Dance Informa recently caught up with 2013 Capezio A.C.E. Award winner Erica Sobol at The Pulse On Tour while in Atlanta. Sobol recently joined The Pulse faculty, bringing her unique movement vocabulary and zest for creativity and expression to young dancers across the States.
Can you tell Dance Informa a little bit about your life after the Capezio A.C.E. Awards?
“Before winning the A.C.E. Awards, I had sort of been gearing up to make an international move or make a big change in my life. But then when I won the A.C.E. Awards, I was like, ‘Oh…maybe I should stay put for a second.’ Doors started to open up for me in Los Angeles and little things started to unfold. Then I started work on my show – an all-male, awesome, beautiful process. It was really cool, and we finished in May.”
What are you currently working on?
“Right now, I am running a program called The Gypsy Project, Los Angeles edition. Our first edition was in Australia two years ago. In Australia, we had mostly Australian dancers and I brought some teachers from the States, some friends of mine to guest teach. Then we did a big show at the end. For the Los Angeles edition, there’s no show, because we’re focusing on the learning. But I have brought some choreographers from Europe to work with the group. Similarly, like in Australia, where I brought choreographers that didn’t often come to Australia to teach, here I brought choreographers from Europe that don’t often come to the United States to teach.”
That sounds like a great opportunity for the guest teachers and the students.
“Yes, all around, I hope. And we just finished our first week. And Tilman O’Donnell, who works for the Forsythe Company and who is an extraordinary creator and teacher in his own right, had the first week with the group. It was so mind-blowing and beautiful.”
How many students are enrolled and how long does the project run?
“There’s 22, plus a dear friend of mine who is teaching yoga every day and also participating in the program and two more dancers that are assisting me and participating too. So, it’s 25 dancers involved. The project lasts seven weeks.”
Are you teaching at any other conventions this year?
“Unfortunately, Atlanta was my last regional event with The Pulse this year. Hopefully I will get a chance to play around at Nationals for The Pulse.
I’m working at a lot of other smaller workshops over the next couple of months. I unfortunately have a young student that has fallen really ill. I want to do a benefit workshop for her. And I’m teaching at a hip-hop workshop in Vermont…and next weekend I’m somewhere…I can’t remember where! All of the weekends I am on the road, and all of the weeks I get to be home with my gypsies and my friends from Europe in Los Angeles. It’s been a long time since I’ve been home this consistently. It’s a treat to be close to family.”
Speaking of Los Angeles, you chose to produce your A.C.E. Awards show in L.A. for the first time, instead of New York. Tell us about that.
“For me, it was about having a home court advantage. I felt that our money could be used more productively than flying 13 or 14 people round trip, back and forth. By the time we took care of everyone’s travel and accommodations, most of our money would have been gone. And also, L.A. is my home and I wanted to rehearse in Los Angeles with my dancers in Los Angeles. I felt that my audience, my people, were in Los Angeles. It was really a unique moment because Break the Floor was also moving to L.A. from New York. It worked so beautifully and Gil was so generous in allowing me to have my show in L.A.”
You have such an organic and unique dance voice. Where did your style come from?
“I am certainly a product of all of the people that have taught me up to now. I had this sort of advantage (or disadvantage, depending on how you look at it) of starting really late. I didn’t actually start my real road to training until I was about 19 or 20 years old. I had this very cooky, hippie teacher when I was in high school with grey hair down to her calves who was 4 foot 11 inches. She was very much like, ‘Grow like a flower from the ground in the springtime’, with this beautiful creative energy. But we never had to stand at a barre. We did a lot of creating and not a lot of dance training. So I started to understand my natural way of moving and my natural way of expressing myself as an artist.
Kevin Maher was really instrumental in teaching me a lot of what I know about listening to music and executing movement in the body, as well as incorporating breath. He also taught me a lot of what I know about teaching, in terms of how to cultivate the environment that I desire in the room.
Dana Foglia was a really close friend of mine before she was really making a lot of work or presenting a lot of work – when she was just dancing. Rhapsody James was a mentor for me and Wes Veldink was a mentor too. I was so lucky. I think because I was older, I was intellectually capable of taking it in and dropping it into my body. I was learning like a grown up.
Also, [my style is] so much about how my body is. I think a lot of my work is rotated in and hunched over because that’s how I am naturally. I look a lot to Fosse that way. I think about how unique and beautiful his style was and how really all of the movements and postures were just exaggerations of how his body moved in a natural way. I think that’s so cool. I try to work that way. I hope to incorporate that.”
Do you enjoying teaching kids? Why do you choose to be involved in dance conventions when you’re so busy already?
“I do feel excited about working with young people. I do love teaching more than I love anything else. I daresay I love teaching more than I love creating. These kids are the future. Maybe it sounds like something arrogant or maybe I sound like I’m steering too hard, but I would like to have a hand in what my future looks like. Not so far from now, these people that we’re working with, these beautiful young minds and bodies, they will determine what my life looks like. They are the next generation of leaders and I would like to believe that I have the gift of maybe unlocking some sort of creativity and freedom in them that sometimes they didn’t quite know they had, which is powerful. It’s nice to feel like I might have an influence on the future that way. I want to change the world, and this is my way.”
For more on Erica Sobol, The Gypsy Project, and her company, CollidEdance, visit www.collidedance.net.
For more on The Pulse, visit www.thepulseontour.com.
By Deborah Searle and Allison Gupton of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): 2013 Capezio A.C.E. Award winner Erica Sobol. Photo by Lee Cherry and courtesy of The PULSE On Tour.