About Us, Dancers

Dancer Profile: Ashley McCullough

Editor’s note: Check out one of our newest dancers, Ashley, in her first performance with Code f.a.d. Company on September 13, 2014 as part of SPARKcon 2014. We will be performing “Dinner” as part of the early danceSPARK showcase, from 11am-1pm on the main stage! 

Ashley McCullough

1. What is your earliest memory of dancing?
I remember being in dance classes as a young sapling at 2 years of age. I was a shy, quiet kid… didn’t say much in public and was serious about the things I did, especially dance. At class while all the other kids, who were 1-2 years older than I, would run around, hang on the bars, etc., I was the only one waiting patiently at the bar in first position. I remember feeling frustrated with how the other dancers acted… I was there to dance! An example of my commitment is present in a home video of me doing bourrees across the floor when my little ballet slipper started to come off. Knowing that a dancer does not stop in a middle of a performance, I ignored my shoe and continued onward.

2. Where can we find you when you’re not dancing?
Practicing yoga, most likely upside down… or in the kitchen creating vegan masterpieces.

3. Describe your perfect day.
A warm run near a body of water watching the sun rise higher in the sky, followed by some yoga, ending with a dip in the aforementioned body of water and an interpretive/improvisational dance in the sun to dry off. Later enjoying a nice vegan dinner and a show with my husband.

4. What’s playing on your ipod currently?
My “Yes ma’am!” playlist including the likes of: Mumford and Sons, The Civil Wars, Sleeping at Last, The Beatles, Queen, Styx, The Piano Guys, Bon Iver… and various lesser known artists.

Welcome, Ashley, to Code f.a.d. Company!


About Us, Board

A Day in the Life of a Code f.a.d. Board Member: English Sall

My day begins similarly to most people, luckily right now most of my day doesn’t start until 10:30 so I get to sleep in a bit.

English Sall with her dog.

English Sall with her dog.

9am- Wake up to my dog Dyson licking my face, or trying to push me off the bed.

9:15- Need coffee now.

9:30- Coffee brewing, pop tarts poptarting

10am- shower, get pretty

10:20- This Tuesday especially picking out an outfit was somewhat stressful. It was my first day of Graduate School so I wanted to look it. How does one look relaxed, intellectual, friendly and chic, all with one pair of jeans and a blouse? I changed into dress.

11am- before heading to class I break out the GRE flash cards and attempt to memorize meanings of words like Acclivity and Askance. Using them in a sentence sometimes helps ie: “Studying for the GRE is like climbing the acclivity of Mt. Mitchell” or “When I tell people my name is English many tilt their head and glare with askance”.

12:30- After painstakingly studying flashcards for an hour or so its time for me to head to class.

1pm- After walking from one end of NCSU to another into a non air-conditioned classroom, instead of exuding relaxed intellectual bad-assness my outfit now just exudes sweat and possibly BO. Lovely.

1:20-My professor walks in and as we wait on our last few classmates to join us he begins talking about projects he has done with Wake co. Sheriffs dept. and Lehman brothers. He told the best story about how he was on the phone with someone at Lehman Bros. the day the market crashed. I continue to fall more in love with my chosen PhD program IO Psychology throughout the next 1.5 hours of class.

3:00- We get let out early and I walk home.

3:30- Home at last. Time for a snack of Perogies filled with cheese and mashed potatoes? I think so!

4pm- The rest of the afternoon consists of me returning emails, studying for the GRE and doing homework (which is mostly readings).

7:30- On Tuesdays my husband Will has a really late class at UNC so this is the one night a week I am tasked with making dinner (because anyone who knows us knows that he is the cook in our family and I am not. The oven for me is a place to dry socks and gloves once one comes in from the snow). However, Tuesday is my day to try and make a delicious dinner for the both of us.

7:45- Realizing I should have probably started cooking a little while ago, didn’t realize the process of thawing something takes 985 days.

8:00- Lima beans catch fire; put fire out with a beer. Incidentally discovered a great new ingredient to add to lima beans.

