What began as an invitation to be part of a workshop panel has blossomed into a unique partnership between an art museum and a dance company to translate the work of a pioneering woman painter into three-dimensional movement.
ColorFields is the Judy Dworin Performance Project’s newest dance theater performance project inspired by the late work of abstract expressionist painter Helen Frankenthaler, in partnership with New Britain Museum of American Art (NBMAA), and in cooperation with the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation. A special exhibit, Helen Frankenthaler: Late Works, 1990 - 2003, was a particular catalyst for the project and is on view at the museum from February 11 to May 23, 2021.
In this case, the restrictions brought by COVID have opened new avenues of creativity. The JDPP Ensemble of dancers had just had their first rehearsal when the virus forced everyone into their homes. “Online rehearsals were the farthest thing I could have imagined for our process before the pandemic arrived. But necessity prevailed and we were all open to try as we quickly began reinventing the way we approached just about everything. So, Zoom was where we met to share dance explorations and ideas from our living rooms, surrounding natural spaces and home studios. It was totally different, but it worked,” says Judy Dworin, JDPP’s founder and executive and artistic director.
NBMAA executive director, Min Jung Kim, adds, “The virus has impacted our timing but has doubled our commitment to exhibiting Frankenthaler’s work this spring. Having JDPP interpret her paintings into three-dimensional dance gives such an incredibly fresh perspective on these artworks, and art in general. You can really see how it’s all part of a continuum.”
ColorFields embodies JDPP’s signature artistry, interpreting visual image and spoken word through the vocabulary of dance and movement. ColorFields is a deep exploration into Helen Frankenthaler’s work and process to bring her inspirations and creative choices to life for audiences to ponder. Helen Frankenthaler’s pioneering use of color, the centrality of the improvisational moment in her work, and her inspiration in nature are key touchstones for Judy Dworin, who says, “This project has been a creative inspiration and light during the very dark time of the pandemic. The partnership with NBMAA and relationship with the Helen Frankenthaler Foundation have been so productive and expanding for JDPP, and I know the various performance events that have and are unfolding will be an exciting translation of her work into the medium of dance.”
A series of events that are the result of the year of rehearsals and in-progress showings, all captured virtually, will begin with a virtual lecture presentation by JDPP Executive and Artistic Director Judy Dworin and guests on April 14 sponsored by NBMAA titled Where Dance Meets Visual Art: Creating ColorFields. The month of May will feature a special series of online and live presentations beginning on May 6 at 6:30 pm with a video presentation of the dance pieces performed in the NBMAA gallery, called, “Colorfields: A Gallery of Dances.” Additionally, a series of outdoor rehearsals will be held on Thursday mornings in April and May on the grounds of NBMAA, culminating in two performances on the grounds on May 13 at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m., titled ColorFields Outdoors. A video capture of this presentation will be available online on Thursday, May 20 at 4:00 and 6:30 p.m. JDPP hopes to produce a documentary film about the entire project for broadcast and/or distribution in the future.
The JDPP Ensemble of professional dance artists has produced over 20 full-evening performances since 1989, as well as numerous shorter pieces. Their award-winning work has been seen throughout Connecticut and New England, as well as in New York and internationally, under the artistic direction of Judy Dworin with Associate Artistic Director Kathy Borteck Gersten. Current members featured in ColorFields include Mellissa Craig, Haley Fabrycki, Heidi Klecak, Raechel Manga, Lisa Matias, Alexa Manolopoulos Fleury, and Taylor Zappone.
Other ColorFields collaborators include visual designer Marcela Oteíza, composer Daniel Birch, and videographer PJ Brockett. Production of ColorFields is supported in part by the Edward C. and Ann T. Roberts Foundation, the George A. and Grace L. Long Foundation, and generous private donors. JDPP receives operating support from CT DECD Office of the Arts, Greater Hartford Arts Council, Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and other supporters. For a complete list of funders, please visit www.judydworin.org.