Choreographer Tiffany Rea -Fisher created a show that lets the audience pick the music.
It’s 2016, and every song ever recorded is at our fingertips. You’re your own favorite DJ, and I’m mine. We even have apps to control the juke boxes at bars. Is live entertainment acknowledging the instant gratification and dwindling attention spans of the digital age? Choreographer Tiffany Rea -Fisher has some ideas, and she’s bringing them to Dallas Black Dance Theatre.
During DBDT’s Director’s Choice series November 4-6, 2016 at the Wyly Theatre, the audience will wear headphones and choose from three original scores while viewing the world premiere of a dance piece called The B-Side.
Is there a precedent for this “Choose Your Own Score” method?
I haven’t seen this anywhere before, so I wanted to create it. There are three different scores from three genres, and that affects what you think the piece is about. Someone asked if they can switch scores during the performance, and I have no idea. But in November I’ll find out [laughs]. It’s a living, breathing thing.
Which came first, the music or the choreography?
The movement came first, and I then invited the composer to come into rehearsal and listen to music I was inspired by. He’d ask me questions like “Why this song?” “What are you responding to?” Sometimes it was the lyricism, sometimes the instrumentation, or a driving downbeat. He pulled out those elements, amplified them, and created the first soundtrack: the Motown soundtrack.
However, I didn’t want to stay there. Can this translate into something acoustic? Electronic? Can we evoke those same feelings with other types of music? At the end, we’ll have three different genres represented.
Did you create this piece with Dallas Black Dance Theatre in mind?
I did, yes. I’ve been coming back and working with the company on and off for the last six years, and this year Ms. Williams (Ann Williams, founder and artistic adviser for DBDT) asked if I would set a piece of my own choreography. I was honored. Once I knew I’d be creating a piece for them, I went to their New York performances and wanted to make something customized for the specific dancers. This is not a standard piece that could be on any company. It was created for these dancers, this season.
I thought, “Who is willing to do this?” And only one company came to mind. DBDT’s audiences are edgier than most. This is a company that’s not afraid to take risks. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing DBDT’s home season and meeting some of their supporters and patrons. This is a company that’s ingrained in this community and it’s inspiring, and I want to give them an outsider’s perspective of what I saw.
This is specifically for this place and time, right now. We need a little joy, we need a little celebration. I want to offer a joyous experience to a group of supporters that has allowed this company to flourish in Dallas for 40 years.
You’ve mentioned Motown when describing The B-Side…
Motown is visceral, communal and joyous. No matter what race, creed, gender, timeline… Motown is timeless. This is a very tense time historically and Motown is escapism in the best way. People hear things and automatically connect sounds to experience. There’s something about listening to Stevie Wonder’s “Superstitious” – everyone has a reaction. This is a passion piece. It’ll make you want to move and evokes emotions.
What are your other influences?
Personally, I’m a metal head. ‘80s metal is my favorite. Although I’m a choreographer and dancer by trade, I wanted to create a piece that gives the music equal importance to the visuals. Each needs full value and nothing can be secondary to anything else.
What inspires you?
I constantly go to concerts, plays, and museums. As an artist, it’s important to stay open to other art forms because you never know what’s going to inspire you. My friend took me to a silent disco, and I didn’t know what that was – And who knew that it’s what I’d be bringing to Dallas? A silent disco in a proscenium setting.
What would you say is the ultimate challenge facing dance today?
Funding. Funding is hands-down the biggest challenge, at all levels: federal, state and local. There are generous private donors, but a lack of support on the government side.
Also our messaging. Dance can be seen as an elite activity, but movement is in all of us. It should be celebrated whether you’ve been dancing your whole life or you’re at your first “Mommy & Me” class. Dance has to feel inclusive.
Oh, I love Dallas! I would describe it as big, robust and with a strong cultural center. People are so warm and welcoming. Southern hospitality is real, which is such a nice reprieve for someone who lives in New York City. And the food is extraordinary.
Tiffany Rea-Fisher is the Artistic Director for the NYC-based, internationally acclaimed modern dance company Elisa Monte Dance and is on faculty at Steps on Broadway, the premiere dance studio in New York City.
DBDT’s Director’s Choice is November 4-6 at the Wyly Theatre. Get tickets here.