All Columns in Alphabetical Order

Thursday, October 27, 2011

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Chriselle Tidrick, Founder and Artistic Director of Above and Beyond Dance, Choreographer, and Dancer Sponsored by Mover and Shaker Loreen Arbus and Women Who Care, Enhancing UCP of NYC

Chriselle Tidrick, Whom We Met at Fete de Swifty 2010:

Whom You Know strongly supports the efforts of Women Who Care, founded and chaired by Mover and Shaker Loreen Arbus. The money raised at the Women Who Care Luncheon will enhance UCP of NYC’s ability to provide essential services to 14,000 children, adults and families who are affected by cerebral palsy and related developmental disabilities. This year, UCP of NYC celebrates 65 years of service to adults and children with cerebral palsy and related disabilities, helping them to achieve the most independent and productive lives possible. UCP of NYC also provides an array of services, from assistive technology and home accommodations that can benefit any person with disabilities, including the frail elderly, to nearly 200,000 health care services to a medically underserved population. Proceeds from the Women Who Care Luncheon go a long way in helping UCP of NYC to maintain high quality services in health care, education, employment, housing and technology resources.

Chriselle Tidrick is the Founder & Artistic Director of Above and Beyond Dance. She created the company in 2007 to explore the nearly limitless potential in the fusion of dance and circus arts work— a blend which creates possibilities that go far beyond the traditional spectacle of circus and which expands upon the choreographic possibilities of dance. She is a choreographer and producer of dance work, aerial work and stilt work— all of which function within a modern dance aesthetic. Ms. Tidrick successfully produced RAW, the Above and Beyond Dance 2011 season of circus-infused dance at Manhattan Movement & Arts Center; Ascendance, the Company's 2009 season at The Flea Theater; and Seeking, its Spring 2008 season at Kumble Theater for the Performing Arts. She has also appeared with her company at venues including: Dixon Place, Galapagos ArtSpace, Streb Lab for Action Mechanics, NYC Aerial Dance Festival 2010 (JCC Theater), Sky Box, Brooklyn Arts eXchange, La Mama Moves 2009 Festival, WaxWorks, and the Zipper Theater. The Company has upcoming performances at Theater for the New City’s Halloween Ball and Streb Lab for Action Mechanics (in collaboration with John Grimaldi/NY Lyric Circus) and at the 2011 NYC Aerial Dance Festival. Above and Beyond Dance is a 2011 recipient of Building Up Infrastructure Levels for Dance (BUILD), a program of New York Foundation for the Arts.

As an independent performer, Chriselle has worked with companies including: Alice Farley Dance Theater (World Financial Center Winter Garden; River to River Festival NYC; Solar One; Bronx Zoo; New York Botanical Garden; New York Aquarium; MOMA; Smithsonian Museum of Natural History); Jody Sperling/Time Lapse Dance (Tribeca Performing Arts Center; Ailey Citigroup Theater; Baryshnikov Arts Center; Joyce SoHo; Leid Center, Lincoln NE; Katharine Hepburn Arts Center, CT; Vassar College, NY; Bangalore, India; London, England; Sydney, Australia); The Metropolitan Opera; Catherine Gallant/DANCE and Dances by Isadora (World Financial Center Winter Garden; Joyce SoHo; City Center Studio; Cunningham Studio; 92nd Street Y; Sullivan County Community College, Central Park); and Pi Dance Theatre (University Settlement; WAX; Hole in the Wall Theater, CT). Chriselle can also be seen on stilts in the Disney film Enchanted, Kevin Lima, Director.

Chriselle Tidrick is a former competitive gymnast who was introduced to dance at age 8 when her Ohio-based gymnastics team required team members to study ballet. She fell in love with dance then and expanded into modern dance during her college years at George Washington University. After performing for a number of modern dance companies, she met Alice Farley whose sculptural costumes and trademark fusion of dance and stilt work opened Tidrick’s eyes to the myriad possibilities lying dormant in her acrobatic-trained body. She has worked with Alice Farley Dance Theater ever since, appearing in theatrical productions and special events for more than 10 years. Chriselle was introduced to aerial work by long-time aerialist and fellow gymnastics coach, Bobby Hedglin. She began aerial training in 2004 and was immediately inspired to choreograph, feeling that there was an enormous range of untapped potential in the blend of dance and circus arts disciplines. Above and Beyond Dance is the result.
In addition to a life revolving around dance and circus arts training/performance, Chriselle is happily married and resides in Brooklyn.  We are so pleased to present Chriselle Tidrick as our latest Mover and Shaker.

