Embodiment Project

Embodiment Project (EP) is a San Francisco-based street dance theater company founded by Nicole Klaymoon in 2007. Quickly gaining critical acclaim, EP seamlessly intersects high-energy street dance, live song, choreo-poetry, and theater. EP recently received critical support from funders such as MAP Fund, San Francisco Arts Commission, California Arts Council, Gerbode and Hewlett Foundation, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, East Bay Community Fund, the City of Oakland’s Cultural Funding Program, Center for Cultural Innovation, Rainin Opportunity Fund, CA$H Grant, and the Zellerbach Family Foundation grant. Dance magazine Contributing Editor Rita Felciano called Embodiment Project one of the Bay Area’s “ten companies and artists who challenged expectations and unveiled surprises…in 2012.” The San Francisco Bay Guardian wrote that Nicole Klaymoon’s signature work House of Matter, “(w)as one of the most rocking and joyous dance shows to hit the town in a long time.”

EP performed in the collaborative, mixed media production Block By Block, directed by Sean San Jose, as part of the artist fellowship series at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. EP performed at numerous festivals including the 2013 and 2014 International Hip Hop Festival at the Palace of Fine Arts, Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s Left Coast Leaning Festival, G.R.A.C.E. Africa (Kenya), Booking Dance Festival at Jazz at Lincoln Center (NY), Daedalus Project on the Elizabethan Stage at Oregon Shakespeare Festival (OR), Dance Brigade’s Manifest-ival for Social Change (CA), Cuba Caribe Festival (CA), West Wave Dance Festival at Z Space (CA), ODC’s Walking the Distance Festival (CA), Krissy Kefer’s Voluspa: A Ghost Dance For 2012, and four consecutive years in the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Green Show (OR).

EP has produced home season shows of original works to sold-out audiences for the past six years in San Francisco. The company has been awarded an artist residency at Intersection for the Arts, Red Poppy Art House, Destiny Arts Center, Dos Rios Artist Retreat Center, and Dance Mission Theater.  EP has partnered with G.R.A.C.E. Africa on a interdisciplinary performance to disseminate information and raise awareness about HIV/AIDS in Kenya, Africa. They have also collaborated with ABD Productions for the past three years on a project called SKYWATCHERS, which is a community arts performance that partnered with formerly homeless residents of San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood.  EP presented Rennie Harris’ 18th annual Illadelph Legends of Hip Hop Festival at Destiny Arts Center in Oakland and Z Space (San Francisco) in June 2015.  EP offers company house classes at Dance Mission on Wednesdays at 8pm .


ARTISTIC DIRECTOR/FOUNDER

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Nicole Klaymoon

Nicole Klaymoon is Founder and Artistic Director of the Embodiment Project, Dance magazine contributing editor Rita Felciano called Embodiment Project one of the Bay Area’s, “ten companies and artists who challenged expectations and unveiled surprises…in 2012.”  SF Chronicle said Klaymoon’s work is “a bit like taking a defibrillator jolt to the soul”.  Her new work Ancient Children, sponsored by MAP Fund, explores the ways restorative justice can interrupt the school-to-prison pipeline and will premier at the ODC Theater in June 2018. As a solo performer, Klaymoon created the dance theater production, Sixth Vowel, choreographed by Rennie Harris and directed by Kamilah Forbes of the New York City Hip Hop Theatre Festival. Miami New Times art critic Chuck Strouse wrote “Nicole Klaymoon’s Sixth Vowel was THE BEST small theatrical production I have seen in this city in a decade.”  She is currently a resident artist at the ODC Theater, a recipient of the Headlands Center for the Arts residency, and the Gerbode and Hewlett Foundation’s Commissioning Choreographers Award.  Klaymoon has collaborated with G.R.A.C.E. Africa in Embu Kenya, to create performance to challenge stigma around HIV/AIDS epidemic and incite important dialogue about sexual health. She has performed in dance works directed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Rennie Harris, Sean San Jose, Amara Tabor-Smith, Meredith Monk, Maria Gellespie, and Anne Bluethenthal.  Klaymoon currently teaches a company technique class at Dance Mission in San Francisco, and is on faculty of the Performing Arts department at USF, Marin Academy High School and ODC Dance School. She received a B.A. in Dance from UCLA and an M.F.A. from the California Institute of Integral Studies.

klaymoon at embodimentproject dot org 

 

Musical Director  

Bay-area born and bred, jazz and gospel trained, and internationally respected, Valerie Troutt is a musical collagist, borrowing from ancestral centuries of sound, channeling spirits, and delivering the stories of our love, loss, and lives. There’s a light in this unapologetically unconventional artist/teacher/activist for whom art and activism are intertwined. Within this spiritual and social justice-driven performer is a lifelong hunger for craft, for connection, for cultural narratives and an indefatigable thirst to serve as an agape griot to a waiting and hurting people. The Sound of Peace, her long-awaited, full-length debut comes after a critically acclaimed EP and several wizening years culminating in Valerie Troutt’s acceptance of her own original artistic difference in a world of commercial carbon copies.

