WestWave Dance Festival Artists Speak

By In Dance


In addition to our interview with Joanna Haigood, we asked the 45 artists participating in this year’s DanceWaves and Film Night to offer up a first person perspective—or in grant-speak, an artist statement—that will provide our audience and readers insight into their work. As you peruse these, you will discover a variety of dance styles and aesthetics that we believe reflect our ever expanding dance community in the Bay Area. Please see the WWDF insert for details on when each artist or company will perform.

Over three centuries old, Bomba was expressed in the sugar plantations of Puerto Rico where enslaved Africans created music and dance, transforming their oppression into passionate rhythms of healing and revolution. Born in Puerto Rico of Indian parents, I had the unique experience of growing up amidst the beautiful rhythms of Puerto Rico, while being grounded in my ancient Indian culture. As an accomplished dancer and teacher of Bomba with over ten years of experience, I have trained under renowned masters from the Cepeda Family. In the Bay Area, I dance with Son Borikua and direct Aguacero, a performance and education project. For four years I served as Artistic Director and Choreographer for performing group Cacique y Kongo. I have performed with members of the Cepeda Family and in the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. I train in Odissi, a classical Indian dance form from Orissa, India with Guru Sri Vishnu Tattva Das, and perform with Odissi Vilas. As a dance performer, I engage the audience using passionate expression, intricate isolated body movements, strength, and creative foot and skirt work, all skills learned from my studies of Odissi and Bomba combined. A blessing from our ancestors, Bomba is alive today as the oldest form of Puerto Rican music and dance. Through education, performance, and creative passion, I am committed to continue these ancient and centuries old music and dance genres. Aguacero is directed by Shefali Shah, Bombayplena@sbcglobal.net, Musicbeat.org.

Alayna Stroud
I have been very lucky to know what my purpose or path in this life is. Although I may have spent a fair share of time questioning its validity- and I still have my moments, dance has always been my one true passion. There are so many ways to be a dancer and I took the path closest to my personality, always pushing the boundaries. Never being satisfied that there is one right way, I tried a bit of everything in a seemingly meandering path of places, teachers, dance and art forms. Since my childhood in rural Michigan I was compelled to climb everything accessible to me. Discovering aerial dance brought this fascination with challenge and heights to a whole new level. I love the feeling I get from doing it as well as observing it. My initial reaction in seeing a woman fly through the air was the feeling I first experienced in watching modern dance- times ten. I was transported. There is something magical in the sensation of flight for those of us who don’t physically have wings. Through this medium I can transform into something larger and more universal than myself and have the ability to share this experience with those on the ground daring enough to allow them selves to get swept up with me. Alaynastroud.com.

Amy Seiwert/im’ij-re
I hold the belief that ballet has an expressive and vital voice relevant for our current time. Though respect is held for swans and sylphs, they are not where my interests lie as a choreographer. Having no desire to regurgitate art, I appreciate working with artists who share the belief that through collaboration and experimentation, vibrant and courageous ideas can be expressed.

For this new work, I will be collaborating with Tricia Sundbeck and Jay Goodlett, two amazing artists I have had the good fortune of working with many times before. These mature artists bring much to the process, years of performing principal roles with the Sacramento and Cincinnati Ballets in a wide range of repertory have made them dancers with a wealth of experience. One of my main concerns about ballet is it is often about imitation versus creation, sometimes in a creation process with a ballet company classical dancers are uncomfortable exploring movement they are uncomfortable with. Tricia and Jay are not only comfortable in the exploratory process, they push me outside of my comfort zone as well. This fosters a creation process rich in potential and exciting to be a part of. Web.mac.com/amyseiwert.

Andrew Wass
– respond to my environment
– find ideas others have missed/forgotten/ignored, distill them and amplify them.
– trim the excess, the chaff from ideas and present them in their purest forms.
– flesh out our world, uncover the hidden nooks, and dust off the ideas good but forgotten.
– follow a process till its logical end, rather than bowing immediately to my aesthetic.

I am interested in repeating processes/problems, running through their variables to uncover something not immediately obvious. I want to create an image, foster an idea that will last in the viewers’ memory. I believe the audience to be just as much a part of the performance, if not more, as what is happening on stage. Andrewwass.com.

AXIS Dance Company and Alex Ketley
In Alex Ketley’s words, “To Color Me Different is a work for AXIS Dance Company that loosely explores how our intimate interactions with people alter us personally. That each action taken, and every moment changes the fabric of who we are. The piece was developed closely and collaboratively with the two AXIS dancers who perform the work, and its inspiration for me was largely motivated by my deep artistic admiration for both these dancers, Rodney and Sonsherée. Like many things I look for in performance, I feel they have a unique ability to really take the seeds of my ideas and flesh them out into moving and broad reflections of things personal to them. I feel very fortunate to have had this opportunity to work with AXIS, and certainly feel that our time in the studio has changed me.” AXIS Artistic Director Judith Smith adds “We are thrilled to commission Alex this year following an inspiring residency with him at the Maggie Allessee National Center for Choreography at FSU Tallahassee in 2007. Alex’s process is one that asks dancers to take the movement they create even further than they might by nature. In this way, he brings out the utmost in his dancers.” Axisdance.org and Foundryprojects.org.

