From July 11 to 13 at New York Live Arts, Modern American Dance Company (MADCO) from St. Louis, MO will perform “MADCO performs MILLS/works,” an evening of dances choreographed by former company member Joseph Mills. Mills performed with MADCO from 1981-1987. Subsequently, he was a member of MOMIX and The Erick Hawkins Dance Company and has performed and choreographed independently since 1990. Since 2000, he has frequently returned to St. Louis to create works for MADCO. In this program, MADCO will offer three of his works, one being a world premiere, and an audience favorite danced by Mr. Mills that was choreographed by Alan Boeding.
The four-part evening is a major step for Mr. Mills in New York. Though he has years of significant performance experience, most his choreography presented in New York has been limited to small group, duet and solo works, in small venues with less theatrical capability than is often possible outside NYC. This performance will be the largest presentation of his work since he relocated to New York in 2008. It will include movement, text, music and visual design. The end result will be a unique combination of abstract movement and evocative, thought provoking imagery.
“Selkie’s Song” (working title), the world premiere, is derived from selkie myths of Celtic lore. Dancers play with gravity, create illusions of weightlessness and weave a narrative that ranges from self-indulgence to melancholic longing to playful, joyful celebration. The design by Joseph Mills includes shimmering curtains reflecting light, reminiscent of light gleaming on the surface of water. Costumes are by Tim Kent. The piece is performed to Celtic music performed by cellist Barry Phillips and by the Celtic fusion group Flook. It showcases MADCO’s versatility as both theatrical storytellers and dancer/athletes of the highest level.
“Reflections in the Well of Solace,” created by Mills in 2001, is a meditation on grief and transformation that was, in part, a response to the tragedies of 9/11. Mills was scheduled to create a new work for the company at a time when the entire country was riveted by the horrifying WTC attacks. This work emerged as a healing act with the dancers, reconstructing movements of unspeakable grief and transforming them into movements of healing, even joy. The set includes two pools of water, designed in 2001 by Mr. Mills, which predated by many years the design of the WTC memorial in lower Manhattan. Its music, by St. Louis composer Michael Hunt, is a lush and theatrical orchestral score for chamber orchestra.
“Getting Lucky: Secret Moments in the Natural World” (2012) is a musing on the world of animal documentaries. It imagines a zany menagerie of exotic creatures and their sexual proclivities. The stage design, based on giant leaves, is by Joseph Mills. There is a sound score comprised of a text written and performed by Alan Wade that is underscored by a wide variety of music, creating the effect of a PBS nature documentary.
“Circle Walker,” danced by Mills, was an audience favorite in early MOMIX shows. Choreographed by Alan Boeding, is features Mills as sort of human gyroscope inside an eleven-foot moving sculpture by Boeding. It shows Mills “encased inside a revolving sculpture, hanging on, leaning forward, and swinging about with the greatest of ease” (Jack Anderson, NY Theatre Wire).
MADCO (www.madcodance.com), currently under the Executive and Artistic Directorship of Stacy West, was founded in 1976 by Alcine Wiltz and Ross Winter as a vehicle to provide an opportunity for professional dancers to live and work in the Midwest while also providing dance performances by local artists and educational programs for the community. Over the years the company’s mission has evolved to encompass a wider scope choreographically, attracting dancers and choreographers from around the country to create innovative and memorable dance performances combining passion and technical excellence to provide its audiences with a world-class arts experience.
The company is known for its versatile and athletic style, presenting dance that is exciting for audiences to watch and demanding for dancers to perform. Since 2007, MADCO has been the professional company in residence is at the Touhill Performing Arts Center (TPAC) on the campus of University of Missouri St. Louis. The company presents a concert season at TPAC, extensive education and residency programs and community outreach that reaches over 30,000 people annually. Dance International Magazine described MADCO as “a company with flat-out physicality and exacting discipline while never forgetting the entertainment value…”
ABOUT JOSEPH MILLS:
Joseph Mills grew up on a farm in Illinois, where he discovered dance through the visual arts and a passionate curiosity for gymnastics. In 1982, he earned a BFA in visual arts with an emphasis in sculpture and drawing from Southern Illinois University, where he also began studying dance with Alcine Wiltz. He performed and choreographed with MADCO from 1981 to 1987, touring throughout the central United States.
In 1987, Mills joined, and became a principal dancer with MOMIX Dance Theater. During his tenure with MOMIX, Mills collaborated on several choreographic projects with Director Moses Pendleton and toured extensively throughout the U.S., South America, Europe and Asia until 1990. Thereafter, he continued as a guest artist with the company until 1995. He joined the Erick Hawkins Dance Company as a principal dancer and worked with the company from 1990-94. In his last year with the company, he worked closely with Mr. Hawkins as Choreographic Associate on a commissioned dance, “Many Thanks.”
Mills earned a doctorate from Temple University in 1998 (his dissertation dealt with Pilobolus) and has since, in addition to performing, taught at George Washington University and the Dance Program at Northwestern University, where he was Program Director from 2002-08. As a guest artist, he has choreographed and performed in Norway, Brazil, St. Louis, and Washington D.C. “Mills/works,” an evening of works by and for Mills, was presented at The Kennedy Center. He has been a guest artist with Wellspring Dance Company in Michigan, with The Erick Hawkins Dance Company in NY, with former Hawkins colleague Catherine Tharin, and with Heidi Latsky Dance (current). Since 2008, he has been on the faculty of Queens College-CUNY. In 2012, he formed his own company, Mills/works Dance (http://millsworksdance.com), and offered “Questions About Angels,” an evening-length suite of four works, at Theater for the New City. It was the first full length work that he had both choreographed and designed.
Mills has choreographed and contributed to over 40 dance works over the past 30 years. His work is informed by his strong visual arts background and his equally strong fascination with somatic and movement studies. He cites The Erick Hawkins Company and MOMIX as his main creative influences, saying he fully embraces Hawkins’ technical approach to movement while being very influenced by the athleticism and accessibility of MOMIX. He strives to balance these qualities in his own work, aiming for dances that are as intriguing in their poetry as they are in their physical and technical prowess.
“MADCO performs MILLS/works” will be danced by the company of MADCO, which includes company members Monica Alunday, Elyse Andersen, R. Vance Baldwin, Brandon Fink, Jason Flodder, Lindsay Hawkins, Claire Hilleren, Jeffrey Mitchell, Jennifer Reilly and Nicole R. Whitesell, and apprentices Belicia Beck and Alexandra Davie.
MADCO’s presentation of MADCO performs MILLS/works at New York Live Arts is made possible through New York Live Arts’ Theater Access Program. The Theater Access Program is a comprehensive subsidized rental program benefiting a diverse group of dance and theater companies and producing organizations. (www.newyorklivearts.org).
MILLS/works will run from July 11 through 13 at 219 W 19th Street, NYC 10011. Tickets cost $22 for general admission, and $18 for students and New York Live Arts Members. To contact the box office, call (212) 924-0077, or visit https://tickets.newyorklivearts.org.