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This Modern Dance Power Couple Does EVERYTHING Together

By Brian Krogol, courtesy of OGD

For Colette Krogol and Matt Reeves, artistic directors of Orange Grove Dance and adjunct professors at George Washington University, cooking dinner each night is an extension of their collaborative, creative partnership. While the married couple uses this time to unwind from their busy lives, the conversation often returns to their work together, whether it be their newest project, most recent class or simply items left lingering on the to-do list. "Matt anchors it by cooking main courses, and I'm swirling around figuring out side dishes, condiments, drinks and feeding the dog," says Krogol. "Come to think of it, this anchor and swirling connects to many points in our lives in regards to our dancing, creative process, administrative tasks, chores…even our social life."



Photo by Jonathan Hsu, courtesy of OGD

Between teaching, making dances, directing a company and producing multimedia shows—plus all of the minute tasks each of those jobs entails—how do they stay present for each other, much less find time to cook? "We are fortunate because we are able to problem-solve together and share artistic burdens and stresses," says Reeves. "When one of us comes home exhausted, the other person understands."

After a decade together as a couple, skills they initially attributed to one another now feel like an extension of self. Each new work they build, and every class they teach, becomes part of a bigger investigation that is their life together. "There is something very idealistic about creating with someone who is your partner in love and life," says their longtime collaborator, Mark Costello. "It is often said the pinnacle of being an artist is 'living your art,' for better or worse. And in that sense, I find Matt and Colette's relationship to be something to strive toward."

Krogol and Reeves met as freshmen in the dance program of University of Florida in Gainesville. Both are from Florida, but their dance backgrounds could not have been more different. Krogol trained in a more traditional conservatory-style setting at New World School of the Arts, and Reeves came from musical theater and athletics. Yet, almost immediately they were attracted to each other's vastly different approaches. "Our movement preferences are so different," says Reeves. "I always look for diving and falling and throwing weight, and she has precision. She helps us to clean and find shapes, while I can emphasize a feeling."


Photo by Geoff Sheil, courtesy of OGD

By sophomore year, they had decided to create a duet. "We had no idea how to start," says Krogol. They began by making lists of words, opposites and options—"this or that, Coke or Pepsi"—and simply alternating the steps each made. They experimented with taking on each other's natural rhythm, a fascinating gambit, since Reeves is nearly a foot taller.

The work in the studio allowed them to grow as friends and become intimate as collaborators. Things didn't take a romantic turn until their senior year, when they returned to campus after a summer spent in different cities. "I called her, or maybe she called me," says Reeves, "and we never stopped hanging out. That year was a big leap forward for us."

After graduation, the two moved to New York City, and as the work they were doing together began to get produced, it seemed to demand a name. Hailing from different parts of Florida, their reference points to home were different. "But we both had a connection to orange groves," says Reeves, "and wanted to convey a blue-collar work ethic, to make dances for everyone, dances our friends and family would connect with." Orange Grove Dance was born. While dancing for the likes of Mark Dendy and Neta Dance Company and hustling side jobs, they choreographed and developed their new company. Forming a strong bond with a small group of collaborators (composers, dancers, filmmakers and designers), they began to pair their highly kinetic movement with projection and, eventually, dance film.

Photo by Zachary Handler, courtesy of OGD

Elements of the process they forged while making that first duet have stayed with them. "The first time we meet in the studio for an OGD creative process, Matt and Colette come with a list of words that they feel captures the tone and texture of the new work," says Robin Neveu Brown, who was in their undergrad work and has performed with OGD since 2015. From the words, individual choreography is crafted that will then be manipulated through a series of experiments. "Within the creative process, Colette is often more left-brained, handling choreographic details, crafting long movement sequences, setting count structure and generally managing logistics. Matt tends to function as the right half of the OGD brain and communicates in images and textures, making choreographic choices related to energy and space." Outside the studio, Krogol manages the schedule, while Reeves tackles editing and design work.

In 2014, the pair relocated to the DC area to attend the University of Maryland and became embedded in the dance scene there. They were recruited by George Washington University to teach, following the completion of their MFAs. "We have been fortunate thus far that when one of us is considered or recruited for an opportunity, it is difficult for our employers not to be enticed by the potential of having both our skill sets," says Krogol. "I think as we have prioritized OGD as the vessel for our creative work, it has helped to establish the strength of our artistic and teaching partnership." While they still work with collaborators who are now mostly spread between NYC, DC and L.A., a new group has coalesced around them, including a new sound designer, projection designers, costume designer and four to eight performers, who have loyally returned project after project.

In addition to teaching advanced modern and postmodern at GWU, they have been casting a wide net with their OGD projects, including a project at Dupont Underground and, this past March, a new evening-length work with original music composition and production design at the Kennedy Center. As their OGD calendar expands from project-based work toward yearly seasons, a growing need to build a capital campaign to fund it all has become more pressing.

Photo by Jonathan Hsu, courtesy of OGD

"Teaching can be exhausting, but it reenergizes me, and I leave inspired for more," says the high-energy Krogol. Each day is a grind, starting early and ending late, but working with BA students keeps them fresh as artists. "I started to see in grad school how teaching affects our research interests," says Reeves. "Your ability to be your best teacher translates into rehearsals, talk-backs and the ability to translate an idea." While the couple does hope to have a family one day, at the moment their hands are full with all of the costumes, props, marley floor, ladders, suitcases and dancers, who fill up their home before and after performances.

Do they sleep? The short answer is yes, but perhaps only to dream. Because, of course, when you love your work, and work with the person you love, sharing and analyzing those dreams with each other is simply another entry point into the creative process and a new project.