Brian Gibbs/ TAGsf
Triam is an improv set in three parts.

The set up was me starting off with a control for the improv. We shot the film in January 2007 at Dr. Bacon’s studio in Washington DC. The weather was unusually hot for the time of year and all of the clothes that we had sweaters, thick jackets and hats were too hot for the occasion and that was the initial set up for the improv. Changing out of my clothes into something more breathable. As I danced in and out of different arrangements I set all of my clothes on the floor directly in front of me. Garen then came in and improv’d around my set up of changing in and out of clothes with my clothing articles still lying on the floor and vice versa. Walking away after completing the dance portion we were pleased with the work that we had just completed yet curious about what Dr. Bacon would do with it.

Due to the fact that the material we had done was a controlled improv, Dr. Bacon went into the editing process with the same intent as us. How can he switch us in and out of our clothing and spacing on film? The result was something remarkable. Garen and I dancing in our own individual sections blurring into one. Its funny to look back at Triam and know that none of it would not be possible without the help of global warming to get me out of my hot clothing in the middle of Winter.

Brooke Broussard Dance Project
The performance work of Brooke Broussard Dance Project creates concentrated, subtle, and detailed visions of strange beauty that echo the simplicity and spirit of all life. Each piece is unique unto itself and distinct to each moving body, as the dancers hone and abstract their own innate artistic sensibilities to master a challenging new movement vocabulary. In this way, each new work emerges from a distinctive improvisatory study supported by my choreographic alphabet and a technical backbone of varying classical and contemporary techniques. The audience becomes so intensely absorbed by the artistic landscapes my dancers and I create that every experience within is novel and unique. I do not intend to invoke confusion or showcase everyday life, but rather to represent a higher level of spiritual exploration through movement. If I keep moving forward with these ideals, I feel that I will find life within creation. My dancers and I continue to create more in-depth pieces. Over the long term, our edgy artistic visions will continue to evolve the face and practice of contemporary dance. Nexxtinc03@earthlink.net.

Brook K. Gauthier & Lindsay Gauthier
As an artist and observer, I am fascinated by liminal space, the spaces in between, the gap where light meets object and object shadow, where silence and music converse, where dancer meets dance. I do not wish to seek the spaces known to me but the twilight between them.

As a writer and director, I am interested in the tension and points of integration between polarities. At a time when polarization around seemingly disparate viewpoints feeds the sometime violent drama of both the personal and political, how can we refresh our course by redefining our relationship to the spaces between us? How can we use relatedness to keep us present: right here, right now? The immediacy of dance and the clarity of contact make it the perfect place to explore the subtlety of interaction – to express the space where one thing ends and the next begins. Always in flux, our relatedness is born from a context of change, of motion. What better pairing than film and dance? Both mediums are in love with bodies in motion. Somewhere between the projector and the screen a ghostly light is cast, and somewhere within that light human bodies are dancing. Limbinal.googlepages.com and chrysalisfilm.com.

Charlotte Moraga
Kathak is about challenging myself. The interesting thing about this work is the structure of time and space and how it creates the context for an exploration of relationships. There are layers of structure. The duration is five minutes. On another level the work will be danced in a rhythmic cycle of 5 beats. The time signature, taal, is the framework upon which the dance is constructed. The space has measurable boundaries as well. The dance will be primarily contained within a five by five space. Finding the freedom to express the story within the layers of structure is the ultimate challenge. Traditionally a Kathak solo is not a choreographed piece, but rather a dynamic unfolding of elements which build to a climax over hours, through recited compositions, footwork, stories, poetry, song and dialogue played out between the triangle of dancer, musician and audience. There will be no time for the slow unfolding of a solo, no time to build a relationship, so the boundaries of time and space are meant to magnify the experience for me. These boundaries can confine or define. Essentially, they offer the opportunity to rise above limitations. This opportunity, ultimately, is an exploration of my relationship with Kathak and finding the limitless potential within bounds of our Kathak tradition and the challenges presented in my life. Charlotte Moraga is a disciple of Pandit Chitresh. Daskathak.org, Charlotte@kathak.org.

Charya Burt Cambodian Dance
As an immigrant artist I am influenced by both my native culture and the culture I live in today. To remain a vital and important part of contemporary Cambodian culture and to renew interest in traditional Cambodian art forms, it is important to allow the art to evolve. In 1982 when I began my dance training in Cambodia, it was a time when “preservation” was considered the highest possible ambition. But over the years, I have learned that preservation can mean many things – restaging dances from the repertory, carrying on the tradition of the master/apprentice relationship, and it can also mean infusing the dance form with imagination by creating new works that resonate with the artists who perform them. I want to expose my work to newer and broader audiences by creating dances here in California that reflect my concerns and passions while adhering to the traditional vocabulary of the dance with its 4500 precise movements. By using new forms of music, choreography, and contemporary themes, combined with traditional vocabulary, I believe I can bring legitimacy to this form of dance – one which is, in fact, contemporary with the classical form as its heart and soul. Charyaburt.com, Info@charyaburt.com.

Chris Black
I strive to make dances that communicate in ways that other art forms cannot. I believe in the communicative power of the human body moving through space and see dance as a medium capable of making a unique kind of emotional statement. I want to leave the audience with a lasting visceral reaction, a feeling, an experience, that can’t be expressed through language. My movement vocabulary stems from multiple dance techniques, pedestrian movement, social dance and athletics. I aim to make work that is accessible on many levels and includes a healthy dose of humor. My desire to reach a broader audience has led to an interest in developing and performing dances outside of traditional performance spaces. Potrzebie.com, c@potrzebie.com.

Christy Funsch
What connects us, what buoys us in our marginalization? Our individuation, or, as the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. coined, our somebodiness. We are all someone, in some body, and I dance my own somebodiness. That I am comfortable being uncomfortable bolsters my confidence. That I dance just me, with my many flaws, enables me to keep doing it. I want to read as a person onstage rather than as a dancer. I want to master casual exactitude, emotional virtuosity, musicality that is precise in a meter of my own making. I want to know myself. Sometimes it isn’t very pretty. I try to follow where my dances lead, even when it makes me queasy. I trust myself, but I trust my movement more than myself. If it looks, feels, and smells formulaic, guess what? It’s probably formulaic. So I smash structure and make my own. I trash meters and make my own. I want to find the person in the performer. Where am I under all of this training? What does my foot want to do with the thousands of tendus it has under its wee belt? Funschdance.org, Christy@funschdance.org.

dance ceres
I am inspired by individual resilience, emotional articulation, and energetic dance. Our work examines human themes to highlight connectivity. Our current rehearsal road map focuses on dissecting emotional energy. Through group observation, trigger exercises and assumption-to-truth illustration, we design figurative bridges between communicative language (written, spoken, indicated), internal lodging and motion. Directed by Brittany Brown Ceres, dance ceres strives for subtlety through action, individuality through community, immediacy through timelessness, and equality through art. Danceceres.org, Danceceres@hotmail.com.

Dance Continuum SF
My style mixes lyricism and softness with the seemingly disparate qualities of power and physicality. I particularly like to work with group dynamics, interactions and complex patterns, but also appreciate simplicity as a way to draw attention and focus. I am very keen to observe that as a society we have seemed to forsaken dance in our everyday lives; for example, when food is harvested, or the rains come, when there is a birth or death in the community, etc., and that the last bastion of ritualized dance seems to only occur at weddings. As a way to combat this trend, I take much of my inspiration from the movements we perform in our everyday lives. In addition to being a choreographer, I am also a special effects software developer and artist for the film and video industries. I believe the movement qualities of a successful dance work are often useful in creating visual effects work, and vice-versa. I challenge myself to craft and incorporate films that are a part the dances; but more importantly, to create pieces that use the connections between the two for a more compelling experience for the audience. Dance Continuum is co-directed by Pete Litwinowicz & Jose Ibarra. Dancecontinuumsf.org, Pete@dancecontinuumsf.org.

Dandelion Dancetheater
I believe there are aspects of life that can only be integrated by being in the same room with a live body going through authentic, real-time experiences. My choreography is up-close. Through dance combined with intuitively-driven theater, music, and image, my work cultivates visceral adventure, inviting audiences inside; to feel and remember, reflect and transform.

In all my work I intend to excavate my foundations in modern dance choreography–uncovering both the narrative and non-linear, the beautiful and the uncomfortable. I strived to go beyond familiar dance/theater procedures to create a palpable environment for the audience to enter.

I have gathered a long-term ensemble of dancers, actors, and musicians that is dynamic, unpredictable and emotionally explosive. Each is highly trained in a particular art form, and each is eager to dismantle the boundaries of that form, to allow for surprise and discovery. Through our cross-disciplinary performance experiments, we chisel away at habitual reactions, and then guide audiences to re-vision responses to the unknown. Dandelion Dancetheater is co-directed by Eric Kupers & Kimiko Guthrie, Dandeliondancetheater@gmail.com.

Deborah Slater Dance Theater
I have been creating large-scale multi-disciplinary dance theater works with artists and professionals germane to the subject matter (i.e. scientists, psychologists, painters, sleep specialists, etc) for over 20 years.. My work is in the formalizing of informal gesture, the physicalization of psychological states. It is in the deliberately timed turn of a head, the repeated motion of an arm reaching out and drawing back, the clenching of the ribs, the restraint of a stylized step – first one character and then the next. “Body language” highlights and underscores dramatic themes, establishing the dreamlike environment of a dance or a play and preparing the audience for an other than traditional reality. The work is often a response to a significant life-changing event – the unexpected death of a parent, a near-death experience, a family history of sleep disturbances. I work with artists who have unique sensibilities in a deeply collaborative process. Initial visions evolve significantly during development, as layers of movement, theater, visuals, sound, and theme interact and coalesce. The work is informed by a capacity developed over time to mine subject matter for its core emotional truths and beauty; and to integrate multiple components into a coherent whole. Good stories and unexpected paths. Artofthematter.org, Dsdt@artofthematter.org.

Erin Mei-Ling Stuart/EmSpace Dance
After ten years of making dances for stages of various sizes, I burned out. I spent a wonderful year doing other things – dancing in other people’s work, playing music, seeing friends. In an odd bit of timing, I was awarded a choreography residency at the Djerassi Resident Artists’ Program during this year off. I spent a month there hiking, meditating, and dancing. I improvised in any place that inspired me – in the woods, on a table, on a dirt path, in a barn, on sheets of paper, in bed. I videotaped hours of improvisations, and cut together a short video. It wasn’t much to show for a month-long residency where other artists were composing quartets or editing their novels. But by not spending that month working on a specific project, I found a free flow of creative energy that was different from the way I had always worked. When I got home, I didn’t head directly into the studio to start choreographing again. But the wheels started turning, and here I am now. Which is where, exactly? For now, not terribly interested in choreographing for stage, but very excited about playing with the possibilities of dance in other spaces and on camera. Emspacedance.org.

Erika Tsimbrovsky
Interweaving of styles and media is a defining quality of Modernity. Like many scientific disciplines tend to come together in a Unified Theory, the arts are coming together in interdisciplinary projects.

I created the genre of audio-visual-kinetic performances (structured improvisation). The main idea is interaction of artists representing different art forms and genres within the bounds of energy-information space, which they create on stage in the process of performing.

Visual codes that appear on stage activate and guide the audience’s imagination while creating a mystery that we try to solve together. Sets are very important to me. Sets and costumes are not auxiliary like in legitimate theater. In my performances they become active participants. They interact with artists and the audience and as a consequence space always changes and breathes with music.

The main theme of my art concerns phobias, a little man, who is a part of the greater world. I like to observe ambiguities in man and in nature. For example, how is it possible for the rational to coexist with the irrational? My performances are a means to learn about the world, to reach out to others and learn about myself. Etsimbrovsky@gmail.com.

FatChanceBellyDance, under the direction of Carolena Nericcio since 1987, is a Bay Area phenomenon that has become known around the world. Audiences delight at the exuberance, vitality, beauty and power expressed by the strong and agile dancers. The majestic costuming, including full headdresses and layers of ethnic jewelry, celebrate the folk art of the old world. The music, a carefully chosen collection of both traditional sounds and modern fusion adds to the effect…Tribal Style looks “old” but it is actually “new.”

Carolena has developed a method of improvisational choreography, using a vocabulary of natural movements and cues allowing the dancers to communicate via gesture when dancing together. The effect is a vibrant thread drawing the audience into the tapestry. This system is called American Tribal Style Belly Dance. fcbd.com.

Facing East Dance & Music
FEDM’s current body of work reflects my personal insights as an Asian American woman. My work usually stems from personal inquiry regarding some aspect of Asian cultural history, but wherever the source pops up, it moves me to create. As I strive to develop a distinctive voice through dance, the feedback I receive from audiences, particularly from Asian women, says something to me about my own life: that my experiences are not isolated.

As Artistic Director of Facing East Dance & Music, I create dance that seeks to inspire and elicit emotion from viewers. My work and the issues it addresses hope to reach broader audiences, with outreach via touring, master classes and subsidized performances as a continuing goal. As a smaller company, lack of both funding and organizational support has proven challenging, but our 10 year anniversary is in 2009! With each year I derive more and more insight from the collaborations that occur with my artists and designers and from the community in which I live. These insights fuel my work. Facing East is directed by Sue Li Jue. Fedm.org, Facingeastdm@excite.com.

Fellow Travelers Performance Group
This work is a part of a series FTPG is creating called “Bocaditos”, an evening of tasty little morsels. Sections are designed to be picked from a menu of items and performed anywhere from your living room to the Kennedy Center. Created as a series of small dance theater works (mostly solos and duets), Bocaditos explores a wide range of relationships, thoughts and insights in miniature.

Our work ranges widely from large ensemble stage dance theater pieces, to spoken word solos, to installation and site specific works. Having two artistic directors, the work varies in content, intent, and form but still maintains a certain urge to chart human interactions, the place of the individual in society, power, and image. We have a tradition of pushing all parameters of performance from the physical space, to vocabularies, structure, and content to explore the surreal scope of human experience.

Fellow Travelers Performance Group (FTPG) was formed in 1992 by Artistic Directors/choreographers Ken James and Cynthia Adams, whose vision was to create a hybrid of traditional and experimental dance theater involving the voices of choreographers, dancers, musicians, visual artists, directors and actors. Ftpg.org.

Greta Schoenberg/Motion Pictures
Growing up in a small town, my early exposure to dance was through film and television. I’d devour old musicals and reenact their scenes in my living room long before I began serious training. Now, after many years as an active member of the dance community, I can see the potential for quality classical and contemporary dance forms to gain greater exposure through newly accessible digital mediums. Although nothing can or should replace live performance, film creates new dimensions for dance. Freed from the confines of the stage, dancers are transported into unexpected settings. They can interact more directly with their surroundings and become a part of the ‘real’ world, a world to which more people might relate.