8:30- Hubby is on his way home!

9pm- Dinner of chicken, rice, and beer soaked lima beans is served.

9:45- After dinner walk with the dog.

10pm- My husband and I watch a new episode of The Mentalist, making bets on who Red John really is.

11pm- Ready for bed, laying down with a good book (Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahmenan, I highly recommend it) and dozing off to sleep.


About Us, Dancers

A Day in the Life of a Code f.a.d. Dancer: MacKenzie Buice

MacKenzie Buice

MacKenzie Buice exploring her new surroundings!

*Editor’s note: This represents a day in MacKenzie’s life back in August 2013 – when she first moved to the area and joined Code f.a.d. Company. MacKenzie now works for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Cary when she’s not in dance class or rehearsal. MacKenzie made her Code f.a.d. performing debut in our Beetlejuice dance at the 2013 SPARKcon.

In July of 2013, my husband Mike & I moved to the Triangle from Massachusetts for his new job. We absolutely love the area, and I’ve been enjoying a busy/lazy summer of settling in and getting used to my surroundings. Because of the move, I left my very normal routine, full-time job, friends, and family behind. A typical day these days is a bit atypical while I job search and get a lay of the land. Every day is a new adventure!

9:00 – Out of bed, shower, dress (I have the perk of sleeping in a bit while on the job hunt!)

9:30 – Head into Raleigh

10:00 – Internship: To keep busy, network, and get a little more experience in my field I have been interning with North Carolina Theatre’s Development Office. I’ve worked in development/fundraising for the past 3 years and having left a job in development in the social services sector, I’m now looking to transition in arts or higher education fundraising. The past 2 months at the theatre have been awesome! My work has focused on reception events for donors, organizing direct mail campaigns, and grant writing.

1:00 – Break for lunch

4:00- Wrap up more work & leave theatre, hit grocery store to pick up something for dinner and head home.

5:15 – Get home, check new job postings, and apply to anything new and exciting! Procrastinate and whine about not wanting to go to the gym…

6:30 – Finally get my butt to the gym. I’m back into training mode for my 7th half marathon in September, and running is always such a love/hate relationship for me. It’s a struggle to get to the gym, but once it’s over I feel great! I get in my miles, some lifting and ab work, and head back home.

8:00 – Shower & make dinner.

9:00 – Somewhere along the line Mike and I developed a 9:00 PM dinner time and its stuck. (Probably a habit we should break…)

9:30 – Dinner is followed by an episode or two of Lost. We didn’t get into it during the original run, but the whole series is now on Netflix and we’re sucked into to watching little else. Just started season 5, so many questions!

10:30-11:30 – Hit the sheets, always get in a few pages of whatever book I’m reading before my eyes get too tired and then it’s ZZZZZ…


About Us, Creative Work, Dance, Dancers, Fashion Briefs, Film, Finding Place, Perfect 10, Travel

Reflections on 2013


Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! (at SPARKcon, photo by roguemark)

Well FAD fans, another year is ending so it’s time to take a look back at all the lovely moments of 2013. Here are a few of the highlights:

January 13 & 25: The year began with our last two performances of Julep as part of the NC Dance Festival tour. First, a Sunday matinee at UNC-Wilmington then a Friday evening show at UNC-Charlotte.

February 5: New sections of Finding Place are performed at Artspace in downtown Raleigh as part of their First Friday open gallery festivities. (We are in the home stretch for the full show premiere by this point; I’m surprised we could even break from rehearsal for these three mini-shows!)

Finding Place premiere

Finding Place premiere in PSI Theatre, photo by DC Dance Photography

February 22 & 23: This is the big one – the full premiere of Finding Place at the Durham Arts Council‘s PSI Theatre! Wonderful stories, great music, exciting choreography, and touching film segments combined to create our third evening-length work in just five seasons. (And this one was completed in only nine months… needless to say the company was ready for a break following this show!)

