Sunday, May 12, 2013

Robert Davidson to join Fly-by-Night as guest artist in Passages

Fly-by-Night is thrilled to announce that Robert (Bob) Davidson will join the company as a guest artist for our current performance project, Passages. Bob will join us first in June as we do a film for the project (outdoors!) and then will return to work with us in November for the performance run. For those who know Bob and his work, you know how lucky we are to have him join us. You might also be interested in reading more about Bob's artistic path - he has been hard at work in both music and dance for decades and there are probably some gaps in your knowledge about Bob's amazing artistic journey. So read on....

Bob is the foremost teacher of Joan Skinner's Releasing Technique because his history of work with Joan and her technique runs deep. Robert began studying with Joan  Skinner at Hamline University, in St. Paul, Minn. and performed/partnered with Joan there and later performed with her ensemble at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

For 29 years, he collaborated with Joan on the  development and codification of the Releasing Technique from the Introductory levels through the Intermediate and Advanced/Ongoing  levels--both at the University of Washington and at the Skinner Releasing Studios (in downtown Seattle during the late 1970's and  early 1980's) where he was Director of the School and developer of curriculum. He continued to perform and tour with Joan's American Contemporary Dance Company  and later the improvisatory Music & Dance Ensemble of Skinner  Releasing--throughout the Pacific Northwest and the west coast until 1987.

Bob is not only a a dance specialist - he graduated with a degree in music (piano,  voice) with Special Distinction for music composition. He toured Central and South America for ten weeks as assistant conductor of the Hamline Acapella Choir. He later studied African music  in Uganda for ten weeks.

He taught on the modern dance faculty at the University of Washington, Seattle (where I first came into contact with him). He was also a salaried Teaching Assistant & a graduate student in Ethnomusicology at the School of Music.

After watching aerialists trained by Terry Sendgraff in the SF Bay area, he began a new path and developed his own dance company (Robert Davidson Dance Company, aka Aerial Assembly) where he spent years integrating Skinner Releasing Technique principles with aerial  dance on the low-flying triangular trapeze. During the next ten years he also developed two signature works among many-- "Airborne: Meister Eckhart"  with a very large cast of dancers and singers, with medieval/jazz  score by Joan's husband, James Knapp; and "Rapture: Rumi" a full  evening work for five virtuoso dancer/aerialists. Both pieces explored  the life and writings of their namesakes. Both pieces toured  nationally and were well reviewed in major newspapers.

His next chapter in life took him to Denver where he accepted position of Head of Movement at the National Theatre  Conservatory, a 3-year MFA program in acting.  This school was tuition free for 8-10 candidates who were accepted from a field of over 500 who  auditioned. During this period Bob  explored effective  techniques for training actors to move well utilizing primarily the Skinner Releasing Technique, Aerial Dance, and Improvisation. The result  of the training proved to produce extraordinary actors--many of whom  moved as well as highly trained dancers. Several performance ensembles emerged in NY, comprised of NTC graduates, including "Fight or Flight"  co-directed by Steven Cole Hughes, John Behlman and Eileen Little; and Amnios. Both groups produce new, original works, or aerial adaptations  of classics.

During the summers Bob turned his attention to training new SRT teachers. This training is a rigorous two-summer course for very experienced Releasers. The last course was taught by Bob (with colleagues Theresa Moriarty and Gaby Agis) at Coventry University in Coventry, UK  in 2010-11.

Since the closing of the National Theatre Conservatory in June 2012,  Bob has continued to teach and train both actors and dancers--with  the Capetown Opera, in Capetown, S.A., in Wales, with the Denver Center Theatre Company, with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival; with  the undergraduate drama school at Denver University, with the Aerial Dance Festival in Boulder (directed by Nancy Smith), and with  Visionbox, a new studio for training actors in Denver (directed by Jennifer McCray Rincon).

Throughout his career he has collaborated on hundreds of full- length productions--as a choreographer and composer--of both classical  and experimental theatre, at the graduate and professional levels. His work in Seattle was seen at various venues - FLOATING BY THUNDER, KREUZBERG DANCES FOR 16 at NBBJ Seattle Atrium, and SHAKESPEARE DANCES at ACT, as well as SYBIL AT THE WELL at Meany Hall. He also was involved in late night aerial shows at Showbox Music Hall and Rock Candy Music Club and did a series of collaborations with Rick Parashar (renowned Seattle music producer/composer (Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Temple Of The Dog).

After working with as an undergraduate student I was lucky enough to be a part of Robert's first Aerial Dance work and my artistic path took a new turn. When I decided to do the Skinner Releasing Technique training, Robert was there with Joan Skinner and I was able to train under both of them. 

In 1989 Bob and I both found ourselves in Berlin visiting a mutual friend just after the wall came down. Bob is as much fun on vacation as he is in rehearsal (and just as hard to keep up with!) - I am looking forward to hanging, and flying around with, him as we open the creative well and explore what comes up in this next artistic journey.


  1. Dear Julie, I was a dancer in SF in the 70s. I started studying with Bob while I was performing with Mangrove, a contact improv company. Skinner Releasing had such an impact on me. Then when I moved to Seattle in the 80s, I continued to study, and was lucky enough to perform in Airborn: Meister Eckhart. My life took some other changes after that, but I returned to studying with Bob in 2008, taking an intensive in Seattle, and even considering doing the SRT teacher training.
    Bob was a sweet man, a magician with his body and his voice. So perceptive, and uncompromising in a way that was never anything other than inviting. What an artist, what a man....
    Charles Campbell

    1. Thanks for your comment on Bob Charles. It is good to hear from someone else that knew Bob in the way I knew him. I saw him so seldom yet felt connected to him through so much. I know there was an informal memorial for him around New Year's in Seattle - did you go? I would have liked to have been there for that. We must have been in Seattle at the same time period - I moved to NYC in 1986, though was back in the summers of 1992 & 1993 for SRT.
      Be well.