DELLA DAVIDSON (Founding Artistic Director) arrived at UC Davis to become a professor of dance in 2001 just as the Department of Theatre and Dance became a merged department. She was the founding artistic director of the department’s Sideshow Physical Theatre. Each piece of choreography usually took years to complete, as she worked interactively with the dancers and other collaborators to develop the work. A survivor of Hodgkin’s disease that she conquered at the age of 28, her gift was to make work darkly-toned yet human, with beautiful movement that faced tragedy with hope. Driven by an urge to get away from the “roles” she and other women had been brought up to inhabit, she often created dance that evoked the raw energy of forceful women, their strength, physicality and sensuality. Heavily ironic, pieces such as 10 P.M. Dream or Fierce/Pink/House displayed gender stereotypes only to expose them as insidious traps, and she was firmly committed to feminism as a challenge to oppression and small-mindedness.
Davidson was a vital creative force for the Department of Theatre and Dance for over ten years. She wore many hats, not the least of which was to help articulate what an interdisciplinary M.F.A. in theatre and dance might become.
Della Davidson was a central figure in the Bay Area dance world since the early 1980s. She has been described as one of the West Coast’s most fluent writers for the body, a dance maker of works that ruminate with poignancy and beauty on topics ranging from a woman’s anger to disease, death and the fragility of human existence. Her work echoed with references to the United States tradition in modern dance, and yet her dancers perform with a passionate abandonment of commitment and rage. Over her successful career, she created more than 40 works and received many awards including the Isadora Duncan Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography and the 1990 North American Award for Choreography.
Born in Texas and raised in Michigan, she moved to New York City to start her career in dance in 1972. Ballet-trained since elementary school, she discovered that being over six foot on pointe made classical partnering impossible, but at Michigan State she discovered modern dance, and at the University of Utah she apprenticed as a choreographer. After earning an M.A. in 1983 at the University of Arizona, Tucson, she began co-directing the San Francisco Moving Company with Ellen Bromberg. Dance scholar Janice Ross identified the style of Della Davidson’s work as an invitation to interplay between narrative content and physical form, between physicality and theatre. Davidson once told Ross that she felt “at home” in a mixture of theatre and education with choreography that emphasizes that “we all have our own artistry.”
A recipient of the UC Davis Chancellor’s Fellowship here at UC Davis, much of her new work was involved in multidisciplinary choreography. Working again with Ellen Bromberg, the choreographer/dance filmmaker, she co-created The Weight of Memory and, with the Keck CAVES institute in the Department of Geology, Collapse (suddenly falling down). Della Davidson was working with Bromberg on a new piece, and the snow fell softly on all the living and the dead…, when she passed away in March 2012.
Davidson’s by words were “creativity” and “collaboration,” and one of her greatest gifts was to recognize potential in others and bring out their strengths, whether they were her students, her dancers, her collaborators, her colleagues or her friends.
JOHN FLAX (Co-Director and Creator on A Dream Inside Another) John Flax has been creating and performing original theater for over twenty years. He joined the French/American Theatre de la Jeune Lune in 1979, performing in Moliere!, a dramatic history of Moliere's company and A French Christmas, staged French folk tales. Along with the Jeune Lune ensemble he co-created and performed in Ubu for President and 1929: The American Dream. Both won Kudo Awards for Best Production in Minneapolis. In 1983, Flax founded Theater Grottesco with Frenchman Didier Maucort. Their first production, Crusoe, an economic unraveling of Defoe's novel, written by Maucort, won first prize at the Festival du Carreau de Temple in Paris and a Drama Critic's Award in San Diego in 1984. Theater Grottesco moved to the United States in 1985 and began work on The American Trilogy Project. In 1994, Grottesco premiered The Angels' Cradle, co-authored and directed by Flax. The Angels' Cradle, seen Off-Broadway in 1999, is the story of a group of deformed outcasts living beneath our city streets, and the homeless man who finds them.
ERIC KUPERS has co-directed, choreographed, and performed with Dandelion Dancetheater since its inception, creating numerous works that have been presented nationally and internationally. He is deeply influenced by his work as a performer in the companies of Della Davidson and Margaret Jenkins. Eric is Assistant Professor of Dance at Cal State University East Bay and is heading up the development of the Inclusive Interdisciplinary Program in the Theatre and Dance Department. He has been an artist-in-residence at the Baryshnikov Arts Center, ODC Theater, CELLspace, CounterPULSE and the Jon Sims Center for the Arts and has created commissioned works for Big Moves, Cal State University East Bay, California Choreographers Festival, Dancing in the Streets/NYC, and choreography for projects by John Killacky, California Shakespeare Festival, and Highland Summer Theatre. This summer he returns to Cork, Ireland, to direct/choreograph an original work with Croi Glan Dance Company and many community groups of people with and without disabilities.
