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Biography

Molissa Fenley (Choreographer and Performer) was born in Las Vegas, Nevada in 1954. She was six years old when her family moved to Ibadan, Nigeria where her father worked with USAID. She attended high school in Spain and then returned to the US to attend and graduate from Mills College in Oakland, California with a BA in Dance in 1975.  She moved to New York City that year and formed Molissa Fenley and Company in 1977. In her 36-year career she has choreographed over 75 works.

Early works were commissioned by The Kitchen (MIX, 1979), Dance Theater Workshop (ENERGIZER, 1980 and EUREKA, 1982) and the American Dance Festival (GENTLE DESIRE, 1981).   The company began to tour nationally and internationally in 1980.  The Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival commissioned HEMISPHERES in 1983, with music by Anthony Davis and visual element by Francesco Clemente and GEOLOGIC MOMENTS in 1986, with music by Philip Glass and Julius Eastman.  CENOTAPH (1985), with  music by Jamaaladeen Tacuma and text by Eric Bogosian and commmissioned by Jacob's Pillow, was awarded a "Bessie" for Choreography.  STATE OF DARKNESS, a solo set to Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps. a commission from the American Dance Festival was performed over 50 times in many venues around the world. In 1990, the Brisbane Biennial featured this work with live orchestra, one of Fenley's most memorable performances.  A "Bessie" was awarded to State of Darkness, both for Fenley's performance in 1988 and for Peter Boal's performance in 1999.  Five dancers have danced this work to date:  Fenley, until 1994, Peter Boal from 1999-2000, and Rachel Foster, James Moore and Jonathan Porretta of the Pacific Northwest Ballet  in June 2007, where once again the work was performed with a live orchestra at the 125th anniversary of Stravinsky's music presented by the Pacific Northwest Ballet at McCaw Hall in Seattle, WA. The work remains in their repertory and will be performed as part of their Director's Choice programing  March 14-25, 2014.

From 1988 through 1997, Fenley choreographed solo works in collaboration with contemporary visual artists and composers.  A few highlights include:  THE FLOOR DANCES (1989), with music by Henryk Gorecki and sculpture by Richard Long (revived in 2013 at New York Live Arts); WITCHES' FLOAT (1993), with music by Alvin Lucier and set by Kiki Smith, (revived in 2013 at New York Live Arts, performed by Holley Farmer); NULLARBOR (1993) with music by Robert Lloyd and set by Richard Long; BRIDGE OF DREAMS (1994) with music by Laurie Anderson and set by Kiki Smith; SITA (1995) with music by Philip Glass and photography by Sandi Fellman and TRACE (1996) with music by Jonathan Hart Makwaia, set by Roy Fowler and text by John Jesurun.

Since 1997, Fenley has returned to working with an ensemble.  Performances by the company have taken place at the Joyce Theater, Summerstage, The Kitchen, City Center, Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center Out-of-Doors, the Rovereto Festival, Italy, Jacob's Pillow, and many others.  Company works include:  ON THE OTHER OCEAN (1999) with music by David Behrman; TIMBRAL INVENTIONS (1999) with music by John Cage; DELTA (1999) with music by John Cage; SKY GARDEN (2000) performed in silence; 331 STEPS (2001) with music by Laetitia Sonami and set by Merrill Wagner; KURO SHIO (2002) with music by Bun-Ching Lam; WATER COURSES (2002) with music by poet Joy Harjo; LAVA FIELD (2004) with music by John Bischoff; DESERT SEA (2004) with music by Lou Harrison; PATTERNS AND EXPECTATIONS (2005) with music by Fred Frith; DREAMING AWAKE (2006) with music by  Philip Glass; CALCULUS AND POLITICS (2007) with music by Harry Partch; COSMATI VARIATIONS 1-4 (2008) with music by John Cage; ICE,DEW,FOOD,CREW,APE (2009) with music by Alvin Curran and poetry by Bob Holman; DOUBLE BEGINNING  (2010) with poetry by Bob Holman; THE PROP DANCES (2010), a collaboration with five visual artists and four contemporary music composers: MASS BALANCE with prop by Todd Richmond and music by Cenk Ergun; 94 FEATHERS with props by Merrill Wagner and music by Cenk Ergun; PLANES IN AIR with props by Roy Fowler and music by Joan Jeanrenaud; PIECES OF LAND with props by Jene Highstein and music by Jason Hoopes and PROP DANCE #5 with props by Keith Sonnier and music by Lainie Fefferman; THE VESSEL STORIES, (2011), a work in three parts with music by Philip Glass, String Quartet #4 (Buczak); and CREDO IN US (2011), with music by John Cage and CROSS BRIDGE, a work made in collaboration with Holley Farmer, John Jesurun, David Moodey and Rosemary Quinn. Molissa's most recent work, FOUND OBJECT, features contributions from Roy Fowler (painter), Erin Gee (composer), John Guare (playwright), Joy Harjo (poet), Jene Highstein (sculptor) and Rudy Wurlitzer  (writer) premiered at New York Live Arts on October 2, 2013.  

