It’s been 25 years since Ellen Sinopoli devoted her dancing life to choreography. And while she has accomplished and explored as much or more than the average choreographer, her artistic curiosity remains keen.
“I continue to learn, grow, experience, experiment and am willing to take risks,” said Sinopoli, artistic director of the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company, which will present its silver anniversary concert on Friday at The Egg.
Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company
WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday
WHERE: The Egg, Albany
HOW MUCH: $25
MORE INFO: 473-184, www.theegg.org
“I learn from my dancers, my students and other artists. When I begin a piece or project, I don’t spend time wondering if the end result will be a ‘success.’ I just go forward and trust my craft, my dancers and our ability.”
That willingness to trust and take risks has always rewarded Sinopoli. She trusted her instincts to form the company in 1991 during a recession that hit the arts community particularly hard. One year later, when invited to become the Egg’s resident modern dance company, she trusted Executive Director Peter Lesser to provide her troupe with stability.
And today, as her ensemble reaches this 25-year milestone, Sinopoli can say she created not just an impressive body of work (76 pieces in all), but a network of support from the government and business communities.
Fellow artists’ support
But it has always been fellow artists who lavished her with the most enthusiastic support. Over the years, more than 45 musicians, poets, painters, sculptors and others have called on Sinopoli, seeking to collaborate.
Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company timeline
1991: First concert at Skidmore College
1992: Named resident company at The Egg 1999: First collaboration with architectural designer Frances Bronet, “Beating a Path”
2002: Major evening-length work with furniture-maker, sculptor Jim Lewis “From the mind/of a single, long vine/one hundred opening lives”
2011: First Next Move/Festival of Modern Dance at Proctors, which Sinopoli curated
2011: First “Underground Playground,” an improvisational event at regional playgrounds that continues today
2012: First collaboration with the Opalka Gallery
Their proposals have propelled her on artistic adventures that she might not have gone on otherwise. Among them were notable collaborations with architectural designer Frances Bronet — one performed on a jungle gym of sorts in storefronts and the other inside a 40-foot spandex rectangle.
There are also her works at the Opalka Gallery at Sage College that complemented exhibitions with Michael Oatman, John Van Alstine and video game designers. One had dancers performing on a staircase; another with dancers sliding under the seats of spectators.
Mostly, there were composers, including Don Byron, Cornelius Dufallo, Donald Knaack and Hilary Tann, many of whom played live at her concerts.
“Not every collaboration was rewarding or fruitful,” said Sinopoli. “Some were difficult. But they led to other collaborations.” Certainly, she is most inspired by music. Its pulses and rhythms continually play through her mind and body, something she attributes to her upbringing by a father who was a violinist and a mother who was a dancer, both of whom performed on the vaudeville circuit.
Creating a new work
When she decided to create a new work for Friday’s concert, she first opened her ears. She found motivation in a four-hand, one-piano score by Terry Riley as played by ZOFO. The result is the world premiere of “Tumble.” She titled it thus because the music had a rolling quality, which guided the movement.
“I made the work back in the winter,” said Sinopoli. “I look at it now and wonder where all the choreography came from. It seems to spill out, to evolve. Like all of my dances, it reveals itself and I have to listen to it.” Sinopoli also felt it was important take a look back on her years by restaging some dances.
She settled on “Sandungera” from 2000; “Rising Low” from 2004; “Becoming,” a 2006 solo reset for retiring dancer Marie Klaiber; and “Filament” from 2012.
While she is stimulated by choreography and other artists, she is equally excited by her ensemble of six veteran dancers. Their experience has unburdened her in the office and studio, where dancers have taken over administrative duties and running rehearsals. More importantly, she says they are fluent in her movement language, and their level of artistry is high.
“My dancers have become stronger and stronger with more depth and creativity.” Even so, Sinopoli is a realist. At 71, she knows she and her company can’t go on forever. But she can’t stop yet as she has more collaborations with artists and composers planned through 2018.
“As long as there are other artists who want to work with me, I’ll keep going.”