Brooklyn-Based Wally Cardona

October 26, 2008

This month, the Brooklyn-based Wally Cardona Quartet will present Cardona’s new piece, Everywhere, as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival. DS sat in on the rehearsal process; here’s what we learned about the company, and its journey to BAM.

The Journey

Cardona, a Juilliard grad, was dancing in a ballet project at Jacob’s Pillow when a chance meeting with Ralph Lemon led to a spot in the Ralph Lemon Company after graduation. Cardona danced with the company from 1987 to 1995 and formed his own company, Wally Cardona Quartet, in 1997. Eight years later, in early 2003, Cardona received his first commission from BAM after Joe Melillo, the Next Wave Festival’s producer, saw the Quartet perform Live Remix at Danspace Project.

It took Cardona nearly a year and a half to create Everywhere, which is set to music by Phil Kline. The piece was finished in July 2005 while the company was in residence at Jacob’s Pillow, and fine-tuned during a 10-day residency at Cornell University. “This was a pivotal 10 days, as we were onstage with lights and most of the music was completed,” says Cardona. Everywhere, which is co-produced by the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art, premiered late summer 2005 in Portland.

The Piece

The set design, devised by Cardona, makes space an integral part of Everywhere by incorporating a series of 3-foot by 4-inch pillars placed in a grid, four feet apart, covering the entire stage. The effect quantifies the space, giving the audience something to focus on besides the performers. The pillars are also reconfigured throughout the performance to become part of the choreography.

The set-up has its challenges: During one rehearsal, as dancers Joanna Kotze and Kathryn Sanders expertly navigated the maze of pillars, two of the posts toppled loudly to the floor. This sort of mishap, though, is in part what attracted Cardona to the props. “I love that a solid object that only moves if you move it [can] be such a lively partner,” he says.

The Roadblocks

is different from Cardona’s other works in that it includes five dancers instead of the usual four, but the additional cast member wasn’t an artistic decision. While at Jacob’s Pillow, Sanders was hit by a car and broke her coccyx. Uncertain of whether she would recover in time for BAM, Cardona asked recent Juilliard grad Kana Kimura to fill in, having enjoyed her performance at Juilliard’s senior showcase in April 2005.

The remaining members of the company, who were accustomed to performing as a cohesive unit, needed to adjust to the addition of a new performer, while Kimura was faced with the emotional challenge of assimilating into a company that had been working together for several years. When Sanders recovered, Cardona decided to keep Kimura in the piece: “I felt that this was the hand we were dealt and I’m not going to pretend that it didn’t happen and say ‘Kana, thank you very much, bye-bye.’ It felt like someone had come into our family and I wanted to embrace that.” Even so, there are no plans to change the company’s name to Wally Cardona Quintet.

opens December 13th at BAM’s Harvey Theater. For more: