BWW Interviews: CHRISTINE DAKIN and Her Performance at the Neighborhood Playhouse in NYC

On Monday and Tuesday evening, 5/18 and 5/19, Christine Dakin danced an original solo created for her by Alejandro Chavez of the Mexican dance company, Ciudad Interior. The piece was performed at the Neighborhood Playhouse in New York City. Alejandro Chavez's company danced his "Kinetica", with an "interruption" of Dakin's solo, premier of an excerpt of his work "El Hombre que Alcanza las Estrellas." The program was completed with a classic solo danced by Dakin with Louis Stewart at the piano.

The program had excellent attendance both nights and was very well received. The event is an example of the unique collaboration that has cross cultural and intergenerational value. We had the opportunity to interview Christine Dakin about this very distinctive performance.

We asked Dakin how this special performance was conceived. She commented. "By bringing the Mexican company, Ciudad Interior to perform here, I thought would be a wonderful way to show the connections between Martha Graham's dance/theater, the Meisner theater training of Neighborhood Playhouse and contemporary dance in Mexico. The richness and extent of these theater/dance cultures demonstrates the powerful way the art of dance is part of the fiber of our lives. We are honored the Neighborhood Playhouse is hosting these performances."

Dakin told us a little about her artistic relationship to Alejandro Chavez. "I first taught the Ciudad Interior company director Alejandro Chavez in Mexico 25 years ago. Then in New York, I watched him develop into a fine choreographer. It is a wonderful challenge to work with Alejandro, as he creates a new dance for me, and is an affirmation of the way art and dance is transmitted from teacher to the performer to the next generation. He has taken the deep tradition of Graham work with him and found his own unique voice that reveals that connection at the same time as it breaks from it."

She further commented, "It has been fascinating and a privilege to be immersed in three deep traditions of theater/dance art, to create art and to teach from those bodies of knowledge and excellence, and to make them my own."

Dakin told us about her teaching career that includes the Neighborhood Playhouse. "I follow after Martha Graham and the many wonderful Graham dancers teaching at the Neighborhood Playhouse. When speaking with Martha of her work there, it was clear that both her technique and choreography were influenced by the actors and by the Meisner training. The Mexican dance tradition is long and powerful, and I follow a few special dancer/teachers who brought the Graham technique to Mexico and teach, perform and choreograph in that community."

Dakin, Chavez and Stewart are off to Roanoke Island Festival Theater in North Carolina where they will present a program for the Bryan Culture Series with performances by the three artists and a screening of Dakin's film La Voz del Cuerpo / The Body Speaks. The film was last shown at the Contemporary Art Museum of Oaxaca, Oaxaca City Mexico.

Christine Dakin - is Artistic Director Laureate of the Martha Graham Dance Company; since 1976 known for her performances of Martha Graham's roles and for those created for her by Graham and artists such as Robert Wilson, Twyla Tharp and Martha Clarke. She is honored to have received a "Bessie"(2003), the Dance Magazine Award (1994), and a Fellowship from Harvard University's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study (2008). Her teaching and choreography has been supported by a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award, Rockefeller US Mexico Fund for Culture grants, CEC ArtsLink, and the USIA. She is Associate Founder of Buglisi Dance Theatre, taught for a decade at The Juilliard School, and was Visiting Lecturer at Harvard. Dakin wrote and directed the film La Voz del Cuerpo / The Body Speaks, created with dancers and musicians from Mexico and the United States, which was official selection of the 2013 New York Independent Film Festival and the Golden Door International Film Festival. She teaches at the Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theatre and the Ailey School.

Alejandro Chávez - dancer/choreographer/artistic director of Ciudad Interior, has performed with the Martha Graham Dance Company under direction of Christine Dakin and Terese Capucilli, Nina Buisson's Dance Move, the Ballet Nacional de México, and toured Europe with the Muziektheater Transparant /Opera de Lille production of "The Fairy Queen". His "Triangulo" won first prize at Spain's VII Certamen de Coreografia Burgos / New York 2008. Ciudad Interior based in Mexico, tours internationally and has appeared in New York at the Joyce SoHo A.W.A.R.D Show 2011, and the Latin Choreographers Festival (2012, 2013), and at Mexico's International Cervantino Festival (2013, 2014 ) where he will return with "Kinetica" in 2015. Alejandro was awarded a grant from FONCA CONACULTA, México. ( Programa creadores con trayectoria 2013-2015)

Louis Stewart - conductor, composer, pianist, is Professor at Berklee College of Music and recording artist for Denouement Records. He was pianist, assistant conductor for the Martha Graham Dance Company (1971- 77), composed scores for productions directed by Tisa Chang, at LaMama Theater, and the Pan-Asian Repertory Company - Cambodia Agonistes, (1992) and Shanghai Lil's (2013). In 2011 he was guest conductor at Harbin Conservatory in China and the Los Angeles Recording Orchestra recorded his music in 2013. He was guest conductor of the Sophia Philharmonic for the film The Fallen Ones, and of the Nusantara Symphony Orchestra in Jakarta in 2005. Stewart's Trumpet Concerto premiered at the Anchorage Symphony (2005), his Beat Café at Boston's American Concert Ballet (1993) and his Landscapes, in England at the Chanctonbury Chorus (1992). Co-founder of the Baltimore Improvisation Ensemble, he was awarded a Meet-the-Composer Grant. His scores in print include Fantasy for Two Pianos and Movements for String Trio. His text, Music for Martha Graham, is published by the University Microfilms International.

For more information about the life and work of Christine Dakin and her film, La Voz del Cuerpo/The Body Speaks, visit

For more information about the Bryan Culture Series and the Roanoke Island Festival Theater, visit the following link:

Photo Credit: Peter C. Cook

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