ARTIST SPOTLIGHT 03: MORIAH ELLA MASON

Get to know Moriah Ella Mason, choreographer and dancer, and 3 of 12 presented artists during our upcoming performance series, Volume VI, Issue I. from March 11 to 13, 2016. Influenced by Jewish heritage and queer identity, Moriah Ella explores movement from memory and daily ritual, illuminating concepts of privilege, and delving into Barbra Streisand as an icon of Jewish womanhood. Learn more about Moriah Ella Mason on our Artist Spotlight and see her work in Program 01: Female Forms + Program 04: Sound Score.

Moriah Ella Mason

Photo by Alejandro Pinzon

Photo by Alejandro Pinzon

Three words that Describe your Choreography
Vulnerable, funny, Jew-ish.

About Moriah Ella
Moriah Ella Mason studied choreography at Sarah Lawrence College. After working with newARTiculations in Tucson, AZ, Ella moved to Pittsburgh, PA to pursue her own choreographic endeavors. Her work has been presented at the New Hazlett Theater, Future Tenant Gallery, Pearlarts Studios, the Philly Fringe Festival, and the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater in PIttsburgh, PA. 

About Moriah Ella's Creative Process
Studio practice and performance are my methods of thinking aloud. I like to steal movements from memory, daily ritual, or relevant media as a beginning point for choreography, to then find the emotional seat of the work through improvisation. Even in solo works, I am collaborative and need the friction of other minds to create. I like to invite other artists to offer critique through conversation and play.

Photo by Ross Marshall

Photo by Ross Marshall

Do you work in other mediums other than dance/performance? If so, what, and how/why did you get into it?
In addition to dance, I work in film, text, and installation. Different works “ask” to be made in different media.  I first began using film when I became involved as a co-director and producer of an independent short documentary titled The Groundwater Up Project in 2010. I have created several dance works for the camera, both independently and in collaboration with other filmmakers. I’ve given myself permission to experiment freely with medium and form and in doing so I have found more of my performance work to incorporate other disciplines like text, installation, and oral history. I’ve also been enjoying some of the benefits of creation that is not ephemeral or time-bound in the manner of live performance.

What influenced the concept/work that you are presenting at the CURRENT SESSIONS? 
I was inspired by Baker y Tarpaga’s intersectional work Beautiful Struggle; it demonstrated how large concepts like privilege can be illuminated through biography and relationship as well as visual metaphors.  My use of text is inspired by working with Levi Gonzalez during a composition workshop at Movement Research this past summer. Conversation with a friend led me to explore visual artist Barbara Kruger’s appropriative use of Andy Warhol’s techniques in her works depicting Barbra Streisand and thus center Streisand as an icon of Jewish womanhood in the solo.

What is one of your most memorable moments of an artist, thus far?
One of the first works I produced independently in Pittsburgh was a small quartet that I adapted and performed over the subsequent months in a variety of locations - each version was site-specific and involved collaboration with a different musician. My favorite version was a dance installation in a local park that the audience hiked through on a one mile loop. I increased my cast from 4 to 15, dividing up material and themes from the original and crafting it for small groups of dancers and musicians to explore on a series of natural stages formed by the hilly landscape. It was summer and the light coming through the trees gave everyone's skin a luminescent quality. I led the audience through the woods, slowly unraveling my costume, a red knit dress, leaving a trail of red in the dirt behind me. As the dress was nearly demolished an audience member's German Shepard puppy grabbed onto the last shred and we danced a tug of war down the hillside and through the mud. The performance was the most satisfying combination of considered and rehearsed material, scouting, and planning complimented by chance, surprise, and that ephemeral feeling of anything can happen.  Folks jogging through the park and families with kids stopped their planned outings and became absorbed with the intentional audience. There was a sense of magic and possibility.

Connect with Moriah Ella Mason on Facebook.

See Moriah Ella Mason in Volume VI, Issue I., on Friday, March 11 at 7:30pm + Sunday, March 13 at 7pm.

Volume VI, Issue I. is happening March 11 to 13, 2016 at the wild project.
See the full schedule and get tickets here.