RDF Artist Spotlight: Ajna Tribal Belly Dance & Luisa Innisfree
The Dogtown blog is excited to present our next two artists: Ajna Tribal Belly Dance and Luisa Innisfree.
Ajna Tribal is a local dance company, currently directed by Janine Turner. They are an American Tribal Style(r) Belly Dance troupe and are based in the Richmond, VA community. They will be presenting Tribal Woman's Gathering at Richmond Dance Festival the 11th and 12th of June.
Is this your first time at RDF/dogtown? If so, what drew you to RDF? if not, what about RDF brought you back? Janine Turner is a resident artist at Dogtown Dance Theatre and the Director of Ajna Tribal, an improvisational, modern, "folkloric", belly dance troupe. Ajna Tribal presented their work at RDF prior to the pandemic and is honored to be selected to perform again in 2021. This festival is a very high quality production with professionals of multiple dance styles presenting their work. As a professional dance troupe excelling in the technique and unique style of improvisational bellydance, we felt that our dance style fits in well with the various and cutting edge styles presented in former years. The variety of dance styles makes this an exciting event! If you have performed at Dogtown before, what is one of your favorite memories of your time spent here? Dogtown is such a wonderful resource to the dance community and Ajna Tribal tries to participate in as many events as possible. The staff are embracing of new works and really accommodate the performers and instructors in making their art accessible. One of our favorite memories and most anticipated event is the Mardi Gras celebration Dogtown has hosted. We fully embrace the spirit of Mardi Gras at Dogtown, and love performing at this event in past years. Dogtown does a great job of providing a showcase for dance of all types, and we are so honored to be included!!! What is integral to your work as an artist? Ajna Tribal is dedicated to artistic growth under the direction of Janine Turner, as well as technical execution and clarity of movement. This allows our dance to unfold improvisationally in the moment while appearing to be highly synchronized. We do not choreograph our dance pieces, but instead rely on our technical execution of cues and moves to communicate non-verbally to our dance partners. What the audience sees is a "synchronized" or choreographed dance piece, when it is actually intensive study of this dance form, and beautiful connection formulated in the moment! It is part of the "magic" of our dance form, and is seen through our performances and within our smiles!! How has the past year impacted your creation process for this piece? Missy Moore and Stephanie Fogner, Assistant Directors of Ajna Tribal, prepared this performance because of their love of the music and the soul stirring voices included in this medley. As we all needed to quarantine throughout this last year, people were still able to identify and connect with their personal “tribes”, through a means that was not "typical". As we experienced separation and distance from our loved ones, we also found ways to advocate for those who have historically been separated and distanced from loved ones. As this reflection continued, it brought home many of the marginalized people's plight, and made their voices more visible to those who "may not have heard" those voices before. As such, Missy and Stephanie engaged in exploring the 1st nations people, indigenous people, and other marginalized persons who have been silenced before, and whose voices are now being heard. Ajna Tribal dedicates this piece to the indigenous and 1st nations people: Those who could not dance, those that can finally dance, and those who are not here to dance. Is there anything else you would like the Richmond community to know about you and/or your work? Ajna Tribal’s dance form is improvisational. We learn the “language” of our dance, then communicate our movements non-verbally to each other so that the dancer’s flow together in magical synchronicity. Ajna Tribal’s assistant directors, Missy Moore and Stephanie Fogner, teach a donation based community class on this dance form each Sunday at Dogtown Dance Theatre. All a welcome to come and enjoy!
Luisa Innisfree was born and raised in Manhattan, New York by immigrants of Chile and Yugoslavia. In 2010, she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts at Ohio University and returned to New York. Luisa’s performance career is split between NYC, Baltimore, MD and most recently Richmond, VA. Her work has a strong comedic presence with the background of contemporary/modern dance and athletic movement. Most of her creativity is sparked by the use of props which help her develop stories and scenes. Luisa centers the stories of women in her dance making. She will be presenting Two's Too Much on the 11th and 12th of June.
Is this your first time at RDF/Dogtown? If so, what drew you to RDF? if not, what about RDF brought you back? This is not my first time at RDF- I love this building, organization, and community of people! I enjoy that RDF (pre-covid) is a 3 weekend celebration in which dance films and live performances are shown and shared. There is always a mix of different styles of dance selected. Lastly, it simply gives several artists a chance to present their work and I am always inspired by someone and able to meet a new artist. If you have performed at Dogtown before, what is one of your favorite memories of your time spent here? I don't know if I have a favorite memory. Whenever I receive the chance to perform at Dogtown I am thrilled and relieved at how well organized the program is. The staff is always helpful and on point so I feel taken care of. It becomes a place of home, therefore I can relax and focus on performing comfortably. What is integral to your work as an artist? Choreographing with props might be obvious if anyone knows my work. So I feel like that is a cop-out answer! Perhaps I will say- letting what naturally happens happen. I've never enjoyed being nervous or worried about how my performance will turn out. I'm not performing to relay perfect technique; I'm hoping to relay a story or general situation which people can relate to. So their response to what they see is quite integral to my job as a performer. Overall, it's comforting to think every run of the choreography will be slightly different. Work is meant to change and evolve, so I want to let that happen as easily as possible. How has the past year impacted your creation process for this piece? Being more silly and ridiculous! I will continue to choreograph dances for the rest of my life and every piece is one more piece that I can laugh at and enjoy. Not everything I create needs to be a masterpiece... or a masterpiece in my mind. Let's just enjoy the process of creation. Is there anything else you would like the Richmond community to know about you and/or your work? I never feel like I will stop growing. I always have more to learn.
RDF is premiering soon; make sure to grab your tickets today! We cannot wait to see our dance community in the space and witness all of these amazing works.