Jessica Abrams: Tell me what you guys are doing for Celebrate Dance.
Jason Gorman: The piece is called "Brother" and it's about how we feel that the qualities of compassion and kindness and understanding and love are essential to the progress and the full evolution of the human race, from this point of where we're at now. And how those can be very simple concepts that we can forget about; but certain situations that are breaking things down to the simple and clear emotions – in regards to kindness and compassion—can remind people of what we're really all doing here. The concept is very simple and we've broken it down to three sections, although it is one cohesive work. There is –
Nicole Hogg: A lot of variety.
JA: How long is the piece?
JG: It's about – I cut the music the other night – just a little over ten minutes.
JA: How many dancers?
JG: We have about nineteen or twenty dancers.
JA: Oh, wow.
JG: Marrow started as a smaller company and we had a show that we did called "Ghosts" and that was our first full-length production. There were about thirteen dancers in that show and they were like our core group of dancers that we had been working with for a while. They had been in our classes, some of them we hired through an audition and then over time—I had since moved to Los Angeles now from Orange County and Nicole's kind of back and forth between L.A. and Orange County. We had gained new friends along the way, which is beautiful, so now within our Marrow pool of dancers there's about forty dancers that I have. I have yet to work with all forty at one time, but I have a little black book of forty dancers that I can draw from.
Nicole Hogg: It's really nice. A lot of them are in L.A. auditioning and stuff but we have a lot of people. We're never left with too little dancers.
JG: It's more of a collective than a company but we do still hand-pick our dancers. It's not a free-for-all. They're the type and style of dancer that we prefer to work with. Usually that involves a good, old-fashioned sense of hard work and commitment to the work. I have dancers that I've worked with that come to us and they're already trained and they're beautiful and they get our movement right away and they take our class and they train with us. And I also have other dancers who I feel I can see the potential of what they could be, if I could just work with them for a couple of years. And I would prefer to just throw them in the deep end and let them work with the company and see what it's like as opposed to making them understudy or apprentice or things like that. I feel like that in a way coddles dancers. I just want them to work the way that the company works so they can get on stage as soon as possible.
JA: Can you talk a little bit about how you guys came together and how the company started?
NH: I guess we've known each other – what – five, six years?
JG: Yeah, we're coming up on our sixth year.
NH: I was teaching in a studio in Long Beach and Jason started teaching there. We just became really good friends, took each other's classes, trained together and that's kind of where the core group of kids came from (at the time they were kids. They're not kids any more). We've had some of our dancers come from taking our classes in Long Beach and since Jason's moved up to L.A. we've expanded, getting dancers from L.A., from Long Beach, from all over. But that's where we started the whole Marrow idea and the company and where we have rehearsals for our show that we put on in March of last year. So it really was all about that studio in Long Beach. We've known each other about five or six years and been really good friends and partners.
JA: Did you two come together over a shared philosophy and, if so, did that inform the company?
JG: Her movement style attracted me to her. I felt like we heard music very similarly. But Nicole's choreography, in a lot of ways to the untrained eye, can meld very nicely with mine. However, maybe to a more trained eye, or a dancer's eye, or a performer's eye, you can see that it's the missing puzzle pieces within my movement.
NH: Yeah, ours are very complimentary.
JG: They're complimentary to each other. I'm very gestural. I'm very specific. I'm all about dynamic and tone of movement and Nicole also has those qualities but with a bigger, more moving and more of an epic kind of way. So when you put them together and when we layer our work on top of each other, it really fills in the gaps. It leaves not much to be wanting after that. It really covers all the bases. I think, anyway.
JA: Has it always been easy working together? Have you had any bumps?
JG: As with any relationship, you figure it out as you go. I feel like there have been a lot of moments where we kind of dove into things head first, holding hands, hoping that it's going to work out. Not really being absolutely sure and positive. But I think that's kind of one of the more beautiful things about our working relationship is that we do trust each other fully and I think the trust and the honesty that we have with each other carries us through. There definitely have been roadblocks. When we put together our full-length show, we did it over a period of six months and we were creating the show from the ground up, so there were a lot of conversations, a lot of late nights, a lot of wondering if we were going to reach our final goal. In the end it was all justified and all beautiful and the ends totally justified the means. It brought us together in a way that made us stronger, without a doubt.
JA: Do you guys ever argue?
NH: I don't think so.
JG: No. We both have a very relaxed personality.
NH: I feel like I can say to him, "That's not working" or he can say to me "That's not working" and we'd be like, "You're right. You're actually really right" and I'm not going to get offended by anything.
