Springboard for the Arts’ artist residency is back after a brief hiatus due to COVID-19 and, while it doesn’t look exactly like it did before, dancer Molly Kay Stoltz is still happy to be a part of it and to see it moving forward.
Rather than the usual potluck meet and greet at Springboard’s Fergus Falls offices, community members were able to see and speak with Stoltz through a Zoom meeting on Tuesday, May 12, organized by Springboard. Additionally, instead of coming to Fergus Falls to complete the two week residency, Stoltz is working from home, in a sense, through dance studios she has access to in Minneapolis. Rather than dancing in the studio space above the Bakken building, she’ll be working out of Ballare Teatro Performing Arts Center, where she teaches, and Zorongo Flamenco Dance Theatre and School, where she performs. “I’m sad that I’m not able to be there with you, but lucky to have the resources here to still do my thing,” she says.
Stoltz graduated with a B.F.A. in dance from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities in 2009, focusing on tap and jazz. She then moved to Chicago to study with Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, a Chicago-based jazz company, and Chicago Tap Theatre, a tap company. When she moved back to the Twin Cities about seven years ago, she decided to try something new, auditioning for an apprenticeship at Zorongo Flamenco, despite having never done flamenco before.
“When I first started flamenco dance, I cried for the first year through classes, it was so hard. I took a year to try to understand what was going on with the music. After a few years I got to the point where I could do solos and now ... I’m at a different point where I’m finally able to comprehend what’s going on with the music, what’s going on with the whole form of it and do my own work,” she says.
The flamenco Stoltz performs and Zorongo Flamenco performs aren’t just music and dance, they also tell stories. They do puppet shows and dances for children throughout Minnesota that teach about things like bullying and immigration. Stoltz isn’t just interested in creating new dances, but creating dances that have something to say.
Stoltz also performs with Joe Chvala and the Flying Foot Forum, another company that marries dance and storytelling. “The most recent show I did with Flying Foot Forum was last summer, it was called ‘Heaven’ and it was a story of the Bosnian conflict, so really dark material, honestly, but a musical about that conflict, using true stories from the conflict to kind of tell a story about what people went through during that time, which felt really relevant to current events, too,” she says. She’s also inspired by their amazing ability to combine a number of different dance styles to create something new and interesting: “The dance isn’t just one form of dance, it’s tap dance, it’s jazz, it’s ballet, it’s Appalachian clogging, it’s a little bit of flamenco … this company is just all over the map.”
During her residency, she hopes to bring all these influences together, combining music and dance styles and telling a story in the process. This past February, Stoltz traveled to Spain and studied a specific style of flamenco called solea, so she wants to incorporate that, highly traditional dance, but in an unconventional way.
She’ll be working with professional guitarist Ben Abrahamson to take a Dave Brubeck jazz song called “Roulette” and arranging it for guitar, merging it with a flamenco solea and seeing how it feels together and what movements she can come up with based on that. She’ll be drawing a lot on her experiences in Spain, specifically of a bath she frequented while studying there. “It was just this amazing experience, just floating in water, they had different temperatures, and just being able to completely relax and be in this foreign place and have this moment of not having to worry about anything, and you don’t often have those moments in your life,” she says. “I also thought a lot about how water, when you step into it, it ripples, and if other people were sitting in the bath with me, it’s not like I intended to affect them but those ripples would affect them and it makes me think a lot about where we are right now, where we all affect each other perhaps without intention, but we all are in this pool together and these ripples go out and what that means.”
Stoltz returned from Spain at the beginning of March, just as COVID-19 began to really hit, so she got back to the United States only to immediately begin quarantine. She also teaches dance and all of those lessons have moved online to Zoom, an interesting transition that has taught her a lot about being a better teacher to students with different learning needs. Her full-time job, which she has taken a break from for the residency, is working at a long-term care and memory care facility in their short-term rehab unit, which is now also taking care of residents who test positive for COVID-19.
Springboard will be hosting another Zoom meeting with Stoltz that’s open to the community on Friday, May 22 to share what she’s worked on.