A note from Artistic Director Valerie Green by Valerie Green

“A fictional state where humanity lives in harmony. A place with total equality – without hate, discrimination, poverty or hunger. Where I feel completely accepted in community. A state of being. Right here, in front of our eyes. A sense of perfect joy, perfect peace, and perfect love. A world where people aren’t afraid to keep their hearts open, share their gifts, and experience joy.”

These are just some of the answers we have received to question, “What does Utopia mean to you?” This is the question at the heart of Dance Entropy’s new original work, Utopia, premiering in Manhattan just a few days from now.

During this performance, we ask our audience and our dancers to reflect on what Utopia is – an external, physical space or an internal sense of being. We also challenge both the audience and performers to examine what makes us feel unsafe, both externally and internally, and how we can achieve a sense of safety amidst perpetual motion and seeming chaos.

This very tension around finding safety in chaos is part of what I explore in my work with communities and groups across Queens – whether they be trauma and abuse survivors, veterans, immigrants and refugees, elderly people, young students, and people living in underserved communities. We have also explored this tension through larger international cultural exchanges in place like Cuba, India, Armenia, And Azerbaijan. Lifting up these diverse voices is fundamental to Dance Entropy’s mission to create a platform for multicultural understanding through dance. That is why, in the past twenty years, Dance Entropy and Green Space have become part of the fabric of the New York City community, known for bringing people a space for reflection, physical liberation, healing, and joy.

As we perform Utopia across Queens and New York City, we do not attempt to reveal the path to finding the ever-elusive utopia so many of us long for. Rather, this piece is simply part of the process of asking these questions about safety and perfect community, and how to find hope and transformation through the chaos around us. Dance Entropy has been a part of this transformation for many within the New York City community, and with your help we can continue to be.

I hope you will support Dance Entropy by attending our premiere of Utopia!

December 13-15 at Danspace Project @ St. Mark’s Church

If you are interested in supporting Valerie Green/Dance Entropy you can make a donation here

Valerie Green

Artistic Director

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Inside the rehearsal process with Kristin Licata by Valerie Green

I have been working with Valerie for 10 years and the rehearsal process of creating Utopia has been a very different one:  collaborative, challenging, tedious, and rewarding.   Utopia's collaborations of visual artist,  Keren, musical score composer, Mark, Valerie, 5 dancers (then 7) and 5 ten foot poles (and then 10) is probably the biggest collaborative work I have ever been a part of.  Today, I thought I would share a little bit about what I have been feeling throughout this process.

For me personally, the most difficult collaborative partner has been the pole I am dancing with.  The poles just have a mind of their own.  They are inconsistent and no help at all.  They fall, they waiver on the break of falling, they hit dancers, walls, ceiling and floor (basically anything in a 10 foot radius).  The challenge has been to become one with the pole and make it an extension of my own movement.  Now that I am on a friendlier terms with the poles, it has almost become fun (still a little nerve wrecking).  The inconsistency of dancing with these inanimate objects has given me an artistic license to be creative, problem solve and react to the unexpected making each run thru a completely different experience and hopefully in the end a successful performance.


Besides the challenges with the poles, Utopia has an added element of creating an environment.  Artistically, this has been challenging because it is not just executing movement and it's not the intention in which you put behind the movement.  It is something more than that.  It has been a process to find a way to provoke certain moods of sections so the audience can join me on this journey to finding utopia.  I want them to feel the internal and external stresses, struggles, minor achievements and failures I encounter on the pathways to attaining utopia.


We have been in the studio working for over a year, and at a certain point there is a sense of monotony with doing the same thing every rehearsal.  The struggle of keeping the movement fresh, and continuing to dig deeper and find new ways to layer all aspects of my performance has been a continual process.  With this being said, I think I have been working really hard to keep exploring.  I hope with this continual searching whatever is exposed in my movement and self expression in the performances makes the audience feel something that evokes an emotional response within them.  As well as, grabs their attention and keeps their interest to come along with me on my journey to finding utopia.  


I always find that a performance after a long rehearsal process is so rewarding.  There is a sense of attaining a goal, closure, wishing I could have done something different, or better, a sadness that it is over, and how am I going to improve on my performance when we revisit this piece in the future.  In the end, I hope that all of this work culminates into a strong technical, emotional and artistically stimulating performance for myself and the audience.  


