Interview For Our Upcoming Premiere

by Liz Tenuto ~ November 8th, 2015

A colleague of mine, Katharine Hawthorne, came to our recent work-in-progress showing and asked me a few questions about the work. Below is our interview that discusses why I am making a musical and how working during CounterPulse’s construction has influenced the piece:

Interview: Liz Tenuto/Dance and a Half

This Year is Different: A Self-Help Musical

What is your favorite moment or section in the piece?

My favorite aspect of the piece are the songs. I love how they carry the narrative of the piece forwards while zooming in to develop a moment or character. Creating these songs has been a departure and risk for me, which has been exhilarating.

How did working in the 80 turk space shape and affect this piece (or not)?

I’m a self-help junkie and have wanted to create a piece about the theme of self-improvement for a while. When I heard CounterPulse was upgrading to a new theater, I thought that this was the opportune moment to present this idea because the theme of the piece is so well paired with the renovation that CounterPulse is undertaking. We actually have never rehearsed in 80 Turk although I have been very impacted and influenced by their construction process. The musical we created reveals the demolition and destruction that has to be done before renovation happens. It also acknowledges the universality of struggle and trauma while illuminating the openness and strength found after reconstruction.

What was the creative process like? Did you write most of the text and the songs before working with the dancers or in collaboration with them?

The process has been very collaborative. I wrote 2 of the song lyrics with the performers and 1 of the song lyrics with Ben, the composer for the piece.

As a director I really believe that the collaborators have to be involved in creating the material to feel connected to it. We started the process in one-on-one rehearsals. Our first task was to write ourselves a letter identifying what our inner work is and what we’d like to change about ourselves in the next year. From there, we chose one aspect of ourselves to focus on for creating the material for the show. All of the movement vocabulary and concepts have been generated through a multi-step process of instigation→ translation → reflection → revision → composition → revision → reflection, etc. It could be a never ending conversation…Our collective aim for this work is to create vulnerable material that is universal and to research our fears and move on from them.

What are some of your biggest influences and inspirations?

Artistically, I am influenced by people who take big risks and are unapologetically themselves. I am inspired by people who are pioneers and trailblazers, by people who open up a whole new avenue of expression or way of working. Diana Vreeland. Christopher Guest. Crystal Pite. Prince. Josephine Baker.

The piece is billed as a musical about self-help. What drew you to work in this form?

I LOVE musicals. In my fantasy world, we would fluidly fall into choreographed song and dance all the time during the day with both friends and strangers. Additionally, the performers in the cast are incredibly versatile and I wanted to create the piece in a format that would highlight their strengths.

You describe the piece as “maximalist surrealist” (maybe I am making this up? I remember reading this language somewhere but now I can’t locate it). I am curious about how this style is translated through the body – what does it mean to make a maximalist surrealist dance?

You are not making that up..yes, the piece is described as “maximalist surrealist” which is a term that came from CounterPulse. I don’t know how it emerged or what it means to them and that is ok! From my end, I’d say that the deeper I have gotten into speaking with my body the more flexible my mind has become. There is some VERY bizarre imagery thrown around in professional level dance class and I absolutely love being exposed to it and trying it. This training has opened me up to be able to blend a technical and surreal mind/body state. This no doubt influences my lens on the world–I am constantly imagining “what if…?”

The piece also walks a line of realism and in some ways is extremely human and vulnerable. What made you decide to embed these moments in the work?

To bring in balance and to reflect reality. When I go to a show and see incredibly vulnerable material, I relate to it and often feel a sense of relief knowing that other people experience the same emotions and circumstances. Art to me is about connection. It’s important to me to convey reality even in the theatricalized container of “a show” because here we all are, together.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A choreographer! I’d love to choreograph for a Broadway musical or film.



Photo of Greyarea on Mission and 22nd where the premiere will be happening.


Important 80 Turk Update

by Erica Dixon ~ October 29th, 2015

Dear CounterPulse Community,

We have an important update regarding the 80 Turk Project. The opening performance of our 80 Turk Inaugural Season, will in fact, not be happening at 80 Turk. Due to sudden timeline delays with the renovation of the theater, our partners and friends at Joe Goode Annex will be hosting all evening performances of Hope Mohr Dance Bridge Project, Rewriting Dance. Tickets can still be purchased though our site here >>

We firstly, thank Hope Mohr and her collaborators for their graciousness in navigating through the unforeseen challenges of transitioning to our new location at 80 Turk Street.

