For the members of Coaction Dance Collective, dance isn’t just following a “five, six, seven, eight”—it’s an expression based off the body language and emotions of each dancer.
Gracianna Coscia, Emma MacDonald and Julee Mahon, three 2013 dance performance and choreography alumnae created the collective with a mission to inspire other artists to be creative, with all art forms.
After working on artistic collaborations and facing self-production challenges for more than a year, Coaction Dance Collective will perform its second original production, “Whole: Without Any Parts Missing,” on Feb. 27 at 8 p.m. at the MAAS Building on 1325 N. Randolph St. as a “celebration of local art in Philly.”
Its first production, “The Long and Short of It,” premiered Oct. 11, 2014, incorporating a wide range of music, poetry, visual galleries, vendors, collaborations with local performers and donations for a featured nonprofit organization.
The upcoming show plans to uphold the collective’s original mission to engage the community by utilizing various art mediums and local artist collaborations. Some of those artists include Boyer alumnae Molly Woytowicz and Joanna Martin.
The production will also feature a donation jar for Street Tails Animal Rescue in Northern Liberties, where Mahon used to volunteer.
The women will feature three original and individual works and premiere their very first collaborative piece. They plan to use separate soundscapes reflective of each dancer’s personal connection to symbolic sounds in their life.
“The soundscapes will be three very separate solos, but then we’re going to come together with a unified piece of music, and perhaps, the soundscapes coming in and out to see how these three different daily lives can mesh together, to kind of symbolize how our styles are meshing together,” MacDonald said.
Coaction’s dance style is heavily influenced by the modern technique dance genre with choreography based on expressive movements, but open to improvisation as well.
“With this type of dance, we’re improvising with the timing because it’s not like we have a ‘five, six, seven, eight’ to follow—which we don’t want to do anyway—but because of that, things are definitely going to shift and change,” MacDonald said.
For the upcoming show, Mahon said the group is brainstorming tools for audience interaction.
“We have this idea of using chalkboards, maybe throughout the entire show to have people write down a word that reminds them of their own personal stories, then we’d use them for our final piece to outline the space and move around with,” Mahon said.
“It also goes with the theme of our photos: a city-skyline in chalk,” she added.
MacDonald said the last show was a big production, but this time, they plan for a more intimate setting and personal connection to the audience.
“We’re keeping it a little more simple and clear, because we have the audience engagement which allows them to feel more comfortable and share their stories while we share our stories on stage,” she said.
The dancers’ plan to take a new spin on their personal narratives in the first performance, expressing feelings inspired by family, heritage and social and political issues.
Mahon’s piece plays with a variety of music and her story incorporates four other dancers, intertwining their personal stories with her own.
Coscia’s story in her original performance featured her mother’s poetry. Her new piece will feature a live presentation from her mother, symbolizing a personal connection with her life as a poet.
“It’s her stories and poetry, so it’s a play between my relationship with me and my mom, but also my relationship to her words and to the stories themselves,” Coscia said.
MacDonald also plans to use an original theme influenced by her Cuban-American heritage.
“My theme is related to two different kinds of worlds. One is my heritage, the struggle of the revolution from my grandparent’s view, then the other is about the current struggles we’re having here today in America,” MacDonald said.
She plans to incorporate photography in her solo to illustrate the pre-revolutionary story of her grandparents’ lives through printed pictures.
“We’re into experimenting with so many different things, whether it be poetry, research or different processes, we’re all still just trying to find our way,” McDonald added.
Alexa Zizzi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Video by Linh Than.