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Dancer, environment taken to the third power
DanceAbility: moving in and out of the box

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Architecture & Dance: Intersections & Collaboration – An Interview with Frances Bronet

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Frances Bronet speaks at 2009 UO Dance Conference

Date: May 2009
Location: University of Oregon

Frances Bronet speaks at 2009 Oregon Arts Summit

Date: May 13, 2009
Location: Tiger Woods Center, Nike World Headquarters, Beaverton, Oregon

An Interview with Frances Bronet

Author: Martin Moeller
Publication: Blueprints
Date: Winter 2006-2007

Architect and dance enthusiast Frances Bronet talks about her work on performance projects and teaching strategies that bring together these two disciplines.

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Year in review 2006

Dance: Sinopoli provided most striking work
Author: Wendy Liberatore, Gazette reporter
Date: December 31, 2006

Lovers of dance often look to big-name artists for their fix. And though plenty of internationally known companies swung through the Capital Region these past 12 months, it was one of our local choreographers who provided the most intriguing events of 2006.

Choreographer Ellen Sinopoli, with architectural designer Frances Bronet, created “Spill Out!,” a test of architecture’s effect on movement. Their last collaboration, “Beating a Path,” which was performed in a Troy storefront, explored the same theme. But “Spill Out!” created a buzz unusual here. It’s not often that dance ticket buyers have to be turned away at the door.

The excitement was well-deserved. The work, which more than 2,500 people saw, essentially plunked five dancers into a lighted spandex box, created by Bronet and her University at Oregon students. (Think fireflies captured and darting around in an enclosed container.) The piece created a mesmerizing environment in the circular, vaulted Gasholder Building. The portable dance went on to further success, with a totally different feel, in the gym at Skidmore College and the proscenium stage at the Performing Arts Center at the University at Albany.

Top 10 shows

Here are the year’s top 10 dance concerts of 2006:

Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company in “Spill Out!” at the Gasholder Building on Sept. 8 – One of the best dance events here since 1999 when choreographer Ellen Sinopoli and architectural designer Frances Bronet collaborated on “Beating a Path.”

New York City Ballet’s Gala program at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on July 22 – An exclusive program of premieres that unleashed the dancers’ usually muted passions.

Ten Foot Five at The Egg on Oct. 21 – An unpretentious, freewheeling tap extravaganza.

Tchaikovsky Opera and Ballet Theater in “Swan Lake” at the Palace Theatre on March 19 – A mysterious and grand rendering of the warhorse.

New York City Ballet in “Swan Lake” at SPAC on July 6 – Sofiane Sylve was a force of nature as Odile.

Battleworks at Skidmore College on Feb. 10 – Human quirks depicted in a raw, violent and engrossing manner.

Limon Dance Company at The Egg on June 9 – One of the oldest modern dance groups paired organic fluid grace with telling drama.

Ballet Hispanico at MASS MoCA on Oct. 6 – An irresistible company spiked with Latin flavor, robust personality and a burnished technique.

Paco Pena and his Flamenco Dance Company at Troy Savings Bank Music Hall on Jan. 27 – No one could be immune from the spell cast by guitarist Pena and his flashy and flowery dancers.

Mark Morris Dance Group at Jacob’s Pillow on Aug. 22 – 25 years old, but still gleefully anti-establishment.

Work sets new bar

Sinopoli dancers brilliant in debut of original piece

Author: Wendy Liberatore, Gazette Reviewer
Date: September 10, 2006
Section: B: Regional

TROY – Choreographer Ellen Sinopoli and architectural designer Frances Bronet have done it again. They have yanked concert dance from its proscenium stage. And this time, to the delight of viewers, dropped it in a box. Imagine trapping a firefly in a bug box and you have “Spill Out!,” their collaboration that premiered Friday night in the Historic Gasholder Building in Troy. “Spill Out!” eschews the given notion that movement sculpts space. Here, with the Ellen Sinopoli Dance Company members climbing and crawling in Bronet’s 40x12x3 foot rectangular enclosure, the space is shaping the dance.

Of course, this is nothing new. For over 40 years, choreographers have experimented with not just site-specific works, but props that become the piece’s raison d’etre. But one has to admit that “Spill Out!” is the most interesting thing to happen in dance in this region since Sinopoli and Bronet unveiled their first collaboration in 1999, “Beating a Path,” in an empty Troy storefront. It’s not that any one thing about “Spill Out!” is brilliant. It’s just all the pieces, including the hypnotic electronic score by William Harper, make for an extraordinary evening – one that I would highly recommend.

