Sweet-arts: Creative couples share love of each other and their work

Friday, February 12, 2010

Southeast Missourian

Ellen and Dennis Seyer give off subtle clues that they belong in performing arts. Ellen wears a scarf with musical notes on it and hums while walking around the house. Dennis wears a tie with director's chairs on it.

If you pay attention, you can pick up that they both love the theater, but you don't need to look twice before it's abundantly clear that they love each other.

Craig and Beth Thomas, visual artists who've been together for more than two decades, still chide each other about how sweet the other can be, though many people may not know it.

Hilary Peterson and Philip Edgecombe are dance experts, but among this group, they still rank as newlyweds, having been married just three years. Dance invades their daily conversations as the two go about working and living together.

Learn more about them here, as this Valentine's Day, SE Live exposes these three couples as lovers -- of art, and each other.

Philip Edgecombe and Hilary Peterson of pH Exchange (Fred Lynch)

Philip Edgecombe & Hilary Peterson

Philip Edgecombe and Hilary Peterson have been together for seven years and married for three of them. They met at the University of Arizona in Tucson, where they were in the same graduate school class. Both Edgecombe and Peterson now work as instructors in the Department of Theatre and Dance at Southeast Missouri State University. They teach dance technique and other courses and also choreograph for the musicals and biannual dance concerts. The couple started their own dance company in 2009 called pH eXchange Dance Theatre.

They took some time to answer questions together about their relationship -- personal and working.

What influence does your spouse have on your work?

Quite a bit, both in our teaching and in our choreography. Because we teach dance every day, we are constantly discussing our classes and what worked or didn't work with our students. We share ideas on pedagogy as well as movement ideas and concepts for class. We have team-taught a few technique classes and they end up working very well because of our shared ideas.

We both have different creative ideas and methods for bringing those ideas to life that the influence on our choreographic work comes mainly from the feedback we give each other during the creative process. We make it a habit to visit each other's rehearsals and give insight into what we see. Hearing what specific parts we like or don't like in the work will cause us to shape the work differently. We have a lot of respect for one another as artists so we take the feedback we give and receive very seriously. We know that it is coming from a place of honesty and the desire to help the other person create the best work possible

How often do you perform together?

Our individual work has been performed in the same concerts both at Southeast and at the University of Arizona. We only recently began co-choreographing, which started with our company pH eXchange this past summer. We created a 50-minute work that was performed at the Kansas City Fringe Festival in July. We also recently co-choreographed the Pantomime Ballet for Southeast Music Department's production of "Hansel and Gretel." We have found that we work very well together and that it is a very complimentary process. We have also danced together in our company performance and in two previous duets.

Is there any competition between you? Even just friendly?

I don't think we would call it competition, but we definitely push each other to create better work and be better artists. When we see each other's work either in the studio or on stage, we will say how cool this was or how well that worked and want to create that kind of image or pattern for ourselves in our own work.

What's your favorite thing to do together?

Cooking and hiking in the mountains surrounding Tucson. And, of course, dancing!

Her favorite gift from Philip: How he proposed. On stage after I performed a solo he had set on me in graduate school. It was very unlike Philip to do something so public, so it was completely unexpected but exactly how I wanted it.

Philip's favorite gift from her: The duet, "Slow Me Down," which Hilary set on the two of us.

Craig and Beth Thomas (Fred Lynch)

Craig & Beth Thomas

Craig and Beth Thomas both love art and can always be found fostering it in some form or fashion -- creating it, promoting it or hosting a show in their gallery, Black Door Gallery. They've been together for 25 years and married for most of that time. The two met at Six Flags St. Louis when Craig was drawing caricatures of guests and Beth was his boss.

Her art consists of assemblage pieces from found objects or mixed media, that's when she's not teaching art at Central High School. Craig is a muralist who paints fine art and does street paintings around the country.

What influence does your spouse have on your work?

Beth: Craig is an excellent critic, he encourages me and he has my back.

Craig: Beth is my No. 1 critic.

How often do you two exhibit together?

Beth: We've exhibited together twice. When he had his first show, he "let" me exhibit with him.

Craig: Yes, she graced me with her presence. She doesn't like to work with me.

Beth: We just have different styles.

Is there any competition between you? Even just friendly?

Beth: Yes, I think most artist are a little competitive.

What's your favorite thing to do together?

Beth: On Monday night we have date night. We like to go to movies together. Travel, go to galleries, etc...

Craig: Usually when we travel, we visit art galleries. We never get bored because we both like to go see art work in galleries.

Beth, what's your favorite Valentine's gift from him? One year, Craig surprised me with a table full of heart playing cards and a cow skull laying on top of them. I think that was my favorite gift.

Ellen and Dennis Seyer (Fred Lynch)

Dennis & Ellen Seyer

Ellen and Dennis Seyer met in the theater and have spent much of their lives and careers there, too. Ellen is currently the director of vocal studies and chairwoman of the music department at Notre Dame Regional High School and Dennis recently retired from Southeast Missouri State University where he was a professor of theater and dance. They will celebrate their 32nd marriage anniversary in May.

How did you meet?

Dennis: It was a school play. She was in it and I was directing and designing it. We actually didn't date until five years later.

Were you both involved in the arts at the time?

Dennis: I was already in directing and theater design work. Ellen was a student, interested in performing arts.

Have you ever worked together?

Dennis: We were together a couple times where she directed the orchestra and did choral work in St. Louis, Southeast and Hillsboro, Mo. I was the director or scenic designer.

Ellen: It's about the only time we get to spend together. We actually complement each other very well. We have the same artistic vision, which is nice. It'd be a pretty interesting home life otherwise.

What's your favorite thing to do together?

Dennis: Travel, live theater, movies. We travel everywhere. We're going to Germany this summer. Two summers ago we went to New York, just the two of us, and we saw six shows in three days.

Ellen: We live and breathe theater when we're in New York.

Ellen's favorite gift from Dennis: Flowers.

Dennis' favorite gift from Ellen: Movie passes.

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