In developing my own work, I hope to use video to break free from traditional molds and insular audiences, making something more lasting and portable that could be shared with anyone, anywhere. I’m not, however interested in archiving stage performances, using a stationary camera as a passive observer. I want to actually choreograph with these new tools, making something that wouldn’t be possible on stage. So although my technical skills and equipment are limited, I have begun feeling my way toward integrating the art of dancemaking with that of filmmaking. I consider my little videos early experiments in what is opening up to be a vast field of exciting possibility. Info@motionpictures-sf.com.

Guru Shradha
Odissi dance hails from the Indian state of Orissa, a land of temples, and is known for its lyrical grace, sculpturesque beauty, and spirituality. The style of legendary late Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, a key figure in Odissi dance, is especially recognized for its refinement and sophistication. It was my great fortune to have had extensive personal training under him and revered him as my spiritual guide through the medium of Odissi dance. He gave blessings for his own institution (formed recently as Guru Shradha) to start over here with his guidance and yearly visits of Sujata Mohapatra, his daughter-in-law and now leading Odissi dancer, who has taught the piece, Vakratunda Mahakaya, which is choreographed by our master’s son, Guru Ratikant Mohapatra. Vakratunda Mahakaya is a spiritual prayer to the Hindu Lord Ganesh, describing his elephant head with twisted trunk and big body dancing majestically and who is the remover of all obstacles. I have been working with the Guru Shradha dance company to progress through different levels – technical perfection, synchronization, expressional refinement, fluidity in motion, emotional and finally spiritual connection to the piece before the piece will be further polished in June by the choreographer himself, Guru Ratikant Mohapatra. Guru Shradha is directed by Niharika Mohanty. Gurushradha@gmail.com, Odissiniharika.com.

Halau o Keikiali’i
This style of dance is Hula Kahiko (lit. ancient dance) done in an “aiha’a” (or close to the ground) style. This style of hula comes from the Big Island of Hawai’i and is used specifically for dances honoring the Goddess Pele.

These ancient songs and dances were used to honor specific gods, chiefs, and places/nature. The Hawaiian language was not a written language, so chants and songs such as these were one way of documenting history (oral tradition). By honoring these things, we gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for them. In most cases, the text of the songs have layered meanings, which are often believed to be a “code of conduct” and serve as a guide to proper cultural etiquette. Halau o Keikiali’i, is directed by Kawika Alfiche. Keikialii.com, Info@apop.net.

Huckabay McAllister Dance
I want to tell a good story. I want to make people laugh, to transport them to another place, to ask them to look at things in a new way. I want to convey that how people move, with small, silent gestures and subtle shifts of the eye, is often far more telling than the words they speak. I want to take old movies, books, and fairytales and tell them in a new way, and create characters and storylines that will grab hold and stay with you long after the piece is over. I want my dancers to look beautiful, terrifying and hilarious all at once. I want to find the magical place where slapstick and heartbreak meet, fall in love and run off to Vegas. Huckabay McAllister Dance is directed by Jenny McAllister. hmdance.org.

Jess Curtis/ Gravity
The Symmetry Project is a movement-based performance/installation/media project by performer/collaborators, Jess Curtis and Maria Francesca Scaroni investigating and embodying symmetrical (homologous) movement practice in a series of highly structured improvisational scores and choreographed movement sequences.

In this process Scaroni and Curtis force the dislocation of their physically based work, from a traditional theatrical context, into media, gallery and public space contexts, thereby re-framing the work and affording viewers the possibility to see the body, and its metaphorical possibilities through different filters, with different types of attention expectation and association.

Collaborating with composer/contrabassist Klaus Janek, video artist Regina Teichs, installation artist Ricarda Mieth and photographer Sven Hagolani in a variety of presentational contexts, including photo and video media, “live art” performance installations in galleries, internet, public sites and performance in theatrical contexts, Curtis and Scaroni investigate homologous movement as a lens whose distortion, and or focus, will yield insight into a variety of physical, aesthetic, social, and ethical realities. Jesscurtisgravity.org.

Katie Faulkner
I tend to project my understandings of social interactions on to the physical dynamics of the natural world. It was this that led to the naming of my company. Living in a city, so precariously perched on a latticework of fault lines, I am often struck by our shared vulnerability, by the thing that could bring us all so impartially to our knees. I am conscious of the pressures we exert on ourselves and on each other and how small, seismic shifts between us can spark surprising and unalterable sequences of events that change us forever. Nothing that we stand on is truly static.

Over the last few years, I have been making use of the unique tools dance for film offers for the exploration of these themes. Its ability to magnify the subtle details of interaction mirrors my interest in the subterranean forces at work within and among us. Like much of my work for the stage, Loom is a filmic attempt to understand the truths revealed in the places where the cracks begin to show. Littleseismicdance.org.

