We sat down with our company dancers recently and had a chat. We learned about their hometowns, dance journeys, and the process of creating Agawam. First up is our chat with Ashley Zimmerman!
Q. Where are you from and what are some unique characteristics of your hometown?
A. I am from outside of Philadelphia, close to the King of Prussia area, in Pennsylvania. Well, we have the King of Prussia mall which is a huge deal for some people. It’s the biggest mall in America in terms of number of stores, and it’s the most exciting part of my hometown. [laughs]
Q. When did you begin dancing? What’s your dance journey?
A. I started when I was four years old, I started taking class at the YMCA. And then in middle school I started to get more serious, and I went to a small school close to my house. Then from there I went to college at Point Park University and got a B.A. in dance, and two years ago I moved to New York
Q. How are you enjoying dancing for Bodystories: Teresa Fellion Dance?
A. It’s great, I’m learning so much. It’s challenging—I’m not used to creating a lot of my own movement and I’m not used to being so involved in the process. Most of my experience has been, ‘here are some moves go do them,’ and Teresa instead likes to sculpt a piece rather than build a piece, or at least that’s what it feels like. So I am enjoying my time, definitely growing a lot.
Q. How do you, as a dancer, approach translating the complex emotional and intellectual themes behind Teresa Fellion’s work? What is that process like?
A. Teresa might give us a task, and you complete the task on your own, and then come together with the other dancers to clarify what your task is and to find out what works best, so in the end we can get closer to what she wants and be able to find the best example of the idea that she is going for.
Q. What is the most challenging aspect of dancing Agawam?
A. It’s a lot for my brain, a lot of small details, a lot of very particular timing and such. If someone’s off a little bit, it’s going to mess up what I’m doing next because it’s a lot of reacting to other people.
Q. What’s been the most rewarding aspect of dancing Agawam?
A. I don’t know yet! But at this point in the process, just to see how much we’ve created, and to step back and say ‘wow we have so much material,’ and we have so many ideas that now it’s just the process of combing it out—that’s exciting.
Q. Agawam explores the post-depression era working family and family life. Although we may be decades removed from that time, how do you feel the piece resonates today?
A. We starting working on movement that really resonated with that idea. I know I personally created a very grounded, aggressive foot phrase for Teresa, and that kind of related to that theme of frustration and constant work.
Q. In our current political climate with so much uncertainty about the future, what do you think the role of dance and art will be?
A. That’s hard to answer. I think dance is supposed to be a mirror on society. Like, ‘look what’s happening, you can’t see it because the everyday is getting in your way but if you just stop and look you’d notice.’ And I mean this for artistic dance. Obviously there is an entertainment aspect to dance which can help us forget, maybe, what’s happening. But as an art form, I think dance can show what’s happening. It’s another way of viewing reality that’s can be a little clearer.