March 13-16: Again this year, I traveled to the American College Dance Festival’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference to represent the company and teach classes. With class scheduled at 8am this time, the turn-out was smaller than the last year, but still about two dozen collegiate dancers got to learn parts of Finding Place choreography (in addition to getting in the company’s traditional technique class).

April 28: We perform Journey at NC Dances in Cary, NC. Journey was originally created for NC State University’s Panoramic Dance Project, so this marked the first time Code f.a.d. dancers got to perform the work. We also brought in a guest dancer for this show – Sarah Putterman! We hope we get to work with Sarah more in the future.

May-July: Code f.a.d. Company was quiet this summer, but there were certainly creative juices still flowing, preparing for the busy fall season ahead.

August: The company finds two new rehearsal “homes” for 2013: Barre-Up and Cirque de Vol Studios. Holding our Saturday classes at Cirque de Vol has given us the opportunity to make this the first season we open company technique class to area dancers, and we have had a great time inviting more folks to join us a few Saturdays each month! Following auditions after one of these open company classes, we are also pleased to welcome three new dancers to our group: MacKenzie Buice, Krystal Lynch, and Anna Maynard. You can expect to learn more about all of these lovely ladies in the coming months on the blog. Rehearsals are also in full swing for Dear Nature, our new work inspired by the Artspace exhibition of the same name, including artwork by Natalie Abrams, Mi-Sook Hur, and Cynthia Camlin.

Dear Nature at Artspace, photo by Anna M. Maynard

Dear Nature, photo by Anna M. Maynard

September 6: First Friday at Artspace brings the partial premiere of Dear Nature in Gallery 2. Just like in February, we performed three 10-minute shows throughout the evening, to packed crowds!

September 12: Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice! Stuck right in between our Dear Nature performances came 2013 SPARKcon, and being we have participated in the festival for the past five years, we couldn’t let this one slip by without a Code f.a.d. appearance. The company invited some guest dancers from AWW Performance Company to join us in an interactive performance following the Beetlejuice theme (chosen by this year’s filmSPARK organizers). The show was complete with the super talented Todd Buker (composer to much of our work) performing as the sandworm!

September 18: Back to Artspace for the full Dear Nature premiere, and it was such a great experience to perform in the gallery among the artwork that inspired the piece. This show also marks the debut of two new artists in our ranks: composer Julia Price and poet Jessica Mansell Temple! We are excited to work with both Julia and Jessica on more new work in 2014.

October 12-13: I attended the NC Dance Alliance’s Annual Event as our company representative to teach classes (more Finding Place repertory is taught to high school attendees and professionals) and to speak about our dance films in a lecture/showing with other dance filmmakers based in NC.

Gerren roams through the audience during the performance at Masquerade

Gerren performs during Masquerade

October 25: Masquerade! Thank you to all who attended our fall fundraiser cocktail event, Masquerade. If you were unable to attend and would still like to support our work, we accept tax-deductible donations securely online through our fiscal agent, Fractured Atlas: http://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=4584

November 13-17: Destination by Michael Kors (one of our fashion-inspired dance films) makes it into its first big film festival! I traveled to Wilmington to attend Cucalorus for the screening (and got to see many other films and speak with filmmakers of all kinds at the events – inspiration was gathered for many new works to come).

from the film, Destination by Michael Kors

Destination by Michael Kors

December 6-12: The last performance of 2013 was on December 6 in Winston-Salem, as part of Movies by Movers IV. We performed a few excerpts of Dear Nature, adding video projections to those sections we took and titling these portions A Few Southern Legends. I’m excited to turn some of these sections into stand-alone dance films in the coming year. Also, across this entire week I was honored to have the opportunity to teach dance students at Jordan High School in Durham, NC. The advanced “company” dance class worked on a dance film project while junior and senior-level technique classes learned Horton modern dance technique.

