PUSHLab invites workshop students to perform in PUSHfest at ODC Theater

Learn more about our brand-new workshops at LINES Dance Center with PUSH Dance Company starting Aug 19! We talked with Raissa Simpson, Artistic Director of PUSH Dance Company and curator of PUSHfest as well as the three PUSHLab choreographers, Katerina Wong, Ashley Gayle and Noah James who will be creating new works for PUSHfest at ODC Theater with workshop students. Hear what they had to say and sign-up today!

Speaking with Artistic Director of PUSH Dance Company, Raissa Simpson:


Why did you want to create PUSHLab?
When I was around 16 – this was before I decided to pursue a career in dance – I would drop by Alonzo King LINES Dance Center at its Oak Street location and take class. If a workshop like PUSHLab had been offered back then, I certainly would have jumped at the opportunity. Workshops focus on a particular skill and our bodies build a relationship to such intense training. I feel the body takes what it already has and amplifies it into many possibilities in a workshop setting. Regular classes build consistency in our bodies, but a workshop shifts the paradigm of how we’ve been working and helps us to realize something new about ourselves.

What is PUSHLab?
PUSHlab is designed to guide participants through the performance, culture and company life of PUSH by providing weekly materials over a 6-week period in PUSH Dance Company’s aesthetic. Most importantly, it offers feedback sessions along the way in order to provide much needed support to prepare participating dancers for the stage. It is also a creative endeavor for our Company’s dancers to build new choreography on the participants.

The PUSHlab participants are as much a part of the experiment as the choreographers who have been asked to make new works. I had planned to choose two PUSH dancers to create new works, but ended up choosing three. Katerina (Katie) Wong, our resident choreographer, will work with Friday’s participants in Session 1, while Ashley Gayle and Noah James will co-choreograph a piece during Saturday’s Session 2.

What kind of dancers should apply?
PUSHLab is looking for dancers who are fearless. This is not to be confused with courageous. We all have courage; but artists have to embrace their embarrassment. Without embarrassment we are just perfect, and to me perfection is boring to watch. One of the questions we will examine during the lab is what makes us feel uncomfortable?

Only when you live in uncertainty are you truly living. The focus of the workshop is to prepare the intermediate through advanced dancer for performance. It taps into our fears and broadens them into a better realization of just how powerful we are as human beings. To be on stage is to be limitless, and often times, a little out of control.

What would a participating dancer get out of the PUSHLab experience?
There’s so much to get out of this experience, including becoming better at something. This experience will force participating dancers to explore their own pathways into dance. If there’s one thing I strongly believe in, it is that dance should be fun. If we are not having fun, then why are we doing it?

What is PUSHfest?
Every now and then I slip into my Black vernacular – “PUSHfest is Dope.” Like PUSHLab, it’s a holistic look at dance where many voices take part in an ongoing dialogue. I’m very excited to have PUSHLab as the educational component to the Festival this year. Now students can participate in PUSHfest and perform alongside our amazing guest artists, gaining invaluable performance experience.

Speaking with Resident Choreographer of PUSH Dance Company and PUSHLab: Katerina Wong

What are you most excited about the opportunity to teach/choreograph for PUSHLab?
I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to work with dancers in our community that I might not have ever worked with before. To meet new movers, with fresh perspectives on their craft and why they do it, is an endless source of inspiration. I can’t wait for the challenge of learning about one another, creating a brand new work together and performing it on stage at ODC Theater within 5 weeks. It will be a whirlwind with wonderful memories created along the way.

What do you hope your dancers will get out of the experience?
I hope dancers who join me for PUSHLab will enter into a safe space for discovery and creativity with a goal of continuing to refine their individual artistic voice. We’ll take risks, push each other, trust in one another, crack each other open and embrace what comes out. It’ll be a positive, energetic, fast-paced and personalized experience for everyone involved and I can’t wait!

What type or work or concept are you exploring for your piece in PUSHfest?
A lot of what we present will be birthed out of a close collaboration with the workshop students, but together we’ll explore themes include rhythms, percussion, vocalization, repetition, and dynamic high-energy movement.

Why do you love to dance?
It feeds me intellectually, physically, emotionally, spiritually and on levels that cannot be described in words. It is a massive challenge to continue to rediscover my passion and not be discouraged by setbacks but I always find that the benefits dramatically outweigh the cost.

