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Philadelphia Foundation's Ellen Forman Memorial Fund and Drexel Announce 2021 Award Winner Emma Valeria Girandola

June 8, 2021

The Ellen Forman Memorial Fund of the Philadelphia Foundation and Drexel University announce choreographer Emma Valeria Girandola as the 2021 Ellen Forman Memorial Fund Award winner. Girandola will receive a $2,500 cash award for setting her piece, Tabula Rasa, on the Drexel Dance Ensemble in Drexel's Mandell Theater. Production costs are being paid by Drexel, including rehearsal space, cost of costumes, any necessary sets or props, and a digital sound and video recording of the performance.

Girandola, a Philadelphia based choreographer, dance educator, and administrator, graduated in 2019 with a BFA in Dance & Economics. She is the CEO and choreographer of Valerius Productions LLC. She is also a dance educator and administrator at The Philadelphia Dance Academy.

Tabula rasa is the Latin phrase that is translated as ‘clean slate’" Girandola explained. “The phrase refers to the theory that all individuals are born as blank slates. In other words, when each of us is born, our minds are clear and purposeless. Knowledge is then introduced to each of us through our own unique experiences and perceptions.

“Finally, at the end of our lives, we are a product of the societal, environmental, and emotional influences that have been shared with us. This work aims to depict this transition from birth to death through the exploration of the relationships and experiences that we encounter throughout our lives.”

Girandola’s piece will include both research and planned choreography seeking to capture the artistic experience as influenced by the global pandemic.

“I want to find what this unique ensemble of artists has been harboring throughout these past two years and bring it forward,” said Girandola. “Through group conversations and prompted improvisation, I want to explore the emotions and shifts that each of these artists have felt over the years of the pandemic and political climate.”

“These conversations between the artists will lead to chosen phrases that we will translate into Morse code recordings. As a result, these Morse code recordings will both serve as an alternative form of communication and become the music score,” she added. “As we release our emotions through our bodies, this will become our movement research and later the movement vocabulary used in the work. I do not expect this experience to be easy. These past few years have been nothing short of traumatic.”

“My goal is to bring this energy to the stage as a form of therapy and emotional rehabilitation for both the performers and the viewers,” Girandola noted.

The Ellen Forman Memorial Award honors the memory of Ellen Forman's contribution to the dance community. The award is given to a Philadelphia area choreographer to set an original or reconstructed work as part of the Drexel University Dance Ensemble. The fund is administered by the Philadelphia Foundation and award decisions are made with the advice of the Ellen Forman Memorial Award Advisory Committee. EFMA encourages applicants who represent diversity in culture, ethnicity, age and gender.

Learn more about the award here.