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Two local dance collectives enlist Dan Deacon as accompanist for an interactive project

Effervescent Collective and Baltimore Experimental Dance Collective team up in Cove Folder

Photo: Michael Northrup, License: N/A, Created: 2011:09:26 18:04:58

Michael Northrup

Dancer/choreographers Sarah Magida (left) and Lily Susskind prepare to rehearse.

Cove Folder

Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at 9 p.m. and Oct. 2 at 5 p.m. at Area 405.

For more information visit

The brown door of AREA 405 on East Oliver Street creaks open and a dark-haired dancer welcomes three “guinea pigs”—a boyfriend, another friend, and this writer—into the post-industrial workspace, not just to watch a rehearsal for Cove Folder, a new interactive performance with live music by Dan Deacon, but to be swept up into a dance and stripped of comforts and inhibitions. 

Last spring, Effervescent Collective founder Lily Susskind and Sarah Magida of the Baltimore Experimental Dance Collective (BXDC) found themselves sharing a similar interest in collaborating with Deacon, the Baltimore-based composer and electronic musician.

“We wanted to produce something that everyone could relate to in the city, and Dan Deacon is someone with whom everyone is familiar—at least in our demographic,” Magida says. “Everyone knows the name, and with dance we wanted to add another layer to the enjoyment of his work and make a really enriching artistic experience.”

Deacon was already familiar with the collectives’ work. In February, both collectives performed at Lumberhaus in Station North in an all-dance round robin. Deacon attended the performance and found it inspiring.

“When I was at SUNY Purchase, I worked with dance majors often,” he explains via e-mail. “Writing music to and for choreography was really fun and changed the way I thought about performance. After college I stopped having contact with dancers, and it sort of drifted into the ether of my brain. When I went to the Dance Round Robin, it woke that part of my brain up, and I thought it would be fun to work with dancers and choreographers again.”     

Susskind and Magida talked with Deacon and each other about a possible interactive dance performance with his musical accompaniment. Rather than duplicate efforts, all parties acknowledged the sense in working together. “We all know each other, and working together seemed like a fun project,” Susskind says.

Short, with short hair and wearing lime green shorts at the rehearsal, Susskind begins by announcing to the nine dancers and three mock-participants that the performance space will feature three televisions depicting three dance moves. She envisions audience members coming in and embarking on a “choose your own adventure” experience that begins with attendees selecting a characteristic movement (knee slapping, arm swinging, something catlike, etc.) and a colored wristband. It’s apparent that Susskind, Magida, and the dancers are developing this ambitious work in real time, ironing out kinks while leaving room for risks, messes, confusion, and play between audience and performers. It is intentionally part dance concert and part dance party.

Deacon’s busy schedule does not permit him to be at the rehearsal, so there are only imagined or remembered tunes of his in the air as the dancers leap, twist, and gyrate. But this structurally free dance—arranged in and around “an architecture of extra bodies,” as Susskind terms it, courtesy the performance attendees—has Deacon’s full support, and like a good accompanist he trusts the dancers.

“I see this project as a first step back into the world of dance,” he writes. “I’m really excited for this to be the start of a lasting collaboration. The focus is on the dance. The music serves as accompaniment. The dancers are in charge and are calling the shots.”

Redheaded Magida, also small, and wearing an animal-print leotard, is a MICA graduate and an emerging choreographer. She describes herself as the “facilitator,” although she and Susskind are both fashioning two strands of choreography for the performance, each tailoring movements and ideas to fit their impressions and physical experiences of works from Deacon’s 2009 album Bromst. During the shows, Deacon will provide tracks from the record as well as new, unreleased works, improvisations, lighting, and more.

Susskind’s work is open and contingent upon improvisations from the dancers, accompanist, and audience. She spends a lot of time during rehearsal getting her dancers to “quake” in strange, visceral, and jelly-like ways, as if the body’s potential is more essential than any one preconfigured movement.

Likewise, Magida notes, “I’m always receiving input from the dancers themselves about what they’re doing, what they’re comfortable with, what’s interesting, and what’s not. And I think that while my dance is straightforward, it changes as it goes.”

“The crazy, fucked-up part of this dance,” Susskind jumps in, “and why we made the dance, is that you don’t know what is going to happen.”

Some dancers during the feedback session following rehearsal voice their fears: namely, that they may not be able to control the audience or get them to dance and follow movement trends at the right times or form groups around chosen movements. Other dancers, such as BXDC’s Pilar Diaz, are more hopeful about the chaos. “Freedom is another form of control,” Diaz says. “Giving people freedom, we make them malleable for what we intend to do with them in the dance.”  

Even in a city where amateurs and professionals are not afraid to team up and wear multiple artistic hats, this collaborative performance feels like a bold move.

“Both Effervescent Collective and BXDC have a little bit of a misfit quality,” Susskind says. “We are not necessarily people who are professional dancers. So we have a really inclusive, open-ended idea of what dancing is.” ?

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