As with all construction projects there have been delays due to myriad complications in the build out. On Monday of this week the timeline slipped yet again due to an issue with PG&E that held up other vital progress.

We regret any inconveniences this has brought our audiences and our season artists. However, we are continually awed by the grit and hard work our community puts forth and their willingness to rally with us when faced with adversity.

CounterPulse is experimenting in the unknown. We’re piloting a new process of stabilizing grassroots arts in a changing city. The structure of this process is a first not just for us, but for our funders, our stakeholders, and you. You’re on this ride with us, and we thank you.

At this point, our construction crews believe there is no reason to doubt any further venue changes for later season artists.

We can’t wait to welcome you to our new building.

In Collaboration,
The CounterPulse Team


Friends, Family, Patrons, Artists and Our New Home

by James Fleming ~ October 21st, 2015

Executive Director, Tomás Riley, working with staff and volunteers to paint our new theater space!

As we enter into the Inaugural Season at our new home on 80 Turk Street, we feel as if coming home from a long journey. The building has not been an easy project – from rallying multi-million dollar support to aligning ourselves to a new neighborhood, while maintaining a stronger than ever focus on grassroots, community-facing programming – our scrappy team is ready to once again to focus on the art-making.

In times when Bay Area narratives surrounding art and real estate are troubling, we see this moment as an intensely positive move for local art. Organizations and individuals, large and small, have rallied around this project, and it’s now time for us to turn square footage into living, breathing performance. Get ready, because our next year of programming will show the Bay Area that our artists are dazzlingly passionate, talented, and full of life!

The 80 Turk Project will exposé an upstairs studio dance space, a state-of-the-art main theater, a two-story lobby for launching exhibitions and talks, an artist apartment for hosting visiting art makers, and an basement exhibition space for smaller events, rehearsals, and so much more.

Check our line-up in our 80 Turk Inaugural Season and join us in celebrating this new moment,

Signing off, your friendly neighborhood Programs Associate,


Thank you to our supporters and funders for the 80 Turk Project.


Ask ME

by Erica Dixon ~ September 10th, 2015

Our new Community Engagement Fellow: Alexandra Maricich


Photo Credit: Chelsea Rodino

This story begins long ago in Seattle. Where I met my dear friend and collaborator at Cornish College of the Arts: Mariah Martens. We have confided, confronted, confirmed, collected, constructed, created, condensed, conversed every part ourselves to each other. In between graduating from Cornish and the explosive summer there after, we decided to apply to NextFest NW14 New West.

The seed of Ask Me About My Ass, came from an epic rollerblading extravaganza I was determined to execute during my stay in LA with my 1980 Silver olympian single ladies figure skater mother, Linda Fratianne. I decided I would start in Santa Monica and blade down to Redondo Beach. In total, 17 miles of beach with a hitch at the Marina Del Ray. What this sweet sexy adventure became was a performance.

I was riding the archetype of rollerblading babe. Wearing my high waisted white and blue bikini in 90’s rollerblades I have had since I was 8 years old, iPhone blasting Beyonce’s latest album, sun, breeze and long tangled hair, I started to embody a very certain character. Halfway through my journey, during the inevitable maneuver around the Marina, I found myself on the street. On a LA everyday street full of traffic and fancy cars, I started to feel uncomfortable and extremely exposed as a person and as a woman. Somehow I stayed with my determinate and commitment to make it to Redondo. Pushing fear away and questioning my sense of safety, I found myself, once again, blissfully alongside the salty ocean.

The other most important scene of this rollerblading performance art piece was a bike accident. Not just any bike accident but a situation my ass was blamed for. I was directly accused of causing a cyclist to crash off the path into the sand by his idiot of a friend because I was “Too Sexy” and should give him “A Kiss” to make it better.  As my accuser was in full force describing my faults a family of bikers went by. They became my allies telling him to back off and huffing about how incredible it was that “A lady can’t go anywhere in her bath suit!” Shaking, empowered, confused, and proud I made it to Redono Beach with a plunge into the ocean.

Upon telling Mariah of my performance in LA and sending her my sexy beach babe pictures, she smiled with a smirk. The idea was born, “Let’s do a piece on rollerblades.”  

Photo Credit: Tim Summers

Photo Credit: Tim Summers

“What Is The West?” Mariah and I processed this questions prompted by Next Fest North West 2014 through a poem which revealed the title for our piece Ask Me About My Ass. We slipped into the studio confident of our western heritage.

