All Eyes on Volta: The Neighborhood Dance Collective
– VOL. 14
Mamie Green and Meg Paradowski started their dance collective Volta in the middle of the pandemic when in-person performances were rare. After months of performances on film, the collective could finally begin to entertain live audiences, and the duo prioritized planning performances in nontraditional spaces.
One of those spaces was Venn’s Downtown LA launch party last month. The performance was a perfect synthesis of that special magic that happens when art comes alive in the neighborhood, and it was just another example of the collaborations that Volta invites in all their projects.
Volta initially performed much of the show’s choreography at the Museum of Neon Art in Glendale. The museum’s director Corrie Siegel invited Volta and gave them free rein to tell the stories of the museum through performance. Meg and Mamie worked with a sound architect to gather recordings of people who had donated to the museum telling the stories about the signs. The performance was a multi-media effort inspired by both the signs and the stories.
The troupe performed in April at Venn’s DTLA launch party which was hosted in a side alley of Santee Street.
“So we were really inspired by the signs themselves in the Neon Museum. And then we actually shaped the movement to exist in the site-specific area,” Mamie said. “So all of it was shaped by the physical space, as well as the stories that were being told. We do that with all of our work.”
For the Museum of Neon Art costumes, Volta worked with Carol Young, a designer who operates a studio and boutique in Los Feliz, a neighborhood near Downtown LA. Adding Carol’s local perspective made the project so much richer, says Mamie, explaining that collaboration “can take you to places that you can never [reach] by yourself.”
“It’s also a great way to bring even more audiences together,” Meg added. “At our Museum of Neon Art show, for example, we had people that are just fans of Carol’s work coming in to see the costumes… and then we get to bring all these audiences together and connect people in that way.”
Similarly, when Volta performed excerpts of the choreography at the Venn launch party, they worked with Under Construction LA for costumes. Creative director and tastemaker Iliana de Boisblanc and event producer and curator Ravid Levy are neighbors in the Downtown LA Venn community and met Volta through Venn.
Mamie and Meg collaborated with Venn neighbors Iliana de Boisblanc and Ravid Levy for the dancer’s costumes.
Not only does the location of the venue affect Volta’s work, but also their neighborhood. Both Meg and Mamie agree that working in the avant-garde art space in LA is a unique experience. They know many of the contemporary choreographers in the area, and many of their friends have worked with LA’s major companies.
“Something that’s been beautiful for us is the more avant-garde, contemporary dance scene in LA is actually quite small and kind of exists in its own bubble within this big sea of the entertainment industry that makes up most of LA,” said Meg.
It also makes collaboration more attainable since there are always people around to connect one another to different artists. “Luckily we have been able to reach out to other people in the field to be a part of our work and view it as well and offer feedback,” said Meg. “So it’s been really constructive and supportive in that way.”
Mamie and Meg said that working in Los Angeles has also felt different than the previous cities where they’ve lived. Paradowski compared LA to New York, where she felt there were more opportunities for dancers but less space for choreographers to create their own thing.
“Within our hub of East LA, it’s a little bit smaller, so we are able to get connected to people through friends and things like that, which are a little bit less attainable when there are just so many more options,” Meg said.
In addition to collaborating with artists across mediums, one of Volta’s goals is to make contemporary dance accessible to all kinds of viewers. Working with Venn, which strives to create communities within neighborhoods, helps them achieve that goal.
Meg and Mamie have been appreciative of the platform Venn has provided, “giving us that time and space and also their audience, [which] is different than ours,” Mamie said. “So we’re just grateful to have a new set of eyes watching our work and connecting to it.”
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