Ms. Fenley's work has been presented throughout the United States, South America, Europe, Australia, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong.  She has choreographed works for the Ohio Ballet (FERAL, 1986); the Australian Dance Theatre (A DESCENT INTO THE MAELSTROM, 1986);  the Deutsche Oper Ballet of Berlin (BRIDGE OF DREAMS, 1994); the National Ballet School of Canada (INNER ENCHANTMENTS, 1986); the Performing Dance Company at the University of Utah (TIMBRAL INVENTIONS, 1999), ESCALAY, 1999) and I AND YOU RESEMBLE EACH OTHER, NOW, 1999); Peter Boal (WAITING FOR RAIN, 2002) the Korea/Japan Performing Arts Exchange Association (KURO SHIO, 2003);  DESERT SEA (2005) for the Repertory Dance Theater, Salt Lake City , STATE OF DARKNESS for Peter Boal in 1999 and for the Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2007, CASTOR and PLANES IN AIR for the Seattle Dance Project and THE VESSEL STORIES (2012) for Robert Moses' Kin. Her work has also been performed by Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Elisa Monte and David Brown, Dance Alloy, Young Soon Kim Dance Company, Peggy Baker Dance Projects, Richard Move, Felicia Norton and Li Chiao-Ping.  Her work resides in the repertory companies of the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Georgia at Athens and Mills College in Oakland, California. LATITUDES (1997), a dance for the web commissioned by the Dia Art Foundation, can be viewed at www.diacenter.org/fenley/title.html.

Fenley has been on the dance faculty at Mills College since 1999, in residence every spring semester.  Since 2003, she has also taught choreography at the Experimental Theater Wing of New York University. She was awarded a Rome Prize for a six month residency at the American Academy in Rome from February through August 2008, and named a 2008 Guggenheim Fellow.  In February 2009 she was in residence at  the Atlantic Center for the Arts where ICE, DEW, FOOD, CREW, APE with music by Alvin Curran and poetry by Bob Holman premiered.  Recent New York City performances of the company include the Judson Memorial Church in September 2009; as part of the 75th anniversary celebrations of the 92nd Street  Y in March, 2010; THE PROP DANCES, works made in collaboration with five contemporary visual artists and four composers and the revival of Regions (1995), supported by an award from the NEA American Masterpieces Initiative at Joyce Soho, November 2010. Recent performances include the premiere of THE VESSEL STORIES at the Days and Nights Festival in Carmel, California August 2011; CREDO IN US,  a new work set to the John Cage score from 1942, premiered at the Art Museum at Mills College on September 2011. Both THE VESSEL STORIES and CREDO IN US received their New York premieres at the Judson Memorial Church in January 2012. CROSS BRIDGE, a work made in collaboration with Holley Farmer, John Jesurun, David Moodey and Rosemary Quinn premiered at Club La MaMa in December 2012. FOUND OBJECT and the revivals of ENERGIZER, THE FLOOR DANCES and WITCHES' FLOAT were presented at New York Live Arts in October 2013.

RHYTHM FIELD: THE DANCE OF MOLISSA FENLEY with essays by Molissa and her colleagues including Peter Boal, Rande Brown, Bob Holman, Bill T. Jones, David Moodey, Richard Move, Ann Murphy, Tere O'Connor, Elizabeth Streb and Paz Tanjuaquio,  with foreword by Philip Glass and epilogue by Stephen Greco and including archival photographs will be published by Seagull Press in December 2014. 

 

Christiana Axelsen

Christiana Axelsen is originally from Bainbridge Island, Washington. She has been a company member with Molissa Fenley since 2013. In addition to her work with Molissa, she has danced with Christopher Williams, Beth Gill, Michou Szabo, zoe|juniper, Dai Jian, Anne Zuerner, Mana Kawamura, and Korhan Basaran among others. She has a degree in dance and geology from Mount Holyoke College and is a graduate of the Merce Cunningham Professional Training Program.


