Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Equus Projects: Research is just Curiosity with Purpose

EQUUS PROJECTS - Economic Revitalization update!

Hub Sites

These statements describe what we are experiencing as we develop four hub sites for our work. One in Texas; one in Florida; one in Montana and one in Seattle.

It is just simplest to describe each in terms of the specific hub site anecdote.


Last August we created a large performance project on Vashon Island, a small commuter island off the coast of Seattle. Both performances were sold to capacity. The project created quite a buzz on the island. All good, since Seattle was to be one of our designated hub sites !

In September we were invited to return. I had hoped to do a remake of the work we created last August, but do it better. Better horsemanship. Better development of choreographic through line. However our producer felt it would be wiser to produce a new work: new music, new costumes, new choreography. So much for deeper investigation, but as it turns out there is Seattle based funding for new music commissions and our composer is well known in the Pacific NW.

I am planning a trip to Seattle in March to plan the project, seek out potential patrons, create a buzz about the new project. And visit good friends. One of those friends produces periodic soiree featuring a guest speaker. Voila! a chance to entice a group of potential patrons who all are already interested in hearing about The Equus Projects.

We are planning our catered dinners again at our friends Sandi and Joe’s. Instead of restaurant5 eating we buy the food and pay a small catering fee for nightly dinners. And provide a chance for us to share down time, wine and good food with our hub site friends and collaborators.


Seattle is unfolding with happy surprises this year because we madethings happen last year. Hours of conference calls and planning went into a cultivation event in June and many layers of planning for meals and housing for our ten days on Vashon last August.

We are taking the same approach in Aubrey, Texas. In February I will spend four days with our co-presenter Jeanette Wright. She is a masterful organizer. It was her idea to produced a performance event in Aubrey, Texas – home to many ranchers, and a wonderful population of retired Hollywood actors!! One of those actors is married to Jeanette’s dressage teacher. Valentines Day Jeanette and I will host a brunch and demo in her barn, with her horses.

What is exciting about Texas is that Aubrey is 15 minutes from Denton and Denton is the home of Texas Women's University and University of North Texas and close to Texas Christian University – all universities with terrific dance departments. Four emails later I have been able to contact faculty at each university. I will teach a master class at TWU while I am down there. And my dance colleagues are ALL planning to attend our Valentines Day party and demo.


It is not always this easy. Gainesville and Ocala are only 40 miles apart but it has been a gentle uphill climb to create bridges between our horse world and dance world in Florida.

We are making progress.

Last July we had a 10-day residency at White Oak Plantation in Yulee Florida. At White Oak dancers are treated like kings and it was our pleasure to invite Joan Frosch - former dance chair and now co-Director of the Center for World Arts the U of F/ Gainesville - to be our guest for several days. At White Oak we were able to spend time with Joan talking about our work, planning and processing.

She also enjoyed a Hawaiian luau with us and got to watch our creative process and a premiere performance of Un/Stable.

Joan gets our work on many levels – the dancing, the training, the physical listening and the intellectual dialogue that surrounds the integrating of sensing and knowing that is a crucial part of how we as dancers must work with horses if we honestly wish to create work that is both beautiful and profound but also safe!!

We want to produce one of our Creative Collisions think tanks in at the U of F. in Gainesville. Joan will be an invaluable help. But the U of F dance department is huge. There are many agendas and ours will not be a first priority. So intermediate steps are required. This March I will be a guest artist at the U of F for a week. I plan to teach an intensive course on site specific choreography. I believe one must be deeply accountable to one’s choreographic site. We will begin with horses as our site. That is real accountability. And then move on to lawns and stairways!!

Florida is also where we spend as many as five weeks a year in training with expert horsemanship trainers and fabulous horses. When it is 34 degrees and the ground is frozen here in NY, we can spend 7 hours a day on Ocala training with horses in the dead of January. This January we will spend five days training and choreographing. We like to invite lots of our equestrian friends to watch, give feedback and coach us. They love the creativity and admire our ability to move and make split second decisions inside a piece of choreography with equine partners. Last January we did an open rehearsal/ demo and invited a few friends. Sixty people showed up! We might just do another one of those “small” gatherings again this January!


Helena, Montana is a new site of The Equus Projects. In October we created a large performance piece with 16 riders and 20 horses. Lots of people saw us. Our creative time was far too short and we would like to return to show that we can make a different kind of work.

In Helena we have some unusual and very strategic supporters. Anne Perkins is the founder and chair of the Human-Animal Bonding Program at Carroll College. She is a PhD in Psychology. She invited me to give several lectures to her class while we were on site creating in Helena. She is interested in how we communicate with horses and brings to our work the mind of a scientist. Perfect of Creative Collisions!

When we left Helena in October I was wondering how/ what we could do in partnership with Anne Perkins. A week later one of our equestrians wrote to invite us to come and teach in Bozeman. I immediately emailed Anne suggesting we piggyback a Bozeman visit with a 3-day brainstorming in Helena. Better yet, let’s do a demo of our work with horses – small, informal, narrated – in Helena. Invite potential patrons. Create a plan for residency focusing on movement and the human and equine connection. Maybe a possible series of lectures for next fall. Set the foundations for a large performance project in 2011. But connect it to a research project with Carroll College. Just suggestions.

Research is just curiosity with a purpose. I think much oif what we are doing is following our curiosity. And doing research. Now that ought to be fundable!

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The Equus Projects is a recipient of The Field’s Economic Revitalization for Performing Artists (ERPA) Phase 3 Implementation award. The Field’s ERPAprogram receives funding from The Rockefeller Foundation’s Cultural Innovation Fund. For more information, please or

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