Jill Anna Ponasik on Collaboration

Jill Anna Ponasik, Artistic Director of Milwaukee Opera Theatre,  is a favorite at Danceworks. Her bright eyes and contagious laugh make  working together a sheer pleasure. Read on to see what she has to say about Façade, our latest project together.  –Deb Farris

Jill Anna Ponasik
Jill Anna Ponasik

On Collaboration

Some art-making is solitary. The hours in a practice room, or studio, or those spent sitting poised in front of a blank screen, awaiting the first key-stroke. The discoveries made alone are essential to our advancement as artists. This is where we hone our craft and gain mastery over our materials.

But for me, the real excitement, the pay-off for all of the hours alone, is in co-creating with another artist. Having had the privilege of developing two pieces with the extraordinary company at Danceworks (First, Maria de Buenos Aires and now, Façade), I can say with experience that the exhilaration of watching and working as an idea bounces back and forth between collaborators, changing and growing as it goes, is addicting. Scarcely is one project finished before we begin dreaming up the next.

My favorite definition of collaboration belongs to Michael Schrage: “Collaboration is the process of shared creation – two or more individuals with complementary skills interacting to create a shared understanding that none had previously possessed or could have come to on their own.”

Jill Anna doing her best DPC dancer impersonation.
Jill Anna doing her best DPC dancer impersonation.

That last part is key. The result of a successful collaboration is an event, product, discovery or process, that you couldn’t have developed alone. There are some things that we cannot accomplish in the practice room.

When I stand on the balcony and see the Danceworks Performance Company fill the Milwaukee Theatre Atrium with movement, while the Milwaukee Chamber Orchestra plays William Walton’s score and our Milwaukee Opera Theatre artists recite Edith Sitwell’s kooky text, I know with certainty that Façade is a piece that none of us could produce single-handedly. We need each other to make this particular dream a reality. And needing each other is a beautiful thing.

When this particular project concludes on Saturday, we’ll all return to the studio, and the practice room, to continue our individual work, that we may be prepared for the collaboration waiting around the corner. I wonder what that will be.  —Jill Anna Ponasik

The Milwaukee Theatre pictured at night.
The Milwaukee Theatre, pictured at night.

Ticket reservations for Façade can be made by calling the Milwaukee Theatre:1-414-908-6035. Walk up tickets at the Milwaukee Theatre are also available.

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