Tag Archives: Big Range Dance Festival

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

News_Nancy_Big Range Spotlight_Paola Georgudis

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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The Range is in the Dancing: Program A sets a high standard for Big Range Dance Festival

Jordan Fuchs and Leslie Scates. Photo by Ian Douglas


Every June, I look forward to the dancing at Big Range Dance Festival, now in its ninth year. It’s not that the choreography isn’t noteworthy. Not at all, it’s just that choreographers are often dancing their own works, or finally getting to work with dancers who understand their idiosyncratic qualities. All of this leads to more impassioned, nuanced dancing.


In Program A, this virtuosic phenomenon started with Leslie Scates, who is hands-down the most interesting mover in Houston. I say “mover,” rather than “dancer,” because her range pushes beyond traditional and contemporary vocabulary into a larger inclusion of human movement possibilities. We see gestures we not only recognize but have done, pushing, reaching, pulling away, all there, slighting abstracted, deeply human and immensely communicative. In her duet with another outstanding performer and Assistant Professor at Texas Woman’s UniversityJordan FuchsProgramed Cell Death, the pair created an electric field, where anything can happen, love, repulsion, support and mystery. And anything does happen when Fuchs sticks his hand up Scates’ pants, creating an extension of himself in one sexy/funny section. It’s charged and highly volatile. To call it intense would seem like an a gross understatement. Andy Russ’ bizarre sound score amplified the tension.
Scates is moving into a level of mastery in her performance we rarely see on the contemporary scene. As a regular atLower Left’s renown improvisational dance workshop, March 2 Marfa, she sets a high standard for continuing to train for the work one does. Looking more chiseled and defined, her technical facilities have moved up to compare with her imaginative capabilities. In her solo Suite Female part one, Scates shows a more minimalist side. Set to a movement and sound score by Lower Left’s Rebecca Bryant, the piece lets the audience in on the visceral sometimes brutal edge of improvisational choreography.

On a more traditional front, yet still on the luscious dancing idea, Kristen Frankiewicz and Lindsey Thompson make a gorgeous team for Teresa Chapman’s somber duet, Reach. Chapman successfully taps into these dancers’ voluptuous  generosity. What a joy to watch a choreographer and dancers matched so well. Dancers perform at the top of their abilities when this occurs.

Occupying the impressive out-of towners spot were Matthew Cumbie and Amanda Jackson, who messed with our heads with their racy gender exploration thinking seeing standing feeling object of attention. Crashing into each other with a sassy finesse,the pair employed turbulent partnering, overt sexual gestures and an eye-locking connection to created a terse but steamy climate. Captivating movers both, their raw but slick style exudes a “downtown,” aesthetic, but they hark from Texas Woman’s University. Let’s hope we see more of them.

Erin Reck provided yet another example of creating work for people who can hop on your wavelength in her tense trio Flux, performed by Reck, Brit Wallis and Jacquelyne Boe. Dancers whisper stream of consciousness thoughts to begin the piece, which takes off when they stop and start dancing with a knowing presence. The don’t so much as dance as listen to each other move. A pristine moment towards the end suggests that each senses the space the other just occupied. Nice.

Jennifer Wood, the festival director, lightened the mood with Slam School, a quirky romp alluding to her difficult days in gym class, danced by the home team Suchu Dance. Squeaking tennis shoes were a blast. No way is Tiny Shariffskul going to get picked for the dodge ball team, but she’s adorable while she tries.

Bravo to Wood for continuing the festival at this level. Lighting by Jeremy Choate helped to make each dance distinct. The Big Range continues with Programs B and C through June 18, at Barnvelder, which boasts a swanky Big Range lounge with DJ Justin Klein’s cool music and a nifty light sculpture overhead.

Reprinted from Dance Source Houston.

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