Peachy Deegan interviewed Chriselle Tidrick for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first memory of going to the circus and what did you like most about it?
Chriselle Tidrick: My dad took my brother and me to the circus several times when we were kids. I remember being mesmerized and terrified by the flying trapeze artists, worrying they were going to fall. I also remember seeing an aerial silk performer-- it must have been fairly early on in the development of the discipline-- and thinking to myself, "I could do that." I was actually even more taken with dance. My mom took me to The Nutcracker and Swan Lake when I was quite young. My favorite was the Pas de Quatre from Swan Lake. 

We saw you perform at Fete de Swifty in 2010; what other notable events have you enjoyed performing at most?
Yes, I remember. That was actually a performance I did with Alice Farley Dance Theater, in one of the amazing costumes Alice designed. I have worked with her company for more than 10 years, performing at more events than I can even count. As for other notable events, I recently did a series of runway shows for Aveda, performing Jody Sperling's Loie Fuller-inspired choreography in Minneapolis, London, and Sydney. It was a lot of fun working on a runway show, and I really enjoyed meeting and working with the models. Working for Aveda was fantastic. Aside from having my hair and makeup done with their wonderful products, they are the most incredibly warm people you can imagine. I came away from the experience really being amazed that their wholesome image is not just a marketing strategy; it's for real.

What is the most challenging aspect of choreography?
There are many challenges to running a small-ish dance company in New York City. Many of them are actually administrative-- doing such tasks as fundraising and scheduling. (The challenge of coordinating the schedules of a group of freelance performers so that we can all be in the same room at the same time is often enough to make one's brain implode.) Choreography is the exciting and interesting part of what I get to do. And yes, it does have its challenges too. I like to work collaboratively, so I often bring an idea or a structure to rehearsal for the group to play with. The hardest part is often figuring out how to recreate and repeat sections of movement that worked well while we were improvising. It can also be challenging to structure and sequence movement in a way that works well for the performers, will make sense musically, and communicates the overall vision of the piece to the audience. For aerial work, another challenge is fatigue. There are sections of choreography we cannot repeat too many times because of the stress it causes on our bodies. 

What innovations in dance have you come up with?
Not very many companies truly fuse the circus arts with dance and with modern dance, in particular. Alice Farley's work with dance and stilts has been a huge inspiration to me in seeing the choreographic possibilities in this blend. Most other companies that use circus arts work are primarily interested in creating spectacle-- in creating stand-alone acts designed to amaze. That can be fun too, but it has left a whole range of movement choices largely unexplored. Mind you, this is not to say that our choices in fusing dance with aerial work, stilts and acrobatics can't be spectacular; it's just something other than pure spectacle. I like to think my interest in how this fusion can express an idea or a feeling ultimately resonates a little deeper.

How did you enjoy being in the Disney film Enchanted?
It was great fun to be on set and to be part of such a big project. I was in the Central Park scene, which was essentially a musical number. To be honest, it was a bit like jury duty with all of the waiting, but I was constantly surrounded by interesting performers, so it was enjoyable.

What kind of shoes do you wear when you are on stilts?
I guess you won't believe me if I say "stilettos," so I had better tell you the truth. I actually wear sneakers. My feet are attached to the stilts using fabric ties. It's a rather old-fashioned approach, but it's the way Alice taught me and the way I'm comfortable.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
I have been lucky to have a lot of people in my life who have inspired and supported my artistic growth. I credit my dad for my sense of drive and my mom for my quirky creativity. Jim May (Artistic Director of Anna Sokolow Theatre Dance Ensemble) has been a wonderful mentor and teacher of dance and choreography. Alice Farley of course opened my eyes to the world of stilt dancing, and she does it in a way that goes well beyond what I can imagine creating. My primary aerial teacher, Laura Witwer (of ImaginAerial) really pushes me to my physical limits, which is fantastic for building strength and new skills. Each of these people (my parents included) is brilliant and incredibly professional, and they have brought a lot to my development as an artist. 

