Unleash Your Imagination with Jody Oberfelder Projects

We want you to have the inside scoop, so in the weeks leading up to the 2015 Guelph Dance Festival, the artists will take you behind the scenes and you will hear from the Co-Artistic Directors about their creative vision. You can stretch your boundaries and unleash your imaginations before the Festival even starts! So go ahead, follow your instincts and read on…

This week on the blog, NYC-based choreographer and dancer Jody Oberfelder shares the story of how her piece for the Festival has evolved. You do not want to miss this unique experience as part of Stage B. Get your tickets for the performance on Saturday June 6 at 8pm through the River Run Centre Box Office!

JodyWhat does dance have to do with the mind? The brain is everywhere in the body. Tracking, encoding, perceiving, the dance of neurons is happening all the time. 

I first met Catrina von Radecki and Lynette Segal in a Skinner Release based workshop taught by Stephanie Skura in NYC. It was the week after my piece about the heart, 4Chambers, had closed following 86 performances. It felt so good to move, go to a blank page, and begin again both physically and mentally. I talked afterwards to our Canadian guests about the nature of our performance installation. Small audiences were lead through four rooms, having different experiences of their hearts through different modalities: visual, tactile, physical and psychological.  It ended with a pulsing room: dancers dynamically rushing at the foam, and red curtained covered walls. I didn’t realize that Catrina was the producer of a festival. She was intrigued with the nature of this piece and sought to bring it to Guelph. We found a great space, but unfortunately it was not fully accessible. When asked “Do you have another piece you could do?” I said, “Yes”, quite heartily, as I was deep into the next process.

My research on the heart led to the brain.

Film still from “Dance of the Neurons”.

In June 2014, I began to host brainstorming sessions/salons in my living room, with neuroscientists. They seemed just as game as I was to dialogue and envision an art piece culled from our discussions. I continued to research, and dive into scientific text. There were so many entry points. Finally, in early fall, I had to start somewhere. The first “rehearsal” was sifting through index cards. Mary suggested, “Why don’t we stand up and move?” Initiating this process: a chance to drop the brain down and see a bodily interpretation of the brain, the mind, proved the immediacy of your body at your fingertips, so to speak: the instantaneous connection of the physical with the cerebral.

Continuing back and forth conversations, we’d Skype into our rehearsals neuroscientists Dr. Weiji Ma, Dr. Gary Marcus, or Ed Lein (from the Allan Institute), who’d view and offer suggestions. They were also our fact checkers. Having non-dancers contribute in such an important way changed my own process. The ‘material’ of this study – of the mind – rising up and ‘materializing’ while choreographing has been a bountiful and imaginative process.

Jody Oberfelder Project dancers in rehearsal at Dancetheatre David Earle.

I call The Brain Piece a “choreographed experience”. Thinking of experiment and experience as similar, our end result being not data, but living breathing present artifacts of discovery, it is my goal to engage audiences in such a way so that they notice their own brain activity. People who come will translate and connect with their own brains and bodies.

Jody Oberfelder Projects is currently in the studio creating new material with three Canadian dancers – Lacey Smith, Robert Kingsbury, and Lynette Segal – augmenting our NY cast – Ben Follensbee, Mary Madsen, and Madeline Wilcox.  A New Music USA grant enhanced collaborations with composers Daniel Wohl, Sean Hagerty and Angelica Negron. Set is by Ioannis Oikonomou, and film is co-directed by Eric Siegel.

Local and international dancers together at last! The cast of the Brain Piece after their first full rehearsal.

Want a quick preview? Here’s a clip of a film segment that kicks off the showTickets for Stage B, featuring Jody Iberfelder Projects, can be purchased now through the River Run Centre Box Office. Interested in several shows? Purchase a Theatre Pass (3 shows) or Stage Pass (2 shows) and save up to 15%!

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