As an interdisciplinary artist who has been connected to and investigating the moving body for twenty three years, I am mostly interested in expanding the art of revelation on the threshold of experience through the use of dance and performance with visual imagery, sound, and language. Creative Expression through all mediums holds the ability to shift perspectives, transform realities, challenge generally accepted beliefs, and positively impact our hearts. It can take many forms, succeed and fail, and be self-indulgent and generous. Whatever the qualities that are embodied, creative expression ultimately holds a key to the unlocking of the human connection between all of us. My deepest desires for my life and my art are to manifest the enrichment and empowerment of our world and to encourage the asking of more and more questions, specifically so that we might embrace the vast expansiveness of our personal and universal humanness in all of its possibilities. Ross Hollenkamp, Suzanne Lappas, Andrew Ward and I, Lindsay Leonie Gauthier, co-founded Limbinal in 2007 with this very intention. We are now experimenting with and discovering the beauty that lies in communication through the process of asking questions and pushing boundaries. Sometimes playful and sometimes serious, its focus is most simply the open road of connectivity, discovery, and transformation. Limbinal.googlepages.com, Limbinal@gmail.com.

Liss Fain Dance
My work is abstract, defined by dynamic and emotionally poignant movement that fuses modern dance’s flow and experimentation with ballet’s precision and lift. The ideas that I work from have their origins in classical music—from America, Europe and Africa—as well as in literature. Over the past few years, I have focused on the tensions and profound spiritual understanding engendered by the unpredictable course of events that comprise one’s life.

When I create the movement and the overall structure of a piece, I work from an internal story which shapes the trajectory of the dance. In the rehearsal process, the dancers and I work collaboratively with the movement phrases and the ideas to explore possibilities, define clarity and accentuate individuality. To create a performance that is visceral, emotional and thought-provoking, I conceive of the movement, the music and the visual environment as an indivisible unit. Lissfaindance.org.

LIVING LENSES/ Louise Bertelsen & Po Shu Wang
We live day in and day out, in a reality that is constantly inspiring the most wonderful and tragic human interactions. Our paradigm-guided perception determines our version of a shared reality. Our work is an on-going exploration of the world we live in, the world we live by, and the world we wish for. Living Lenses’ subject matters are bits and pieces of that everyday reality out there in public places. Our aim is to act as Living Lenses to draw focus on the conscious and unconscious layers of meaning inherent in a place, as well as to introduce new elements for possible mutation. Livinglenses.com, Mail@livinglenses.com.

Loose Change Dance Company
Growing up, movement was my teacher and my inspiration; I was a kinetic child who never felt completely comfortable in a traditional classroom setting. It wasn’t until I began my study of Martial arts that my real education began—I learned coordination, flexibility, and how to channel my own power, creativity and personal expression through the movement of my body. As I grew and expanded my vocabulary I found myself drawn and exposed to jazz, ballet, African, and eventually hip hop and modern. Loose Change Dance Company has been a vehicle for me to experiment and explore all types of movement and to tell stories about the world we live in and the issues we all face. From a young age I developed a profound connection with nature and the natural world. This connection infuses all that I do in dance today and is an on going source of my creativity and inspiration. Loose Change Dance Company is directed by Eric Fenn. Loosechangedance.com.

Luis Valverde
The traditional Peruvian Dance is pretty much an unknown world to the American audiences. For the past 8 years, since I made the Bay Area my residence, I have been working on bringing part of the vast variety of dances found in the Andes to the stage. I soon realized that was not going to be an easy goal to achieve. Just staging a traditional dance -adapting it for stage performance- is a great challenge; furthermore, to develop ideas over a traditional piece without distorting its essence might be even daring. My tendencies over the past years have been headed into this tortuous road, challenging myself to find, among a universe of more than 5000 traditional dances, the ones to be more “suitable” to work on stage and to enrich with a contemporary and creative proposal. As for the work itself, as part of that proposal, I feel the need to relate to the intense connection between music and dance, not only as separate disciplines that assemble when the artist choose to, but that fusion into one being unconsciously. That is when I try to make the dancer the creator of its own music. Peruviandance@yahoo.com.

Mary Sano and her Duncan Dancers
When I dance, I seek to create harmony. Connecting with nature, I become one with East and West, with past, present, and future. Dancing Harmony (inspired by Greek term Apmonia Xopoy) is all about simplicity, sincerity, harmonious movement, and natural beauty. While the world is in disorder, I dance and pray for peace.

Recently, I began to realize the reason why I became so drawn to Isadora Duncan’s spiritual dance. It has everything to do with my mother, who is by far the most influential person in my life and my work. When I think of my mother—how she raised me single-handedly with such deep love, strong will and courage—my heart wells up with an appreciation for all mothers and all living creatures, and a determination to work toward a more peaceful world.

Isadora broke through so many conventions, coming up with new ways of expression- especially for women- through movement. When I reconstruct and perform her dances, I feel Isadora’s pain, love, and passion transforming into my own journey and beyond; existing eternally, always changing but never dying.

