Guest Blog by ETD Composer, Daniel Tobias! by Eryc Taylor

DANIEL TOBIAS & ERYC TAYLOR DANCE
By Daniel Tobias

 I first met Eryc Taylor in 2010 in the Pilates class he was teaching. I can’t remember exactly how toning my midsection led to composing for his dance company. Just one of those New York City serendipities. But not many months passed before I’d composed “The Missing” for his dance company - a seven-minute piano solo. I was new to the world of modern dance, so I tried to absorb everything. I went to his dance retreat. I attended rehearsals. I watched every video I could find on modern dance. By the time The Missing was premiered, I’d composed another seven-minute chamber piece for his company – “Song for Cello and Piano” – which integrated even more romanticism and movement. Then the raw, emotional, athletic “The Missing” became a huge hit that season. And then “Song for Cello and Piano” became an audience favorite.

Does Eryc’s choreography match the movement in my head as a composer? Not at all. But Eryc’s choreography always adds a schizophrenic complexity to the experience. He salivates at the opportunity to challenge assumptions. In that regard, we’re very much aligned. Also, literalism in modern dance is just plain tedious, isn’t it?

After two projects, I understood what turned Eryc on creatively: passion, dark souls, eruptions of emotions, and a solid narrative. He played in a ball game I wanted more tickets to. At the end of 2016 I composed a full orchestral piece called “The Lure” that climactically complimented “The Missing” and “Song for Cello and Piano.” It was a big twelve-minute thing - dark, foreboding, twisted, and romantic.

However, we learned the hard way that recording a full orchestra in New York City is both prohibitively expensive and nearly impossible unless you’ve the resources of The Met or The Disney Corporation. It was so frustrating because I shed blood and tears composing that monster! But good things grow out of mulch, and I sat my butt down and finally learned Logic Pro once and for all. Does any music software provide the perfect replication of an orchestra? Of course not! But it allowed me to render my own compositions without having to shell out thirty thousand for a full orchestra and recording studio. And it opened the door to the next phase of compositions: Eryc’s extraordinarily epic EARTH series.

Listen…I get it.

There’s nothing more tedious than to read a composer’s process. Typically the process is always esoteric and infused with academic bombast – as if the composer is still seeking approval from professors at Juilliard or The University of California, Berkeley. I studied at both. I know the kind of scholasticism that gets academia’s rocks off. And I don’t care. I’m not seeking tenure. I’m not a misfit in dark-rimmed glasses who pretends human ears haven’t been exposed to a full century of movie music. I’ve Meisner-trained emotional access. Also, as a social dancing addict, I refuse to ignore the body below my neck. I want my blood, core, limbs, and nether regions stimulated by music - not just my left cranial lobe. I write music that moves limber sweaty dancers, and, more importantly, moves me. I need lyricism and musical narratives, and I won’t compose without either.

So…along came Eryc’s rather epic request:

“Daniel, will you please write a twelve to fifteen minute piece of music that represents the Creation of Earth?”  

I blinked twice, swallowed hard, and replied, “Umm…sure, Eryc, no problem.”

“And Daniel, would you drop everything and have it finished in three weeks?”

“Umm…sure Eryc, no problem.”

I wiped the shine off my forehead.

Oooh, what am I getting myself into?

Secretly, I actually loved the challenge, and Eryc knew I’d drop everything and work 24/7 until I got it done. Even at the expense of paying my rent.

God, what a bastard!  

So, how does one even tackle a musical representation of The Creation of Earth? One researches everything one can about Earth’s history. One hunts for anything that makes an emotional impact, from geology to physics to astronomy. In the end I felt completely justified in concluding that the word collision would be the emotional center and through-line of my piece.

Somewhere in infinity, two dust particles accidentally collided, and Earth was initiated. Over billions of years more dust particles collided into these original two, eventually growing to generate heat from the ever-increasing friction of collisions - the same friction that sustains Earth’s molten core today. Asteroids collided by chance into our planet over billions of years and brought with them the elements that would create water. Theia collided into Earth and sheered off a piece that would become the Moon. The collisions of tectonic plates would produce volcanic combustions that radically altered Earth’s temperature pendulously, creating and destroying life over and over, long before dinosaurs appeared. Finally, after continental collisions upheaved the Himalayas, Earth arrived at the very delicate, precarious, pristine, and momentary arrival point in which mammals could survive and flourish.

