Philly Based Choreographer Keila Cordova Looks Forward to Connecting with Pittsburgh Community

It’s a busy week here at KST, and we’re getting geared up for four days of innovative dance performances.  All this week we will be posting interviews and features from behind the scenes at the 2011 newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival.

Emerging Choreographer Keila Cordova spoke briefly with KST about her experience as a dance-maker and about what’s driving her piece, “We Want Something for Everyone.”

Keila Cordova

Keila Cordova

KST: You’re a choreographer, but you also received your MFA in Creative Writing.  Can you talk a little bit about being both a writer and choreographer, and how your work in one affects your work in the other?

KC: I’ve always danced and I’ve always written, so there’s always been this consistent weaving back and forth between the two.  One thing that interests me is telling stories, and how that can happen in movement as well as in the written word.  If a piece is written, it’s between the reader and the writer, but if it’s a performance, it’s between the viewer and performer.  So much of a work is what the audience brings to it, and how they connect to the story and what they see. 

The human connection to music was a really big break for dance.  For example, if you have a favorite song and you see someone create a performance to it, maybe that’s the song that was playing while you met your husband… that memory affects what you see.

KST: For your piece, “We Want Something From Everyone,” you looked for Pittsburgh community members to join your ensemble.  What led you to such a community-based approach?

KC: When you travel around as a performer that focuses mostly on dance-making, often in a more traditional dance context, maybe you do a master class and get to meet a couple local students and that’s it.  There’s sometimes not a direct exchange between you and the people you’re performing for.

But dance has a history of being based in an active community.   If you look at the formation of dancers in folk cultures, it’s often in the context of people getting together to celebrate a harvest or a birth.  It’s about people getting together in movement, you know, in celebrating.

I’m interested in this question of performer and community, and opportunities for people to connect to works in a much more intimate way.  There are a lot of layers to the question I’m trying to explore.  Even just looking at the role of the performing arts in America right now, I would say that many people feel disconnected from it.  Their local baseball team may have as little direct relevance in their day to day life as a performing arts company, but somehow they feel more socially connected to the players on that team.  If they’re walking down the street wearing a jersey with the name of someone who makes a million dollars on it, they don’t get a cut from wearing that jersey, but for some reason they still feel a personal connection to that player and that team.

How can performing arts and the performers have a conversation with the communities?  I want performers and viewers to have a greater conversation about what performing is, and what better way to do that than to bring them into the mix itself?

KST: Can you talk a little bit about the experience of being a part of a dance festival, about performing with so many different choreographers and dancers?

KC: First of all, I would say that it’s extremely stimulating and extremely exciting to have the luxury, the privilege, to be with artists you respect, whether or not you know their work.  And to be able to see their latest ideas and latest explorations.  Whether talking about a group of scientists or any sort of group that works as a collective, to share work in a sense creates more ideas, more conversations; I think it moves the whole field forward.  That’s one of the most exciting parts of getting to work and create in a festival setting.

KST: Who’s piece are you most looking forward to seeing in the festival?

KC: That’s a tough one because I’m a performance junkie.  Honestly, if I could, I would see everything.  I get something out of everything I see.  I love the performing arts and seeing what other people are doing; it gets my mind going. 

KST: In three words, what’s inspiring you right now?

KC: People, bodies, and stories.

Look for Keila’s work  on Friday May 13 at 7PM during newMoves Contemporary Dance Festival at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater.  To purchase tickets, visit our website or call 800.838.3006!

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