What is FLOCK?
FLOCK is a constellation of distinct individuals who come together to interrogate the human experience and stretch the boundaries of contemporary dance through a shared sense of curiosity, play, and physical and emotional abandon. Under the artistic direction of Meryl Murman, our cohort of plucky, bold, colorful, ferocious MOTHERFLOCKERS flaunt our feathers to create disruptive, offbeat, engaged performances.
Here’s a little insight from the people currently in the rehearsal room with me regarding how we met and what we’ve shared.
If I were a bird, I would be a hummingbird, because they are small and fast.
I met Meryl during an audition for a piece at California Institute of the Arts. For me, FLOCK was born this summer during the shoot of ways of forgetting. I became part of this tribe after rehearsing, eating, sleeping and traveling together. It was a process of shedding layers and feathers, and sharing love and space. I really appreciate that the process is a collaboration with the performers as artists and humans, always honoring their individuality.
You can also see me at the airport when traveling frantically in between Mexico, New Orleans and Los Angeles to manage an international artistic career, long-distance friendships, and love.
If I was a bird I would be a dove. It represents peace, love and they are messengers. It’s a very strong but delicate creature.
I became part of FLOCK when I went to a unique audition. The work FLOCK makes is special because Meryl allows me to be my own person as a character in the piece and lets the movement be created from our own experiences.
You can also find me occasionally guest teaching a contemporary dance class at Dancing Grounds.
Calvin James Rowe
If I were a bird, I’d be a vulture. They look like old dignified kings, yet they clean up the messes no one else wants to deal with.
Meryl and I met through some contact improvisation workshops. Literally, we were in the same car pool together the first week I moved back to New Orleans. Meryl’s process is distinguishable for me in that often each dancer personally creates a phrase based off of a verbal directive or motif. We then work to blend these individual movements into collective phrase work, making each performer an integral part.
I can also be seen performing internationally with Lightwire Theater; I also recently performed in a contemporary version of Romeo and Juliet with Of Moving Colors.
If I were a bird I’d be an arctic tern. They are AMAZING fliers and travel from pole to pole!
I met Meryl and we had an amazing conversation about dance and the creative process. She invited me to take part in a few scenes of her film, le Pain. The first day I came to the shoot, I was super intrigued by the subject matter and it was such a joy to meet others with a similar movement background here in New Orleans. I joined FLOCK with our current piece, The Stop Suffering Project. It focuses on questions I have been researching for the past 20+ years. Meryl diligently takes rehearsal time to dive into each question and to truly give space for each performer to share their ideas and take ownership of their role. It is a much appreciated change of pace. I never know what to expect! (And I like that very much.)
You can also see me around town at daMata Healing Arts and Acupuncture on St. Claude in the Bywater, where I listen to people’s stories and, magically, assist them in healing by sticking them full of needles and kindness.
If I were a bird I would be a mother f*ckin’ extraordinary chicken! Because let’s face it- I may not be able to fly, but people enjoy my eggs and it’s always funny to watch me cross the road.
My first time experiencing Meryl’s work was on the catwalk in the CalArts Dance Theatre (because I am the Phantom of the [K]Op[L]era). I laughed so hard that I farted above a packed audience. Multiple times. (Sorry.) But the piece was so mesmerizing, crude, and touching that I watched it every night like a little kid in a tree house. The best part about Meryl’s work is that it’s always a living creature, never the same, which makes every show something special. What I enjoy most about being a part of Meryl’s processes is that it’s never expected of us to fit into a pre-imagined dancer mold. The dancer is foremost utilized as the human that they are in that exact moment. Meaning that our strengths and weaknesses are equally used — not hidden; our personalities are allowed to guide our journey; and the room of people is constantly on a journey of questions together. It’s all about our collective choices in the moment and our willingness to explore the next crazy idea.
Also seen chasing around neighborhood dogs in the Lower Garden District, pretending like they’re mine because my landlord doesn’t approve of dogs/happiness. That’s right, I’m coming for you, Mr. Sandwiches the blonde French Bulldog!
If I were a bird, I would be some species of crane. They dance. And as long as I can fly — not too picky.
