Penelope Freeh

Penelope Freeh is a Minneapolis/Saint Paul-based dancer, choreographer, teacher and writer. In 2010 she won a McKnight Artist Fellowship for Choreographers and a SAGE Award for outstanding Performer. Previous awards include a McKnight Artist Fellowship for Dancers (1998), a Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship (1998), and two Career Opportunity Grants (1999, 2001), and a Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Grant (2001).

Her work has been commissioned by James Sewell Ballet, the Minnesota Orchestra, 3-Legged Race, the Walker Art Center/Southern Theater’s Momentum, the Weisman Art Museum, Minnesota Ballet, Skylark Opera and Russia’s Link Vostok Dance Festival among others. She has twice been presented by New York City’s Ballet Builders. Residencies include the Minnesota Dance Lab (part of the Regional Dance Development Initiative) at the College of St. Benedict, St. Catherine University, Carleton College, the University of MN, the Reif Center, the St. Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists and the Perpich Center for Arts Education.

Penelope danced for James Sewell Ballet for seventeen years, serving as Artistic Associate from 2007 – 11. She has set the company’s repertory on Portland Opera, Alaska Dance Theatre, Sandra Organ Dance Company and Company C among others.

She wrote a monthly dance column for twin cities’ METRO Magazine for the 2008 – 09 season for which she interviewed Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown and the local GLBT group 2-Step MSP Country Dancers among others. In May 2008 she was invited to write Why I Dance for Dance Magazine. She has contributed several essays to and is the Walker Art Center’s dance blogger.

She is on faculty at the University of Minnesota and summer faculty at Michigan’s Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp.

Partnership Project: McKnight Artist Fellow | May 6 - 19, 2012

Slippery Fish

The residency of 2010 McKnight Choreographic Fellow Penelope Freeh was her first in exploring the creation of a work with original composition. The residency provided an opportunity for this exploration and collaborative endeavor with Jocelyn Hagen, a 2010 McKnight Composer Fellow. Envisioning the work as an evening-length duet, Freeh generated movement for herself and collaborator Patrick Corbin.

Much of the conceptual framework and underpinnings of the piece evolved through acts of collaboration. Freeh framed the exploration of her creative process by examining how a choreographer creates new material while simultaneously acting as a repository of another’s work. To facilitate this research both Freeh and Corbin met with Patty Phillips, Co-Chair of the FSU Department of Dance. In addition, Freeh kept a blog documenting milestones in the residency, introducing the use of words and the act of writing into her choreographic process. Text and improvisation provided Freeh with her initial method of generating material. Moreover, she, along with Corbin, conducted a trip to Wakulla Springs where the lush environment and abundant wildlife provided rich imagery that shaped the work.

Slippery Fish premiered at The Southern Theater September 28-30, 2012. 

This residency was supported in part by The McKnight Foundation in partnership with Springboard for the Arts.

  • Penelope Freeh and Patrick Corbin share material developed for <i>Slippery Fish</i> in an Open Rehearsal
  • Corbin and Freeh perform a section of material developed in residency
  • Corbin and Freeh perform dyadic material from work-in-progress <i>Slippery Fish</i>
  • Corbin and Freeh
  • Freeh and Corbin show material developed to date
  • Freeh shares <i>Slippery Fish</i> materials
  • Corbin and Freeh engage in a dialogue session following the <i>Slippery Fish</i> Open Rehearsal
  • Freeh, Corbin, and Carrie Henneman Shaw explore an emerging movement vocabulary
  • Corbin and Freeh rehearse
  • Shaw, Corbin, and Freeh rehearse material for <i>Slippery Fish</i>
  • Freeh, Corbin, Jocelyn Hagen, Shaw, and Julia Kim discuss <i>Slippery Fish</i>
  • Freeh and Corbin rehearse material to an original sound score developed by Hagen
  • Freeh in Studio 405, developing material for <i>Slippery Fish</i>
  • Freeh and Corbin during a rehearsal session of <i>Slippery Fish</i>
  • Corbin improvises material for <i>Slippery Fish</i>
  • Corbin and Freeh create dyadic movement for <i>Slippery Fish</i>
Collaborators in Residence: Patrick Corbin [performer], Carrie Henneman Shaw [soprano], Jocelyn Hagen [composer] Slideshow photos by Chris Cameron and Al Hall

Featured Artist

Faye Driscoll

February 22 - 24
Carolina Performing
Arts, UNC Chapel Hill


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