LA-based BODYTRAFFIC is getting ready to present four works at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts this week as part of Penn Live Arts 2023-24 season. The company is known for working with a diverse range of choreographers and this weekend’s program will include a world premiere by Matthew Neenan. Artistic Director and co-founder, Tina Finkelman Berkett, took time during the tour schedule to talk about starting the company and the work they do.
[The Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut Street] January 19-20, 2023; pennlivearts.org
Debra Danese: What was your early dance training?
Tina Finkelman Berkett: In Queens- where I grew up-I had a teacher, Michele Cuccaro Cain, who was my single greatest formative influence. I owe every ounce of my success to her. She didn’t just train me; she inspired my deepest love of dance. After high school at Barnard, I studied math and economics and continued to dance.
DD: When did you found the company?
TFB: I started the company in 2007 when I was 23 years old. I was moving to LA for personal reasons; and felt like I had to launch a platform that would allow me to continue my career as a dancer.
DD: Which piece in this program do you most connect with?
TFB: Every single piece is meaningful. Getting them across the finish line is my life’s work and I love each one differently. It’s the culmination of the program that represents BODYTRAFFIC.
DD: What is a typical day off on tour look like for you?
TFB: The mornings are usually reserved for our community engagement performance. We do an educational program with the entire company. When I travel with the dancers, I participate in these too as either lead or MC. Then we usually have a technical rehearsal on stage – working on lighting, spacing, and reviewing notes. Each night we have dinner together as a family. This is almost as important as the show itself. After dinner, the dancers have a warm up class on stage before the show begins.
DD: The company is known for commissioning renowned choreographers. Of these, who has most inspired you?
TFB: Each choreographer we have worked with has been immensely influential and have inspired us in different ways. Early on, we worked with some incredible choreographers who really put us on the map. Now we are committed to the next generation of choreographic voices. We feel a sense of responsibility, using the platform we have created, to further the art form and foster new talent.
BODYTRAFFIC performs January 19-20, 2023, at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts.