CREATIVE PEAKS: Moved by the Movement

By on June 28, 2017

Dance performance will stitch audiences into the show.

Francesca Romo (William Muñoz)

JACKSON HOLE, WY – There are many forms of intimacy. It exists between lovers. It is the foundation of deep friendship. It is forged between a parent and child. On Thursday and Friday, Contemporary Dance Wyoming will explore intimacy, as well as create it with its audience, in “Up Close,” a performance where the audience shares the stage with the dancers.

The format, which transforms the Center Theater into a black box theater with seats on stage, is Babs Case’s favorite format for the company, which has done similar shows, but not for several years.

“I feel like the audience becomes much more emotionally connected,” said Case, artistic director of Contemporary Dance Wyoming. “There’s not that distance of the apron between the dancers and the audience. The proscenium is something that really separates and creates another world between performers and audience. This envelopes everyone in the same world—and I like it that way.”

The show was choreographed by Case, guest choreographers Gina Patterson and Dan Walczak, and the company’s rehearsal director Francesca Romo.

Romo took the reins on creating the evening performance. It is the first time Case has stepped back and let someone else lead the company.

The pieces are woven together, Romo said. It’s not quite a cohesive, singular journey. Romo describes it like kids at school playing with a bucket of oil and water. The oil and water mix and move together, but also separate, never quite fully blending.

Romo, a former member of the New York company Gallim, has never performed with the audience on stage, but knows it will change the entire feel of the production for both dancers and those watching.

“It’s almost like you are breathing in their breath and its moving you,” she said. While the dancers never touch or interact with the audience on stage, the setting does break down the fourth wall that separates those on stage from the public, she said.

The format—best described as intimate—inspired the theme of the show, she and Case agreed.

The evening begins with an improvisational piece created by Case that starts just outside the Center Theater. There audiences might find themselves standing next to a dancer. The dancers then move with the audience into the theater and then onto the stage, where they will see three separate pieces put together for the show.

“All are based on the idea of intimacy, or lack thereof,” Case said.

Each choreographer came at the topic from a different direction. 

Walczak, a guest choreographer from New York City and former Gallim dancer, created a piece that is almost sarcastic and delves into the sentimentality surrounding the idea of intimacy, Case said.

Patterson, a prolific choreographer who has set pieces to ballet companies across the country, sourced her dance from her civil rights advocacy work. The dance is about seeing people for who they are, Case said.

Romo explores the different ways people can be intimate, whether that is fighting, or touching. Her work deals with the need for intimacy and how people crave it with others, but also the vulnerability required to truly experience it.

The stage setup is a potent choice for this show, not just because of the topic, Case said. The dance is highly physical and uses gestures and even spoken word. It’s an entirely different experience to see that so close, then it is to watch it from theater seats.

Romo brings a physical style of dance to her pieces inspired by her time with Gallim. There is “a controlled wildness” to it, she said. But there is also a distinctive human element. While watching classical ballet, it might be easier to think of the dancer as other-worldly. Romo wants to remind the audience with her movement that the dancers are humans. It is sometimes the quiet moments on stage in a dance that are the most powerful, she said.

The show is fresh and new and will feel different than other performances, Case and Romo agreed.

“I think it’s going to be a firecracker of a show,” Romo said. “It’s not at all traditional or what you expect.”

The performance features almost the entire Contemporary Dance Wyoming company including Heidi Christine, Michaela Ellingson, Rachel Holmes, Marissa Moeri, Luke Zender and Romo.

Contemporary Dance Wyoming is the state’s only professional modern dance company. It is based at Dancers’ Workshop where many members also teach classes. They also travel to rural areas to provide dance education throughout Wyoming.

Up Close, a performance by Contemporary Dance Wyoming, 8 p.m. Thursday, June 29 and 6 and 8 p.m. Friday, June 30 at the Center for the Arts; $35 adults, $25 students. PJH

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