In a constantly changing city, Andrea Ariel is determined to change the way dance is perceived in Austin. Through her company, the Ariel Dance Theatre, Ariel uses new ideas and images to bring a fresh take to local contemporary-modern dance. Her newest work, Heart, is in performance this weekend only at the Long Center. The collection of original, new works by Ariel and guest choreographers Sharon Marroquin, Steve Ochoa, Heloise Gold and Jessica Lindberg promises an evening of tantalizing theater and music, bringing together physically compelling movement and evocative imagery crafted to sound.
The original music is composed by award-winning Graham Reynolds and Nick Hennies, with the complex rhythms of percussion pieces and exquisite melodies of string and piano compositions. The collaboration of artists will feature an adaptation of Jessica Lindberg’s reconstruction of Fire Dance, a 1896 Loie Fuller piece choreographed with fabric and light, as well as four exciting new works that tell the story of Heart through dance.
For Ariel, Heart means community, sharing and healing. She finds inspiration through interaction, working side-by-side with Austinites to give them the opportunity to voice their thoughts and emotions through community workshops and performances. CultureMap spoke with the four-time Austin Chronicle "Best of Austin" Readers Poll winner, two-time Austin Critics Table award winner and B. Iden Payne award nominee about Heart and her dedication to inspiring creativity and access to the fine arts.
CultureMap: Tell us a little bit about what Heart is all about.
Andrea Ariel: Our concert titled Heart was born in the spirit of opening, connecting and collaborating. I am very interested in creating work that is developed by engaging with the community to bring a wider perspective and point of view to the subject of exploration. For this project, I initiated a series of free workshops open to the community's participation and invited the artists featured in the show to join me in an investigation of the subject of heart. I wanted to bring the questions I was asking out to others: What does heart mean to you? What does living with heart mean? What connects us? What disconnects us? What is an act of heart? I wanted to bring together a collection of new work that asked these and other questions, and to celebrate and bring awareness to something I believe connects us all and is the source from which we all come — that is heart energy.
CM: How did the concept come to you?
AA: One year ago, I experienced the loss of three important beings in my life within a two-month period. I found myself in utter stillness and isolation. In this stillness, I was led deeper into myself, asking big questions about my purpose in life. I was experiencing the profound truth that life is a slippery thing; it could be here today and gone tomorrow, or next month, or next year. I was led to connect intimately with my heart and to follow it without fear. To trust myself and pursue what I dream of and offer what it is I have to give to this world.
I was inspired to rise from my stillness and isolation to celebrate those I lost, through living my life fully and following what I believed my purpose to be. I became dedicated to living each day this way. This brought even more questions and led to a strong desire to open and connect with others. My work is sparked not only by my own experiences, but also by what I see and hear around me. I noticed many people who were asking similar questions about their lives, and I witnessed some making bold changes that followed their hearts — their joy and happiness. I began looking at life through this lens.
CM: What do you hope to accomplish with Heart?
AA: I hope that audiences will experience a connection to their own heart and beliefs about what heart means to them and how that translates into their lives, their connections to each other and their community. I hope people will be inspired to connect with living with heart as a daily practice.
I am excited about the coming together of community members to engage in a creative development process with us and hosting this amazing collection of work from the dance community that brings many aspects of heart to the stage for our consideration and inspiration.
CM: Can you share a little bit about your philosophy or ideas of dance?
AA: I believe that both dance and music are universal expressions that connect and communicate across any boundaries. These art forms are deeply rooted in our historical, cultural traditions. Before they were performing arts, they were an integral part of community rituals and celebrations that everyone participated in. Now that they are also performing arts, I believe people still connect on that deep level. Everyone can express themselves through music and dance — and needs to! So as an artist, I feel the work I want to make explores our human experience in a way that can connect to everyone and touch them on that core human level of expression through the universal language of dance and music.
Ariel adds that the production just happened to fall on the same weekend as World Heart Day — "a lovely coincidence," as she calls it. "Or, perhaps not a coincidence. Perhaps it was meant to be. I am excited that we have been able to connect with the American Heart Association and World Heart Day to make a contribution to their efforts to eradicate our number-one killer: heart disease. We are contributing 10 percent of all ticket sales from the Sunday, September 29, show to the official World Heart Day."
Performances of Heart will be held at 8 pm on Friday, September 27, and Saturday, September 28, and at 5 pm on Sunday, September 29, in the Rollins Studio Theatre at the Long Center. Ticket prices start at $14, with student tickets available, and all ages are welcome.