All that gave me a dynamic palate I could use, but it was still sort of cerebral. I needed an emotional context to draw out the musical themes.

And I found it.

There's a poignant, spiritual beauty (represented in the last third of the music) where Earth seems to take a deep breath, sigh, and indulge a short respite from all the turbulence it suffered in order to arrive at the Time of Mammals. Earth in its present state is in a serene pause, but one that only exists in the eye of a hurricane. To me this is very moving. To know that, sadly, no matter what we do on Earth and to Earth, according to the long-term pattern, it would be consistent that another collision will eventually wipe life out entirely yet again.

All we can do is be as full and present as we can in the short time that Man has left in this solar system. To be fully alive - for all our joy, tragedy, and impermanence - is our obligation and our role to play before the next collision that renews Earth once again.

So Earth’s Creation became all about the emotional dynamic of collisions vs. serenity.

And I tried to synthesize all that in…um…twelve minutes.

Yup.

Bombastic?

Yup.

Too much brass?

Maybe.

Well, YOU try creating the entire Earth in three weeks!

This last March, at the performance of Earth’s Creation, I opened the program and learned something I’d previously not known.

I cornered Eryc at the reception, “Um…Eryc…sweetheart…I see in the program that I will be composing two more pieces.”

“Yes,” he affirmed. “Oh! Didn’t you know that?”

“No.”

“I’m sure I mentioned it.”

“No.”

“It was a last minute decision. Civilizations Rise is your next piece. Twelve to fifteen minutes. Your choreographer is Gierre. You guys worked well together in the past. You have until the middle of May to finish it.”

“Fine,” I answered. “But in return, you have to let me use your apartment for the table reading of the play I finished.”

“All yours. C’mon, let’s take pictures!”

Oh, boy.

I suppose I could sell my body to pay rent. Or write a Romance – those do well. Or go back into the corporate world. Uggh. None of which I’d now have time for anyway. My heart beat fast trying to reconcile writing Civilizations Rise and finance.

God, I wish my brain worked faster!

God, I wish I lived in the days when composers had patrons!

The truth is I really did want to work with Gierre again. I love the muscularity and musicality of his choreography. And Eryc knew full well I couldn’t say no to this.

What a bastard!

So…how does one attempt to rope in ALL of civilization into twelve to fifteen minutes? It’s an insane goal. For a week this challenge had me stumped. Until, mid boot-camp at New York Sport Club, it occurred to me that all civilizations – from ancient ones to today – have one thing in common: civilizations can only form when its citizens put the needs of the many above the needs of the one. Jane doesn’t just plow Dick down when she wants to drive through the intersection. Jane agrees to wait for the light to turn green before accelerating. The more I thought about this, the more profound and noble that idea of self-sacrifice became.

And that was the starting point for my piece.

Once I had a starting point, I had something I could develop and variate. I had something I could color. Then I could contrast it with the middle section. Personally, I’m pretty proud of that middle six minutes of the march. It gets my heart racing. It’s suspenseful. It makes my body want to move. It slowly and sinuously crescendos to a climax and then de-crescendos in eerie chromaticism. Then that noble French horn duet emerges out of that swamp of eeriness. Very Pines of Rome. Very early Stravinsky.

“Daniel, stop composing for the masses. You’re far too populist.”

“I don’t care, Professor of Music Theory! Go alienate another audience with one of your Twelve-Tone lectures in a dark museum somewhere! Ughh!”

I shouldn’t say things like that. That attitude will never get me to Carnegie Hall. But maybe a gig scoring Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure at Universal Orlando.

Anyway…

What is that march in the middle? Is it the trampling down of human rights and the fragile eggs of endangered species in the name of progress? Is it the construction of an Egyptian or Mayan pyramid using thousands of slaves? Or is it just some contrapuntal reference to Mesopotamia and other ancient civilizations?

A lot of ideas kicked this piece into gear, sure. But, honestly, after week upon week of writing all through the night, I sort of dropped agendas and just wrote music that felt good. That stimulated me from head to heel. Plus I was determined NOT to merely loop digital music samples in the Rise of Civilization! No, no, no! All fourteen minutes and seven seconds are fully orchestrated, Eryc Taylor, and you’re welcome!

