We were invited to Gynaeceum one of your shows at the double door which was a mind blowing experience of inspiration which left us high off of it for weeks maybe even a month. We immediate took notes and wanted to hear from the ingenuity of the team who put this on so we tracked down Ali Hodson (Managing Director of PRC and lead producer for Gynaeceum) to hear more about what Phoenix Rising is up to and more.
Chicago Hustles: Thanks for taking time out to speak with us about the beautiful collective called Phoenix Rising. A phoenix rises out of the ashes to be born again so why was this name chosen to reflect a dance collective in particular?
PR: Phoenix Rising Chicago came together in the Fall of 2011 over an undisclosed amount of tequila. We realized we didn’t want to be bound by industry expectations of what a small, local performing company should be and what their limitations are. From our collective experiences with other companies, we were tired of hearing “no, that can’t be done” all the damn time, and we were tired being involved with something that was ONE person’s vision. Phoenix Rising did rise from the ashes, as a true company of multi-faceted, multi-talented artists who were ready to push the limits of conventionality in their concepts, choreography, aesthetic, etc–there shouldn’t BE limits, that’s why we’re artists!
Chicago Hustles: In your Bio it says you were a show stopper at three lol. Can you recall a vivid passionate filled memory of when you knew without any doubt that this was your calling?
PR: It was always clear I had a natural talent and love for performing, in any capacity. When I was 15, I found out that Mannheim Steamroller (a band your parents probably know) was shooting a music video in a city 2 hours from home so I packed a bag, lied about my age, lied about knowing how to swing dance, and got myself a part in that video! It was scary and hard and fun, and it was at that point that I realized that dance would be a part of my life forever.
Chicago Hustles: After reading the bios of the team seems like everyone brings a ton of experience to the table and all seem to be filled with PASSION. What if you can say is the joint passion of the collective & how is this delivered to Chicago individually and as a whole?
PR: Our Mission Statement is: Phoenix Rising Chicago fosters creative ideas by leveraging the collective energy of the artist throughout our community. We work to support each others creative visions, inclusive of a variety of media, art, dance, and styles. We are continuously pushing past boundaries, to expand each of our artists, individually and collectively, to reach their true creative potential.
It’s important to us to always have that mission in mind with everything that we do. To find new and exciting ways to be truly collaborative, and work our way towards becoming a full-scale multimedia performance company. While preparing for our very first show as a company–a full evening Revue, less than two months after the company’s inception, we realized just how much we were able to accomplish with such little time and resources, and we knew then that we could really make a spot for ourselves in the Chicago dance community. We all love dance, none of us thrive without it, or some other creative outlet. However I think collectively, our passion as a whole is to positively influence Chicago’s perception of what a group of motivated creative people like us are really capable of.
Chicago Hustles: As a previous dancer ourselves for 12 years performance art has always been & held a certain graceful theatrical beauty that our more urban roots did not. How does each member of Phoenix Rising approach a project or help/contribute to bring the overall experience together to the masses.
PR: Every single member of Phoenix Rising has talents that go beyond dance–we have theater experience, stage management, costume design/makeup/hair, graphic design, photography…and we try to utilize our collective experience and skills to present a fully realized (well, within our budget constraints) production company. We have big ideas for Phoenix Rising, and one of those big ideas was a full evening of multi-genre art–Gynaeceum. I took point on producing that event, but in truth we share the love. For example, we’re working on our 1st Christmas show slated for the 2nd week of December, to be produced by Phoenix Rising company member Maria Parise, with my husband Andrew music directing.
Chicago Hustles: We know there is always an I in team sometimes however what we saw only once was a great experience. How do 10 people under such an inspirational collective with great friends as well pull together to put on amazing events show without conflict?
PR: Get a room full of creatives together, and you’re bound to have conflict in some capacity, but challenges are how we grow! I also have to refer back to our mission statement, as much as we want to grow individually, we want the company to grow as a whole as well. And we really are great friends, a family even. Without question, the most rewarding thing about being in Phoenix Rising is doing what I love with the people that I love, people who all push and encourage each other to be better, both on and off the stage.
Chicago Hustles: We have seen the collective host many events to help Chicagoans/creatives in the community and find this very inspiring as a whole. How important to Phoenix Rising is community & why?
PR: We want to make our mark on the Chicago arts community, but we want to make a difference outside of that as well. Gynaeceum, of course, donated every single dollar made to The Awakening Center, and their Chicago-based eating disorder treatment services. From our efforts that night, they’ve been able to organize a free body-image workshop, created an accompanying brochure, and a scholarship fund to provide free therapy for one of their clients. We’ve also participated in fundraising events for the Michael Davis Life Fund, benefiting a beloved member of the Rogers Park community. 10% of profits from our most recent show (Phoenix Rising, A Broadway Revue) also went to that particular cause. Our Christmas show will have a similar philanthropic tie. What could be better than doing what you love AND giving back?
Chicago Hustles: Over the time as a collective what have been some of your favorite show or moments from AW to experience as a group?
PR: Hard to pick a favorite, but being chosen to perform in Minneapolis’ 2013 burlesque festival was a completely new venture, and yet such a blast. We were nervous, because although the piece we brought was edgy, it was a far cry from actual burlesque (although we do have 2 burly girls in our company). Would we be seen as outsiders? Because aside from the occasional costume mishap, we weren’t planning on taking our clothes off onstage. Little did we know that we had truly found “our people” and were welcomed into their community with open arms, as fellow performing arts misfits. It could not have been more fun, and we’re DYING to go back.
Chicago Hustles: What does Ali Hodson as a solo artist relay through her creative dance as an artist? How do you feel this can inspire and shift consciousness through expression?
PR: I feel powerful and beautiful when I’m onstage, in my element. My body has made it through 29 years of life, it has a story to tell and when I’m onstage I get to share that story. I feel beautiful in my uniqueness-my tattoos, my eyes (thanks Dad!), my bony and muscular feet, the way I can make my body move when I’m dancing, and the emotion I am able to evoke from my audience. At whatever the cost, I get to share a piece of myself on stage and that, to me, is quite powerful.
Chicago Hustles: How does Phoenix Rising look to continue to cultivate & innovate great dance performances in the city of Chicago in the winter months solo and as a group?
We plan to continue the hustle and ride the amazing momentum we’ve experienced so far.
Chicago Hustles: Given that most of the collective seems to be from outside of the city yet Phoenix’s rising out of Chicago to set things a blaze as a whole, how would the team define hustle in the path of ones dreams to pursue performance art at all cost?
PR: Chicago is a big part of who we are as a company. And where we all met. And it’s a city full of self-made people who have creativity and passion and will do what it takes to get it done. We would be nowhere right now if we didn’t have the hustle and drive to share our art and make a difference. And this city has to take partial credit for our passion and inspiration.
Like us on Facebook to keep up with Phoenix Rising Chicago (facebook.com/PhoenixRisingChicago)
Many thanks to all the Gynaeceum artists, Chicago Hustles Magazine, and to our incredible supporters. See you at the next show!
Phoenix Rising: Leaving Ordinary in the ASHES
Written by Durte Genius