My work, like my heritage, is rooted in both Japan and the US, and I feel I am bridging these different cultures and artistic aesthetics through my ongoing work. It is a constant and eternal search for harmony and peace. Duncandance.org, info@duncandance.org.

project agora
While building dances, I invite the dancers’ history, perspective, humanity, and emotional experience into the themes that I work with. I am interested in creating processes where both the dancers and myself feel we mutually create a forum (the piece) to physically express ourselves as artists living in a beautiful, yet ruptured world. I often enlist the dancers to generate material based on a phrase I have choreographed and consider their input when making compositional choices. Because of this, my relationship with my dancers feels equally collaborative and directive. By juxtaposing ugliness and struggle with beauty and flow it is my hope that my work expresses the commonality shared amongst the performers, the audience, and myself. project agora is co-directed by Kara Davis and Bliss Kholmyer Dowman. Fleshbom@gmail.com.

Push Up Something Hidden
In the past two years, I’ve created formal choreography that neither crossed the fourth wall or related to the day to day experience of the viewer. I found that the work, though rewarding, wasn’t addressing my personal experience of life. Recently I have focused on what it means to live, and how life seems to be made up of ordinary tasks that I resent having to do. In response, the choreography I have been creating relates directly to my experience with the everyday, hoping, through my attention to the mundane, to communicate my familiarity with frustration at the seemingly motionlessness of life. Time flies, and I grow older, yet sometimes I feel that nothing ever actually happens, or only rarely; that life is a series of minute and somewhat boring details. But time is a funny thing, not to mention a human construct, and, obviously, is subjective. In one instance, a minute seems like eternity; in another, lack of time turns into impossibility. For me, it’s fleeting, yet still, and I can’t do anything about it. Perhaps, through the execution of the mundane, time can be caught, examined, and felt. And maybe ordinary tasks accumulate into and are necessary for an extraordinary life. Push Up Something Hidden is directed by Amy Lewis, Pushproductions.org, Info@pushproductions.org.

Rasika Kumar/Abhinaya Dance Company
“Think outside the box” is the common phrase used by many to inspire creativity and innovation. However, when working with Bharatanatyam and its deep-rooted traditions, I prefer to think “inside the box.” In this particular field, it is my experience that the “box,” the codified rules and rigid structure of the dance, affords me more freedom to create and innovate inside than outside of it. Bharatanatyam, and more generally classical Indian dance, with its vocabulary of stances, specific movements, and precise gestures, offers more uncharted territory for exploration and innovation than I could traverse in a lifetime. With its deep roots in mythology and fascinating parables, I find enough inspiration by digging deeper into tradition and finding my own niche therein. The biggest challenge I face as a Bharatanatyam choreographer is in communicating stories to an audience that has no knowledge of the dance vocabulary. This entails telling someone a story that they already know but in a language they do not understand. Many Indian artists have attempted to bridge this communication gap with English explanations and translation of the gestures prior to the performance. However, my ultimate goal is to choreograph and perform in such a way that the final piece transcends the gestures and stances that were used to create it; if this goal is achieved, the audience no longer needs to understand specific gestures since the overall movement evokes familiar and universal concepts. To summarize, the goal of bringing traditional Indian dance to the “masses” without compromising its basic techniques and rules is what drives my choreography.

Robert Sund
My career began as a principal dancer with Pacific Northwest Ballet. Moving on to dance with San Francisco Ballet, I performed soloist and principal roles under the tenure of Lew Christensen and Michael Smuin, and later Helgi Tomasson. As a child of deaf parents, I found an innate ability to tell stories through movement and upon retirement from dancing I began choreographing and teaching. My first full length ballet A Midsummer Night’s Dream created for the Norwegian National Ballet, received critical acclaim from critics and audiences alike. Since then, I’ve created five full length story ballets, two Emmy award winning ballets for television, numerous contemporary works, and gold medal winning works for both national and international competitions and gala evenings.

Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts
Smith/Wymore Disappearing Acts is a Berkeley, California based dance-theater company founded in 2001 by co-artistic directors Sheldon B. Smith and Lisa Wymore. Our work places the inherent beauty of the body in motion, both choreographed and improvised, in a deeply conceptual and human-centered environment that is supported and enhanced by technology. Our research has taken us from studio to stage by way of virtual and real locations on city street corners, desert landscapes, kitchens, canyons and science labs in search of timeless stories of passion, fear, longing, violence, humor and joy. From these investigations we have created abstract narratives built on a foundation of physical experimentation, improvisation, text, song and digital image. The result is a new aesthetic that is at once oddly familiar, and beautifully odd. Smith/Wymore is co-directed by Sheldon Smith and Lisa Wymore, Smithwymore.org, Sheldon@smithwymore.org.

Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble
Named after one of the most beautiful cherry blossom trees in Japan, our ensemble is inspired to balance the sensitive and elegant aspects of taiko playing (Japanese drumming) with the strong and powerful. We attempt to develop works that challenge our traditional perception of taiko by exploring a sense of intimacy through clarity of sound and unique choreography. As classically trained artists with backgrounds in jazz, classical music, modern dance and visual art/design, we bring a new perspective to the art of taiko.

