Interview with The Dancer & The Poet
How Do You Survive As An Artist?
Richard and Natica Angilly, the poet and the dancer, are the co-creators of the Dancing Poetry Festival, now in its 19th year, a unique collaboration of writers, dancers, and musicians that culminates in an annual series of poetry readings and performances set to music. Their unique transformative art form attracts international participation and has been performed and honored worldwide. All artists are invited to join in one of many Poetic Dance Workshops now being formed. For details about the upcoming festival and their many other offerings please refer to The Dancing Poetry listing in OPEN EXCHANGE's Dance category. Excerpted from a longer interview, A Life of Dancing Poetry.
You two are bringing new people to dance and poetry all the time.
Natica: Yes! Both dance and poetry are living art forms. They change and create and re-create themselves continuously. In one of our signature poems, "Welcome to Wonderland," Richard's lines include: "We are here and there at once, We live within that wonder, flapping out our own sheets, creating ourselves constantly." Our Dancing Poetry Festival showcases many varieties of performance techniques from ballet to folkloric. Each year, performance companies lend their dance form to poetry so that our audience is treated to the rich varieties of possibilities. Usually the festival introduces or encourages at least fourteen different dance companies who collaborate with poetry. We offer these events as practical opportunities to help expand communication, enjoyment and friendship.
Richard: In all the horror that invades our world, there must still be a place for poetry. Representing poetry and dance as a unified art form throughout the world allows a chance to demonstrate depth of feeling and dedication to an artistic purpose. Something to share together in harmony and peaceful exchange seems needed and called for.
You two have been together for 35 years, dancing and writing poetry! You really know how to hang in there! How about sharing some insights on what an artist's relationship to money should be?
Richard: When we started we were down to $1000.
Natica: We only needed two gigs a month at $50 each to pay our rent which was $100 for a two-bedroom apartment. Performing and lecturing [kept us going.] But then our car blew up, the rent went up, and everything changed.
Richard: The art comes first. We made a decision. I had more saleable skills so I took a retraining course and got a job at the phone company. This allowed Natica time to develop our art and performances regardless of whether we were paid or not.
So, you started with vision and passion, and then came the business plan?
Richard. Yes. I wore two hats. The poet and the wage earner. We were discovering that many organizations and events could enjoy and appreciate our work. At that time there was great spiritual activity in the world and almost every religion or spiritual conference was happy to have our poetic performance. Most gave us some type of honorarium. We even got invited to perform at the Einstein Centenary. The poetry and dance were considered spiritual without being specifically religious. It gave us a kind of universal appeal for the time and especially when lots of our poetry was hopeful, colorful and creative, which contributed to promoting poetic, beautiful or thoughtful environments.
Do you still rent?
Richard: We bought an affordable house in a great neighborhood 28 years ago. Over the years we've invested in our house and through refinancing have been able to also invest money for ourselves, creating the equivalent of a reverse mortgage.
Bay Area homes used to be like piggy-banks. Do you believe that if you do what you love the money will follow?
Richard: Not necessarily. You have to be frugal, keep your expenses in check, and master the art of simple living. We try to make the choices to do as much as we can with our art but have found that sometimes we can't do everything or go everywhere we are asked. We keep positive that sometimes light comes through and we are able to costume our dancers and ourselves and get creative about use, recycling and refreshing our music, props, and costumes. Poetry books, hand painted tambourines, poetic masks and poetic visual arts have been created, and are offered for sale to try to help out. Great people volunteer to help sew, transport props, paint, ribbon, pass programs, co-teach, and help with many of the incredible details involvedand ever evolving.
Natica: People give us lots of things, too.
You mean, for your shows and dance projects?
Richard: Yes, one of our artist friends said, "Entering your house feels like going backstage," since our house used to be filled to the brim with props, costumes, books, art and works in progress!
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming artists and performers? How do you make it all work?
Natica: The practical stuff is the looming ever present continuum. But so is the inexplicable intensity of the creative spirit. I think it helps to be ready for opportunity and to really love the work. Excitement, enthusiasm, persistence, intent and the spirit of creativitythis is momentum that propels itself! I would say, find something to dance about (even in your heart), and Richard has a poem that says: "Get your act together!" Our great Hungarian painter friend Lorant Chovan loved to paint our poetic dances. He would say: "These works are not just love, this is the Big Love." Having Big Love is good advice, and a great mission statement for artists and the whole world. We think this means jumping right in, getting yourselves together, and being and becoming part of the Big Love for the Big Dance!
Richard (smiles): That's why I encourage her to be 100% Natica!
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