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Artist Interview

Sophie Wood of The Royal Frog Ballet

October 3, 2014


Sophie with one of The Royal Frog Ballet's costumed perfomers.
Photo credit: Candace Hope

Without music, would we dance? Without imagination, would we dream? Without art, would we even be human? Fortunately, because of people like Sophie, we won't ever have to answer these questions. She and The Royal Frog Ballet make the music, explore the imagination, and create the art that speaks to and for the human spirit. Think of Sophie and her caravan of artists and performers as the true pioneers who map the frontiers of all the magic of the world. We can't wait for what surprises The Royal Frog Ballet has for us at Ode on Friday, October 10th, from 6-8. Meet Sophie:

What inspires you to create?
I love to delight people, myself included, and to connect with someone else in a moment of delight or joy. I think there’s a difference between entertainment and delight and that’s a certain level of magic. I like to figure out how to perform a little magic trick, make the impossible suddenly possible, or make someone feel like at least one other person in the universe can speak to what it feels like to be them in their experience.  We (The Royal Frog Ballet) are always discussing how to perform magic tricks, not magic tricks like a rabbit in a hat, but things like how can we can dress the entire audience in costumes, or create a flood without making a mess, or light a show using only fire.

But the next level, after delight, that I’m inspired by is catching the story or idea that keeps resurfacing. Noticing what’s happening in my life and in the larger world around me, and seeing when those two worlds have a common thread. I’m always looking for that re-surface. To me those have to be linked, the larger world and my tiny world: “the personal in the universal,” a teacher of mine used to call it. That’s where the foundation of the work comes from, in your own experience. That’s where the connection between performer and audience happens, in whatever shared understanding you have, be it silly or profound, that common language, that common experience.

I strive to make work that conjures something familiar, that gives you a feeling in your belly before your brain. Art that is immediate, accessible, on foot, made from hand-me-downs, from attics, slapdash and well planned.  Art that is joyous, rapid, slow, poetic, wordless, funny, tragic, innocent, wise, childish, informed, guttural, colorful, educational, simple, grotesque, rough, alluring, sequined, old, familiar, popular, recognizable, mysterious, truthful, breathtaking, crude, dirty, playful, fluid. Art that unstoppably weaves it’s way through your house, your day, your actions. Art that makes you unexpectedly smile, that you recognize, somehow. Art that has roots.

Other things that inspire me to create: Sequins, flowers, pop songs, heart ache.

How did this idea begin?
About 8 years ago there were ten or eleven of us living all together in a house in Amherst. We were all making art and music and poems in our rooms; We were producing and producing, but no one felt confident enough to share what they were working on, the work didn’t feel finished enough or big enough or important enough to hold a whole solo show. We started showing works-in-progress all together, a sort of strength-in-numbers mentality, because we were confident in each other’s art work, if not our own. Thus was born The Royal Frog Ballet. Over many years of living together and then further apart we’ve wound our art and inspiration all up in each other and the deep knowledge of each other’s practice. Our confidence and abilities as individual artists have grown from being rooted in our community’s belief in us. Why do it alone when we can do it together!?

Royal Frog Ballet performing a dance at their annual Pumpkin Walk in Amherst, MA
Photo credit: Candace Hope

One (or two) things every woman should have in her closet?
One item of clothing that, without fail, makes you feel powerful and capable, like you can get out of bed and take over the world, no matter what you’re facing in your life. For me, it’s my work boots and my fake rose hair clip.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Don’t take “no” or “that’s not how it works” or “usually it’s done like this..” or “I don’t think that’s a very good idea” or “You’re never going to make money doing that” for an answer.

Favorite dance move:
The polka, and the squat and bump. Not necessarily together.

Where is your happy place?
The woods, the rivers, the garden.

If there was a perfume named after you, what would it smell like?
Dirt, beans, peonies, hay, housepaint, coconuts, soup, ferns, sweat.

Photo credit: Candace Hope

If you were to write an Ode, to what would you write it?
To the incredible web of community that I have been graced with and encountered since I was born who make me feel so lucky and so rich. But somehow this would be a really witty, specific, sharp brilliant ode instead of really sappy which is how it sounds right now.

What's your favorite line from a movie, song, or book?
“when it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world in my arms.”
-Mary Oliver

A photo of something that inspires me:

Plants of any kind. I am endlessly fascinated by plants and all their endless adaptions and patterns and languages and signs of intelligence and changes and resiliences and methods of attraction and dispersal! They make me feel so small and so foolish and so incapabale and ungainly in the best possible way.

Join us on Friday, October 10th from 6-8pm for live performances from the Royal Frog Ballet!