Noted Composer/Multi-Instrumentalist Zeena Parkins Heads to Philadelphia to Work with Miro Dance Theatre on 2011 World Premiere PUNCH

Monday, December 13, 2010

Blog Categories: Press Releases

Contact: Carrie Gorn
Phone: 215-483-5482
Email: cgornpr@comcast.net

PHILADELPHIA — Miro Dance Theatre is welcoming noted composer Zeena Parkins to town for a one-week workshop to continue to develop the company’s upcoming World Premiere, PUNCH. The piece will debut April 21-23, 2011 at the Innovation Studio at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts as part of the 2011 Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts. The workshop will culminate in a free Open Studio on Thursday, November 18 at Girard College from 6:30-8:30 p.m.

PUNCH is Miro’s radical reimagining of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella. In the workshop space, Miro and Parkins will experiment with everything from microphones, wawa pedals, commedia masks, and the company’s own dancers, to make a rowdy combination. From Italian street theater to the Ballets Russes, from The Punch and Judy Show to The Simpsons, the commedia characters have been a part of our culture – high and low. Miro is playing with those archetypes to turn Pulcinella into a bawdy and comic romp. Both Miro’s Artistic Director Amanda Miller and Parkins began as classical artists who are now bending the rules and lines of genre in their respective arts.

PUNCH will be Miro Dance Theatre’s most ambitious work to date. Its creation is inspired by the interdisciplinary work of the Ballets Russes in the early 20th century and will feature a new score and sound installation commissioned from composer Zeena Parkins, choreography by Amanda Miller, and visual art and scenic design by Tobin Rothlein.

Ballets Russes was one of the most influential ballet companies of the 20th century, in part because of its groundbreaking artistic collaboration among contemporary choreographers, composers, artists, and dancers. They, like Miro, had one foot in the classical ballet realm and the other in emerging avant-garde. Pulcinella is a one-act ballet composed by Stravinsky and inspired by both Giovanni Pergolesi’s original songs and 16th century Italian commedia dell’arte. It featured a cast of five, with a complicated plot involving thwarted romance, adultery, violence, and magic. Miro is simply using Pulcinella as a jumping off point and is drawing inspiration from the innovative work and the cross-disciplinary elements.

The original commedia dell’arte stories that were the impetus for Ballets Russes are the impetus for Miro’s new production. In that era, they took an old story and created new music and movement to make it resonate for a modern audience. Miro is setting out to do the same for 21st century audiences, creating a new work that bears Miro’s unique interdisciplinary stamp. To learn comedia and mask work, the company worked with Philadelphia theatre artist Aaron Cromie though an Independence Foundation Fellowship.

Zeena Parkins, multi-instrumentalist, composer, improvisor, well-known as a pioneer of the electric harp, has also extended the language of the acoustic harp with the inventive use of unusual playing techniques, preparations, and layers of digital and analog processing. Zeena makes use of anything within reach as a possible tool with which she can enhance the sonic capabilities of her harps. She accurately describes her harp as a “sound machine of limitless capacity” and has used, household objects and hardware store finds, including: alligator clips, nails, rubber erasers, rubber tubing, felt, bows, metal candy lids, oversized metal bolts, hair clips, glass jars, discarded strings, as well as more conventional: leslie cabinets, guitar pedals, and numerous other digital processing hardware and assorted and varied software.

Zeena’s unique vision is one that seeks to both meld and highlight opposites and extends to her work for her ensemble compositions. She has blurred boundaries between improvised and composed, acoustic and electric, digital and analog, and processed and concrete sounds to create many of her pieces. She achieves this engagement of contrasts by using instrument blending and morphing, the recombination of cut-up sounds to form odd and breathtaking soundscapes, and scoring and formal constructions derived from extra-musical sources. This process is evident in ensemble works such as the Trilogy written for her Gangster Band (a septet that includes strings and percussion and electronics), orchestral works commissioned by Bang on a Can, orchestrations for the Kitchen Blend Group and her completed project of re-constructions of Debussy’s La Mer.

Zeena has received numerous commissions to provide scores for film, video, chamber orchestras, theater and dance. She has a strong commitment to provide sound for dance and has created over 30 scores for American and European choreographers. Zeena’s work for dance has inspired her to explore unpredictable orchestrations and more ambitious sonic presentations including: her quadraphonic bubble wrap score for Money Shot and a 60- speaker installation built to hang over the audience in “(voice tells) 14 tiny pictures, no more no less,” both for Jennifer Lacey; her live mixes and assemblages for Neil Greenberg and the numerous live music scores, both improvised and composed she has performed with her long-time collaborator Jennifer Monson.

Ms. Parkins has appeared on over 70 CD’s and in hundreds of concerts in both large and small spaces all over the world. A lightning bolt of a performer, Zeena is a sought after collaborator, performing with Jim O’Rourke, Nels Cline, Lee Renaldo, Kaffe Matthews (Weightless Animals), Thurston Moore, and Pauline Oliveros. Special projects have included touring and recording with Bjork (Vespertine, World Tour and Family Tree Tour), Tin Hat Trio (Book of Silk), Yoko Ono (Blueprint for a Sunrise), Don Byron, Butch Morris (International Comprovisation Ensemble), Elliott Sharp (Psycho~Acoustic, Orchestra Carbon), Ikue Mori (Phantom Orchard, B Side, Hex Kitchen), John Zorn (Cobra, Bezique, Darts, The Bribe) and Fred Frith (Soloist in Traffic Continues , Graphic Scores, Skeleton Crew and Keep the Dog). Zeena has appeared in dozens of music festivals in Europe, South America, Japan and the States including: Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, Lincoln Center Festival 2000, The Serious Fun Festival, ExperImenta in Buenos Aires, The Music Merge Festival in Tokyo, The Moers Festival in Germany, Willisau and Tacklos Festival in Switzerland, the LMC Festival in London, Vancouver Coastal Jazz and Blues Festival, Musique Action International in France, the Festival Mimi in Arles, City of Women Festival in Slovenia and the Festival Musique Actuelle in Canada.

About Miro Dance Theatre
Miro Dance Theatre creates and performs original work that explores the collaborative intersections of contemporary dance, video, and visual art.
In 2004 dancer and choreographer Amanda Miller and video and visual artist Tobin Rothlein founded Miro Dance Theatre in order to realize their unique creative vision, and explore the intersections of contemporary dance, video, and visual art. Miller, with ten years experience as a dancer at the Pennsylvania Ballet and choreographic studies in Europe under Siobhan Davies, is at the helm of Miro’s choreographic exploration. Rothlein, whose work as video artist and visual designer for Rennie Harris Puremovement and others has garnered accolades nationally and internationally, oversees the company’s work in combining dance, multi-media and visual arts. Miro produces the work of Miller and Rothlein alongside special collaborations with invited friends and guests.

Miro shares its vision with the general and artistic communities through outreach in the form of residency activities, open studios, workshops, master classes, and access to visiting artists. Miro believes in the importance of establishing creative and mutually beneficial partnerships with other organizations, individuals and artists in the communities where we live, work, and perform.