Ellen Sinopoli drew on sculpture in creating her latest dance work

The Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company will perform new works in what will largely be a Latin-themed eveni
Dance will converge with live music and sculpture when the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company premieres two new works on Saturday at The Egg.
Dance will converge with live music and sculpture when the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company premieres two new works on Saturday at The Egg.

ALBANY — To Ellen Sinopoli, everything and anything can inspire a dance.

A line of music, a swath of silk, a detail of a painting or a haiku poem — all have had their effect on her art. And for her latest creation, which will have its premiere at The Egg on Saturday, Sinopoli was guided by a sculpture by Jim Lewis.

“I first saw ‘Red Bud’ in his backyard at a party,” said Sinopoli. “I walked around it. You could walk inside of it. It was shaped like a nautilus. He also had a few mock-ups on his table covered in muslin cloth.”

The sculpture stayed with her and became the heart for her newest work, “Snowblind.” But it wasn’t just the sculpture that would create the environment for her dance. Sinopoli gathered ideas for her winterscape from the percussive music of Evelyn Glennie, quotations from W.H. Auden’s “Letters from Iceland,” Julie Christie’s movie “Away from Her” and Andy Goldworthy’s ice sculptures.

All of that percolated in her consciousness and coalesced into an arctic landscape.

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company

WHERE: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany

WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday

HOW MUCH: $24, $20 seniors and $12 children

MORE INFO: 473-1845 or www.theegg.org

“All of it sort of fell into place,” said Sinopoli. “It doesn’t always happen that way. Sometimes, I see something I want to use, but I have to put it on a back burner. Sometimes, I have to do something that will push the idea forward. But with ‘Snowblind,’ it’s funny how it all came into play.”

Latin motif

The cool of “Snowblind” will contrast with the heat radiating off the rest of the Ellen Sinopoli’s Dance Company program. The evening’s theme will be decidedly Latin. The night will begin at 5 p.m. with a gala, serving tapas, at the New York State Museum.

The Spanish-flavored concert will follow at 8 p.m. The bill will include the sultry “Sandungera,” a work driven by the rhythmic music of South America and Cuba. The piece celebrates the twist of a woman’s waist and the sway of her hips. “Falling,” an explosive ensemble piece to flamenco music played live by guitarist Maria Zemantauski and percussionist Brian Melick, will also be shown.

Zemantauski and Melick will return to the stage for “Compas,” the evening’s second premiere. Based on five song forms of flamenco, a new composition by Zemantauski will animate “Compas.” Again, the music will be played live by the guitarist, Melick and cellist Monica Wilson-Roach.

“Maria played with the rhythms slightly,” said Sinopoli. “Traditionally, it is flamenco, but she infused it with jazz, funk. We are not doing the specific dances that go with the rhythms. The energy of the rhythm gave me a way to mingle the movement into a modern dance form.”

Putting this concert together has been quite the challenge. The company had been busy creating two separate programs (one in Cobleskill and another in Johnstown) simultaneously. Sinopoli also is performing in “From the Horse’s Mouth,” the dance/theater work that gathers the movers and shakers of the area dance community at Proctors. In addition, she had to train three new dancers — Whitney Hoke, Kerville Cosmos Jack and Jennifer Yackel — to fill out the company roster.

“It’s been difficult to find enough time for rehearsals, to coach, work out costumes, and bring the dancers up to the level I would like them to be” said the choreographer.

For some of the dancers, such as Jack, who is trained in the Graham technique, Sinopoli’s way of dancing is novel. She approaches the stage space as circular. The dancers should always feel like they are spiraling in a three-dimensional hoop, filling its imaginary void with a circular sensation. This is not exactly compatible with the Graham style of contracting and collapsing into space.

And then there are all those layers, as in “Snowblind,” in which the music and sculpture not only needs to make sense to the audience, but the dancer, too.

Sinopoli is confident it will meld, as her more synergistic collaborations have with both Zemantauski in “Falling” and Lewis in “From the mind of a single, long vine one hundred opening lives.”

Favored collaborators

“Before this concert, I was thinking about who I’d like to collaborate with and who I enjoy working with,” said Sinopoli. “I love working with Maria. She’s such a talented artist. And the other person who came to mind was Jim.”

Lewis’ sculpture, draped in a cloth construction by Jean Krueger, can look both opaque and translucent, depending on the lighting that was designed by Sinopoli’s son, Jason Sinopoli.

“It’s as much about light as it is about movement,” said Sinopoli.

Sinopoli’s mind is already racing ahead to next season, when she will work with the Schenectady Symphony Orchestra at Proctors and is hoping for a residency grant for a stay at Kaatsbaan International Dance Center. In the meantime, she said she will keep a lookout for new ideas.

“I always say that an artist has to keep their eyes open all the time,” said Sinopoli. “You have to look at things askew and see the possibilities.”

Categories: Life and Arts

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