The daughter and now aunt of an Oakland-based family of artists, activists, teachers and spiritualists, both by blood and by community, the melding of Troutt’s creative and spiritual life emerged early, at the age of seven with her first church solo. Children’s choirs, holiday solos, and developing skills in piano and guitar as well as voice followed at the famed Walter Hawkin’s Love Center. By adolescence, at Berkeley High, Troutt’s world was being cracked open to the world of jazz at the same high school that produced jazz darlings Joshua Redman and Benny Green. Jazz camps, a Carmen McRae Scholarship, Stanford Jazz, Howard University Jazz program and ultimately the New School Jazz Performance program with contemporaries like Bilal Oliver and Tiombe Lockhart—always surrounded by teachers and learners, both vertically and horizontally, in her musical blossoming. After the requisite hand-to-mouth NYC grinds, lesson-rich production deals with labels like Oblique Sound (e.g., Gretchen Parlato), and a brief experience abroad as an ambassador for the International Association of Jazz Educators, Troutt ended up back in the Bay teaching music at the East Bay Center for the Performing Arts and performing for two years with the Grammy-nominated Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, most recently as a featured soloist on Still We Rise, Still We Sing.While New York offered dream actualizing experiences like performing at SOBs and The Knitting Factory, sharing stages with major recording artists like Les Nubians, and honoring legends such as Bobby McFerrin at tributes, it was in California that Troutt found herself most in-demand and coming into her own. Innumerable venues and festivals presented the unique Valerie Troutt experience including: Yoshi’s Jazz Club, Laurel Street Fair, The Mint L.A., CODA Jazz Supper Club, and the Art ‘n’ Soul Festival, among others. Troutt further found herself collaborating with singer-songwriters like Jennifer Johns, Maria Muldaur, Kimiko Joy, and Sister Monica Parker, and recording with modern composers like Gregory Del Piero, Emanuel Ruffler, Howard Wiley and Jaz Sawyer. For nearly two years, she also served as a principle singer in La Pena – Ayer, Hoy y Pa’Lante, an original suite of music by three-time Grammy nominee, Wayne Wallace with libretto by Aya de Leon.In the East Bay, Troutt established herself as more than an artist, but as a leader in the area’s famed creative community. Partnering on Bay area projects with Oakland Public Conservatory, the Museum of African Diaspora, Higher Ground Neighborhood Corp. and the Embodiment Project (where Troutt is Music Director). The latter project served as the genesis for MoonCandy, a band Valerie Troutt composes for while still gigging with another band, trumpeter Marcus Poland’s fronted group, The Congress. Collectively, these varied and disparate influences informs her recordings as much as Bjork, Dianne Reeves, Carmen McRae, Joni Mitchell, Walter Hawkins and Cassandra Wilson.

The keeper and expander of a rich cultural legacy in music and consciousness-raising, Troutt’s latest project, The Sound of Peace, borrows from the past and gives to the future. Half jazz standards innovatively reimagined for contemporary audiences and half truth-telling originals penned by the lady herself, the Troutt produced project is an overture to her fans for not only social change, but also their own self-acceptance. Recorded at Project West and engineered by Dion Decibal, the project was recorded with trios and quintets of musicians, including Garian Gray and Jazz Sawyer on drums, Raoul Paralez on electric bass, and David Yule on upright bass. Accordingly, this project has a live music feel absent Troutt’s more electronic 2008 debut EP, Prepare for a Future. With live studio recording also comes more of the unexpected and unplanned dynamic moments that hallmark Troutt’s signature sound. Whether Troutt is tackling an innovative arrangement of the classic “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” or sharing her own hybrid blend with “Rise,” what is consistent is a jazz vocalist’s skill with a soul stirrer’s heart, making the genre-labeling of Troutt’s music unnecessary and impossible. Like that of her equally liberated contemporaries, Lizz Wright and Gregory Porter, this is just honest music.

Thematically, Troutt’s two projects differ too, illustrating where she is now as a woman and artist in her musings and priorities. At the eve of Obama’s election, Prepare for a Future spoke of intergenerational relationships, forgiveness, shifting in and out of the illusion and reality of love, vulnerability and emergency preparedness as a way of securing one’s future. The Sound of Peace is about stepping out of cycles that fail to serve personal evolution and liberation, to embrace the self, and rise above self-pity and self-cruelty—the rich themes of a philosophically reflective artist. The common thread weaving these two sides of Troutt is an understanding of music as survival, as a spiritual and wellness tool for growth, both personal and communal. It is after all, what time and again saved her own life and gave her the faith and strength to believe in herself and persevere in an industry disdainful of difference, and everything about Valerie Troutt is wholly, unapologetically, and powerfully different. With The Sound of Peace, Valerie Troutt hopes listeners welcome their own difference, freeing it into the world as a light all their own.

By L. Michael Gipson