The long cultural tradition of taiko is deeply steeped in the lives of the Japanese people and is looked upon as much more than a mere musical instrument having a very profound spiritual aspect. We seek to preserve this musical expression in the United States to reflect the broad sense of beauty inherent in its roots in Japan. At the same time we seek to expand the traditional boundaries of Japanese taiko by creating new approaches to composition, choreography, movement and combinations of instrumentation that step outside the mainstream. We push even further by exploring ideas that incorporate taiko with western theater and dance as well as with music by other musicians from diverse musical backgrounds. Somei Yoshino Taiko Ensemble includes Naoko Amemiya, Ellen Reiko Bepp, Hiroyuki Jimi Nakagawa & Kallan Yoichi Nishimoto. Taikoensemble.com.

SoulForce Dance Company
I make my living doing three things, teaching, choreographing and producing.
(Teaching)- On my class schedule, I wrote, “leave your ego at the door and dance.” That is my motto for my students. My classes are a welcoming place that do not care if you have never taken a class or taken thousands.
(Choreographing)- There is only a few times in my life where I can truly say that I lose track of time because the moments are so divine. When I am in the studio with my dancers, creating together, is definitely one of those times.
(Producing)- Producing has never been my strong point, but thank god I have good sense and great people to keep everything blessed. This is the 10th anniversary of the SF Hip Hop DanceFest which says a lot for at least keeping with it for so long and for the outstanding popularity of the event. SoulForce is directed by Micaya. Micaya.com, Sfhiphopdancefest.com.

Tango Con*Fusión
Tango Con*Fusión (Carolina Rozensztroch, Pier Voulkos, Charity Lebrón, Christy Coté, Debbie Goodwin, Chelsea Eng): As women partnering women in Argentine Tango, we bend the gender-related customs of a century-old dance. As collaborative artists we explore the idiom of Argentine Tango beyond its traditional boundaries. As professional performers and teachers of Argentine Tango, with varied backgrounds in contemporary and classical dance, we create a fusion of genres within our choreography. A couple’s dance morphs to a solo or collective interaction, leaders and followers exchange roles, and free movement is added.

As women trained and versed in traditional Argentine Tango, we deeply respect traditional tango, cherish the experience of dancing with men, and love to lead. To the objection ‘Women who lead are destroying the dance,’ we say: We in no way diminish what exists and will always exist. Male leaders and female followers will forever pair and enjoy tango. But this dynamic disallows women a leadership role, and denies the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender (LGBT) community a partnering resonant with identity. We counter this exclusion. We contend that in the 21st century, tango, like all living art forms – like all living beings – will evolve. We wish to be part and parcel of that evolution. Tangoconfusion.com.

Tara Catherine Pandeya
As a second-generation dancer, dance has always been a natural form of expression for me. Since early childhood it has been one of the few constants in my life, and is thus an integral and unifying medium.

While I resisted completely embracing the path of dance for several years (perhaps because I almost took it for granted), in my travels I have been fortunate to meet dance mentors who inspired and empowered me to wholeheartedly pursue my artistic aspirations.

For me, dance is both a visual voice and vehicle to transcend religion, language, and politics. It offers the possibility of cultural exchange, a way to build bridges between different worlds and peoples, and a medium to transform my own energy while gaining new insights.

I draw inspiration from everything that surrounds me: from miniature paintings, to poetry, music, people, animals, ideas and landscapes. I am interested in weaving together these many elements through my dance, as well as dedicating myself to cultural preservation, development and understanding. In presenting my work to an audience, I hope that they too can taste and feel the essence of the piece, and be enriched both emotionally and intellectually by the experience.

Wan-Chao Chang Dance
Dance has been my medium for exploring my personal values, self-identifying, journeying toward cultural understanding, and connecting with people.

“Who am I? What’s my dance form?” From ballroom, folk, ethnic, ballet, jazz, modern to tap….. I was constantly seeking my roots until one day I found out my culture is a blend of many different layers. I was on a hunt for form and finally realized that I don’t need to label my language.

I would like to tell the journey of seeking values, searching for roots, and discovering a language beyond the barrier of verbal and written. In the interest of how we human beings react to betrayal, I made a dance that cried for my home country’s isolated political helplessness. Recognizing the social psychological burden placed on women, I made a solo dance to express the awareness, fear, and struggle of a female. To explore new trends in Balkan folklore music and dance, I weaved styles from regions to regions with contemporary patterns. From my interest in the expressive moving body without any restriction of technique, I use vocabularies from folklore to modern.

From eye to eye, soul to soul, I want to move the audience with dance – the language I know. Wanchao.com.

Zooz Dance Company
We form compositions that marvel the human condition and natural elements by intertwining a physical vocabulary based in traditional and contemporary dance forms. Continually inspired by diverse rhythmic patterns, we aim to animate emotions and environments in space with sequential joint articulation and a range of sensually slow to percussively eloquent movement. We see our craft as a venue for exploration and expression, and we seek to offer a transformative journey to both audience and performers alike. Zooz Dance Company is co-directed by Jessica Swanson and Jessica McKee. Zoozdancecompany.com.

This article appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of In Dance.

In Dance is a publication of Dancers' Group.