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American Composers Forum and Dance/USA Host Panel on Composers and Choreographers Collaborating


Germaine Ingram

The concept of dance is likely as old as humankind and music roughly as aged. The two have been intertwined since their conception. As consciousness came to both forms, so arose the roles of composer and choreographer. 

On March 30th, a panel was hosted by the Philadelphia chapters of American Composers Forum and Dance/USA, and moderated by their respective heads: Denise Flynn-Buczko, Executive Director of ACF, and Lois Welk, Director of Dance/USA. It was open to composers and choreographers of all stages and the public. The audience included local composers and choreographers, new music icons, students, and more.

The panelists included veteran composers, choreographers, and one percussionist. They represented different styles and genres and afforded a familiar insight into the collaboration process. In many cases, they had worked together on projects and in the case of Joellen Meglin and Richard Brodhead, both Professors at Temple University, as well as wife and husband they were longterm collaborators. 

Robert MaggioRobert Maggio, an accomplished composer and Professor at West Chester University discussed his collaboration with two of the choreographers on the panel: Matthew Neenan (Ballet X and Pennsylvania Ballet) and Leah Stein (Leah Stein Dance Company). Maggio shared his experiences with both through a conversational exchange with both. They shared the experiences of anxiety, joy, and genesis through collaboration. He likened to tennis, a back and forth that was “at the service the dance.” Neenan offered the memory of how they reached common ground through a loved classical ballet: “Giselle”. The problem of finding a language with which both partners felt understood and equal was discussed by Stein. Coming to common ground and communication (learning how to do it and in what vocabulary to do it) were common tropes throughout the panel. 

The percussionist Toshi Makihara offered his insight into his process of collaboration with Leah Stein. He described his performance as a realization of the movement of the dance. His own playing was influenced and movement became a part of his performance. He describe his approach through a filter: “dance is a parent to music”. Whether or not this is true is subjective. It comes back to prehistory and what came first: dance or music? chicken or egg? 

A vocal improviser as well as tap dancer/choreographer Germaine Ingram revealed a glimpse of a project with Bobby Zankel and a visual artist on the theme of slavery at the President's House. She talked about leadership roles and the problems and logistics associated with finding funding and it’s inextricable link to these roles.

The event was well-attended and included a knowledgeable and active audience including Linda Reichert (Network for New Music), Michael McDermott (Composer/member of Gemini Wolf), Manfred Fishback (Group Motion), and Kun-Yang Lin (choreographer). There was a question and answer session and a reception following.

Panels like this are valuable to the community. They help artists develop audiences through a process that humanizes and educates. These two organizations do valuable work for composers and choreographers and it is heartening to see the extent to which they seek to engage the audience as well.


PHOTOS: (Right) Germaine Ingram; (Left) Robert Maggio, photo by Tony LaSalle; (Gallery) Matthew Neenan. 

Joseph Hallman is a native Philadelphia who began writing music at the age of 12. He has worked with the cellist Alisa Weilerstein, and members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, and Seattle Symphony, among others. He has also entered the world of pop music and remixing. He teaches both privately and at Drexel University. Joe has been writing for the arts for 10 years. You can follow Joe on twitter at twitter.com/HallmanComposer. You can find his music on iTunes and all other major digital retailers. For a taste of his music, check out: www.reverbnation.com/JosephHallman 

Joe can be reached through the following contact info: