MMDC History & Manifesto

Last updated on March 28, 2014

Magpie Music Dance Company (1995-2005) Overview

MMDC the venues, performances
MMDC was initiated in 1995 with a promise among the artists collective to collaborate with live music and dance without the use of pre set materials or chance mechanisms. MMDC have spent the past 10 years in research of this area adopting choice as the means by which the choreography and composition is realized. This use of choice has evolved into an interactive performance form.

The company formed in 1995 with dancers Katie Duck, Eileen Standley, Vincent Cacialono, Martin Sonderkamp, Sharon Smith and musician Michael Vatcher. Katie Duck initiated with Robert Steijn an improvisation festival (yearly event 1995-99) held at the Frascati Theater where Robert was programmer. This was done with a five year plan in mind so that a context for the MMDC work could be built in the Nederland’s and a history for funding the word “improvisation”.

In 1995 Katie met Ellen Knops at the Fijnhout Theater where she was employed as the house light designer. Katie and Ellen did performances at the Fijnhout collaborating on the choreographies “Law” and “Cube” and in improvised events. Ellen joined the Magpie collective as a light designer working in live time. 

In 1995 Katie initiated the Muiderpoort theater series. Magpie did one performance per month on the last Sunday. Michael Vatcher invited music artists for each of these events introducing the dancers to members from the Ex band, traditional African drummers, jazz musicians, electronic musicians, lap top musicians among many others. Within this period at the Muiderpoort Theater Michael Schumacher and Vitor Garcia were added to the dance group. The Muiderpoort series included guest dancers. 

In 1999 Katie moved the series to the more centralized location in Amsterdam, the Melkweg. Mary Oliver became the music director and began forming a more precise music group. Vitor Garcia left the country to be the ballet master for the Portugal ballet, Masako Noguchi and Sylvain Meret were added to the dance group. In 2002 Magpie shifted their Amsterdam series to the OT301. They are running their series in Amsterdam there presently.

In 2002, 2003, 2004 MMDC received national project funding (FPK): Fingers in the pie / PI-PIED / BLINK. In order to apply for project funds they needed to find titles for their yearly plan which incorporated experiments that furthered their main aim: interactive live events of music and dance.

They have toured through out the world using contacts from Katie’s past career as a choreographer and performer. They have managed to conduct an average of four tours per year since they started. They have been awarded national travel funds for international tours and embassy’s.

In 1997 Katie initiated PIA (Production for independent artists – a workshop series). This series allowed for a yearly company workshop, workshops for the individuals in the company and workshops for artists in the Amsterdam community. PIA became Magpie Workshops by 2004. MMDC are now running a workshop series holding a company workshop yearly as well as workshops for the company members through out the year. These workshops have made it possible for the company to continue their research in different student clusters.

Magpie began to develop a database of email addresses by 1995 when they began their monthly series in their Amsterdam bases. This database has evolved within the expert hands of Tom Koch. Tom has developed their website and general internet access which is fundamental in how they are able to communicate their work internationally and nationally in both their performance series and workshops.

In 1996 Isabelle Vigier began taking photographs of the MMDC in rehearsals and performances. She developed this into a series of posters which were used monthly in Amsterdam to announce their performances. The posters and general visual designs by Isabelle Vigier have given MMDC a face which is artistically unique for Dance Company’s.

History of International  work
1996 – England, Belgium, Germany, USA
1997 – Poland, USA, Belgium, Germany, Brazil, USA (NY and DC), Belgium
1998 – Spain, Austria, Belgium, Germany
1999 – USA (NY), Switzerland, Austria, Spain,
2000 USA (NYC), Austria, Spain, Belgium
2001 – Belgium, Spain, Austria, Germany
2002 – Russia, USA (NYC, Seattle and San Francisco), Canada, France, Spain
2003 – Austria, France, Spain, USA (NYC)
2003-2004 – Sweden, Spain, France, Germany, New Zealand (Auckland and Wellington)
2004-2005 Budapest, Hungary, USA (DC, San Diego, California)
2006 -7 – (projected tours) England, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, USA

Manifesto for rehearsal
In 1993 dancers Katie Duck, Eileen Standley, Vincent Cacialano, Martin Sonderkamp and musician Michael Vatcher were working at The School for New Dance Development in Amsterdam NL. The School offered a facility for the practice of dance. They decided to get together initially to make set choreographies: Macha, Law and Cube.  Often jams and add-hock improvisation performances were held at the SNDO facility involving people who had not collaborated or collected or met prior to the events. These performances mixed live music with dance.

