Article Title:For the love of dance: Jessie McCall
Author or Credit:Jacqui Stanford
Published on:7th October 2014 - 09:14 am
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Story ID:15832
Text:Dancer and choreographer Jessie McCall can’t recall the exact moment she fell in love with dance, saying it was more like an extended courtship. But it’s a romance that runs deep, and you can get a front row seat to the see it for yourself, in all its glittery and tasselled glory, at the Tempo Dance Festival. Photography by Blair McTaggart. McCall’s Tempo show Tassel Me This, a collaborative work performed alongside fellow choreographer Shani Dickens, is described as a “spectassular”. That’s possibly because it will feature glitter, wind and tassels. “People can expect to be ‘entertained’, which is unfortunately quite a dirty word in contemporary dance sometimes,” McCall tells But she and Dickens believe ensuring the audience enjoy themselves and are engaged is really important. “The fact that someone can laugh at something and genuinely connect to an awkward or ridiculous moment is just as important as confronting them with a potentially uncomfortable idea,” McCall explains. “It's this light and shade that I think dance can really effectively encapsulate, and having the audience on board and enjoying themselves is an important part of the journey we hope to deliver and the ideas that we are exploring. “And just as importantly, we hope audiences are prompted to reflect on the potential effects of clinging to past events and moments of glory as a way to identify oneself, and the culture that sits around this practice.” Jessie McCall says having the audience on board and enjoying themselves is important McCall’s own relationship dance first began somewhere around the age of five. “I distinctly remember walking with my mum along the road in a black leotard to attend some kind of Eurythmy based scarf swirling barefoot experience with glockenspiels,” she says. While that was a lovely first date, a follow-up ballet stint came with a lot less chemistry and a lot more judgement which put her off the relationship for a while. “But stumbling into contemporary dance as a young teen sealed the deal.” It was choreography that really grabbed her. She loves creating images and experiences and sharing them with people in the hope of inspiring them to see something, aspects of their own lives, slightly differently. “I definitely am driven by making my own work, but in saying that I love the experience of being part of someone else's process and doing whatever possible as a dancer to translate their vision.” Among the artists whose work she has danced in include Katie Burton, Kelly Nash, Michael Parmenter, Shona McCullagh, Malia Johnston and Sarah Foster-Sproull. McCall says being part of the process of other choreographers and experiencing projects as a performer is essential to the ‘modest but growing’ understanding that she has of how to best work with her own ideas and create movement with other dancers. “So as much as I love creating work, it would be utter crap if I didn't have the opportunity to dance for other awesome humans and witness their diverse processes.” She sees dance as a bit of a chameleon, something which can feel like an entirely different form from one performance or project to the next. “I feel that the thing that stays constant and is the essence of dance for me is that communication through body movement is simultaneously so familiar, as everybody has a body, yet so expansive in the fact that you aren't pinned down by the concreteness of direct narrative or words- there is an ambiguity that disallows you to immediately categorise, label or judge what is being shown- you're pretty much forced into some level of reflection or personal investment, as a viewer or as a performer.” It was the love of this chameleon that led her to study Contemporary Dance at Unitec, and contemporary technique and choreography at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She’s since forged an eclectic career with roles across the industry. As well as being a choreographer and performer, who toured her self-produced full length work The Way We Fall to Wellington, Auckland and Dunedin this year, McCall has founded her own company, is a dance teacher, part of the team running the Tempo Dance Festival and co-coordinator of the Short+Sweet Dance Festival. Oh and she’s a producer and filmmaker too. Clearly busy, she also feels fortunate. She says she’s been gifted lots of opportunities to learn “new bizarre skills” that combine into the strange “job” that keeps the rent paid. “Though exciting in lots of ways it can be a bit of a mental push to split yourself across lots of aspects of the same industry - you end up trying to be a lot of things at once and it's a challenge to make sure that you continue to refine your craft rather than just broaden your involvement. “But at the end of the day, I feel very lucky to have the opportunity and the choice to have an arts based career at all, and so feeding back into that community, even if in slightly draining administrative capacities, or running around the CBD with hard drives or print jobs, is a pretty fortunate way to be able to earn a living.” McCall and Dickens perform Tassel Me This. Photography by Blair McTaggart. McCall, according to her fun bio, lives in Mt Albert with nine stray cats, her partner, actress Amanda Tito, and a flat full of other delightfully creative human beings. She agrees this, as we put it to her, ‘artistic utopia’ helps keep her inspired. “It's great to feel like you can walk in to the kitchen and bounce a really awkward unfinished idea against people and have some generous open minded responses. “Also just an appreciation of the way each other are working and active support when crazy busy periods, shows, creative stresses come around, the weight of which aren't always quite understood by people in totally different fields. “But equally, staying aware of different mindsets and lifestyles and respecting the way other people live and their values is also really important to me- having close friends who are engaged in a variety of careers and pursuits is in itself a source of inspiration and a good way to step back and remember that what you're doing is only a small part of something much bigger.” As for the nine stray cats, “we live behind some shops and the cats also live behind said shops”, McCall explains. “It's a nice wee arrangement as they are lovely friends- but they could probably do with a proper health check-up and a few more loving minders as nine is hard to keep tabs on. So if anyone would like to adopt ...” Photography by Blair McTaggart. Tassel Me This is at The Loft at Auckland’s Q Theatre as part of Tempo Dance Festival on Friday 17 October and Saturday 18 October. Tickets here The festival starts today and you can find all the information you need here McCall says Tempo is awesome in that you will find a huge array of forms. “Not just different genres but truly different approaches to the craft. And if I've learned anything from past audiences it's that you never know what will do it for you. “For some people that priceless glimmer of recognition and connection will arise in a classical Indian Dance showcase, or a gritty contemporary piece, or a hip hop showcase or an abstract film piece. “There are no guarantees, it's not like watching a TV episode where you know in advance how you'll feel afterwards, but that's the joy of it- just give it a bash and allow yourself to be surprised, and hopefully, delighted.” Jacqui Stanford - 7th October 2014    
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