DDT’s Kareem B. Goodwin Makes His Choreographic Debut in Mute

Source Dog Bark Media LLC

Dog Bark Media interviews Dissonance Dance Theatre’s newest choreographic voice as he debuts as the Co-Choreographer in Mute: Dance Silenced By COVID. A part of Ngoma’s Film Works program, the film is now a Cannes World Film Festival Nominee.

The recently appointed Resident Choreographer of Dissonance Dance Theatre (www.ngcfdtt.org), made his choreographic film debut with the now Cannes World Film Festival Nominee film Mute: Dance Silenced by COVID. We caught up with Mr. Goodwin to answer a few questions.

1.  Where is home for you? 
Home for me is Philadelphia, PA – also known as – the city of brotherly love. I was born and raised here.

2.  Where did you study dance and where was there a location that was significant in your training?

I began my training at 10 years old, at the Point Breeze Performing Arts Center (PBPAC) in South Philadelphia. I started taking tap. That was my dance home until I was 18. I was taught by some of the GREATS; Charon Mapp. Wayne St. David, Anthony Burrell, the Late Faye B. Snow among others. PBPAC was where my foundation and passion for dance was ignited. Through PBPAC, I was given opportunities to go to intensive programs at The Philadelphia Dance Company (PHILADANCO), The University of Wyoming, Koresh School of Dance, etc.

University of the Arts was where I furthered my studies with professors that help to build on the foundation that was set for me; Molly Misgalla, Ronen Koresh, Kim Bears-Bailey, Karen Brown, Zane Booker, Eva Szabzo along with a bevy of others.

Curt Haworth was the major influence, for my love and intention in creating dance – he showed me that I had a creative voice. To this day in my process, I hear his voice in my head saying “counterpoint, counterpoint…”

3 .  Mute: Dance Silenced by COVID featured stories of dancers and choreography by you and Dissonance Dance Theatre’s Principal Choreographer/Founder Shawn Short. How was the process of choreographing for film vs stage? 

Choreographing/rehearsing for film production was totally different for me. Now add the COVID pandemic – and its complications – on top of that. For stage, you have the energy of a live audience, the vast range of the space. For the film, I had to figure out how movement can radiate through a screen and be captured to maintain the attention of the viewer.

4. You are a Resident Choreographer for Dissonance Dance Theatre, did this new opportunity assist in your creative process?

Firstly, yes I am humbled to be the Resident Choreographer for Dissonance Dance Theatre.

The position has been a constant reminder, that there is so much to learn and to unlearn at the same time. Before this specific project was mentioned to me, I remembered the initial conversation with Mr. Short about the project on New Years’ Eve 2020.  This film process has reminded me of the importance of project deadlines, critical thinking, and extending grace not only to others but to myself. It has shifted my views of choreographing in person; how I convey my thoughts. It has shown me a new avenue to create work; how to set it up. Make dance into a well-thought-out story, not just steps that happen to blend with the music.

The writing alone (many, many, and many drafts of this story) has retaught me one lesson…BEYONCE WAS NOT BUILT IN A DAY lol! This film project has made me excited to get back in the studio full-time with the company to create compelling and compassionate work – when COVID permits.

5. As a Black choreographer have you found many innovative projects, such as Mute, and do you think more opportunities such as these are necessary and a “sign of the times”?

As a black choreographer, I have seen many digital projects over the course of this pandemic. But none like this. I truly believe that these practices and concepts are totally foreign to the majority of BIPOC creatives.

I was often asked, why are you writing so much if this is a dance project. I even questioned myself at first about it. But through it, you begin to see the parallels between dance and film. Yes, you can create visual content, but are you able to truly structure a story and narrative that can maintain the project outside of movement and visual editing? Are these projects the sign of the times? ABSOULTELY! I believe this avenue is a way to reach those and pull in those who are not avid theater patrons. These projects will foster collaborations, with filmmakers, animators, and playwrights. Think of the marriage of music, dance, and theater that birthed musical theater for example. This is something that is revolutionary.

6. You’re a writer now! The film was adapted from your original script. Where did you learn to script write and where did you find motivation? 

I still truly struggle with the title “writer”.  I truly did this self-taught, I did my research, I read dozens of scripts for film. Writing down similarities and trends.

Mr. Short gave me exercises to build upon and would give very direct feedback. I honestly believe that man’s middle name is DIRECT lol. But did so in such a charismatic way that even if I did fumble, I didn’t feel ashamed to admit it. Motivation for the story was based on real experiences dance artists weren’t speaking, sharing,  or creating authentically. It was like they were talking but there was no sound.

7. Dancers haven’t really been working for almost a solid year, due to COVID. Did you take this into consideration when you created dance sequences? 

Honestly, NO! I felt that this process shouldn’t be watered down due to COVID. I’ve been assisting the cast by providing a form of a challenge and a push. While creating the dances, I grunted while doing pirouettes and leg extensions in the living room of my apartment lol. If I can do it, so can they.

Thankfully, I had the amazing Christine Motta ( Former DDT Soloist) as the Choreographer Assistant for the film production to buffer and translate my ideas to the cast if I stumbled.

8. After seeing the film, did any particular story speak to you personally?

The story of Josephine Starr. Her boldness resonated with me. As a black man in America, it’s refreshing when you can authentically feel a White person’s concern and sincerity. This was quite apparent in Starr’s film interview when she said, “You can check my a** if you need to.” There’s still hope, that “others” may begin to understand my community, somewhat.

9. What’s next for you? 

For me, I hope to continue developing myself as a creator. I’m looking to gain further opportunities to share my art, while creating on dance companies around the countries and abroad. Currently, I’m tinkering with the idea of self-producing an evening-length dance work. In the meantime, I am happily the Rehearsal Director for Grace Dance Theater 2, a pre-professional ensemble in Philadelphia where I get to mentor and help develop artists for dance and the pursuit of full-time careers in dance.

10. If you could sum up the film in three words, what would they be?

Bold, Compelling, Innovative.

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