And there it is… well, was. What a great year 2013 turned out to be for Code f.a.d. Company – lots of new faces and new dances! So, what does 2014 have in store for us? I’m tempted to just say wait and see, though I’ll give you a hint to be on the lookout for new dance films (hopefully) hitting the festival circuit in 2014. (And don’t worry, we’ll post some clips and photos from the shoots online, too.) Thank you for continuing to support the work that we do, for supporting dance, and we wish all our fans a very Happy New Year!

See you in 2014…

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

A Few Southern Legends

A Few Southern Legends

Creative Work, Dance, Perfect 10

Dear Nature: Week 5

OceanIt is show week! We premiere portions of dances with Dear Nature tonight at Artspace. (We premiere the entire piece on September 18.)

Rehearsal this week was all about the details: see the dancers in their costumes, practice all the choreography and find any details that need “fixing.” A lot of choreographers and dancers talk about “cleaning” a piece prior to performance, and we do want everything to look precisely how it should, but I really do my best to handle this cleaning as we learn material so incorrect placements or motions do not get stuck into the dancers’ “muscle memory.” So there was not a ton of cleaning to do, just reviewing everything – especially those transition points between sections, those were a bit more shaky in everyone’s bodies.

Also this week I needed to decide which portions of the work we would show on Friday. It sounds like a fairly easy decision, though, it comes harder than you might think. Once the entire work is complete, it can be tough to look at only part of it and have that part feel like a complete work. Naturally there are sections I feel are stronger than others; however, so I started looking at those sections to choose what would be best for our short shows this week.

Other factors came into play, too, in this decision. Because we are performing during First Friday, when hundreds of people will be checking out the artwork in Artspace, I know the gallery will be a bit loud, and you may have people just wandering in and out to see part of each show. The opening section of the work, “Ocean,” I believe is very strong and striking, but I also believe you need a captive audience, sitting comfortably in a quiet space to really tune in to this part of the work. Not having those conditions, that piece will have to wait until the full premiere on September 18.

We still have some great portions to be performed this evening, though! Audience members can expect to see two great trios (one to part of Julia Price’s Sun Kiss and one to Proxy’s The War), as well as a dance to one of Jessica Temple’s poems (2508 Circle Drive). Come check out one of the shows: 7pm, 8pm and 9pm in Gallery 2, Artspace, 201 E Davie St, Raleigh. See you tonight!

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

Creative Work, Dance, Perfect 10

Dear Nature: Week 4

I was so excited to talk about our great company technique class in my last post, I didn’t even mention that we still got some great new work done on dances with Dear Nature in the weekend rehearsal. All the dancers learned the movement material that will accompany another of Jessica Temple’s poems (Gregarious), and the class phrases will be used in a solo for Christina during Sun Kiss. (We also reviewed “Ocean” and “Phrase in 3’s.”

So, on to Week 4! This week was mostly about filling in the missing pieces or details of the work. Once I pieced together Christina’s solo from phrase-work she already knew and gave our Gregarious material its spacing, the dancers knew almost the entire piece. What was missing were all the transitions and having the dancers really understand the flow and scope of the work. They knew all the parts but did not know how they fit together (mostly because I did not know how they fit together until this week as well).

We review all the material as I start to give the dancers the order and deal with the details of getting dancers on and off “stage” – knowing we are working in a space with no wings or “backstage.” The dancers are essentially onstage even when I take them out of the performance space, so that needed to be dealt with, as well. These are somewhat the “boring” details of the dance-making process, but once complete, we are able to see the whole work very close to performance-ready, and that is exciting!

This week I also started the costuming process. While I’ve had ideas about costuming since before even starting rehearsals with the dancers, those original ideas have changed a bit (necessitated by the movement vocabulary), and until this week, I had not tried out any costume ideas of the dancers. So we test out a few dresses, a few skirts, and some crinolines and tutus. What have I decided on? Well, you’ll just have to wait until the premiere next week to see!

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

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 above: rehearsal photos with “stand-in” costumes

About Us, Creative Work, Dance, Dancers, Perfect 10

Dear Nature: Week 3 (part 2)

Open company technique class, August 24.

Open company technique class, August 24.

I’m adding in a second post for Week 3 (following our weekend rehearsal) mainly because of the wonderful company technique class we had on Saturday. This is the first season we have been able to open some of our company classes to community dancers, and so far the response has been great! We had eight dancers join our company and apprentice dancers on Saturday morning, which is probably the perfect number so our space doesn’t get too crowded yet we have lots of extra dancer-energy jumping around.

I certainly love teaching class, so much that sometimes I wonder if I should keep choreographing? Wouldn’t life be easier if I just concentrated on teaching? The answer is surely yes, but I know I miss creating new art when I’m not. (That hasn’t happened very often lately, but I do still know that!) Besides that, a huge element of being a choreographer is also being a teacher – at least in small companies without rehearsal directors or dance captains, etc. It is my responsibility to teach each dancer to perform the material the way I envision, even if that changes slightly based on the nuances of that individual dancer.

Over the past five seasons with Code f.a.d., I’ve had the pleasure of working with many of the same dancers for all those 5+ years. I’ve had the joy of teaching technique class and teaching my choreography to these dancers for so long that it feels easy now. (Well, relatively easy.) While the dancers have kept their own individual performance styles, we have all merged into a collective vision – a unified style of movement. This is the only reason why it is possible to create dances with Dear Nature over such a short amount of time. These dancers are wonderfully dedicated (in addition to being talented), and have absorbed anything I’ve taught them over the years. (It is also worth mentioning one of our cast members in this work is a much newer company member, only in her 3rd year with Code f.a.d. while the rest are in their 6th. Kristina is learning quickly!)

So, thank you dancers! Thank you company dancers for dancing with me for so long, and thank you company class attendees for bringing your energy into the mix. I look forward to seeing you (and maybe a few new faces) at our next class on September 7.

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

Creative Work, Dance, Perfect 10

Dear Nature: Week 3 (part 1)

Week 3 (as crazy as it seems) marks the halfway point to our first performance of dances with Dear Nature. What a quick process! We’ve made great progress so far, but I’m also starting to panic a little during this week – wondering how we’ll have time to finish everything before the shows. I am smart enough to realize, though, that panicking will not help my efforts, so nothing to do but get to work.

We begin our mid-week, evening rehearsal with a couple runs of “Ocean,” and I can tell Natalee and Brooks have practiced their roles outside of rehearsal. It is a definite perk that those two are roommates! They able to get together easily to at least think through new material, and you can just tell they know each other well and so make for great duet partners. This section of the dance looks pretty ready for performance already – minus a few “forgotten parts” that we promptly review.

And it is on to new material! Today’s focus is to learn another trio that will fit into the last portion of Julia Price’s Sun Kiss. The “Phrase in 3’s” already had some falling or collapsing into the floor is its movement vocabulary and “Ocean” added to that theme of grounding into the earth with much of its opening material. So, this led me to explore keeping the dancers absorbed in this lower level – in this case by having the dancers laying down for almost the entire section of dance.

Laying Trio 3This is a very pieced-together section, rather than a phrased section. That means instead of teaching everyone a dance phrase to then manipulate into a trio, I’m working with one dancer at a time, giving them their choreography one movement at a time. And nothing is “counted” to the music in this section! Each dancer learns a bit, then I look at all three performing together to tweak timing or orders of movements to insure the dancers are not completely running (well, rolling) into each other. (Remember we are working in a small space; this section takes place on our 6′ x 10′ section of floor.)

Eventually we make it through the trio, but it has taken up most of our rehearsal time this night. We’ll have to save reviewing our other sections for the weekend rehearsal. Until then…

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

Creative Work, Dance, Perfect 10

Dear Nature: Week 2

We begin week two of this process with three new dancers! On August 10, the company held auditions for this season, and invited Krystal Lynch, Anna M. Maynard, and MacKenzie Buice to join Code f.a.d. as apprentice dancers. So this means they are coming to all our rehearsals and learning parts in the new piece as it is being created. This is a great learning opportunity for them, of course, but it also means I see the choreography on more dancers, each with their own nuances, which can only help me to really focus in on what the core of the movement is about.