After writing all of this, I am realizing these performances are my personal utopia.  This rehearsal process, has been my journey leading up to the perfection I have been striving to create and attain in performance.  While I am sure every night will be different, with good and bad moments, mistakes, and unexpected situations, I hope each night to come closer to that perfect performance.   I hope you can all attend the show and share in my experiences of this rehearsal process (journey) as you see them in the premier of Utopia!

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Photo Credit Elbert Mills

Creating Utopia by Valerie Green

Reaching into my memories of the development of this piece, I’m thinking of the creation of each of the solos that appear in the work. These solos are intentionally personal to our lives, our struggles, and our styles of perseverance. Prior to the rehearsal when each solo was created, Valerie asked us to think about what we perceive Utopia to mean as fuel for personalized choreography and intention. I shared with Valerie that, for me, Utopia is a state of mind that I aim to reach and maintain: a state of peace, mental stability, and recognition of what is needed to sustain a healthy perspective within the struggles of my life. As I see it, Utopia is not a place, but a space in my mind where I have time, energy, and patience enough to recognize my spirit and feed it accordingly.

I’ve carried this sentiment with me throughout the development of the rest of the work, specifically in relation to the character that I have become within the piece. If I could describe that character, I would say she is anywhere from softly aware to actively concerned about the shifts happening around her. She is anywhere from a heartfelt observer to a bubbling participant. She is anywhere from innocently curious to emotionally rambunctious. She is anywhere from independently assured to destructively upset. She is a struggle of dualities. To me, this is the path toward and through Utopia. The struggle to find the mental state that will carry me through to the receiving of light, balance, and peace. A personal journey of emotional regard and physical action, of carrying and maneuvering all that there is to manage on the journey, of wrestling with content in order to find peace within it.

At the same time, it is the acknowledgment of the commonality of individual journeys running simultaneously throughout time and space. Even within the sometimes-isolating search for my mental Utopia, I am surrounded by companions who are struggling and succeeding in their own ways, within their own characterizations, and on their own timelines. Yet, we are together. We check in on each other. We push, pull, maneuver, knock down, restore, and shift each other’s emotional and physical material along the way. We sometimes change or complicate the journey for each other because of the incompatibility of the struggles on our individual pathways, but, more so, we could not make the journey alone.

In thinking of Utopia as a mental state, it can be easy for my character (and my person) to feel isolated and busy within my own head, like a tempest in a teapot. However, my character is challenged along this journey to reach outward, connect, see, feel the presence of others, and embrace the strength gained in exposing fragility. This is the take away that touches me most inside my interpretation of the piece. Even when we have to move our own baggage or struggle through our own scenarios, we are not alone if our friends are near, even as they fight their own fights. In this way, I am reminded that Utopia is found together as an equal reflection and causation of what is happening within. The sense of Utopia is alive and energetically cyclical, ebbing and flowing based on the state of our minds and our communities.

When performing my solo in the piece, I feel the presence of my company members, and my character feels the presence of her surrounding companions. At no point do I feel alone, even as I am the only one dealing with my personalized battles. In my life, I agree with the dance. I see myself successful within myself when I am connecting outside of myself. I see my Utopia appearing when I am reaching equally inward and outward. I see myself balancing the carrying of others and being carried by others. I see myself reaching milestones with others, never alone, yet with deep consideration and consciousness of a healthy inner me that only I can summon and create. 

Let’s create Utopia together, reaching in and reaching out. 

-Emily Aiken

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 Photo Credit:  Nomi H. Rave

Photo Credit: Nomi H. Rave

A New Role and a New Face at Dance Entropy! by Valerie Green

Hi! My name is Akia, I’m the new Company Manager here at Dance Entropy.

It’s a new role for the company and it’s very exciting to be lending a hand to help shape what this position means for Dance Entropy.   Valerie and I are working together on focused growth for the project, and I look forward to sharing what’s in store with all of you in the months to come.

In the meantime, I’ll tell you a little bit about myself.  

I originally come from a Dance background, having started studying movement and dance at the age of 4.  A 2nd generation dancer I studied with my mother’s ballet master Mila Gibbons at the Aparri School of Dance in Princeton, NJ and went on to studying & performing with the Princeton Ballet Company.  As a teenager, I discovered a love for theatre, and began studying at the New York Conservatory for the Arts in Upstate NY, studying all forms of dance, theatre and voice.   I moved to NYC and after a few years of freelancing, I landed at Blue Man Group where I spent 10 years working as their Company Manager, where I wrangled Blue Guys, laughed and learned a whole lot.   I’m also a freelance stage director, intimacy director/choreographer, and advocate for anti-harassment & safe spaces in creative work places.

