Becoming Bicinium

Written By ArtBurst Team
January 7, 2016 at 6:46 PM

Dance and music. The relationship between the two is obvious. And in the history of Western ballet and modern dance, there are more than a few celebrated collaborations of choreographer and composer: Marius Petipa and Pyotr Tchaikovsy; Vaslav Najinsky and Igor Stravinsky; Martha Graham and Aaron Copeland; Jerome Robbins and Leonard Bernstein; Twyla Tharp and Phillip Glass; and Merce Cunningham and John Cage. However, even with these examples of music and choreography created together, more often is the case that choreographers create work and perform to previously composed music. This has sometimes caused contention between dancers and musicians. On one side fledgling and established dance companies struggle to pay royalties for music and fees for live musicians — and on the other side live musicians, especially classical instrumentalists, feel the squeeze as popular shows gear towards a pop synthesized sensibility, orchestras downsize, and dance companies use recorded music. Two unfortunate things musicians and dancers, composers and choreographers, share is that cultural arts are unfortunately subordinate to a commercial and market system and, more and more, resources in funding for the arts continue to dwindle. Luckily, going against this trend is the Knight Foundation with its Knight Arts Challenge. This year one of the 2013 finalists and recipients of this award is Bicinium, a project pairing choreographers and composers and produced by dance maker and performance artist Pioneer Winter and composer, musician and arranger Sam Hyken. Both collaborated in 2012 on a contemporary version of Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, commissioned for the Knight Foundation’s 1000th Random Act of Culture in South Beach. Both artists share a dedication to social change and action through the arts and creative process, as evidenced in Winter’s work with Project Leap (Living Equality through Arts and Performance) and Hyken’s work with Miami Music Project. And this common trait has led them to produce Bicinium and give opportunity to other music and dance creators to make original work collaboratively from inception and perform it in various locations throughout South Florida. Initially, they are looking at commissioning about five choreographers and five composers across a three-year span, with a possible premiere by the end of the first year if everything goes as planned. But they’d like it really to be an ongoing program. Hyken shared some details of how the pieces will come together. AB: The name “Bicinium” seems very appropriate: two part composition or two-part composition with pedagogical intent. Was this mostly your idea for a name for this ongoing project? SH: Pioneer was the one who came up with the name Bicinium during our brainstorming session. The word having to do with musical composition for two parts, not only can apply to dance, but also the combination of the two art forms. In our case, we are applying Bicinium as two different forms of compositions in one. For the works that you are producing, how are the composers/choreographers being solicited and selected? The composers and choreographers are going to be solicited via a combination of word of mouth, social media, and arts publications. Having the support of the Knight Foundation would give the project a very high profile. Since Pioneer and I will be curating the works, we will be examining all portfolios and deciding on the pairings. We would like to have a cross-section of artists encompassing various genres and styles of music and dance. Is the seed of each work the dance aspect or the musical composition — or is it hand in hand at inception? One of the main concepts on the project is that the composers and choreographers will collaborate from the beginning part of the process, conceiving and creating a new work. How will locations be decided? Locations will be decided based on each individual project. The works will be created with the specific site in mind; however our goal is that they can be translated to other venues throughout the world. Who will perform the music for these performances? Will the music be live or recorded? What if the dance company tours the piece? The composer will determine the number of musicians, but we certainly want a live musical element in each work. As we cannot predict the touring element at this time, we most likely would not create limits based on performing the works with a recording. Do you think in the future the collaboration could grow to include designers/artists for the material production of the pieces? At this time we don’t have any particular plans to collaborate with any designer, and at this point we are purely keeping this a collaboration between composer and choreographer. However, we are keeping all possibilities open for the future. For more and future information visit the producer’s home pages at and Photo: Neil de la Flor

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