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National Sawdust

An Evening of Dance-Theater Pieces from Tiffany Mills Company and Ensemble Ipse

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 30, 2023: The performing arts are all about collaboration. This is certainly evident in the three pieces that will be presented at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust this December.

Tiffany Mills Company + Ensemble Ipse.

An Evening of Dance-Theater Pieces from Tiffany Mills Company and Ensemble Ipse

By: Paulanne Simmons

November 30, 2023: The performing arts are all about collaboration. This is certainly evident in the three pieces that will be presented at Brooklyn’s National Sawdust this December.

Tiffany Mills, choreographer and founder of the Tiffany Mills Company, is fascinated by diverse human relationships. Her work is grounded in partnering/improvisation and fueled by collaboration across mediums. Max Giteck Duykers, co-founder and co-director of Ensemble Epse, is dedicated to creating a forum for composers and sound artists on the edges of the mainstream of contemporary music. 

Mill and Duykers first collaborated on Poem from Exile (composed by Stephanie Griffin, and inspired by Ovid’s account of his wife’s agony when he was exiled to the remote regions of the Roman Empire) and Doa Persembunyian – A Prayer for Refuge (composed by Tony Prabowo for choir, rearranged by Griffin for seven violas, and based on a poem by Goenawan Mohamad about a woman’s suffering in civil war-torn Romania). 

More recently they have joined with dramaturg and Proto-type Theater founder Peter Petralia to create Vapor/Blood, which  interrogates the power of sight in its many literal and metaphorical manifestations. All three dance-theater pieces will be presented by National Sawdust, in Williamsburg, Brooklyn on December 2 and 3. The pieces are conceived for seven violas and seven dancers and include the world premiere of Vapor/Blood.

The text for Vapor/Blood was created with the dancers and inspired by their movements, woven into a multisensory performance. Performers were given props and asked to explain and describe what they were seeing. In doing so they were also working with their life experiences.

Petralia, who comes from a background of writing, performing and directing, says he is interested in the “ways of claiming power and how power can be taken away from us.” He’s also curious about things we mistakenly believe are invisible – like vapor. ”Dreams affect us. Gravitational poles of the earth affect us. We hold many assumptions that may not be true.”

In Vapor/Blood, the Narrator is at the center of the story. As he interacts with others,  the power dynamics shifts. And we end up with an awareness of the power we have as individuals to define how we see others. This dynamic is also seen in the music.

Duykers notes that the viola is “generally a supportive instrument,” but in these pieces, “they create a thick, rich, dense layer from which something else can emerge.” 

If you have concluded this is only a serious piece, Mills reminds us that it’s also quite “playful.” But whatever your interpretation, these three pieces may have you looking at yourself and your world in an entirely new way.

National Sawdust, 80 N 6th St, Brooklyn, December 2 and 3. Tickets can be purchased at https://www.nationalsawdust.org/event/tiffany-mills-company-ensemble-ipse-12-2-23
Beth Heller Photography of Emily Pope and Ensemble Ipse musician