Ordway Blog: Stay connected here with what is happening at Ordway and take a look at what is going on behind the scenes.
Wed, May 19, 2010 2:25 PM by Ryan Jones
In 2004, Taye Diggs and Andrew Palermo founded dre.dance, a New York based contemporary dance company. Andrew and Taye were friends for many years before they created their company and have worked together on a wide range of projects for over twenty years. Aside from working with dre.dance, Andrew has choreographed multiple shows and has appeared both on and off Broadway. The following is a question and answer with Andrew about his experiences and inspirations for dre.dance. On Thursday May 20th, dre.dance performs their production beyond.words at the Ordway. Hear more from Andrew Palermo before the show at the Ordway Extra, starting at 6:30pm.
How did the idea of forming a dance company come about?
As I was rounding out my time performing in the original company of Wicked in New York, I was beginning to work more and more as a choreographer. I knew I wanted to go into choreography full time, so I approached Taye with the idea of presenting an evening of work together.
Taye and I had been friends since high school and taught many masterclasses together over the years. We share a commonality and respect each other’s work, so it seemed like a good idea to lean on each other, as it were, with our first full evening of dance.
We went to Dancers Responding to Aids and offered to co-produce the show with and for them, benefiting their wonderful organization. They were excited at the idea, having only one request; that we were more than just ‘Taye and Andrew’. Hence, dre.dance was formed.
What is the meaning of dre.dance?
It’s a combo of our nicknames; ‘Drew’ and ‘Taye’.
What do you look for in the dancers you hire for dre.dance?
We really require a lot from our dancers.
First, they must be technically very strong.
Second, they must be extremely athletic. We don’t separate what the boys and girls do. They all throw each other, and themselves around.
Third, they must be able to tell a story. That doesn’t mean that they are always in ‘narrative’ mode. It means that, even through the simplest movement, or lack thereof, they must have something going on inside.
Fourth, they must ‘get’ our style.
Lastly, they must be collaborative and have a passion for performing the work. dre.dance is a family. We need each other to succeed. So, if one person isn’t pulling their weight, or is not jibing with the rest, we all feel it. It has to be a group effort.
What dance movement styles inspire your choreography?
Taye and I really just let it all filter through us. We don’t narrow our choices based on what piece we’re working on. That said, we pull from almost everything: classical technique, jazz, hip hop, theatrical choreography, pedestrian movement, gesture. You name it, we use it.
What comes first, the music choice or the choreography?
It depends on the piece. We’ve worked in every order. Sometimes the idea is first. Sometimes, the music. Sometimes, the choreography.
What event made you decide to start on this journey in creating beyond.words?
This piece was inspired by a CNN feature about a woman with ‘severe autism’, Amanda Baggs. Ms. Baggs makes videos that shed a light on ‘a day in the life’ for her. The video that really exploded and struck a chord with me is entitled ‘In My Language’. The crux of the message of this video is, ‘just because I (Amanda) speak a different language than you (neuro-typical people), it doesn’t mean that it’s not valid, and maybe you should learn to speak MY language, and not the other way around’ (paraphrased). This message blew me away and led us on our way to create the work.
What are the major lessons you learned while creating this dance piece?
I’ve been thrust into this wonderful community of people affected by the autism spectrum. It’s been a beautiful lesson in how to work with people with special needs while not attempting to strip away who they are at their core. I’ve now taught dozens of classes with people on the spectrum as well as workshops for parents and caregivers to utilize movement therapy. None of this would have happened without ‘beyond.words’.
I think, most importantly, I’ve learned to judge people less. We all have our idiosyncracies, passions, habits; things that make us ‘different’. If someone behaves differently than I do, that doesn’t make it wrong, or them dysfunctional, but simply different than me.
What do you want people to take away from “beyond.words”?
That the only way to understand someone, and potentially make their experience in this world a more realized one, is to approach them with openness and love. Trying to cure someone is definitely not the only way.
Are you creating any new works for dre.dance right now?
We just premiered ‘dre.diohead’, and evening of dance to music by the iconic band, Radiohead, in NYC two weeks ago! And now, we’re presenting it at the Ordway’s wonderful school performances this Tuesday and Wednesday.
We’re also just starting to germinate on the next piece. Keep your eyes out!
Where do you see dre.dance in ten years?
Hopefully all over the world!
Fri, Apr 9, 2010 3:35 PM by Ryan Jones
Andrew Palermo, Artistic Director of dre.dance, is visiting the Twin Cities one month prior to the company’s public performance at the Ordway!
You are invited to two upcoming events with Andrew Palermo…
Dance Master Class with Andrew Palermo
Tuesday, April 13
6 – 7:30pm
The Directors Studios
(1170 15th Ave SE, First Floor, Minneapolis 55414; http://tdstudios.us/)
$10; Please RSVP to Amy Miller at 651.282.3017 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Andrew Palermo's dance class is a combination of contemporary modern, jazz, hip hop and theatrical techniques. It consists of a contemporary modern/jazz warm-up with strengthening elements, followed by technical sequences and phrases, concluding with combinations from the dre.dance repertoire.
Palermo's unique ability to reach students of all experience levels provides a fun yet challenging atmosphere enabling students to improve their technique while enjoying dances to popular music in a relaxed yet inspirational atmosphere.
Dancers of all levels encouraged to attend!
Lecture and Demonstration with Andrew Palermo
Thursday, April 15
6:30 – 8pm
The Ordway, McKnight Theatre
Short reception to follow in the McKnight Lobby
Attendance is FREE; please contact Amy Miller with questions and to RSVP at 651.282.3017 or email@example.com
Andrew Palermo will speak about beyond.words, a dance piece developed following intensive study through workshops, residency, and interviews with people on the autism spectrum. He will explain the piece’s creation and evolution, and will demonstrate examples of movement from the piece.
For more information about dre.dance and Artistic Directors Andrew Palermo and Taye Diggs, please visit their website at dredance.com
This blog is a group effort by Ordway staff, actors, artists, musicians, dancers and all those involved in the creative process of performances, programs and events at the Ordway to provide a behind the scenes look at what happens onstage, backstage and in support of the work presented at the Ordway. We also hope to discuss pertinent topics in our industry.
The purpose of this blog is to engage with you in the blogosphere. We wish to let you know that our posts do not go through any official editorial process for spelling, grammar or fact checking, therefore errors may occur – please be kind! Every blog post is open for public comment, questions or suggestions and the Ordway chooses not to pre-screen these responses. That being said, we do reserve the right to remove any offensive, illegal, or inappropriate content at the Ordway's sole discretion.
As part of our new branding initiative surrounding the joy provided by performing arts, by posting a comment, question or suggestion you provide the Ordway with the right to use your submission for marketing and promotional purposes. (I know, I know, I promise to not make future posts as boring as this one!)
Phew! I'm done talking "legal jargon." Thanks for stopping by and reading our blog!