Keeping Up With Roberta Wong and the Latest Trends in Contemporary Dance

October 17, 2013
Roberta Wong on the cover of Indianapolis Woman Magazine (Greg Puls Photography, article by Shari Finnell)

Roberta Wong on the cover of Indianapolis Woman Magazine
(Greg Puls Photography and article by Shari Finnell)

Whenever we want to know what’s happening in the world of modern or contemporary dance, (or practically anything for that matter), we just ask Roberta Wong!

Besides being highly recognized as a performer, Roberta is a versatile choreographer, a Professor of Dance (at Indiana University and Butler University) and is always ready to try something new.

We recently had a chance to catch up with this amazing artist. By the way, Roberta Wong grew up in California, but is presently based in Indiana. You’ll see more details of her impressive bio below.

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Question: What are some interesting trends that you’ve noticed in contemporary dance?

Roberta Wong – “I like that the dance audience in America is expanding in a cultural sense and that the actual presentation of dance is blurring boundaries between ballet, contemporary dance and theater. Dancers are such smart and curious people. It’s nice that we are finding niches that didn’t exist before, or weren’t necessarily presented onstage. Indy Convergence is a great example of artists from different genres coming together to create new and experimental works.”

Indy Convergence 2012, Roberta Wong with choreographer, Joshua Morris

Indy Convergence 2012, Roberta Wong with choreographer, Joshua Morris

“Also good is the crowd-sourced funding aspect, where individuals or smaller independent projects can attract financial support with convenient online donations.”

“I like the global dipping we can all do, whether it’s learning a flash mob routine posted for a group on YouTube, learning a routine for your visit to Big Dance in London, or even learning the Cups Song, electronic media has reinvented how we participate and share information on a practically limitless scale, 24/7.”

 

“Technology and dance, as well as science and dance, are curious and exciting landscapes too.  I like works that impress physically, but also make you think, such as Liz Lerman’s ‘Ferocious Beauty: Genome, Lloyd Newson’s DV8 Physical Theatre production ‘To Be Straight With You Chunky Move’s Mortal Engine’.”

“I also believe that more people are finally acknowledging the important role that dance can play in physical, spiritual, and emotional health through such venues as dance for Alzheimer’s (see Trish Martin, “Memories in Movement”), Dance For Parkinson’s (www.danceforparkinsons.org), the newly-invented wheelchair (by Merry Lynn Morris) for those who wish to dance, as well as the study on balance and the brains of ballet dancers (see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-24283709).”

Susan Burton of Indiana can attest to the benefits of movement for Parkinson's, which may even involve boxing!! (Photo by Andrew Hancock)

Susan Burton of Indiana can attest to the benefits of movement for Parkinson’s, which may even involve boxing!!
(Photo by Andrew Hancock)

“A caveat though is a trend I see happening offstage where studio technique classes are being abbreviated and a deeper developement of technical details, as well as dance appreciation, are not being more fully addressed. This relates to the dark side of online media, the idea that being fed online information can reduce or take the place of physical repetition and daily practice. A human body is still a human body and needs to be put through the process to enforce solid foundation and reap healthy, proper and long-lasting results.”

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Question: Recently, you attended a FACT/SF Dance Workshop at the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. What was that like?

Roberta Wong – “It was a delightful, professional, and quite informative experience. The teachers: Charles Slender, James Graham and Riley Watts, not only gave useful and intriguing information, they also created an atmosphere of generosity, care and curiosity about a wide variety of aspects in dance today.”

“I’d also like to mention that my study trip to FACT:SF/dancelab was made possible by a grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.”

 

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Question: Over the years, you’ve performed so many different types of dance.  What was one of the wildest things you’ve ever had to do in a performance? Anything stand out as being a most memorable performance otherwise?

Roberta Wong – “I’d say the wildest was guest-dancing in the Indianapolis stop of a Weird Al Yankovic tour. My friend Jennifer Ladner and I did a dark cheerleader number to his ‘Smells Like Nirvana‘ (based on Kurt Cobain’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’). Weird Al is a genius and the nicest person!”

“A ‘most memorable’ would be performing during the week of 9/11, with David Hochoy’s company Dance Kaleidoscope, at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. You were at times completely connected, disconnected, and at times carried beyond your will, along with all the emotional energy flowing through the Universe at that particular location.  It was a challenging state of being in which to achieve physical performance.  You had to surrender to the situation. We weren’t even sure when we would be allowed to fly home.  Dance teaches us such adaptability; a fortunate training.”