KEGAN MARLING is a choreographer, writer, designer and arts consultant. His work is a reflection of ever-shifting interests: contact improv, creative writing, sound design, photography, pottery, bookbinding, ballroom, ballet, Afro-Caribbean dance, painting, tap, gymnastics, acting, woodworking and installation art. In addition, Kegan’s work is heavily influenced by the artists he has worked with: Della Davidson, Bill T. Jones, Joe Goode, Lea Anderson, Scott Wells, Susan Foster, Nigel Charnock (DV8) and Anna Halprin. He and Jane Schnorrenberg currently co-direct their own company, entitled spoon. In addition, he has created work for the Move(men)t Festival and National Queer Arts Festival and has been a resident artist at CounterPULSE. Kegan studied choreography and sociology at UC Davis, where he received the Jere Curry Award for Excellence in Dance.
Richard Marriott, Composer Mr. Marriott is the principal composer of The Clubfoot Orchestra, which he founded in 1983. Marriott’s compositions include new soundtracks for several classic silent films, including The Cabinet of Dr. Calgari and Nosferatu, and collaborative scores for Metropolis, Sherlock Jr., Pandora’s Box and Hands of Orlac. These scores have been performed live by the Clubfoot Orchestra at various theaters and venues throughout the country, including the Mill Valley Film Festival, the Castro Theatre in San Francisco, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., and the Walter Read Theatre at Lincoln Center in New York City, and are available on both CD and laserdisc. Marriott is also the composer of the Clubfoot Orchestra’s Wild Beasts, released by Ralph Records in 1986, and the principal composer of Kidnapped, released in 1987. He received an additional music credit on the 1993 film Rising Sun, directed by Phil Kaufman, and was the principal composer for the film Silver Into Gold, which was an Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary in 1986.
KERRY MEHLING holds an MFA in choreography from UC Davis and a BFA in performance from the University of Utah. In 2005 she formed Talismanic Physical Theatre. Kerry has performed and toured in the companies of Della Davidson’s Sideshow Physical Theatre, Deborah Slater Dance Theater, Della Davidson Dance Theatre, Ririe Woodbury Dance Company and several other West Coast companies. Kerry has had the pleasure to teach, perform and choreograph nationally as well as internationally. She continues to teach throughout Northern California, while creating her own works and collaborating with Bay Area artists.
JANE SCHNORRENBERG received a BA in dance from Mills College and an MFA in choreography from UC Davis. She has performed and toured in the companies of HT Chen (NYC), DanceArt Co. (UK/US), Lily Cai (SF), Tracy Rhoades’ Exploding Roses, Nancy Karp + Dancers and Paufve/Dance. Jane was a longtime dancer/collaborator/friend of Della Davidson, dancing with her for over 20 marvelous years. She and Kegan Marling currently co-direct their own company entitled spoon.
Sandra Woodall, Costume Design Working in collaboration with diverse figures in the performing arts world, Sandra Woodall has been designing costumes for numerous ballet, modern dance, theatre, music, and performance art groups since 1970. Among them are the San Francisco Ballet, Margaret Jenkins Dance Company, Della Davidson Dance Theater, ODC/San Francisco, Oakland Ballet, American Conservatory Theater, Eureka Theater, California Shakespeare Company, Magic Theater, and the Kronos Quartet. Nationally and internationally, Woodall has designed costumes for the Joffrey Ballet, Ballet Metropolitan, Hartford Ballet, Dance Theater of Harlem, Nashville Ballet, Washington D.C. Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet and Hong Kong Ballet. She has designed sets and costumes for the National Theater of Norway, Den Norske Opera’s 1996 production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She has worked with designer Robert Israel in realizing the costumes for Philip Glass’s Akhenaten and for Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival’s presentation of Miracolo d’Amore by Martha Clark. Her designs have also been featured as part of PBS programming.
Ms. Woodall received DANCE/Bay Area Isadora Duncan Awards in 1997 for Costume Design for Michael Smuin Ballet’s Frankie and Johnny, in 1996 for San Francisco Ballet’s Lambarena, in 1991 for Visual Design for Margaret Jenkins Dance Company’s Age of Unrest, and in 1989 for Sustained Achievement in Design. She received Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Award for Costume Design in 1995 for the American Conservatory Theater production of Light Up the Sky and in 1989 for the ACT production of St. Joan.