What is the final take-away of the music to Rise of Civilization?

I sat in Hells Kitchen, New York City, writing every note. From my desk window in my little apartment I can see the World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, the Intrepid, Times Square, and the park where they filmed the last scene of West Side Story. This incredible metropolis is the final act of centuries of sacrifice, cooperation, creativity, and vision. It’s profoundly inspirational to think man has the ability to work together in order to coexist, thrive, and achieve such great things. So, if we can work together to grow to the point where we’ve put Earth in peril, do we not have the ability to work together to heal Earth?

I think we do.

Perhaps that is the final message of this piece.

Listen to it yourself and let me know.

Whatever it is, it took a big, beautiful, hair-greying journey to get to it.

I’m grateful to my friend Eryc Taylor, as always…but mostly for motivating me to get to the gym just in case my husband divorces me for falling short of the rent. But Civilization had to Rise! 

ABOUT DANIEL

Daniel studied at University of California, Berkeley and The Juilliard School of Music. Daniel’s debut book “The Next” was a Lammy Award finalist for Best Mystery of 2014 under the pen name Rafe Haze. He taught the Meisner Technique of Acting for the Bay Area Acting Studio for a decade. He competes regularly in line dance choreography competitions, and won First Place in 2016 at the Fort Wayne Dance For All Line Dance Choreography Competition. You can find him West Coast Swinging, Two Stepping, or Line Dancing in New York City at least three times a week. In the works are: 1) a new play entitled “Be Still Be Silent,” 2) a new novel by Rafe Haze, 3) a backstage theater book for children, and 4) a song cycle to benefit the Japanese victims of the Tsunami of 2011. Daniel’s greatest credential is his husband of 18 years, Gerardo Torres, the Executive Chef of Masa, Bar Masa, Kappo Masa, and Tetsu. No, Gerardo never cooks for Daniel at home aside from quesadillas, but he loves him to death anyway.

Contact: daniel@danieltobias.com






Dancers For Good To Host Fourth Annual Benefit In East Hamptons and Feature Eryc Taylor's Newest Commission by Andrew Tran

Dancers for Good + Eryc Taylor World Premiere

61757028_2353254024963305_357960935433830400_n.jpg

“Highlights will include a Jerry Mitchell Broadway Bares Tribute performed by Kristine Bendul, Waldemar Quinones-Villanueva & Chris Tierney. Bianca Marroquin, Nicholas de la Vega & Nicholas Sipes will perform Mexican Shuffle into I Gotcha for the Fosse number, and Michael Apuzzo of Paul Taylor Dance Company will perform a World Premiere choreographed by Eryc Taylor.”

Eryc Taylor Dance takes on South Korea! 🇰🇷 by Eryc Taylor

Busan International Dance Festival.png

ETD's Journey to the East: Busan International Dance Festival 2019

BIDF is one of the largest dance festivals in Korea and not only showcases companies from around the world, but also competitions offer a chance for local emerging and amateur choreographers a vital opportunity to be seen -- something we also strive for too with our annual New Choreographers Grant. I will be joining ETD principal dancers Chris Bell and Nicole Baker, with the intention of making it a multi-purpose trip for the company. For as honored as we were to be invited to perform, BIDF only covers local costs -- the international companies must get themselves there -- and with such a busy year for ETD, I had to weigh the costs and value of such an investment. The significance of our first performance in Asia was certainly a major consideration, particularly at this time when I feel it is so important we show the rest of the world that there are still good Americans, despite what international news might reflect. The other main deciding factor was that this trip could serve as a very unique opportunity for my continuous research for EARTH -- our ongoing project throughout 2019 into 2020.

I'm fascinated with how other nations relate to our planet and contribute to the healing or further destruction of our fragile Earth. In a recent trip to London, I was both shocked and rather impressed that environmental activists were literally glueing themselves to transit, disrupting bus routes and blocking major intersections- immobilizing the city while mobilizing thousands -- all in an endeavor to raise awareness to the dangers of climate change and call out the government for not acting swiftly enough to cut carbon emissions. While this is certainly an extreme, it made me curious to learn more about how other cultures and nations feel regarding these issues, how aware or concerned they are and what their habits on things such as recycling, conservation and preservation of the planet may be? No better way than to visit in person and ask them myself! So this will be the dual mission of ETD in South Korea.

