You submitted nominations for awards given to the Valley's emerging creatives, and the results are in. Introducing our 2014 Big Brain finalists.
Kristopher Pourzal has an expressive personality. He talks with his hands, deliberate motions to illustrate his stories while gazing out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the Nelson Fine Arts Center. The large practice room is empty, save for a grand piano and a handful of chairs lined against the wall where Pourzal sits, barefoot, dressed in light layers for optimal movement.
When he dances, which he will shortly, the room remains silent save for his sharp breathing. He stares ahead, always ahead, even while rolling on the floor. Even when his arms and legs seem to flail and move separately from his body. When he finishes, the space seems to deflate of energy. He walks the lengths of it, hands on his hips, and catches his breath.
When he dances, he says, "those are the moments when I understand why I'm here, in a meta sense."
See also: "Urban Legend" Award Celebrates Creative Phoenix Pioneers in Honor of New Times' Fifth Big Brain Awards
Video by Evie Carpenter.
Born and raised in Falls Church, Virginia, Pourzal attended James Madison University for his undergraduate degree. His background was in theater and music. He originally studied music education, practicing the flute upward of 18 hours a day because, as he says, performing was always an interest to him. Performance, he says repeatedly, before everything.
"It's an excitement. An energy. There's something about this concentrated work toward this thing that gets to be seen," he says. "It's an invitation to be seen."
It wasn't until halfway through his collegiate career that he discovered dance. After taking an improvisation course, he fell in love with the liberation he got from the movement and asked his professor how he could continue to do this.
"She said, 'I've been waiting for you to ask. I see a dance major in you,'" he says.
Pourzal, who graduates next month from Arizona State University with a master's in dance, recently participated in the Dance Graduate Choreographic Presentations with a group of dance students from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. A hybrid of modern dance and theatrics, the pieces are similar to one Pourzal choreographed and performed in November 2013. Clocking in at an impressive -- and exhaustive -- 55 minutes, "I'll Go to the End of Time for You (And You Don't Even Know My Name)" was a nine-month endeavor, an exercise in multi-faceted post-modern contemporary expression.
"The nature of my work [has] this experimental sort of avant-garde component . . ." he says. "It doesn't cleanly fit into dance. It doesn't cleanly fit into theater or music."
Lately he's introduced a vocal component to his pieces, a call-back to his early interest in music and an experiment with what he calls full-body-based performance, akin to the types of pieces produced in CONDER/dance's contemporary Breaking Ground show, which Pourzal has participated in.
For the first 10 days of May, he'll partake in a mass performance piece in New York City entitled Topologie, in which a group of five dancers will enact an elaborate, city-wide score organized by French choreographers Annie Vigier and Franck Apertet. This summer Pourzal, who will turn 25 in July, is moving to Brooklyn where everything, except the sublet he'll be staying in, is up in the air. The prospect is exciting in a professional sense, but he says the sense of freedom he's discovered in the Southwest will be missed.
"I moved to Arizona for ASU and, this is a little bit esoteric but I also very literally mean it, but I've gotten space," he says. "It was actually jarring, 'Nobody's going to tell me what to do. Nobody's going to tell me what my work is supposed to look like.' I'm so grateful for that space to get lost and find my voice.
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"[But] I have been so nourished by how much sky I'm able to see here. I bike everywhere; I don't have a car here. And every day I'm in awe by how much sky is above me. And I think that's really important."
Artopia will take place from 8 p.m. to midnight Friday, April 25, at Bentley Projects in downtown Phoenix. Tickets are $25 in advance and $35 the day of the event. See more at www.phoenixnewtimes.com/bigbrainawards.