Double Bill of Dance
Dance partners: Austin and Houston share a stage for this weekend's ScenesFlamboyant (and intimate)
When Kathy Dunn Hamrick, artistic director of the Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company (KDH), goes to modern dance concerts, she looks for inventiveness, unique choreography and unusual moments that will resonate with her. “I want to see personal stories and relationships revealed onstage," she says. "I want to see something new or at least evolving and moving forward.”
And that’s exactly the kind of experience Hamrick hopes audience members will take away from Scenes Flamboyant(and intimate), the latest work by KDH, the critically acclaimed Austin-based modern dance company, presented this weekend at AustinVentures Studio Dance Theater.
Scenes Flamboyant (and intimate) is an evening of modern dance works that explore emotion, making use of costumes and technology to help further portray the characters' inner feelings. While Hamrick typically relies strictly on the movement and structure of a dance to express her messages, Scenes Flamboyant (and intimate) includes a section in which the dancers manipulate three different types of prop/costumes as a way of visualizing inner feelings.
One prop/costume, designed by local artist Kakii Keenan, is a rigid skirt that can be manipulated with a pull-cord to either flare or settle. Another costume includes long, weighted panels that the dancers both struggle with and occasionally throw as an interference prop. “It’s kind of like having a cartoon bubble over your head,” Hamrick explains.
KDH company dancer and choreographer Roxanne Gage also uses costumes as a way of visually exaggerating feelings in "In the Web of Perseverance," a work that deals with identity and societal expectations. In the piece, dancers interact to various degrees of comfort and resistance with a 36-foot piece of fabric.
Both Hamrick and Gage see dance as a way to illuminate everyday encounters, and the works are reflections of their shared vision. Likewise, Scenes Flamboyant (and intimate) is a collaborative evening, as KDH shares the stage with guest modern-dance company NobleMotion of Houston.
Hamrick explains that the two companies’ shared ideologies, strong and skilled dancers and well-crafted choreography make KDH and NobleMotion highly compatible. And yet, she points out, one of the most enriching aspects of their partnership is their differences.
“Different choreographers make different choices. We can't help it,” Hamrick says. “That's one thing that is thrilling for me as a choreographer, seeing the choices that choreographers make. Would I have made the same choice? Or a different one? The unexpected choices are the ones that keep me interested.”
The technical aspects in "Spitting Ether," NobleMotion’s latest work, play an even more central role to the dance than the costumes and props involved in KDH’s latest works. Artistic directors Andy Noble and Dionne Sparkman Noble worked with light artist David J. Deveau to merge projection design with dance, using fog and light to create an out-of-body, otherworldly effect.
Hamrick decribes how the combined elements of fog, minimal light from hand-held sources and live dance projected in real time “fold together to create worlds in which sometimes human, sometimes spirits, reside. The dance and the technical aspects are so closely married that the dance could not exist without them.”
Beyond their innovative, beautiful new works, KDH and NobleMotion have found another outlet off-stage for merging technology and movement and exploring human experience. The two Texas dance companies have created a shared Twitter account, @scenes426, to give audiences a real-time, behind-the-scenes view of the lives of the dancers, artistic directors and backstage crew as they work to produce the concert performances this weekend.
Scenes Flamboyant (and intimate) runs Friday and Saturday, April 27-28 at 8 p.m., with a 3 p.m. matinee on Saturday at AustinVentures Studio Theater at Ballet Austin. Tickets are $17 for general admission, $12 for seniors/students and can be purchased online, at the door, or by phone.