Back to the dancing, I feel very strongly that such festivals serve as a crucial opportunity for cultural exchange and give us the chance to share the American spirit in a positive way. To this, our two pieces could not be more different. The duet, Grand Duo (2016), is very Americana, right down to the music by Nina Simone, Otis Redding and Billie Holiday and universal themes of love, loss, separation, forgiveness and this is the piece that BIDF chose themselves. The other -- The Missing (2010) -- is like a possession and exorcism. This is a solo piece performed by Nicole Baker who must express with her acting skills and emotions as much as her body. It’s an incredibly intense and demanding piece and it is clear that there is only one way to do it -- all in or not at all. Fortunately, Nicole is such a brilliant and dimensional performer that she contains not only the training and physical abilities as a dancer, but the emotional depth to express it. There is no greater delight for me as a choreographer than to watch audiences rapt with attention when watching my work performed by our talented company members; even more so when the viewers are international and the universal language of dance and the beauty of the human form and spirit is what unites us. I truly feel that this is going to be a phenomenal experience and I'm thrilled to announce Eryc Taylor Dance has been invited to perform two pieces in the Busan International Dance Festival (BIDF) in South Korea this summer, marking our first tour to Asia, something that has been a dream and goal for ETD, finally to be realized at BIDF. We are truly grateful for the opportunity and thank everyone involved for making this a reality.

Very Best,

Eryc

Photo (top to bottom): Hunter Canning & Nikola Bradonjic

E A R T H Part two: MAN IS BORN by Eryc Taylor

ETD EARTH BLOG — Part 2


Last Monday was “Earth Day,” making last week “Earth Week,” but no single day, week or month is ever enough to address the health of our planet. Every day should be and is Earth Day, because the Earth is always with us, spinning on her axis, giving us sustenance and life all 365 days a year without fail or the need for a holiday to commemorate the gifts of her bounty.

However, the balance that has been sustained for more than 4.5 billion years has been under serious threat due to recent human actions - a mere blip on this planet’s history, but one that will ensure the worst if we don’t take daily action immediately to do our part for our home.

This sense of urgency was my impetus for ETD’s most ambitious undertaking to date — EARTH — an ongoing exploration of how we are harming our planet through global warming and other planetary dangers. EARTH is a collaborative project which involves five past recipients of the ETD New Choreographer Grant (NCG), two invited guest composers, ETD dancers and the audience who are an integral part of our continued process. The five workshop presentations through October 2019 begin with a “behind the scenes” video, and conclude with a question and answer session. The work of the five choreographers plus the opening and closing segments of EARTH, The Big Bang and Earth on Life Support, (which I will choreograph) will be shown at the EARTH world premiere following the project’s developmental period. At its heart, it’s a continuous community collaboration with a global reach.

Our first studio showing took place on March 29th, and featured new choreography by Robert Mark Burke with an original score by composer Daniel Tobias. Initially, as with any new production, I didn't know what to expect but was hoping for the best. I did feel the process was a bit overwhelming and rushed, because there were so many logistics to juggle in planning a year-long endeavor series building into a final production. I made it clear in working with Robert how essential the narrative component  would be in his piece — Earth is Created. But with my limited rehearsal and advisory time with the invited choreographers, I was just as surprised (and impressed) by the results onstage as was the audience. What Robert was able to do in that limited time (only 21 hours total), with mishaps like sudden dancer injuries and other disasters, is not only remarkable but commendable. The choices he made in the intimate stage setting with no sets or costumes were strong and clear. The visual impact for the evening was aided by my decision to work with NYC-based videographer David Kagan, who just returned from a glorious trip to Hawaii and offered what he captured of the Earth in all of her explosive and expressive glory — volcanos, oceans and lush jungles — demonstrating the majesty of what we must work to preserve. We also introduced a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Robert’s process and work with Daniel Tobias’ sweeping score. The house was packed to capacity and it was a success in all ways. The post performance Q&A was hosted by my Director of Operations, Michelle Cole, who utilized the “Liz Lerman Critical Response Technique” in the discussion, which was extremely engaging and effective. Some of the best responses came from children in the audience, who were completely mesmerized by what they experienced.