“Spill Out!” is an experience that begins upon entering the Gasholder Building. This large brick circular structure, with its vaulted ceiling, intrigues as it reeks of a history, an undisturbed monument to the lost industrial era. In the center of this large room is Bronet’s construction, framed by scaffolding and wrapped in slatted spandex. Inside are the dancers. Wearing neon lime unitards, they lounge on the slender runways.

Once everyone is seated, the music which includes the soothing chirp of peepers, cues the dancers to awaken. They do so organically, stretching their limbs by sliding them along the bars. As our vision is obstructed by the spandex walls, they seem suspended in water or air. Those one top, step high like long-legged birds. When the stop, to survey the audience, they do so with authority. They clearly have domain over their environment.

When the music shifts, which it often does abruptly, so too does the movement quality. It swings from serene to eerie to violent. Rather than caged creatures who have mastered their confines, they look like humans being laid to rest. When they rouse, shaking off their brush with death, they start to bounce off and bust through the cuts in the stretchy walls. They fling their bodies off the spandex which ricochets them backwards with frightening force.

Finally, they emerge from their cell, like toddlers who discovered how to escape their playpen. While we celebrate their liberation, once the dancers slip out of the box, the spell that “Spill Out!” casts is sadly broken. Regardless, there is much to praise, including the video by Ralph Pascucci and costumes by Kim Vanyo. The pieces runs 65 minutes and it feels like 30.

Certainly, “Spill Out!” has some buzz. Friday’s show was sold out. Many patrons stood lining the walls.

The piece will remain there until Sept. 17. It will then move to Skidmore College and the University at Albany. However, it would be wise not to miss it at the Gasholder Building. The juxtaposition of a historic building to modern art, with a work about architecture and dance, makes quite the impression.

Wendy Liberatore (395-3199 or at

Copyright (c) 2006 The Daily Gazette Co. All Rights Reserved.

‘Spill Out!’ is rich with visual delights

Author: Tresca Weinstein, Times Union Reviewer
Date: September 9, 2006

It’s a good thing that “Spill Out!,” the new collaboration between choreographer Ellen Sinopoli and architect Frances Bronet, will be around for a while. The 65-minute piece, which premiered Friday evening at the historic Gasholder Building in Troy, will be performed 10 more times over the next month – at the Gasholder Building, Skidmore College and the University at Albany – and it’s so rich with visual delights that even if you went to every single performance, it’s a good bet that each time you’d see something you hadn’t noticed before.

If you’re only going to see “Spill Out!” once, however, then see it at the Gasholder Building. The vast domed structure is a perfect foil for the massive rectangular structure that serves as the five dancers’ habitat. The building’s curving walls and faded brick contrast beautifully with Bronet’s set, a streamlined rectangular structure of steel and bright blue spandex that stands 12 feet high and 40 feet long. William Harper’s mysterious, evocative score for the piece seems to expand to fill the space. David Yergan’s lighting design casts the dancers’ shadows on the walls like gorgeous, animated cave paintings. And Ralph Pascucci’s video projections, giant images of the dancers thrown across the spandex “screen,” add yet another layer.

Sinopoli’s choreography for the five dancers – Jamien Cvjetnicanin, Melissa George, Claire Jacob-Zysman, Sarah Pingel and Laura Teeter – starts out slow, with the dancers inside the structure, their bodies striated by the lines of blue spandex that enclose them. Glowing in lime green costumes designed by Kim Vanyo, they come out of their slumber like winged creatures emerging from chrysalises. Sometimes they occupy separate cells of the structure; other times they cling together, making abstract multi-limbed shapes within the geometric lines of the set.

The dancers seem wonderfully at home on the structure; it’s their shelter and their playground. They climb and swing all over it, balance atop it and bounce playfully on the spandex ribbons, which shimmer and ripple like water. Pingel and George have a terrific duet in which they turn and bend and bounce, one on each side of the structure, reflecting each other’s moves. In Teeter and Cvjetnicanin’s pas de deux at the very top of the set, they stretch and balance together, their conjoined shadows duplicated again and again on the walls.

Despite the specificity of its set, “Spill Out!” encompasses a variety of tones and moods, moving from angular edges to soft shapes, from driving rhythms and choreography to adagios and lighthearted movement. Somehow Bronet and Sinopoli, with the help of numerous contributors and collaborators, have managed to weave together many elements to create a unified piece that not only intrigues but also transports us to somewhere we’ve never been before.

Tresca Weinstein, a local freelance writer, is a regular contributor to the Times Union

Frances Bronet featured in the May 29, 2008 issue of Eugene Weekly

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