 

Rebecca Chaleff

Rebecca Chaleff is a Ph.D. candidate in the department of Theater and Performance Studies at Stanford University. She has had the pleasure of performing with Pat Catterson, Douglas Dunn and Dancers, and the Merce Cunningham Repertory Understudy Group, among others, and is currently working with GERALDCASELDANCE. Rebecca began dancing with Molissa Fenley and Company in 2012.

 

Evan Flood

Evan Flood of Vineland, NJ has a BFA in dance performance from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University where he performed the works of Brian Brooks, Merce Cunningham, and Inbal Pinto & Avshalom Pollak. He is also an alumni of The Contemporary program at Jacob’s Pillow as well as Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet’s 360. He currently dances with LustigDanceTheatre under the direction of Graham Lustig and has been a guest artist with the Oakland Ballet in Oakland, California.

 

Peiling Kao

Peiling Kao, a native of Taipei, Taiwan, has been a freelance dancer for 16 years. After graduating from Taipei National University of the Arts in 1996 with a BFA in Dance, she worked as a full-time teacher at Cloud Gate Dance School in Taiwan. She has trained in ballet, contemporary, modern dance, Chinese Traditional Dance, Chinese Martial Art, improvisation, and contact improvisation. In 2007, Kao was awarded the Taiwan-England artists’ residency, hosted by Independent Dance based at Siobhan Davis Studios in London. In 2010, she finished her MFA in Choreography and Performance at Mills College, receiving an E.L Wiegand Foundation Award for excellence in performance and choreography. In 2012, she was awarded an Izzie (Isadora Duncan Dance Award) for Outstanding Achievement in Performance for the collaborative work, Terra Incognita: Revisited. Later that year, she was awarded an Artist in Residency at the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Oakland. Kao has taught dance at Mills College, Austin Peay State University, and at the Chinese American International School as a visiting artist. Her work has been presented at Austin Peay State University, The Garage and the Luggage Store Gallery in SF, and Temescal Art Center and Mills College in Oakland. She has danced with Molissa Fenley and Company since 2010.

 

Matthew Roberts

Matthew Roberts grew up in Akron, OH where he began his training under the direction of Everett N. Deck, Jr. His formal training started while attending the University of Akron's Dance Institute, studying under Lana Caroll-Heylock, Andrew Carroll, Christina Foise, Mary Ann Black and Amy Miller. After graduating high school, he attended Marymount Manhattan College and before graduating with a B.F.A. in dance with a concentration in Choreography, he choreographed five pieces and had the honor of performing pieces by Lar Lubovich, Robert Battle, Jessica Lang, Pedro Ruiz, Alonzo King, Shen Wei, and Cherice Barton. He has performed with Blue Muse Dance under the direction of Mayuna Shimizu in their production of The Circle Bridge and now performs with LustigDanceTheatre.

 

Paz Tanjuaquio

Paz Tanjuaquio is a choreographer, performer and artist based in NYC since 1990. As a dancer, she first performed with Molissa Fenley in 1997 in the solo Sita at the Joyce Theater and has since had the pleasure of dancing in many of Fenley’s group works. She received her MFA in Dance from NYU Tisch School of the Arts, and her BA in Visual Arts from University of California, San Diego. Awards for her own work in collaboration with composer/artist Todd Richmond include National Endowment for the Arts, American Dance Festival’s International Screendance, Meet The Composer/Commissioning USA, among others. In 2000, the collaborators co-founded TOPAZ ARTS, Inc. in Woodside, NY, establishing a creative space for the performing and visual arts.  www.topazarts.org

 

Alyssa Lee Wilmot

Alyssa Lee Wilmot, Assistant to Molissa Fenley, Former Company member began her studies with Molissa as a graudate student at Mills College. Alyssa received her BA in Philosophy, Dance and Political Science from The College of Wooster, and an MFA in Dance Choreography and Performance from Mills College. Alyssa holds numerous Pilates and fitness certifications, is the artistic director and choreographer for her dance and performance company, group A, and owns and operates The Movement Factory in Cleveland, Ohio. She has been a faculty member and a visiting artist at a variety of colleges, universities, and performance spaces, and has performed and had work presented nationally and internationally. Alyssa has served as Molissa Fenley's assistant since 2010 and performed with Molissa Fenley and Company intermittently from 2002-2011. 

Stanford University
February 9, 2015
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Repertory Dance Theatre
June 29-July 12, 2015
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Spectrum Dance Festival
September 6-13, 2015
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