This is the question that artistic director Valerie Green has begun exploring in her new work. Many understand “Utopia” to mean the perfect place. But the word’s meaning in Latin—“nowhere”—proves that Utopia is much harder to conjure and define, even in our imaginations.

On neither earth nor in Heaven, Utopia straddles the physical and the spiritual. Valerie is investigating whether Utopia is an external place, in the traditional sense, or if it might perhaps exist internally.

I caught up with Richard Scandola, first year company member (and our resident charming Frenchman), to find out a little bit more about the creation process.

Richard Scandola in Utopia
Utopia. Photo: Keren Anavy

How did Valerie begin the work?

She asked us what Utopia means to us, internally, and to find the word that resonates in us when we think about Utopia. She also asked us what felt safe for us or unsafe. And that wasn’t related to Utopia, they were two different questions that she put together during the process.

What words resonated for you Utopia?

I thought about safety, peace, high technology, like futuristic, and I also think about… not science fiction but magic. A childish vision of Utopia, I think.

And what about words for safety?

That’s more personal, deeper. Safety could be my apartment, my bed, the beach, being in nature.

Each dancer has a solo in the piece…tell me about yours.

She created the solo from these two questions, of course, and she integrated all of the safety, un-safety thoughts in the piece too. We can find it in different places and relate to different people. Example: claustrophobia. We have a moment in the piece when one of the dancers is stuck in-between the poles and she can really feel the poles coming back at her.

What is it like to dance with the huge (ten-foot) pillars?

It’s hard to make them stand up. It depends on the quality of the floor, if it’s flat or not. It depends–if there’s air conditioning or heat turning on, it’s more air. The movement that we do is vibration, so all of this makes the pillars move very easily. So that’s the hardest part, having them still where we want them and not have to readjust for 10 hours.

But manipulating them is pretty much included in the movement. It’s just finding the way to hold them depending on the movement. It’s not that difficult. It’s not so heavy, not for me. For Erin they’re tall, so it’s a little bit harder for her.

Is it one of the stranger props you’ve danced with?

I’ve danced with walls on wheels before….it’s kind of cool to dance with props actually. [Both the walls and the pillars for Utopia] are props and décor. And we might have costumes that are part of the décor too. It’s cool!

Come see a work-in-progress showing of Utopia:

January 16, 2018
Open Performance @ Movement Research
Edens Expressway
New York City, NY

January 19, 2018
NARS Foundation
Brooklyn, NY

Richard Scandola
Richard Scandola

Richard Scandola is a native of southern France where he performed with Les Ballets des Alpes Maritimes, Horizons, and Corps Accord. Richard moved to New York City to study in the Cunningham Summer Intensive and in Limon Institute PSP program, where he discovered a special affinity with this technique and met Jim May, who became his mentor. He soon became one of the dancers of the Sokolow Ensemble in 2012. He has since worked with Barkin/Selissen Project, Brice Mousset OUI Danse, HT Chen Dance and Dancers, Overground Physical Theater, Shadow Box Theatre as a dancer and puppeteer, and co-director for the show The Earth and Me. Richard kindles his passions for photography and spiritual healing by offering treatment and inspiration to others. He’s currently working on different dance projects and creating his unique performance style. Richard began working with Dance Entropy in 2017.

Leave a Reply