True confessions: Choreographers with an independent streak bare all at Big Range Dance Festival

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Paola Georgudis Photo by Lynn Lane

Bare your soul, investigate your past, reveal the anatomy of a disease you struggle with everyday of your life, are these pages from a journal?

No, pages from the stage at the Big Range Dance Festival, where choreographers with an independent streak dive deep into personal material to craft this new batch of dances running at Barnevelder Movement Arts Complex from Friday through June 18. Spanning three weekends, with several choreographers on each bill, Big Range is Houston’s end of season danceblast. Don’t let the plain names, Program“A, BC,” fool you either. There’s nothing ordinary about the subjects some of these artists are tackling. There’s not a play-it-safe artist in the pack.

Lindsey Thompson may be known as a favorite Suchu dancer, but at Big Range she turns dance maker with a work that explores her own battle with Type I Diabetes, the details of which she revealed to me for an Artists and their Day Jobs story. She later agreed to tell the whole dance world in my Dance Magazine Your Body column. At Big Range, she channels her story into motion, which will eventually include visuals.

“I’m working with the concept of the public vs. private self in relation to the experience of disease, and how the sharing of such experiences affects the healthcare dialogue. I’m ready to start this conversation with the public,” says Thompson. “I believe that vulnerability and authenticity are vital to making meaningful connections, so I’m making it personal. I’ll be taking it there with a live feed video and extra long tubing.”

Relative newcomer Rosie Trump gets “confessional” in her offering. Trump, who directs Rice Dance Theatre at  Rice University, has been slowly introducing her work to Houston’s dance scene. Here, she takes the next step.

“I’m really interested in upping the ante for taking risks on stage through revealing the personal and/or semi-autobiographical, and it’s not always pretty or flattering,” says Trump, who is also a budding dance writer. “It’s hard to stand on stage with your ugly hanging out, but  that’s also where some of the most interesting movement material hides, too. Even though I have been in Houston for a year and half,  I’m still a little caught up in introducing myself, and this confession project plays a part in declaring, ‘Hey, this is what I’m about.’”

Kristen Frankiewicz knows her way around a set of airborne swirling ribbons. Frankiewicz has been performing her own work since leaving the University of TexasThe Suchu veteran delves into her former life as an elite competitive rhythmic gymnast.

“The concept of contemporary dancers wielding ropes has been rolling around in my head for awhile, but I continually put off the idea, either out of personal intimidation or because it just wasn’t time yet,” says Krankiewicz. “It’s time to risk it. I had a swarm of ideas on how to use the ropes, and I knew who I wanted to dance it, so I pushed myself to take this chance choreographically right now.”

Krankiewicz may be an old pro, but the ins and outs of rhythmic gymnastics are new to her dancers, Daniel Adame, Alex Soares, and Thompson. “One challenge is to not only master the rope skills, but also to get comfortable enough with the rope so it becomes more an extension of the body. The dancers are really taking to their ropes with enthusiasm and an openness to learn these new skills. Daniel, Alex, and Lindsey have even jokingly have nicknamed our rope wielding quartet “Kristen and the Lil’ Pros.'”

Lydia Hance of Frame Dance Productions goes double duty as filmmaker and choreographer showing her video, Satin Stitch, which she describes as, “Coats, scarves, 30 degree weather, a ferry, the ocean and sand in our boots. And some people disappear too.”

Hance will also be trimming down her 50-minute piece Mortar, Sylphs Wrote, created during HopeWerks residency at Hope Center.  “I’m already cutting it, mixing it up and piecing it back together,” says Hance. “Think six dancers, big hair, Stravinsky-esque music and dancers moving from calm hypnosis to flailing a la Pina Bausch.”

The festival is also a time for Houston’s veteran pros to strut their new stuff. Rising talent Paola Georgudis collaborates with jhon stronks as they explore intimacy. Improvisational choreography maven Leslie Scates joins forces with her frequent partner Jordan Fuchs for a new duet calledProgrammed Cell Death, with a sound score by Andy Russ that incorporates sounds from current cultural media. She’s also dancing a solo created by Lower Left’s Rebecca Bryant, set to a snappy sound score and incredibly restricted movement score.

“Big Range continues to successfully present new and viciously beautiful, strange dance works by Houston dance artists and artists from other cities,” boasts Scates. “It’s the most innovative dance festival in town.”

Festival curator Jennifer Wood finds Rig Range holds a special place in the landscape of Houston dance festivals. “It’s not really about making ‘good’ work, it’s about trying new things, so the end goal is not product based. I’m interested in newness; the artists should feel as though they have the freedom to try things unfamiliar and uncomfortable to them. I want to create a safe house where choreographers can risk looking bad or stupid,” says Wood.

“The festival is a place for experimentation, especially for more established choreographers and companies, and also a place for newer artists to make work and get seen. Having a spirit of invention, openess and a willingness to give the benefit of the doubt to the untried makes performances at Big Range an exciting departure for audiences.”

This is just a taste of what makes up the Big Range’s approximately 24 choreographers. The festival lives up to its name, proving dance isn’t just a place to kick your legs high and other assorted tricks. Instead, expect risk, grace and guts.

Reprinted from Culturemap.

Post Script: Normally I don’t like to preview and review. Sometimes, I don’t have a choice. Here’s my Dance Source Houston review of Program A.

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