What are you proudest of and why?
Perhaps this is because it's still so fresh in my mind, but I am most proud of my recent production of RAW. The title work was a 30 minute aerial piece which functions essentially as dance theater, with a cast of wonderful performer-collaborators. It was the culmination of a project I imagined two years ago, involving photo projections of dancers hanging from meat racks in the meat packing district, original music by Juilliard graduates and of course aerial dance choreography which explores perceptions of the human body as meat. The other half of the program included four shorter works exploring raw emotion, each of which were powerful in their own ways. Self-producing an 80 minute performance with high production values is a real challenge, and we pulled it off beautifully (if I do say so myself). 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
I would love to be able to bring my own work to a theater outside of New York City. One of the challenges, of course is funding. And, the other challenge is figuring out how to reach out to an audience base in an unfamiliar city.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
I think the main (unofficial) honor is having such a full performance life. This is the thing that really keeps me excited and inspired. But, I am happy to report that my dance company received a grant from New York Foundation for the Arts this year. Above and Beyond Dance is a 2011 recipient of Building Up Infrastructure Levels for Dance (BUILD), a program of NYFA.

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan?
Graciela Kozak's ballet class at Peridance Center. She is a calm, no-nonsense ballet teacher, and taking her class always makes me feel grounded.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
Honestly, I'd have to say Tent & Trails. It's where I buy my aerial rigging hardware. The staff is used to dealing with aerialists, so they're knowledgeable and super-helpful.

What is your favorite drink?
Single malt scotch. I fell in love with it when I was in Scotland.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
While this is not technically a cocktail party story, it is still pretty funny. Some years ago, I was performing (again for Alice Farley) at a huge Halloween party produced by Susanne Bartsch. I was on stilts in a very over-the-top praying mantis costume with enormous fake breasts, wearing huge false eyelashes, and someone mistook me for a drag queen. I was actually pretty flattered that someone thought I could keep up with the drag queens!

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
Cafe Loup. I love French food, and somehow it's a place where I can always totally focus on the person/people at the table with me.

What is your favorite Manhattan book?
Most recently I read a book called Native New Yorkers: The Legacy of the Algonquin People of New York. It was fascinating to have insight on the way New York was before the Dutch settled here, and it gives me a much deeper sense of place as I move from neighborhood to neighborhood in my daily travels. 

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
I'm pretty happy being myself. But, if I had to choose, I would choose my maternal grandfather. He lives completely in the moment without worry and anxiety. I'd like to figure out how to do that!

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
How about a small theater with aerial rigging capability? I'd be more comfortable with it named after my dance company than me, though.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
Ha ha ha. My life is an athletic experience with all the dance/circus arts training and performance work I do.

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
Here, I can collaborate with other dancer/aerialists. Not many people outside of NYC have both skills.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
I think I'd have to choose Isadora Duncan. She was the original dance revolutionary, and I have studied her technique and repertory. I'd love to hear her thoughts about dance and the arts as they have evolved into the 21st Century. 

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
There are so many to choose from. I have two favorite visual art experiences-- the Salvador Dali exhibit at the Guggenheim some years ago and seeing anything by artist Nina Mushinsky. My favorite music experiences have been hearing the Scottish band Old Blind Dogs at Joe's Pub and hearing La Traviata at the Met Opera. There are way too many dance and theater experiences to choose from, but here are a few (in no particular order): War Horse at the Vivian Beaumont Theater, Traces at Union Square Theater, Lysistrata (with amazing puppets) at La Mama, 39 Steps, the Jose Limon dance company at The Joyce Theater, Pilobolus at The Joyce Theater, Jody Oberfelder Dance Projects at Joyce SoHo.

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I have spent quite a few years teaching, which is always a satisfying experience. Most recently, I have been asked to be a founding board member of an organization called TAPrica. It's an organization created by friend (and former Above and Beyond Dance stage manager) Noel Carmichael who is living and working in Tanzania. She realized that many children in Dar es Salaam have nothing to focus on after school. So, she decided to bring dance (tap dance, in particular) to these kids. I helped her to gather her first batch of tap shoes, and the kids have taken to it more quickly than she ever imagined. I'm excited to see where these kids can go with this dance form. 

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
Definitely small theater organizations are underrated. I think it's primarily because the media tends to focus on larger, more established organizations. But, small dance and theater organizations all over the City are creating some some amazing, innovative work. You just need to know where to look.Although there's a lot of great work on Broadway, there's quite a bit of commercially produced theater that's overrated.

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
I like "For the Literary Set," and I like "English Errors" in particular. I'm not claiming to have perfect English grammar and usage, but there's SO much incorrect writing out there, it's shocking.

Have you drank The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not?
I haven't. I love peaches, so I had better fix that soon!

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
You can stay up to date with Above and Beyond Dance projects and see photos from our recent performances at:

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

Back to TOP