 

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Do you know how to twerk?Question: Speaking of wild things, do you know how to twerk?

Roberta Wong “Hahaha. I actually had to ask one of my University-age students for a definition. No one demonstrated, just to be clear!”

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Roberta Wong as the 'Canary Fairy' in the Indianapolis Ballet Theatre's production of the Sleeping Beauty

Roberta Wong as the ‘Canary Fairy’ in the Indianapolis Ballet Theatre’s production of the Sleeping Beauty

Question: When was the last time you wore or tried on pointe shoes? What did it feel like?

Roberta Wong – “I was performing in a wonderful holiday show with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, with dear maestro Jack Everly. They cast me to dance en pointe in one of the numbers, but it had been 10+ years since I’d last worn pointe shoes. Indeed, I felt like a big imposter after so many years off!”

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Question: What’s next Roberta? What do you want to do that you’ve never done?!

Roberta Wong – “I’d love to attend a Dance For Parkinson’s class in Queensland, Australia with my friend Erica Jeffrey.”

(Note: Erica Jeffrey is the Program Coordinator for Dance For Parkinson’s Australia. This is one of the latest developments in an international program that was started by the Mark Morris Dance Group and Brooklyn Dance For Parkinson’s.)

“I’d love to see a production at Opera on the Lake at the Bregenz Festival in Austria.  I’d also like to travel to visit with old friends and their ongoing life and dance projects. You can miss an entire friend’s career if you don’t take some time to be present. There’s also a helicopter flight lesson and a vacation to Mexico to help scientists count sea turtles on a nature preserve… life is continually inspiring.”

The 'Floating Stage' at Bregenz. Site of 'Opera on the Lake', Bregenz Festival in Austria (Photo by Karl Forster)

The ‘Floating Stage’ at Bregenz. “Opera on the Lake” during the Bregenz Festival in Austria (Photo by Karl Forster)

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Dansetrack – And you are continually inspiring to us!! Thank you, Roberta.

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More About the Featured Artist: 

Roberta Wong, Photo © Larry Gindhart

Roberta Wong, Photo © Larry Gindhart

Roberta Wong continues to enjoy over two decades of professional work in dance in Indiana including dancer, company teacher and rehearsal director for Dance Kaleidoscope under Indiana Living Legend, director David Hochoy. She was honored by Indianapolis Woman Magazine, is a two-time winner of the Creative Renewal Fellowship from the Arts Council of  Indianapolis and has twice been awarded an Individual Artist Program grant from the Indiana Arts Commission.  She currently teaches ballet, modern dance and Dance for Parkinsons.  Choreographic highlights include the collaboration of Indianapolis School of Ballet dancers and Dance for Parkinsons Indianapolis, Anderson University’s ‘Candles and Carols’ and ‘Spring Into Dance’ concerts and works created at the Indy Convergence which have been presented at the Harvest Chicago Contemporary Dance Festival.  Career highlights have included performing with the Boston Ballet, Dance Kaleidoscope, Indianapolis Ballet Theater, Gregory Hancock Dance Theater, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Green Show and ‘Yuletide Celebration’ with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra.

Education highlights have included the San Francisco Ballet and Boston Ballet schools, the Mark Morris summer intensive and the Limon Europe teacher training workshop in Arnhem, Gelderland, Netherlands, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Butler University. With her latest grant she looks forward to exploring Gaga methodics, Forsythe technologies, and Countertechnique.

Mosaic Unveiling for the 50th Anniversary of Clowes Memorial Hall 

In celebration of the 5oth anniversary of this prominent theatre in Indianapolis, Indiana, Roberta will contribute her own artwork to a mural that has been created by other Indiana artists. She describes her  artistic contribution as “a mixed media photographic piece featuring a member of the Netherlands Dance Theater performing outside of Teatro Del Real, in Madrid, Spain”. The unveiling of the mosaic will take place at Clowes Memorial Hall on Sunday, October 20, 2013  at 4:00 pm. More information can be found here: http://www.cloweshall.org/events/event/191-open-house-and-50th-anniversary-mosaic-unveiling

Clowes Memorial Hall 50th Anniversary Mosaic, Indianapolis, IN (Photo by Roberta Wong)

Clowes Memorial Hall 50th Anniversary Mosaic, Indianapolis, IN (Photo by Roberta Wong)

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