Project Proposal

I submitted this proposal in October 2009 as the Letter of Inquiry for the first stage of a grant application.  My proposal was accepted and I will submit a complete application in mid January 2010 with work samples, timeline, and budget.

Using movement, sound, and video projection, Bring On The Lumiere will evoke some of the most memorable scenes from cinema’s early history.  Traces of biographical data will mingle with fiction to create a fantastical journey in which the Lumiere Brothers find themselves trapped inside their own films.  The project will premiere in an alternative warehouse space in San Francisco in 2011.  We intend to perform the work in a similar space in downtown Manhattan in 2012.  We will seek partnerships with science and cinema institutions such as the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, Queens, to facilitate audience outreach and exchange. The project will be developed during creative residencies at ODC Theater in San Francisco and other US arts institutions.

In lieu of a straightforward biographical approach, Bring On The Lumiere will illustrate a dream-like fiction world in which scenes from the Lumiere Brothers’ lives collide with scenes from their films, such as Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory and Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat. While casting for the project is not yet complete, the brothers will be played by two female performers with equal backgrounds in theater, dance, mime, and clowning.  While I am inspired by history, I am not interested in making work that is didactic.  My goal for this specific project is to take the audience on a fantastical journey through a three dimensional filmic landscape, into thoughtful reflection on hope, scientific discovery, and physical impermanence.   Audience outreach is a crucial concern of mine, and my work resonates with dance enthusiasts and newcomers alike because it is based in history, incorporates a cinematic aesthetic, and combines humor and irony with more abstract themes.

My work reflects all the different genres and media that I have practiced and been exposed to: movement-theater, art history, painting, music, and documentary film.  I use history as a springboard for abstract emotional portraits, where the end result is a multi-layered dance open to interpretation.  Extensive research on a specific historical topic allows me to isolate themes that shed light on the present.  This in-depth exploration gives my choreography its clear focus and narrative context.

So far in my career as a director and choreographer I have created several performances that are based on modern myth and idiosyncratic stories that reflect the zeitgeist of the moment. Examples of these stories include: the man with the Guinness Record for being struck by lightning seven times, hysterical women from the Salpetriere hospital in Paris, and Joshua Norton, a beloved San Francisco eccentric who in 1859 proclaimed himself Emperor of the United States.

What interests me particularly about the Lumiere Brothers is how their films speak to the basic human desire to preserve and recreate itself through reproductive media.  The Brothers are by no means the only founders of modern cinema, but they are particularly well known for bringing cinema to the masses.  The working class was both the subject of many of the films as well as the intended audience, which helped to provoke a new sort of class-consciousness among the proletariat.  I believe that the current accessibility of video-sharing technology (through cell phones, camcorders, and the internet) has brought a new kind of self-awareness to the American public on a mass scale, and that a performance piece that subtly explores this basic human impulse would resonate with a wide range of contemporary audiences.

I am a bi-coastal artist dividing my life and work equally between San Francisco and New York.  I am the youngest Artist-in-Residence at San Francisco’s ODC Theater, and in less than 3 years as a professional artist, I have created over 12 different performance pieces, and been presented at 15 different venues.  I have received a Swing Space grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, funding from the Zellerbach Family Foundation and the Bossak/Heilbron Charitable Foundation, and residencies at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna, Florida, and Duo Multicultural Arts Center in  Manhattan. I am a free-lance choreographer, fiscally sponsored by ODC Theater, and collaborate with dancers and performers on a project-to-project basis.

This grant would come at a timely moment in my development as an emerging artist. My work is gaining momentum and recently I have begun to receive high-caliber opportunities, commissions, and my first space and monetary grants.  These opportunities make me realize that I need a certain amount of financial capital to ensure the space and time needed to create strong work, as well as a solid professional cast. This  would provide a crucial opportunity to build on the recognition that my work has just begun to accumulate, and would have a long-lasting impact on my career.

Thank you, in advance, for your consideration.

Catherine Galasso

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