Dance Company? What does that mean?
When talking about running and owning a dance company, the responses are always varied. Dance is not an art form that is well known amongst the population in America, the lack of exposure tends to lead people to draw away, as opposed to further question and investigate. I am always happy to introduce that world to people and open up a new way to view art and dance. The most common question I get about running a dance company is simply, "what does that mean?"
When I was younger dance was forced upon me in a very quick and brash way; and no, not by my mother. I went to a performing arts school pretty convinced I wanted to be a famous actress, but of course part of our curriculum was to take ballet.
I hated it, or so I had convinced myself. The pink tights, buns, and pointed toes were a bit much for this Tomboy; however, as much as I tried to fight it I slowly but surely fell in love. There was something about the discipline and consistency of the class, the difficulty of the technique that really thrilled me. It helped that I could see myself getting it--faster than others. At the end of my first year I was invited with one of my friends to skip a level the next year. That was the last thing I remember before dance took over my life.
I was a full fledged bun head. I spent hours a day on my toes, could throw a perfect bun in my hair in under three minutes, and thought any other dance besides ballet was not really art. It wasn't until I reached college that I found the genre of dance that truly touched my soul--modern. Modern for me was where I got to explore the scope of the human condition; which was what I had always looked to dance for but had really experienced it until that moment. I not only fell in love with the many techniques of modern, but also fell in love with the people who made it happen, Martha Graham, Charles Weidman, Merce Cunningham, and so many more. It was also in modern that I found my passion for creating works of choreography.
As a child, I was one of those kids who was consistently putting on shows for her parents or whoever else would watch. I would make up dances and force my friends and family members to dance alongside me, but it wasn't until I was in college that I came to the conclusion that I was meant to be a choreographer.
The process of creating a piece is very in-depth and can become an intensely intimate process between the dancers and choreographer(s). Starting a new piece can be awkward, like a new friendship. It takes time to find a rhythm, to find where the piece is strong and weak, where my work needs to be enhanced by the dancers, and the dancers enhanced by my work--it is a delicate balance. As a choreographer, I usually am trying to convey a message or tell a story; and typically feel that it is best to share as much information as possible with my fellow creators--the dancers. All of this leads to a group of people sharing a lot of time and personal space. All of us subsequently grow up throughout the time we create the piece. I often see the dancers change, I see myself change, and in the end we hope what we present can initiate some sort of change. For me, there is nothing more gratifying.
This gratification, this chance to impart change... that is why I have my own dance company. My dance education was a gift that I was lucky enough to receive; and it is a gift I hope to return to the community around me. Through Intrepidus Dance, I hope to make dance a more accessible art form, something people are not afraid to talk about or delve into. A place where people can come as an open book--ready to experience anything that might be waiting for them.
So what does it mean to have a dance company? It means consistently working to create new and intriguing work, it means working alongside of dancers to help each other grow as artists and humans, it means many late night rehearsals only to wake up early the next morning to go to your day job. More importantly though, it means to join together with a group of dancers in order to investigate and challenge our communities and societies through the vocabulary we know best, our bodies. It means having the opportunity to share your passions with people in the most commonly spoken language, body language.
In closing, I think Martha Graham said it best in her segment on why dancers do what we do, ”This I Believe.” Martha stated, “I think the reason dance has held such an ageless magic for the world is that it has been the symbol of the performance of living. Many times I hear the phrase ‘the dance of life.’ It is close to me for a very simple and understandable reason. The instrument through which dance speaks is also the instrument through which life is lived: the human body."