This week we spend our time first refining the “Gesture Phrase” and adding a bit of material to finish off this section of the piece. Then moved on to a new movement section I’m calling “Ocean.” This section is another duet, and I already had in my mind that Natalee and Brooks would be the ideal two dancers to perform this part. (I also have the other dancers learn the roles, though; Krystal and Anna working as one pair and Kristina and MacKenzie as another.)

“Ocean” is a combination of slow, meditative movement to a soundtrack of ocean waves crashing into the shore and more fast-paced material with a slight humorous edge, performed to Jessica Temple’s poem Beach in Winter.

Right away this section feels like the way to open the the entire dance. I tend to enjoy starting off my works slowly, to really encourage the audience to settle in and delve into our world. You won’t see dancers doing huge leaps across the stage at the start of one of my dances (not usually, anyway – but never say never). I feel an emotional attachment to this section of the dance, and I’m definitely hoping the audience will, too.

Maybe it is the sound of the ocean, maybe it is the sentimental value of the beach (particularly in winter) to me and my life. (John and I were, afterall, married in winter at the NC coast, and we continue to return most every New Year’s.) It will take more watching to see if the movement will hold up to those without this same attachment to the setting, but for now, it seems right.

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)

above: a portion of the Ocean duets in rehearsal

Creative Work, Dance, Perfect 10

Dear Nature: Week 1

The beginnings of a dance are easy, exciting, invigorating, exhausting, and difficult. I know those things may not seem to coexist, but believe me, in creative work, they certainly do. As I begin any new dance work, I am flooded with ideas – about the movement, the stage, the costumes, the props, the film, the music, the dancers – really everything. The tough part is focusing those ideas and really getting to work! It’s fun to sit around and think about what a dance might be, but it is another thing to get to the real business of making everything fit together into a coherent piece of art.

But, it is that time to work. Before heading into my first rehearsal with the dancers several things happened:

I connected with a new composer for our company (Julia Price) and selected one of her compositions for use in our dance (Sun Kiss).
I was inspired by several poems by my long-time friend (Jessica Temple) and asked her to record them for us (sound clips coming soon!).

I ordered (and received) foam flooring to use in our show – both for color and to protect us from any uneven areas in the Artspace floor.

No sewing has started on the costume-front, but I have colors (yellow, blue, green) and textures (voluminous, fluffy ruffles) in mind at this point.

Movement is always the tough part – to start finding your vocabulary for the dance. A few things came right away, but mainly the movement was slowly draw out of my body, through hours spent just moving (improvising) in my small home studio. I did have two solid phrases going into the first rehearsal, which is quite a lot of dance to have so early (but we do not have a lot of time before this show, thus the hurry). I’m calling the first our “16-count Gesture Phrase” and the second our “Phrase in 3’s.” I also had an idea to play around with to have the dancers help generate a bit of movement if we had some extra time in that first rehearsal.

Time for dancers to join the process!

Phrase in #'sThese first few rehearsals are all about throwing the material at the dancers: seeing what works and what doesn’t, seeing who thrives with which phrases, and not worrying too much about the details at this point. I taught the “Gesture Phrase” first, then started putting this phrase into a spatial plan (formations, transitions and levels/dynamic changes). Knowing we only have a short amount of time, as soon as I feel the dancers have this in their bodies, we move on to the “Phrase in 3’s.” This movement is learned all together, then is put into a duet, with timing and spatial changes for the downstage dancer.

I watch Natalee and Kristina perform the duet and am struck by how different they are as dancers. In my mind, I envisioned the duet as two facets of the same personality but what I am seeing is two completely different people having a similar life experience. They are in two different places, having different responses to the same situation. Perhaps this is what the piece is about: seeing how different people live in an environment. When do they approach a problem the same? When do they look completely separate? When do they help each other?

I think these are good questions to ponder as I continue to process.

(Code f.a.d. Artistic Director)