I first met Meryl in an introductory dance class that she was teaching while completing her MFA in Choreography in California. The following year I worked on the creation and performance of her thesis ways of forgetting. The work FLOCK makes is distinct because of the importance of story, the importance of making a connection with the audience — as real of a connection as possible, and perhaps even an ugly or embarrassing one.
I can also be seen around town continuing development with the filmed version of ways of forgetting, or in various stage productions and films in Los Angeles.
If I were a bird I would be a crow. They have a fascinating sort of alien intelligence and possibly a theory of mind. They also may or may not be tricksters associated with the afterlife. Just like me.
Meryl and I have known each other since we were undergraduates at NYU/Tisch, long before FLOCK. I started working with her more seriously when she needed a replacement dancer for a scene in her film, Paper Cranes and Pendulum. She called me back to shoot an additional scene in New Orleans, and that whirlwind of a visit planted the seed that I might like to live in New Orleans. Someday. I stayed in New York and whenever Meryl’s adventures brought her back to the city, we’d work on something new. A tender duet about lies. A short drama about a true bird lady. In December of 2014, just as I was searching for my next chapter, I received an email with the subject line “if you feel like flocking…”
You can also see me around town slowly recovering from thirteen years of living in New York by walking along Magazine Street with my dog, working outside an LGD coffee shop or bar with my dog, and snoozing with my dog. I’m also the assistant director for SHIFT’s And the Stars Look Very Different Today, a new piece of devised theater directed by Gregory Durado and part of the Faux/Real festival.
If I were a bird I would be a pink spoonbill, because they’re gorgeous but also have this awkward look to them and I identify with that.
I met Meryl when some mutual friends recommended me for a project she was creating during her MFA at CalArts. I always think about how we, the performers, are integral to her pieces. Much of it deals with our authentic selves. Meryl doesn’t make the type of work that you can easily teach an entirely new cast and expect it to be the same; instead each version becomes a new creation incorporating and integrating the new cast member. This sets FLOCK apart from other companies.
You can also see me around town dancing with the Marigny Opera Ballet or biking too quickly back and forth across New Orleans.
If I were a bird I’d be a peacock. I’d get to strut around and pose all day. Because I don’t think my life should change just because I’m a bird.
I met Meryl when we taught dance together at the Contemporary Arts Center’s summer camp a few years in a row, and I realized her choreographic mind was genius. I think I was invited to join the FLOCK? I just started showing up to stuff. From process to process, FLOCK demands that each artist genuinely utilizes their individual human experience as it IS. To inform the piece we examine our truths — our inescapable responsibility for personal transgressions, the simple reality of consequences, encounters with major joys or sorrows. Entry points into the work are never about Meryl’s perception of our personhood; rather, we begin to find true connection rooted in how honestly we can express where we are with the experience of the self.
You can also see me around town in almost every Young Audiences Charter School classroom; facilitating theatre workshops/teaching classes at The Contemporary Arts Center throughout the year; and performing in “The Mutilated” at the CAC, November 19-22.
What bird? A bird with a mustache.
Meryl and Julian met on a film set over a discussion involving Capoeira, and camera angles. Then there were a bunch of sneaky rehearsals in trees and secret meetings over scotch. Cuz rules exist to be broken.
Julian can also be seen …well he’s a bit of an enigma. You probably can’t reach him by phone, or by email, or by social media, but when needed he’ll drop from a tree, or be spotted perched up on some dilapidated scaffolding smoking a cigarette watching over his fellow MOTHERFLOCKERS. Cuz he’s a ninja like that..
If I were a bird I would be a lyrebird. They can reproduce any sound, from children’s toys to construction tools to any other bird call. They have the audio equivalent of a photographic memory.
I met Meryl through my collaborator Tarren Johnson. We hit it off immediately, and Meryl spontaneously asked me if I’d like to be involved in a future project of hers. We have worked together for three years now, and hope to keep it going for the years to come! Meryl’s work does not limit itself to the boundaries of genre, a single art discipline, or what is socially acceptable. She is digging for an essence of human emotion and relationship that calls for an uninhibited intermingling of movement, words, sounds, and conceptual mapping that she sculpts out of her performer’s improvisations and natural inclinations. She gives a shape to material that is already there, in our lives or in the room, that only needs to be uncovered and beautified by an attentive gaze.