JG: The work is always the most important thing, not our ego. We want the work to be the absolute best, so if Nicole choreographs something independently of me and when we come together and I see it and it's better than what I came up with, that's what it's going to be. The ego is completely removed from the finished product, as much as is humanly possible. It's a very positive working environment.
JA: Who were or are your inspirations? Dance-wise or otherwise?
NH: Oh, wow. I mean, I have a lot of companies and teachers and choreographers that I look up to. I adore Sonya and her choreography. Sonya Tayeh. I love Erica Sobol. She's ridiculous.
JG: Yeah, one of mine is definitely Erica Sobol. She's changed everything about the way I listen to music. She's changed the way I move my body and amplified it. She's kind of put a magnifying glass on me and I think that's really helped me learn in a challenging way that I didn't even know I could be challenged, if that makes any sense.
NH: Someone else that I know he is inspired by – and she actually had us perform in her show – is Dana Foglia.
JG: Yeah, Dana Foglia. Someone else who really inspires me and who I have to mention is Nate Hodges. He's the artistic director of RhetOracle Dance Company, someone who has performed at Celebrate Dance in the past. I've actually performed in Celebrate Dance for Nate Hodges. I danced with RhetOracle for almost several years. I still dance for them, I just have been very busy and haven't had the opportunity to get as involved as I'd like to, but Nate very heavily shaped who I became as a dancer and gave me a new-found respect for the form of jazz – jazz technique and jazz movement. I am a contemporary dancer to my bones and I'm all about free-flowing movement and feeling it out. Nate taught me how to be specific, and I think that's the direction my movement is going in now.
JA: Can you talk a little about your process of setting a piece and how you guys work together?
NH: We're very… I feel like we're both very, like, get into the rehearsal space and everything is in the moment. I like to be in there with the dancers, coming up with it in the moment. Maybe having a general idea of what I'm going to do, but then really seeing it on their bodies. I feel like we do a lot of, you know, we'll come up with movement and then we'll get together and do the staging together so we really see what's going on. I'm just kind of an in-the-moment kind of person. I don't like to plan out a lot ahead of time, and I feel like he's like that, for the most part, as well.
JG: Usually what we like to do is, we'll find music. Music is always the jumping off point. I'm sending her songs every day. She's sending me music. We'll sometimes create phrases independently of each other, come into a rehearsal and then layer them on top of each other. Like I mentioned before, it's the best of both worlds and kind of finds a middle ground. And it always works out.
NH: We like to get things done pretty quickly and then play around with it – switching things up, layering, partnering – things like that so we have a little more time in the end. At least that's what we've been doing: finishing pretty quickly and then experimenting.
JG: I'm a perfectionist, as Nicole is. That works for me sometimes and sometimes it doesn't. It really guides my process as a choreographer. I'll always have to have a first step and then I'll step back and go, What do I really think about this? Let's try this now. Overall, it's never anything dramatic or big that changes usually; it's just little fine-tuning here and there. Our mission statement is that we want to give the audience the most relatable and human experience that they can have. I really think people come into the theatre to watch dance because that aspect of being able to access an emotion so quickly in such a human way is making them [the audience] more alive. They don't feel the depths that artists feel. They don't feel how wide and how to deep it can go; so to sit in a room and turn their brains off and feel something – that is really our goal. To give them the clearest and most direct path to feeling again. And sometimes it's not thing we want to talk about or feel; sometimes we work through some pretty heavy stuff. But we also like to do silly things. It's a good balance.
JA: How did you come up with the name Marrow Dance?
JG: We had a couple of options at first so I think we did what any normal, indecisive artist does: we went back and forth about it for a long time. But "Marrow" was the name that really stuck with us after a while. The way that it sounded in our mouths and the way that it looked on paper seemed appropriate. And the meaning, too: marrow for us is derived from bone marrow – the inner most fleshy part of the bone.
JA: What's in store for Marrow Dance in the coming year?
JG: We do know that the next time we do [our new piece] it will be in Los Angeles because we haven't done it up here yet and I think people need to see it up here. And that's why Celebrate Dance is such a wonderful opportunity and why we're so thankful for Jamie because she knows that about us, without even asking us about it. She knows we're ready to put in the hard work. She wants to open that door for us. And to put us together with these companies we admire so much. I mean, the roster's just phenomenal. The fact that our name is even next to those people…!
NH: I know, I'm so excited to be there.
JG: We really feel very thankful and very grateful for everything.
JA: I can't think of a better place to end. Thank YOU, Jason and Nicole. See you at Celebrate Dance.
Marrow's preview show at Elevation Studios
Photo © & courtesy of Shelby Dereszynski
Photo © & courtesy of Photographer Unknown