FBP’s Up Close On Hope (UCOH) series is all about showcasing emerging choreographers in collaboration with our versatile company of dancers to produce a uniquely intimate experience. This month FBP welcomes two new choreographers to our UCOH roster. Today we are welcoming yon Tande, local performance artist and choreographer, to the FBP family.
yon Tande works in the areas of “performance, exhibition, curation, and education”. He has performed with a number of professional dance companies including Martha Graham Dance Company, and has taught internationally at an impressive collection of institutions including Peridance Center, Deeply Rooted Dance Theatre, and The Ailey School. yon Tande earned a B.F.A. in Theatre Arts/Dance (Howard University), an M.F.A. in New Media Arts and Performance (Long Island University) and is presently an Institute for the Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts Driskell Fellow. That’s quite the resumé!
Bringing his worldly talents to Providence, yon Tande has worked as the Dance Manager for AS220, choreographer for Trinity Rep’s A Christmas Carol, and is currently the Program Director at the Southside Cultural Center of Rhode Island. Today we hear from yon Tande himself, all about his background, creation process, and the poignant adaptation of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”, coming to the Black Box Theater this March…
Hello, yon Tande! Let’s start at the beginning. What is your first dance-related memory?
Performing for my entire family around the house as a young boy, dressed in all kinds of get-ups that I could put together. Also, being the only boy in a dance class full of young girls and not having any sense of discomfort.
Haha! Your sense of self is still so strong and inspiring. How has your experience performing and working with so many incredible dance companies shaped you as an artist?
It has given me the opportunity to experience a range of approaches to creating dance from the highly reverent to the supreme irreverent. This has nurtured in me the importance of being true to my particular voice and the necessity to continue to nourish my artistry.
So were you always interested in creating movement?
I have always been a creator of movement. From my early young teen years of dancing in the circles of Chicago House clubs, to the more formal training in dance studios, I have always loved creating movement. In my years as a young choreographer, discovering my vocabulary was difficult, but the basic idea of creating movement always provoked my interest as a means of sharing my point of view about the world with the world.
I love the idea of choreography as a medium for commenting on the world, to the world. What is your choreographic process like?
Working on my independent projects, I have found that I can have a more flexible process of seeking, crafting and throwing away. Working as a guest choreographer means that time is a premium, so I have to come in much more prepared with specific ideas to share. I love to collaborate with dancers, as I am very interested in how they respond to the same ideas that I bring to them.
How does music speak to you?
I have always thought of music in dance like a score for the environment, in that it frames the particular scenario that I’m working to create rather than completely dictates what is happening. I am more interested in how music functions as dynamic rhythm and how that instigates me to create.
“That’s why I love the Stravinsky Rite of Spring; its absolutely driving dynamic is invigorating.”
We are so excited to share your work with the FBP audience for the first time ever! What has your experience working with the dancers of FBP been like so far?
Due to the state of dance presently, I think versatility is expected more now than in the past. It has been very interesting to witness the translation of my dance language through the dancers’ bodies. This, for me, is a key component to working as a choreographer.
I like to leave space for the dancer to bring their whole self to the process. I have never been interested in the dancer trying to do exactly what I do; I want to know how the dancer’s body understands the information. I have found this to be the case at FBP. Time is limited, so efficiency is paramount, nevertheless, when the dancer finds a way to put their “stank” on the movement, that’s awesome and exciting.
Their “stank”, haha- I love that! The piece you are taking on for Up Close On Hope, Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring”, is so iconic. How are you using the work of other artists to inspire and help guide you through this momentous undertaking?
Well, you know, this is the “golden fleece” of contemporary choreography. It is the “sacred” cup that eventually, we all drink from (in some way, shape or form). The music is innovative, challenging and frightening, everything that intrigues me as a creative. So many choreographers have created their version that it’s difficult not to refer to all the versions I have seen.
Nevertheless, I decided once it was confirmed that we would do this, I was not going to look at any other Rite of Spring. But, of course, that music comes on, and all the versions lying dormant in my memory start to come up, especially that of Graham’s (whose I am so close too and Bausch’s, whose I love so much). However, what I am mainly inspired by is ritual. Ritual is a recurring factor in all my work, as it communicates in a clear and simple way.
“The narrative embedded within ritual asks us to focus on the dance in a different way, not as just movement, but as human communication- a need, a desire, a function.”
We are so excited to bring your work to the FBP audience for the first time! What can the audience expect to gain from seeing your work at Up Close On Hope?
The legend of Rite of Spring is so great, in that it incited the audience to reject it vehemently. I wonder what that would be today. What would it take for an audience to be so strongly moved by concert dance today. The audience should see/feel rhythmic articulation, group cooperation, bold dynamism and hopefully things I don’t even know. Maybe they will gain an urgency about being alive.
“I want the audience to be moved: kinesthetically, intellectually, and soulfully. I hope that it engages the audience so fully that it infects them with the desire to seek out dance and performance and to get involved.”
Beautifully put. Why do you feel that collaboration and creation are important in a small community like Providence?
This is how we get to know each other, it is how we begin to see each other in our truths. If we never endeavor to work with folks and create together, we cannot experience the broadest sense of humanity. Even working in likeness tempts the fate of difference. What if I discover this person actually does not share the same values, what now?! In this process of collaboration and creation the sharing of resources, itself, becomes a value.
Thank you, yon Tande!
To see yon Tande’s “The Rite of Spring” at Up Close On Hope, click here.
This post was written by Kirsten Evans. The author is in her eighth season as a Company Dancer with Festival Ballet Providence. She is also the Company PR & Communications Assistant, as well as the writer of a personal blog, Setting The Barre.