You can also see me playing my music in Paris, New York and Los Angeles, and you can hear me sing on several tracks of the the record Late Bloomers by Coromandelles (Cold War Kids, The Shins, Tijuana Panthers), for which I also co-wrote the song “New Ordain.”
If I were a bird I’d be a cockatiel. My grandmother always told me to eat sweet potatoes because they would put roses in my cheeks.
I “met” Meryl via email through a visual artist named Francis Wong, but we did not formally meet until I returned home after finishing my MFA at Ohio State. I started work on a piece featuring contact improv, and Meryl very generously helped me get that project off the ground. Later I worked on a couple scenes in le Pain, which was the beginning of my involvement with FLOCK. What I most appreciate about working with Meryl is the sense that my contributions and my general way of being are valued and valuable to her process. You know she’s glad you’re in the room. Not everyone has that attitude or skill. Being able to participate in the process from a place of confidence and support makes it easier for the work to get real and to get weird.
You can also find me behind the turntables at the HEATWAVE! Dance Party, running contact jams and morning contemporary dance classes through Known Mass, in fine literary publications and socially conscious media outlets such as Prairie Schooner, The Atlas Review, Antigravity, VIDA’s “Reports from the Field,” descant (Frank O’Connor Award for Short Fiction), and the anthology Please Forward: How Blogging Reconnected New Orleans After Katrina (UNO Press).
If I were a bird I would be a penguin, because swimming is awesome.
I knew Meryl for about three years before I actually saw one of her pieces. Our initial bond was built on the immediate pleasures of swing dancing and brownies. Then she wanted one of my bands to appear in le Pain. She brought the film crew to Royal Street where we were busking. Now we are working together on The Stop Suffering Project.
I can also be seen around town playing jazz trombone with the Jumbo Shrimp Jazz Band, Smoking Time Jazz Club, and Aurora Nealand and the Royal Roses. Occasionally he can be found rolling around on the floor in a contact jam.
If I were a bird I’d be a flamingo/hummingbird hybrid (that exists, right?). I can relate to the contradiction of buzzing quickly while still standing stoically still.
I first worked with Meryl on a music video, and when she approached me about being a part of The Lipstick, it was a no-brainer for me to participate. FLOCK has a distinct process that is very different than my experiences composing for other dance performances. The creation of the musical composition and choreography happens simultaneously. It blurs the line between who is leading whom — a concept we play with in the performance of The Lipstick. Exploring this aspect of improvisation both on stage and in rehearsal puts the dancers and musician in an excitingly vulnerable place that allows magic to happen.
You can also see me playing with New Orleans folk/rock band Little Maker and running the string program/coaching arts integration at Homer Plessy Community School.
If I were a bird I’d be a pelican. It would be so fun to be able to dive straight down into water from flying to catch fish. Plus they live in warm climates.
I first met Meryl through Laura Stein at Dancing Grounds when I was creating an improv score for Prospect 3. So we set up a meeting, hit it off, and next thing I knew we were moving in coveralls with huge cubes, glitter, post-its, sharpies, bean bags, and a camera. The current piece FLOCK is developing, The Stop Suffering Project, is my first experience working as part of her creative, movement-making process. It’s a true collaboration.
You can also see me around town as Studio Manager for Dancing Grounds and as a part-time dance instructor at Akili Academy for grades 5-8. I perform with FLOCK, Narcisse Movement Project, and Buku Dance Krewe and in my down time, you can find me at Avenue Pub.
If I were a bird I would want to be a mockingbird because I admire their mimetic nature and I seek to become more of a recording device.
Meryl and I connected first over a conversation about Toyi-toyi. Throughout the time I have worked with Meryl she has maintained her passion and integrity. FLOCK connects through an ambition of making meaningful work that empowers alternative perspectives and methodologies. FLOCK values content and puts the time and commitment towards realizing quality experiences.
You can also see me setting a new piece on FLOCK this winter in NOLA. Visit my website for more information about the work I make in Europe: tarrenjohnson.info
Featured photo at top by Daryl Getman (DAG Photography)