DG: What brought you to the Bay Area?
RJ: I’ve spent a lot of time in the Bay Area over the last few years. My kids and some very good friends live here. My husband and I love the ease with which you can be in wilderness and at the same time be in a city. I’ve enjoyed seeing the range of vibrant dance going on here and I have found the dance folks I’ve reconnected with or recently met to be very welcoming and enthusiastic.
DG: What’s your neighborhood? Stomping ground?
RJ: We live in Oakland near Lake Merritt – a few blocks from the Grand Lake Theater. That means a short walk to the fantastic Farmers Market on Saturday morning. The market, the lake, Grand Ave and Lakeshore Ave are some of the pleasures of living where we do. The Fitness SF gym on Grand Ave is great to have in the neighborhood.
DG: Tell us a little about your work.
RJ: My dances generally start with a question that I investigate with others – dancers, artist collaborators and often members of community-based groups. With Resist/Surrender, a work that I plan to bring to the Bay Area, the question was about maleness/masculinity. I began thinking about this piece as I watched my then adolescent son struggle through those extremely difficult years. It made me ask: What is the meaning of maleness/ masculinity in our culture?
Early in the process of making a new work I bring to rehearsal movement material that provides taking off points. Developing the material is a collaborative process, so I like to work with dancers who have the curiosity and appetite to experiment and share ideas. It helps if they are fearless movers.
I look forward to teaching and learning, mentoring, choreographing and dancing in my new Bay Area dance home. I am eager to share Resist/Surrender with Bay Area audiences. It’s a piece that includes the things I care most about – a cast of trained and non-trained dancers working together, a thrilling commissioned score performed live and a set that is fully integrated into the choreography.
DG: What’s your favorite Bay Area institution?
RJ: I arrived at the end of December so there are still many Bay Area venues that I have not been to. I have enjoyed a number of events at CounterPULSE. It’s so important to have an institution like that which is committed to incubating new work. The ODC Dance Commons and Theater are spectacular. I love that wide open Z Space. And YBCA is a great resource for the Bay Area. I have a membership to SFMOMA and enjoy going there. I’ve seen some good work at Berkeley Rep. One of the first things I did after getting a few dozen boxes unpacked was join Dancers’ Group. It’s great to get so much information on a weekly basis.
DG: First dance memory?
RJ: My passion for dance began when I was five years old. I lived in a housing project in Queens (NY). The project’s community center offered classes for children including a dance class taught by Murray Louis who was a protégé of Alwin Nikolais. We did a production of The Frog Prince. I was the queen. I loved it – there was no going back after that.
Risa Jaroslow is a dancer/choreographer/teacher whose work has been presented in the US and abroad. She works in collaboration with dancers of all abilities. hightidedance.org.