Most of all I look forward to seeing the World Premiere of Utopia in December and hope to see all of you there!

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Whitney's Introduction blog post by Valerie Green

Hello! My name is Whitney Janis. I am a professional dancer based in New York City, and I am thrilled to be working as the new Programs Manager at Green Space.

I admire how Green Space brings dance to the wider community by offering public classes, discounted studio space, and high-quality performances each month. I look forward to helping Green Space continue to make dance accessible to artists, students and the general public.

A little bit about me: Born and raised in New York City, I began taking ballet classes at Ballet Academy East when I was six years old. During high school I trained on scholarship at The Ailey School, the official school of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. In 2011, I received my undergraduate degree in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. After moving back to New York, I worked as the Gifts Coordinator and the Administrative Assistant of Institutional Giving at the New York Philharmonic from 2012-2016. I later completed two years of professional training at Ailey through the Independent Study program, and am now happy to be working with three modern dance companies in New York.

I look forward to seeing you at a class or a performance at Green Space soon!

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Gardens of Babylon, Chinese Scrolls and the Eternal Quest for Utopia by Valerie Green

Visual Artist Keren Anavy on the Making of Utopia's Pillars

Tell me about your background as an artist?

I got my bachelor degree in history of art at Tel Aviv University, and then I studied MFA at Haifa University, so my whole education was in Israel. I’m a painter and I do drawings, but mostly I present site specific installation that I create from all kinds of materials. I came to New York two years ago and did the NARS Foundation residency for six months in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. I started to research local artists and one of them was Valerie Green from Dance Entropy, which was an amazing experience.

How did Valerie broach this project with you?

We did a collaboration in the Flux Factory two years ago. It was a good experience that we had, and we saw that we both have interest in lots of similar topics: Landscape as a metaphor for example, and the relationship between people and communities through arts. So we decided to do something from scratch together.

 Keren Anavy's scroll paintings

Keren Anavy's scroll paintings

I was in the middle of research about botanical gardens in New York and thinking about how nature is like small pockets in the urban city of New York. I was also in the process of making new paintings that has lots of influence from Chinese painting scrolls.

We had this idea that the paintings look like hanging gardens. I painted them on Mylar, which is a transparent material. So when the paintings hang in my studio it looks like hanging gardens of Babylon. They were considered to be one of the wonders of the world, but they never really existed. So after Valerie saw this painting, we started talking about this utopian situation: a perfect place that doesn’t really exist but we all the time kind of aspire to. Then she responded in her way with choreography. So it was like a dialogue through art.

What’s been the most challenging part?

You should ask the dancers! But my challenge is to think about all kinds of technical issues. The company needs to move from place-to-place in the future in order to show this piece. But the challenge is that this technical issue will not affect the art. How we can do it without giving up elements that we really want in and are important? We don’t want to compromise.

What does Utopia mean to you?

It’s very dreamy, it’s very nice. But it’s also trying to control the future, trying to control the reality. We do this with the social media trying to control how we look…I think that utopia for me, I would want it to be something peaceful so we don’t have to be changing all the time. Then you can take your mind off struggling. And you can see it in the choreography because there is all the time this struggle. They kind of build something and then destroy it.

Don't miss the premiere of Utopia with Danspace Project at St.Mark's Church: Thursday, December 13, 2018!

Green Space Gets a Makeover by Valerie Green

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IT'S HERE!

Last month, we rolled out VG/DE's snazzy new website. This month, its Green space's turn. It's green, it's bold, it's got upcoming season tickets, classes galore and more!

Some new things of note:

Please explore, reach out and tell us what you think. And as always, happy dancing!

Like the design? We highly recommend Olivia Palacios and JAMpress Management for their thorough and inspiring work!
 

Valerie Green/Dance Entropy Has Upped Its Web Game! by Valerie Green

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The New Website is Live!

If you’re new to Valerie Green/Dance Entropy, welcome. If you’re one of our longtime friends, welcome back to our brand new website! We’ve been hard at work all summer redesigning and reorganizing all that VG/DE has to offer. Now our repertoire archive, touring programs, educational outreach workshops, classes and far more have a snazzy new home in the big wide web.

·         Find out about our upcoming performances

·         Check out photo galleries and videos of VG/DE works

·         Come to our classes held at VG/DE’s home studio Green Space

·         Get in touch and subscribe to our mailing list

And later this month, don’t miss…drum roll please…the reveal of Green Space’s own splashy new website – Stay tuned!