Out of the experiences of the choreographies they made, as well as improvisations they were involved in, as well as the state of the dance field and the state of the arts in general at that time, Katie, Eileen, Vincent, Martin decided to meet in studios together to address in practice critical issues about live dance and music events. They met in the studio with a manifesto which has evolved to be:

No themes, no allusions, no guidance to the audience given through titles
No dramaturgic enquires based on singular themes or ideas /no planned or predicted intentional drama
No materials will be preset in time or space (i.e. no structured improvisation or constructed indeterminacy)
No choreographer composer
No exploitation of the dancer or musician
No excessive ego-tripping at the expense of the whole
No private self-conscious explorations on the stage
No systems of class or economics defined for the public
No to unnecessary squandering of funds for costumes, objects or sets
No to compromising the meaning of the word “live”
No to hiding the origins of a place where we play (black curtains)
No to pretension
No to personal authorship on posters, programs or any form of public announcement for performances.
No to auditions.

Yes to risk
Yes to choice
Yes we perform anywhere and everywhere
Yes to continual process-based practice
Yes to collective
Yes to serendipity
Yes to sensitivity
Yes to funding
Yes to long-term commitment for the practice and the individual artists in the collective
Yes to dancing and playing music as a means to understand theories
Yes to dialogue between the dancers and musicians
Yes to debate
Yes to liberty of all choices for the practicing artist (costume, object, text, dance, music) 
Yes to making formal structures in real-time
Yes to all dance techniques
Yes to all music genres
Yes to paying the artist
Yes to gender equality
Yes to technology both old and new
Yes to enquiry as to how the body works
Yes to discussion and understanding relationships between music and dance
Yes to understanding the relationships between body and object
Yes to understanding how dance is danced
Yes to internet access
Yes to play
Yes to laughter in the performances
Yes to the notion that live performance art forms will be extinct in the next 10 years
Yes to a revolution in dance and music
Yes to brick walls and concrete floors
Yes to weird places
Yes to the unexpected
Yes to adapt or die

History rehearsals in studios at the theater school
(1998) in studio 7 1995- 1996 Muiderpoort / Improvisation Dance rehearsals periodically with live music
Text, Microphone, Object, Costume,
Tension, Connection, Presence,
Choreography: unison, counterpoint, fugue, cannon, phrasing, suspension-release of space
Time equals timing
The value of space in time. Pause, flow, exit
The body, the music

1996-1997 Muiderpoort / Improvisation Dance rehearsals periodically with live music
Constellations. Collective. Collaborations.
Layering. Text, object, themes, sound, body…….perspective
The body, the music

1997-1998 Muiderpoort / Improvisation Dance rehearsals periodically with live music
Musicians move around in the space
The dancers join the band. Be with the band.
The value of space in relation to choices in time.
The center of the room includes the public.
The back stage is the on stage
The body, the music

1998-1999 Muiderpoort / Improvisation Dance rehearsals periodically with live music
Climbing the walls.
Common space with musicians
Using the whole space
Use of the doors
Presence – on stage is off stage
The Body, the Music

1999-2000 Muiderpoort-Melkweg / Improvisation Dance rehearsals always with live music
The Show
The battle
Sticking to the rules and breaking them
The Body
The Music – sound
Partnering, touch, see, and hear
Alexander technique
The body, the music – see, hear

2000 Melkweg / Improvisation Dance rehearsals always with live music
No more guests
Break the rules, do it wrong and see how it really works
Interact with the public
Interact with the musicians and dancers
Interact with the space (use the foyer)
Presence – on stage is off stage – use the foyer
The body, the music
See, hear, and feel

2001 –2005 Melkweg – Overtoom 301 / Improvisation Dance rehearsals always with live music
There are no rules
Improvisations Interactive potential
Alexander technique
Ear- Eye-Brain-Body
The eye is the ear, the ear is the eye
Reverse- exit
Physical charged large group choreographies in small spaces
The body, the music, the ear, the eye, feels