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Monday, September 30, 2013

BAM Blog Questionnaire: Will Bond & Jenna Riegel, A Rite dactors

by Rhea Daniels

Jenna Riegel and Will Bond in A Rite, photo by Paul B. Goode

Will Bond is an actor and a founding member of SITI Company and Jenna Riegel is a dancer with Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. They are both featured performers in A Rite, an incisive deconstruction of the riot inducing Rite of Spring. The piece is a collaboration between the BTJ/AZDC & SITI Company conceived, directed, and choreographed by Anne Bogart, Bill T. Jones, and Janet Wong in collaboration with the performers. As a product of this collaboration both Will and Jenna may now be referred to as dactors—a term coined by the companies to refer to the all-encompassing skills of the performers.

Did you have any preconceived notions about The Rite of Spring before you entered the studio? Had you seen/heard it performed before?
Jenna: At the time we started working on this I hadn’t ever seen a version. When we started working on it, I watched a few: the Joffrey Ballet version, Pina Bausch. In our workshop that we did at the beginning of the process we watched several excerpts of different versions. I was excited from the beginning that it would be a deconstruction, and about the question of whether it was necessary to even use all parts of the score or if we could use other sound.

Will: I'd seen The Rite of Spring as dance, and I've listened to it many times. SITI actually referenced it once in our production of Who Do You Think You Are, which is a lot about the brain, theory of mind, and neuroplasticity. I had some idea of what our A Rite might be like, but it hasn't turned out anything like that idea.

Photo by Paul B. Goode

What was your introduction to the other company like?

Jenna: We all took movement class from Janet and then the SITI Company taught us basic Suzuki and Viewpoints technique. It gave everyone an opportunity to completely be in awe of one another. We would do what you would call cross-training.

Will: Oh! You know, I think after training, what we did was that each company got together separately and made a brief composition to perform for one another that somehow introduced us as a group—our names and something personal as individuals, and something about who we are as a company. So rather than say, "Hi I'm so and so and this is who I am," we performed that for one another. It was a gas.

What was the experience of having three directors?
Jenna: There’s the beauty of how the characters of each balanced each other, and there’s also the complication of more than one mind shaping the arc of the piece. Janet and Bill have been doing that together for some time and Anne works collaboratively with the SITI Company, so each party has had some kind of practice with that way of working. The SITI Company works so deeply in movement as an expression of character, so Anne is used to watching physicality. Bill’s been doing all of this work on Broadway so they both were able to speak to the entire company in a way that we all understood.

Will: It felt like having 3 directors! Politics, gender, and culture are all in the room and handled differently by different artists. Our work ethics were the same but access to the material different. But I'll say that the work within the context of the actors and dancers (and I'll go public here and say that the word "dactors" that has grown out of this history together as companies isn't so satisfying to the performers ... right?) that has grown out of this history together has been extraordinary.

Which artist do you admire from a field other than your own?
Jenna: The first person to come to mind is Robert Rauschenberg. Maybe it’s because we’re at a place in time and with the arts and the earth where recycling and repurposing something are getting to be more important. When an old soda can is turned into a light switch cover, or however artists are figuring that out. There’s something attractive about Rauschenberg as the originator of some of those ideas.

Will: I like the work of Richard Serra. I like the size, the scope, that he stays with one thing and changes it, that he impresses upon the space, and that there is a permanence about the sculptures. I like Maya Lin for the same reasons. I like Rauschenberg and Jenny Holzer.

Photo by Paul B. Goode

What's the biggest risk you've taken?
Jenna: I’m from a small town in Iowa. I was married at a young age and always had a dream to dance but was afraid that I wasn’t good enough or that New York would be too scary of a place—that I was not worldly enough to figure it out. Some things happened within my marriage and it broke down and it was a big decision for me to leave and move to New York and pursue dance.

Will: First I decided early on that I wanted to be in a company, and only that. So I chased that feeling beginning at 24 years old. But in 2008 I went to Scotland to study with Deborah Hay to learn a solo dance. It was my first branch-out into the dance world. Terrifying. To raise money for that I did a seven-hour durational dance for which people sponsored me at so many dollars per hour. It was a revelation to me and something I'd like to do again.

What are you looking forward to most about visiting BAM?
Jenna: I’ve seen so many shows there, and it’s such an incredible space and the audiences are so amazing and so informed and knowledgeable, that it’s both completely nerve-wracking and at the same time, home turf.

Will: I like performing at BAM because it's in Brooklyn, and because it is not just a theater, but a hub for many different kinds of art all happening at once in the different venues. So, I don't feel so singled out, rather a part of a larger conversation. I also enjoy the diversity of the audience.

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