Music
Mary Malleney, courtesy Osato

In most classes, dancers are encouraged to count the music, and dance with it—emphasizing accents and letting the rhythm of a song guide them.

But Marissa Osato likes to give her students an unexpected challenge: to resist hitting the beats.

In her contemporary class at EDGE Performing Arts Center in Los Angeles (which is now closed, until they find a new space), she would often play heavy trap music. She'd encourage her students to find the contrast by moving in slow, fluid, circular patterns, daring them to explore the unobvious interpretation of the steady rhythms.


"I like to give dancers a phrase of music and choreography and have them reinterpret it," she says, "to be thinkers and creators and not just replicators."

Osato learned this approach—avoiding the natural temptation of the music always being the leader—while earning her MFA in choreography at California Institute of the Arts. "When I was collaborating with a composer for my thesis, he mentioned, 'You always count in eights. Why?'"

This forced Osato out of her creative comfort zone. "The choices I made, my use of music, and its correlation to the movement were put under a microscope," she says. "I learned to not always make the music the driving motive of my work," a habit she attributes to her competition studio training as a young dancer.

While an undergraduate at the University of California, Irvine, Osato first encountered modern dance. That discovery, along with her experience dancing in Boogiezone Inc.'s off-campus hip-hop company, BREED, co-founded by Elm Pizarro, inspired her own, blended style, combining modern and hip hop with jazz. While still in college, she began working with fellow UCI student Will Johnston, and co-founded the Boogiezone Contemporary Class with Pizarro, an affordable series of classes that brought top choreographers from Los Angeles to Orange County.

"We were trying to bring the hip-hop and contemporary communities together and keep creating work for our friends," says Osato, who has taught for West Coast Dance Explosion and choreographed for studios across the country.

In 2009, Osato, Johnston and Pizarro launched Entity Contemporary Dance, which she and Johnston direct. The company, now based in Los Angeles, won the 2017 Capezio A.C.E. Awards, and, in 2019, Osato was chosen for two choreographic residencies (Joffrey Ballet's Winning Works and the USC Kaufman New Movement Residency), and became a full-time associate professor of dance at Santa Monica College.

At SMC, Osato challenges her students—and herself—by incorporating a live percussionist, a luxury that's been on pause during the pandemic. She finds that live music brings a heightened sense of awareness to the room. "I didn't realize what I didn't have until I had it," Osato says. "Live music helps dancers embody weight and heaviness, being grounded into the floor." Instead of the music dictating the movement, they're a part of it.

Osato uses the musician as a collaborator who helps stir her creativity, in real time. "I'll say 'Give me something that's airy and ambient,' and the sounds inspire me," says Osato. She loves playing with tension and release dynamics, fall and recovery, and how those can enhance and digress from the sound.

"I can't wait to get back to the studio and have that again," she says.

Osato made Dance Teacher a Spotify playlist with some of her favorite songs for class—and told us about why she loves some of them.

"Get It Together," by India.Arie

"Her voice and lyrics hit my soul and ground me every time. Dream artist. My go-to recorded music in class is soul R&B. There's simplicity about it that I really connect with."

"Turn Your Lights Down Low," by Bob Marley + The Wailers, Lauryn Hill

"A classic. This song embodies that all-encompassing love and gets the whole room groovin'."

"Diamonds," by Johnnyswim

"This song's uplifting energy and drive is infectious! So much vulnerability, honesty and joy in their voices and instrumentation."

"There Will Be Time," by Mumford & Sons, Baaba Maal

"Mumford & Sons' music has always struck a deep chord within me. Their songs are simultaneously stripped-down and complex and feel transcendent."

"With The Love In My Heart," by Jacob Collier, Metropole Orkest, Jules Buckley

"Other than it being insanely energizing and cinematic, I love how challenging the irregular meter is!"

For Parents

Darrell Grand Moultrie teaches at a past Jacob's Pillow summer intensive. Photo Christopher Duggan, courtesy Jacob's Pillow

In the past 10 months, we've grown accustomed to helping our dancers navigate virtual school, classes and performances. And while brighter, more in-person days may be around the corner—or at least on the horizon—parents may be facing yet another hurdle to help our dancers through: virtual summer-intensive auditions.

In 2020, we learned that there are some unique advantages of virtual summer programs: the lack of travel (and therefore the reduced cost) and the increased access to classes led by top artists and teachers among them. And while summer 2021 may end up looking more familiar with in-person intensives, audition season will likely remain remote and over Zoom.

Of course, summer 2021 may not be back to in-person, and that uncertainty can be a hard pill to swallow. Here, Kate Linsley, a mom and academy principal of Nashville Ballet, as well as "J.R." Glover, The Dan & Carole Burack Director of The School at Jacob's Pillow, share their advice for this complicated process.

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Teachers Trending

From left: Anthony Crickmay, Courtesy Dance Theatre of Harlem Archives; Courtesy Ballethnic

It is the urgency of going in a week or two before opening night that Lydia Abarca Mitchell loves most about coaching. But in her role as Ballethnic Dance Company's rehearsal director, she's not just getting the troupe ready for the stage. Abarca Mitchell—no relation to Arthur Mitchell—was Mitchell's first prima ballerina when he founded Dance Theatre of Harlem with Karel Shook; through her coaching, Abarca Mitchell works to pass her mentor's legacy to the next generation.

"She has the same sensibility" as Arthur Mitchell, says Ballethnic co-artistic director Nena Gilreath. "She's very direct, all about the mission and the excellence, but very caring."

Ballethnic is based in East Point, a suburban city bordering Atlanta. In a metropolitan area with a history of racism and where funding is hard-won, it is crucial for the Black-led ballet company to present polished, professional productions. "Ms. Lydia" provides the "hard last eye" before the curtain opens in front of an audience.

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