STORY WRITTEN BY TARA LYNN JOHNSON
For Digital First Media
Anything can happen when you’re improvising. That’s the thrill of being in the moment and reacting to your surroundings and those around you. And that’s the way a new dance project aims to entertain. With Graffito Works (meaning little scribbles of movement), the only thing audiences can expect is the unexpected.
Steven Weisz, founder of PhiladelphiaDANCE.org, has produced dance projects around the world and now launches Graffito Works. It began in early June with a performance at Grounds for Sculpture in New Jersey. The next event will be June 14 at Shofuso Japanese House and Garden in Philadelphia.
This project is unique because it’s not a company, but a dance platform. Weisz works with museums, gardens, and public spaces with built-in audiences, obtains funds from corporate donors, and then the dancers perform mostly improvisational works inspired by the settings in which they’re dancing.
“Graffito Works offers dancers and performing artists an opportunity to create site-specific work and to make it readily accessible to the public,” he said. “Work is created in non-traditional spaces, challenging artists to push the boundaries of their craft, while making their work relevant and accessible to a wider audience.”
The project goes international this summer and fall with trips to Italy and Toronto, Canada. Weisz said there will be a performance in September at Doylestown’s Michener Art Museum. In the meantime, at the Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, the dancers will create improvised movement examining the textural nuances in nature, along with the resonance body landscapes that can be created in tune with the natural surroundings, organizers say.
“It’s an environmental experience,” Weisz said. “Audiences are watching bodies moving through a space through a given time.”
It makes the audience part of the action.
“They are part of the scene and move with us,” he said. “It’s a different kind of experience, a transient moment in time.”
Weisz hopes to create more exposure and interest in dance, he said. He’s a big fan and producer of the art form (since the early 1970s). He believes that dance cuts across all boundaries.
“It’s music. It’s movement. It’s theater. It’s environment,” he said. “It’s a language in and of itself. No matter what country I’ve visited, it’s a universal language. It’s a way to share each other’s culture and appreciate each other’s craft.”
Jung Woong Kim will set the structure and tone for the June 14 performance and perform with the dancers.
“What is interesting is that we are all part of the Philadelphia dance community and we have many things in common,” he said. “We know each other, but haven’t had a chance for dancing together as a group since everyone does their independent work.”
He enjoys improvisation.
“It’s a way to bring forward our nature without being afraid,” he said. “By working in a group, we help each other be more present and trust the moment, ourselves, and our decisions.”
Plus, improvisation helps them “connect with patterns of relationship between sound and movement, people to people, dancers to nature, and architecture,” he said. “It is all there waiting to be discovered and explored again.”
For dancer Zornitsa Stoyanova, who’s originally from Sofia, Bulgaria, Graffito Works lets her dance with others she hasn’t before. She gets to know people from around the world, which creates a rich experience of exchange and knowledge, she said. And she loves improvisation.
“Choreography to me is dull, cutting away the possibilities for communication and connection. Improvisation is real life, here and right now,” she said. “My goal is to create resonance, connectedness, and communication between the space, myself, and the viewer.”
And though technique can be important for a dancer, it’s not the only thing.
“For me, dance is movement and the possibility of expression,” Stoyanova said. “Don’t get me wrong, I think that technique is beneficial, but it’s just one of the many possibilities of expression. For me, dance could be in every and any movement.”
She thinks a product, an end result, shouldn’t always be the goal.
“I think in our society obsessed with productivity, it’s incredibly important to move without the goal of producing something,” she said. “It’s important to move with oneself, tuning into your body, and finding freedom and joy.”
Weisz hopes audiences will find joy or at least a fun and entertaining event at these new experiences through Graffito Works. Like all of the arts, “it’s something that cuts across cultural boundaries,” he said, “and that can bring people together.”
IF YOU GO
What: Graffito Works Improvisational Dance Performance
When: 2 p.m. June 14
Where: Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, Horticultural and Lansdowne Drives, Philadelphia.
Admission: Included with venue admission, check www.japanesehouse.org.
Info.: Visit www.graffitoworks.com