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The New Utility

 
 

NEWS

Upcoming Performances

  • “abandoned PLayground” at Jacob’s pillow in Becket, MA June 26-30, 2019—For tickets and other info click here

 
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Abby Z and the New utility Artistic Director Abby Zbikowski receives “choreographer of the Future” commission by Dance Umbrella uk

“In 2018 all three of Dance Umbrella’s Artistic Directors – Val Bourne CBE, Betsy Gregory and Emma Gladstone – invited an established artist from their time at the helm to nominate a ‘choreographer of the future’ as part of a new commissioning project, Four by Four, to celebrate Dance Umbrella’s 40th anniversary.  Four by Four is a transformational intervention for these young artists as they emerge as dance makers and create a piece of repertoire which, after premiering in London, is then available for touring worldwide.” Read more about this commission here…

 

Abby Z and the New Utility Receive a Nation performance Network(NPN) Creation and performance fund Award for thier new work “radioactive Practice”

NEW ORLEANS (June 29, 2018) – The National Performance Network (NPN) announces its 2018 Creation & Development Fund Awards totaling $305,000 in support of 14 new artistic works across disciplines, geographies and cultures. The selected artists reflect NPN’s commitments to equity and access through the arts.” Read more about this grant here…

photo by Effy Grey

photo by Effy Grey

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Artist statement

I make contemporary dance works that pay homage to the effort of living, tactics of survival, and the aesthetics produced as a result, citing my practice of Afro-Diasporic dance forms hip-hop, tap, and West African, and punk music/aesthetics/values as major influences on my sensibilities. I formed the New Utility in 2012 with core company members Fiona Lundie and Jennifer Meckley to experiment with the potential and choreographic possibility of the body being pushed beyond its perceived limits, as well as to create a new movement lexicon that works towards triangulating dancing/moving bodies across multiple cultural value systems simultaneously.  Our work together has focused on reclaiming the brutal rigor that goes into the practice and performance of hyper physical dance forms by shifting the mindset of the labor away from product and repositioining the choreographic work as a vehicle for transformation that welcomes failure as an inevitability on the path to growth. My creative process/practice with collaborative performers works towards re-imagining known outcomes and is meant to relentlessly challenge the systems we cling to for understanding. Our work is driven by the obsessive practice that accompanies the mastery of complex physical tasks, and structurally builds upon the psyche-emotional growth that evolves as a byproduct of practice. 

 
photo of   abandoned playground   by Effy Grey

photo of abandoned playground by Effy Grey

Works

  • abandoned playground(2017) Inside the intimate stadium setup of this work, 9 dancers rip through the space performing complex sequences of hyper-physical dance that push their understandings of their own capabilities and endurance. Recognized with the 2017 Juried Bessie Award for her “unique and utterly authentic movement vocabulary in complex and demanding structures,” Abby Zbikowski generates her bold, high-intensity, precisely rhythmic choreography from her background of hip-hop, tap, West African, and postmodern dance styles, deeply-rooted punk aesthetic, and close collaboration with her dancers who bring their specific bodies, psychologies, and training histories to the work. In this evening length work Zbikowski highlights each of her dancers' unique strengths and simultaneously forges an intense ensemble connection in that through vocalizations and the channeling of communal energy the dancers invigorate each other to overcome the physical and mental exhaustion of performing such extreme and virtuosic movement at the relentless pace required. Like life, no overstated purpose is given, but as the New York Times dance critic Siobhan Burke surmises "the effort justifies itself."

      To read Siobhan Burke's NY Times review click    here...

       To read Eva Yaa Assantewaa's InfiniteBody review click here...

  • on the line(2016) is a solo made in order to unknow absolutes and discover a new breed of limits within ourselves. Made in collaboration with dancer Jessie Young, this work exposes the intimate process of relearning your body while reinventing personal definitions of dance, technique, and form.

 

  • double nickels on the dime(2015)is a duet made in collaboration with longtime dancers Fiona Lundie and Jennifer Meckley exploring the psychology of of aesthetics and physical practice of climbing deep inside known form. It was presented as part of the Movement Research Festival Fall 2015 - "Vanishing Points" at Danspace Project.