21_JordaNRyder_ETDEARTH_Middle_SJRPhotography2019.jpg

The next workshop presentation, Man is Born, is choreographed by the  most recent recipient of the NCG, Jordan Ryder, whose piece in our 2018 NCG showcase was an audience favorite. I am eager to implement what we have learned and to be able to grow from the first edition of the series, to see Jordan’s creation and especially to continue the dialogue about our impact as citizens of this city, state, country and the world at large.  We hope our artistic efforts have a ripple effect and activate positive change now. The urgency to take multiple daily actions and do our part is more than a trend — it's our duty to ensure we have a healthy and harmonious home left for ourselves and future generations in the decades to come.

This vision for EARTH would not be possible without generous matching grant from ETD’s biggest advocate and supporter — The Marta Heflin Foundation —- and in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and New York State Council on the Arts, with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC).

My goal and desire is to educate, inform, challenge, and inspire people to make a difference. I sincerely believe that art has the power to change minds, and promote important ideas that ignite and elicit action. Not only will attendees of these workshop performances witness provocative works by dynamic new choreographers, but they’ll walk away with practical information on what they can do on a daily basis to curb environmental threats and reduce their damage to the planet. In addition, twenty percent of all proceeds will be donated to https://www.greenpeace.org/usa/.

If this is something you believe in, we need your help and support. Here are three ways to get involved and support EARTH:

  • Come to our workshop presentation showcasing the incomparable talents of NCG recipient Jordan Ryder on Friday, May 10th at Martha Graham Studio Theater on 55 Bethune Street, New York, NY 10014 and donate $25 (20% goes to Greenpeace USA). Tickets are extremely limited. Reservations are highly suggested; please RSVP www.ETD.nyc/earth as we do reach capacity. If you would like to commit to all five workshops in the EARTH Series — suggested donation is $250 for our VIP pass which includes reserved seating, program credit and a ticket to ETD's cocktail party gala event at the program’s finale. All donations to EARTH will be matched by a generous donation from The Marta Heflin Foundation.

  • Come to our workshop presentation showcasing the incomparable talents of NCG recipient Jordan Ryder on May 10th at Martha Graham Studio Theater on 55 Bethune Street, New York, NY 10014 and donate $25 (20% goes to Greenpeace USA). Reservations are highly suggested, please RSVP www.ETD.nyc/earth as we do reach capacity. If you want to commit to all five in the EARTH Series — suggested donation is $100. To take it a step further — VIP tickets are $150 for the Five EARTH Studio Series and offer reserved seating and program credit.

  • If you can find it in your heart (and in your pocketbook) to take your belief in the worthiness of the work being done here, I challenge you to join our other esteemed supporters and help us reach that matching grant from The Marta Heflin Foundation to ensure such meaningful work continues to thrive. Of course our patrons will also be recognized by seating privileges and donor credit. Donations to ETD can be made here: www.ETD.nyc/donate

  • You don’t have to wait until May 10th or Earth Day or Earth Week to make a difference. Even though we may try to do our best, for the most part, people tend to get stuck in their own worlds and forget the small, simple habits that add up to a lot of good. Here are a few links you can explore, share, post and repost now to raise consciousness towards international awareness, action-taking and help heal our world:

  • https://www.energysage.com/energy-efficiency/101/ways-to-save-energy/

  • https://www.nrdc.org/stories/how-you-can-stop-global-warming

  • https://www1.nyc.gov/site/greenyc/index.page

I look forward to seeing you May 10th at 8pm at Martha Graham Studio Theater on 55 Bethune Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10014 for Jordan Ryder's Man in Born, choreographed to  Salomon Lerner’s commissioned score. Bring your open minds and hearts, and come equipped to share your insights on the small daily tasks we can all do make an immediate difference in protecting and preserving our most important asset — our EARTH.

-Eryc Taylor

Jordan Ryder_ EndofRehearsalsProcess_EARTH2019_SJRPhotography-20.jpg

Photo Credit: Shannel Resto




E A R T H-Part 1 by ETD

I'm excited to announce Eryc Taylor's Dance new work—EARTH—a collaborative, immersive dance experience addressing global warming, a critical concern that affects us all. I feel it’s my duty as an artist, a producer and an entrepreneur to address global warming through my art and to make a difference on issues that will have a direct impact on the generations to come. If we don't do something soon about our planet now, we won't have much left...

Read More