… it can also be a dynamic, inspiring, unpredictable wellspring of creativity. Especially in dance.
Community is important. When people pay attention to what community is, what it can be, and who it is exactly that they’re talking about, it can also be a dynamic, inspiring, unpredictable wellspring of creativity. Especially in dance. The connections between people that arise from rehearsing, performing, traveling, living, teaching and dancing together inform every part of what dance is, and when people care about what a community can be, those interconnections can inform brand new ideas of what dance can be.
The Big Muddy Dance Company is quite a community in and of itself, but in their performance on Saturday, January 26 at St. Louis’ Grandel Theatre of their Home Grown program, Big Muddy is reaching out to an even wider community, and we wanted to hear a lot more about it. We asked Artistic Director Brian Enos and Executive Director Erin Warner Prange about the St. Louis choreographers whose work is featured in Home Grown and about St. Louis’ vibrantly creative dance community. Here’s what they told us:
Think global, dance local!
Johnny Nevin: The Big Muddy Dance Company’s Home Grown performances at Grandel Theatre (February 2nd at 8pm) feature new works by three St. Louis choreographers — Keith Tyrone Williams, Kirven Douthit-Boyd, and Sam Gaitsch. Can you give us some more insight into what these artists have created with the dancers of The Big Muddy Dance Company? We’d also love to hear about your work Jet Stream — about the ideas you’ve woven into the work, and how the movement design explored some of those ideas.
Brian Enos, Artistic Director, The Big Muddy Dance Company: With this production, we wanted to highlight St. Louis based dance makers. There’s a surprisingly large number of very talented choreographers working out of St. Louis and since we often times are bringing in guest choreographers from around the country, we thought it would be great to do a program that kept things local. Think global, dance local!
Keith Tyrone Williams, in addition to being a very experienced choreographer in his own right, is an expert in the history and tradition of the Katherine Dunham technique. We thought that bringing him in and collaborating with dancers from his own Innervision Dance Theatre would be a great way to not only showcase his work but include a nod to the great Katherine Dunham who is a St. Louis dance legend. I think it’s also a great opportunity for our dancers to learn about Dunham Technique and for Keith’s dancers to share the stage with Big Muddy.
Kirven Douthit-Boyd was also an obvious choice. He relocated to St. Louis a few years ago after many years dancing with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater to take over as the Directors of Dance at COCA (Center of Creative Arts) which is a St. Louis arts training institution. Kirven and his husband Antonio set a piece on The Big Muddy in the company’s early years and I was thrilled that we were able to get him back in the studio to create a new work. His piece titled “27” is a fun, touching, and very technically challenging piece which explores several different relationships and their various complications.
Sam Gaitsch’s work is a lighthearted look at the “rivalry” between classical and contemporary dancers, and Big Muddy being a company of classically trained dancers doing primarily contemporary work I think we’re a very well-suited company to execute on this concept. It’s also a very theatrical work which we always love to present.
My work “Jet Stream” started off as a challenge to myself to work with a pretty complicated piece of music by John Adams that I loved, but was unsure if I would be able to make a dance to. I was inspired by the arc of my first airplane flight as I remember experiencing it as a child. I remember that flight very vividly (family trip to Disneyland baby!). So the piece ended up being structured in that way… takeoff, inflight, and eventually landing. You’d probably never guess that watching the work, but that’s a little insight into where my mind was at while creating.
Johnny Nevin: Home Grown is a recognition of the St. Louis dance community, of its richness and diversity. What is the vibe in the St. Louis community like — is there a lot of interaction between the different companies and independent projects? Is the studio community pretty connected to one another, and how do the university and secondary school programs all fit in? We’d love to get a better sense of the St. Louis dance scene, especially with Home Grown coming up on February 2nd.
Erin Prange, Executive Director, The Big Muddy Dance Company: The dance community in St. Louis is actually quite robust considering the size of the city, and is represented by a diverse mix of university programs, studios, pre-professional collectives, and professional companies. The professional dance community is quite involved with the majority of educational institutions because so many of the company dancers also teach younger aspiring dancers in various studios and schools across all of St. Louis. The professional constituents have become much of the “glue” between the different groups of students through master classes, stage performances, and choreography. There have also been many opportunities in St. Louis for organizations from many geographic neighborhoods to come together and celebrate dance over the last decade in festivals such as National Dance Week, Spring to Dance Festival, Dancing in the Streets, Dance for Food, and more. The university and secondary schools are fairly removed from the studios as far as collaborations, although they become connected through their instructors and events. There are many freelance dancers and choreographers that participate in multiple organizations as guest artists. Many of the studios for kids and teens in the St. Louis area cross paths through the competitive arena, which is a surprisingly large scene and gives the students the opportunity to watch stage performances by their colleagues.
The Big Muddy Dance Company will present Home Grown The Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square , St. Louis, Missouri 63108) on Saturday, January 26, 2019 at 8pm. Tickets are available online from Metrotix.