Speaking with PUSHLab choreographers, Ashley Gayle and Noah James:

What are you most excited about the opportunity to teach/choreograph for PUSHLab?
Noah & Ashley: We are most excited about sharing our choreographic process with a new group of dancers. We’ve both traveled an unique dance journey and are very eager to share our experience with others!

What do you hope your dancers will get out of the experience?
Noah: I hope dancers receive a holistic experience. That they consider dance in every aspect of their lives. That they find dance to be a vehicle to not only decompress from life’s journey but refuel as well.
Ashley: I’m hoping PUSHLab dancers will enjoy working with new choreographers, be exposed to different movement styles, and overall grow not only as dancers, but as human beings throughout the process.

What type or work or concept are you exploring for your piece in PUSHfest?
Noah & Ashley: Together we are exploring how we can interpret visceral experiences of life and fuse that into our movement vocabulary. Whether it be how society has made us feel, or what we’ve grown to know from birth, we want to challenge ourselves to bring those experiences to life onstage. We both want to our audience to experience a beautiful dance that charges them socially and emotionally.

Why do you love to dance?
Noah: I love to dance because it has proven to be more than a way I communicate with God. It has shown me how to better understand myself
Ashley: Dance has always been apart of my life, a happy place I can take with me where ever I go. I dance for me, my angels above, and most importantly, for anyone and everyone I’m lucky enough to share it with.

PUSH Lab Performance Workshop (Two Separate Sessions)
with Push Dance Company and Artistic Director Raissa Simpson

Sign-up for PUSHLab today!

Fridays, August 19-September 23, 2016, 3-6pm (with Katerina Wong)
Includes a technique class, taught by Raissa Simpson; 1:30-3pm
Saturdays, August 20-September 24, 2016, 2:30-5:30pm (with Ashley Gayle and Noah James)
Includes a technique class, taught by Raissa Simpson; 1:30-2:30pm


Artist biographies:

Since graduating form UC Irvine with a B.F.A in Dance Performance and minor in Business Management in 2012, Ashley Gayle has been busy tackling her many passions. She spent a year in Los Angeles teaching for a three prominent dance studios, training and auditioning. She then decided to move back to the Bay Area to develop a strong dance base in her hometown. She was immediately invited to join the Alayo Dance Company, a fusion between Afro-Cuban and modern technique led by Ramon Alayo. She later joined PUSH Dance Company, a contemporary based group led by Raissa Simpson. Most recently she has become apart of LV Dance Collective, a contemporary fusion dance company led by Martha Zepeda and Kao Vey Saephanh and is currently a guest dancer for David Herrera Dance Company. Also, Ashley Gayle teaches for multiple studios and outreach programs throughout the Bay Area. Her current endeavor is to begin building her own dance company as well as, getting her choreography recognized. A long term goal is to open her own Dance Studio.

NOAH D. JAMES III is a California native living with Sickle Cell Disease. Growing up in a family of singers and musicians, Noah began choreographing and performing for the local community at a young age. While studying Theater Arts at California State University East Bay, Noah appreciated opportunities to tour, train and collaborate with Eric Kupers, Nina Haft and Laura Ellis. He is inspired by his battle with Sickle Cell and hopes to translate his painful experience into a work of art. This is Noah’s second season with PUSH Dance Company.

Katerina Wong is a dancer and choreographer who has performed and presented work in New Jersey, New York, Beijing and San Francisco. Katie graduated cum laude from Princeton University with a B.A in Anthropology, East Asian Studies and Dance. While in San Francisco, she has had the pleasure of dancing with RAWdance, LEVYdance, Printz Dance Project, and Concept o4, among others. She choreographed two evening-length works with dance theatre company, Brickabrack, and was in residency with FACT/SF for their JuMP Choreographic Commissioning Program 2016. As a freelance choreographer, Katie has presented work at ZSPACE, ODC Theater, CounterPulse, Dance Mission Theater, Joe Goode Annex, Fort Mason, Zaccho Studio, LEVYstudio, The Garage, PianoFight, SJSU and the Terra Gallery. Katie has danced with PUSH Dance Company since 2012 and has been their Resident Choreographer since 2014. She is also the Digital Engagement Specialist at Alonzo King LINES Ballet. www.katerinawong.com