To read Eva Yaa Assantewaa's InfiniteBody

review click here...

 

  • destabilizer(2014) is a jigsaw puzzle of effort and weight. Made in collaboration with Jennifer Meckley and Fiona Lundie for the inaugural season of DoublePlus curated by Bebe Miller at the Gibney Dance Center in New York City, this duet work features the labor of unsteady ground as dancers negotiate the soles of their feet being duct taped together and the physical and emotional residue of that brutal connection.

        To read Eva Yaa Assantewaa's InfiniteBody review click here... 

 

  • "jm."(2013) is a solo based on the intense and necessary relationship performer Jennifer Meckley has to practice and the masochistic yet hopeful space it holds in her life.

 

  • the new utility(2012) is performed in the round, synthesizes the mechanics of disparate movement genres into a singular hybrid event focused on form and the composition of watching. Through the decomposition of structure, and performer endurance, audiences are exposed humility in formality and the significance held in the ways we move through and observe the world.

Works made with/for students

tectonic(2018) Footprints choreographer at the American Dance Festival

heavy planet(2016) University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

under the asphalt(2016) University of Texas at Austin

taking off(2016) American Dance Festival

'till we collapse(2015) American Dance Festival

Brute Force(2013) The Ohio State University

striking space(2012) The Ohio State University

 

 

 

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Bios

Abby Zbikowski created her company, Abby Z and the New Utility, in 2012. Her work utilizes both the physical aspects and psyche-emotional experience of rigorously training in African and Afro-diasporic forms, as well as playing sports and performing other acts manual labor. In 2017 she received the Juried Bessie Award for her “unique and utterly authentic movement vocabulary in complex and demanding structures to create works of great energy, intensity, surprise, and danger” and in 2018 was selected by Dance Umbrella UK for a “Choreographer of the Future” commission. She is an inaugural Caroline Hearst Choreographer-In-Residence at the Lewis Center of the Arts at Princeton University(2017-19), a current artist in residence at New York Live Arts(2018-20) and has been in residence at Bates Dance Festival, American Dance Festival, and the Streb Lab for Action Mechanics. Zbikowski is an Assistant Professor of dance at the University of Illinois and on faculty at American Dance Festival. She has taught at the Academy of Culture in Riga, Latvia as part of Movement Research’s Global Practice Sharing and studied intensively at Germaine Acogny's L'École de Sables in Senegal. Abby holds a BFA in dance from Temple University and an MFA in dance from Ohio State University. Her company has been presented by the Gibney Dance Center, the Abrons Arts Center, and the 92nd Street Y, among other New York City venues, the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College in upstate New York, the FuseBox Festival in Austin, Texas, Bryn Mawr College in Philadelphia, and the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, with upcoming shows at Jacob’s Pillow in June 2019.

Fiona Lundie is a movement artist and cognitive scientist interested in what is vital about how and why we move, what form that movement takes, and how it shapes our perspective. She holds a BA in Cognitive Science from Dartmouth College and an MFA in Dance from The Ohio State University. She has performed with Abby Z and the New Utility since its inception in 2012, became Rehearsal Director in 2016, and Business Manager in 2017 as the company has grown. Fiona also teaches PopAction and Flying Trapeze at STREB in Brooklyn and has performed with the STREB Extreme Action Company. She has been working with Abby since 2009, and has been instrumental in the the development of company’s body of work.

Jennifer Meckley is a modern dance artist greatly inspired by the hip-hop culture and aims to spread knowledge of street dance in academia. She obtained a BA in Dance from Slippery Rock University and an MFA in Dance from The Ohio State University. Jennifer has previously taught at West Chester University,Cuyahoga Community College, and Northampton Community College. She currently teaches at Ball State University, The University of Dayton, and actively pushes the boundaries of physicality through performance as a member of Abby Z and the New Utility since its founding in 2012 and as Rehearsal Director since 2016.