MANCC artist David Neumann and his collaborator, Tei Blow, have been recognized by the New York Dance and Performance Awards (a.k.a. The Bessies), winning for Outstanding Production and Outstanding Music Composition/Sound Design respectively for “I Understand Everything Better”. The Bessies have annually saluted outstanding and groundbreaking creative work in choreography, performance, music composition and visual design by independent dance artists in NYC for over 30 years.
Neumann and Blow, along with eight collaborators – performers, writer, costume designer, set designer, lighting designer, lighting/projectionist and creative producer – were at MANCC in January 2015 to develop “I Understand Everything Better.” A union of theater and dance-making methodologies incorporating innovative technology, weather reports and personal narratives drawn from classical Japanese dance and theater, “I Understand” offers three portrayals: a man on his deathbed; a meteorologist reporting from within a storm; and a great actor who might be performing a Kabuki play about a dying man in a great storm.
While at MANCC, Neumann consulted with Religion Faculty Dr. Kristina Buhrman to discuss the history of Japanese theatre and performance and also met with a Big Bend Hospice nurse to learn about her experiences working with those at the end of life. Alongside the exploration of the themes in the work, Neumann used his residency to focus attention on production elements including lighting, set construction and soundscape.
Of his residency, Neumann says, “MANCC was integral to the development of ‘I Understand Everything Better.’ We arrived at MANCC during a mid to later stage of our rehearsal process, and we were able to integrate the tech elements into the performance. But perhaps more importantly, MANCC provided opportunities to continue our research through discussions with both a Buddhist scholar and an end of life care nurse, deepening our connections to the subject matter. MANCC has been a catalyst, a place to grow and a place for inspiration. I remain deeply grateful that this institution exists, essentially functioning as an oasis for the evolution of contemporary American dance.”
MFA candidate, Megan Carvajal, who attended Neumann’s work-in-progress showing, says, “I recently lost my grandmother when I saw David Neumann‘s piece. It transported me not only to his own experiences but allowed me to remember mine. His work was inspiring for me and my own grieving process. It’s a piece that I will remember for a long time.”
MFA candidate Ross Daniel assisted Neumann with production elements during the residency and, in so doing, was given an opportunity to also gain a behind the scenes view to the development of the work. “I was able to see the work before it was a work,” Daniel adds. After coming to FSU to continue to integrate his dance training with his theater background, Daniel was delighted to have the opportunity to observe Neumann, whose work he had long admired for “the way he physicalizes theater through dance.” He was also impressed by Neumann’s highly collaborative process, which has affected Daniel’s own way of making work.
“I Understand” had its world premiere at the American Dance Institute in Rockville, MD in late March 2015 and then its New York City premiere at Abrons Arts Center the following month. Please visit Neumann’s MANCC webpage for photos and a research video to learn more about the residency.
MANCC “I Understand Everything Better” Research Highlights video.