The immense juxtaposition of performing this piece in New York, in the East, was an experience in reconfirming our identities as West Coast Rollerblading Babes. This reconfirming feels similar to my relocating to the Bay Area. I feel as though I have to prove myself to myself. My notions of success and community become jeopardized in my anxiety to defend my identity as a dancer and performer. I distract myself with the wallows of change although I am learning in exceptional time and depth how to align my thought with my actions, my head with my heart. I am constantly discovering the ingredients of showing up, honesty and mass amounts of love. Another aspect of transition, what Mariah and I sought in the face of reclaiming our identities as dancers relocated on rollerblader, as sexual women, as artist from the West in the East, is support. We were lucky enough to find encouragement among our friends, co-artists, dancers, families, The CURRENT SESSIONS, and most importantly each other.

Mariah and I’s work is a process of skin, cloying mess and flirtation. What I find most magical about Mariah and I’s collaboration is the trust we invest in each other. Our practice is based in Solo Replay, as was our class for the CURRENT SESSIONS, but this practice exceeds the studio. I find my relationship with Mariah to be a display of honest feedback whether it be verbal, physical, or across the country via electonics and social media. Many people who saw Ask Me About My Ass questioned if Mariah and I were romantically involved. Perhaps it is our deep love for each other, our fierce understanding of each other’s behavior, or the unconditional way in which we hold space for each other, but, regardless, this projecting of gender and sexual identity, for me, is a key part of our work. And our construct as humans.

Ask Me About My Ass displays our sexuality as women, as movers. Rollerblades become an awkward, hot, powerful medium mimicking many aspects of the lady body.  We inhabit a terrible enjoyable playful devilish joke because sexuality is fluid. I don’t believe any one aspect of my sexuality to be concrete or simply a performance. My work is about questioning obsession with the Absolute. What is Honesty? What is Truth? How can I and communities learn about change with care and love through dance? Through art? How can we relearn, replay, redo and expose our desires?

Photo Credit: Tim Summers

Photo Credit: Tim Summers


Alexandra Maricich is our new Community Engagement Fellow. She recently moved from Seattle, WA where she attended Cornish College of the Arts. Maricich was also heavily involved in the Seattle arts community as a performer, choreographer and community arts facilitator. She now lives in Oakland with her lover. Since moving to The Bay Area Alexandra has continued to curate and dance, exploring public art, arts administration and social choreography. Before completely landing into The Bay’s lush art’s community Alexandra had the opportunity to show  work as a part of the CURRENT SESSIONS at the Wild Project in New York City. Ask Me About My Ask, choreographed in collaboration with Mariah Martens,  first premiered in Seattle at Velocity Dance Center as a part of Next Fest North West 2014, commissioned as response to what it means to be a West Coast artist

LINKS (Velocity Dance Center. Seattle, WA)  (What is the New West?) (Ask Me About My Ass performed at Velocty. Seattle, WA) (The Current Sessions. Manhattan, NY) (Interview) (The Current Sessions Lab/Class with Alexandra Maricich + Mariah Martens) (Dance intensive Maricich attended while in NYC) (Training Maricich received in NYC at the Mark Morris Dance Center with David Leventhal) 

*The CURRENT SESSIONS, as a performing arts platform, as curators, as people, was more than a pleasure to work with. Please check them out!


80 Turk Inaugural Season Curator’s Note

by Erica Dixon ~ September 8th, 2015
80 Turk
80 Turk in Fall 2014, Photo by Kegan Marling

Our Inaugural Season crowns a remarkable, highly anticipated move to a state-of-the-art facility at 80 Turk Street.

Appropriately enough, the season, creations from artists variously working in New York, Austin, Ireland, Berlin, and the Bay Area, offers a kaleidoscopic set of reflections on metamorphosis whether in the context of the immigrating body, the racialized body, or the consumerist body. This process of renovating brick-and-mortar is consonant with a set of artistic inquiries into what changes and what remains; the process of becoming and unbecoming; and the tension between legacy, tradition, and practice, and the inexorable advancement of the times we live in.

This season promises the unpredictable.

It’ll be hot, heady, visceral, serious, absurd, relevant and out there. We’re eager to experience it all with you, and make of it what we will. A fable? A freedom dream? An alternative zeitgeist in a changing city? Certainly we will find a wide departure from the narrow path.

May it lead us all onward.

— Julie Phelps, Artistic Director