival when I was still in college. Mark impressed upon me the value of both well-researched work and deep processing in choreography.
Q. What did you major in when you were in college?
A. I attended the Honors College at USM as a Presidential Scholar, which gave me the awesome opportunity to double major both in dance performance & choreography and in English Literature. As a kid who spent a lot of time alone in her own head daydreaming, I'd always been a big reader, and so studying literature was a pretty natural step. As for studying dance, for m e it was more the choreographic side of it that had me hooked from very early on. I made so many dance works in college! Lots of bad ones, a handful of okay ones, maybe one decent work. I was just obsessed with learning my craft to the best of my ability. I still am.
Q. When did you first decide to make the move to New York?
A. I saw this city for the first time when I was 19 and on my way to Bates Dance Festival in Maine. I was making the trip with some really good friends, and I had a fake ID. I remember us going out on the LES and just getting swept up in the wild energy of the city, so unlike anything I'd experienced before. Not a new story, but it felt like I was home - not my deep heart home, the south, but the home I was meant to live and create work in. I moved to NYC a few months after I graduated college, in 2003. I was what-21 or 22. I knew nothing.
Q. As a choreographer, what do you look for in dancers, music, etc.?
A. In my performers, I look for, above all, a willingness to try, to dedicate and excavate, and go deep in the process with me. I'm looking for fellow dreamers. That's number one. Then ferocity, magnetism, athleticism, a kind of sweet explosiveness, and that super important it factor, the magic. Technique is getting more distant from me now, and slowly becoming something I'm not sure I can define accurately anymore. I do know that I like dynamically ranged, talented bodies of all sizes in motion. I'm as in love with the movement a particular performer can do successfully as I am with the way she seems to shift the negative space around her. I'm speaking in the feminine pronoun here. I also primarily use women in my work, not as a conscious choice always, but definitely in my last two pieces. Women's bodies astound me. They're capable of shaking the earth. The four women who perform NEON BRAVE are my absolute dream team, they're stunning.