It's a weekend of cutting-edge, free dance at Miller: Who will you discover?
I discovered Revolve Dance Company in a kind of, sort of, stretch-the-truth way.
That murky fact always gets a rise out of Dawn Dippel and Amy Cain, Revolve's artistic directors. "Yes, you did," they say, holding back giggles.
Revolve just happens to be performing Synchronicity on Friday and Saturday as part of Weekend of Texas Contemporary Dance at Miller Outdoor Theatre, sharing the bill with several other outstanding local troupes at Dance Source Houston's annual free festival. The festival has shows at 8 p.m. both Friday and Saturday — with an 11 a.m. Saturday family matinee as well.
Synchronicity, choreographed by Dippel, mixes nifty rhythms with sassy steps. The lightning-fast pace shows off the troupe's signature razor-sharp precision. There's a tap number stuck right in the middle of it, too. It's super fun to watch, and a great example of why I'm so proud to be the person who discovered them, you know, in that prone-to-exaggeration way.
(Some disclosure: I served as a curator of this show along with dance pals Joanna Friesen and Roxanne Claire.)
Now, back to my big find. A while back, I got a call from an editor asking for a juicy competition story. Just because I had never stepped foot in a dance competition didn't seem like a reason to say "no." Since when is complete ignorance ever an obstacle for The Arthropologist?
I took the mission. After surveying a bunch of dance competitions, I found one happening that very weekend. Over the phone, a woman of very few words tells me to call a guy named Ed, then abruptly hangs up. Ed turns out to be a man of even fewer words. He gives me an address and a time. (Not a chatty group, these dance competition people.)
I drive to what seems like California and take my seat in the auditorium. "What am I looking for?" I ask Ed. "You will know it when you see it," he tells me. I wonder if Ed worked in the CIA before dance competitions?
I am handed a program that makes a horse racing form look simple. I watch gaggles of tots dressed as street walkers dance to "car wash." Moms, babies, dancers come and go, making a lot of noise in the process. After about 40 minutes the crowd seemed to thicken, as if something big was about to happen. Suddenly, the auditorium hushed to a hear-a-pin-drop silence.
"What's happening?" I asked the woman next to me. "Just watch and see," said my new best friend. "This group is incredible."
I hear the beginning of an Ani DiFranco song. A flock of tall, lithe, gorgeous dancers enter the stage and proceed to knock my socks off with their technique, artistry and musicality. At this point, I want to buy Ed flowers. These were the dancers of North Harris Performing Arts, most of whom are now Revolve Dance Company.
My story, Putting Art into Excellence, a Texas studio pulls out from the pack, appeared in October 2006 issue of Dance Magazine and Revolve Dance Company has grown to be one of the most slick contemporary jazz dance groups around.
No one knows what happened to Ed.
I stumbled on, more than discovered, Andy Noble's work at Dance Houston's City Wide Dance Festival. He choreographed a sexy tango, which included a wall that the dancers bounced on and off of in time with the music. I appreciated his boldness. Noble may look a little like Dick Van Dyke in his casual, nice guy manner, but his dances are anything but retro.
His company, NobleMotion Dance, recently performed a sold-out show at Barnevelder. Noble combines his background in hip-hop, theater and technology to make compelling dances.
His offering for the festival, KinkyKool Fan Blowing Hard, features a stage full of industrial-sized fans. It's decidedly low-tech, but rich in movement invention, crisp dancing and that fresh quality characteristic of many of Noble's dances. We get to see the choreographer's process at work in this transparent dance; he's having fun with a room full of fans. It's straightforward, in your face and incredibly dynamic.
"We found a fan in a rehearsal room one day and just starting playing with it," Noble remembers. "We riffed off memories of singing into a fan like a rock star, very literal stuff."
During the day hours, Noble is an assistant professor of dance at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville. His company, however, is based in Houston. NobleMotion is all over the place this season. Catch them again at the Dance Gallery Festival Oct. 8-9 and with The Houston Met at Quirky Works on Nov. 13. The troupe has slipped into "It" dance company status at record speed.
Lydia Hance, founder of Frame Dance Productions, is another up-and-comer in Houston's ever-changing dance ecology. Hance's intriguing work came on my radar while I was working on a story about the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston exhibit Dance With Camera. Just last week at the CAMH, a standing-room-only crowd showed up for her own take on dancing with a camera, Points and Coordinates, a shared event with Rosie Trump.
A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Hance now divides her time between dancing with Suchu Dance and producing her own dance film and performance events. Hance holds the coveted "intermission" spot of the festival with her charming film, Crease.
"My thinking is about folding, both physically and emotionally. It's whimsical, but with a haunting twist," Hance says. "I also see the piece as partnering with the camera."
Hance finds working in both live and film performance allows her an artistic freedom to explore the possibilities within both mediums.
"I am drawn to the intimacy of film. You can get so close to people, zooming in and highlighting details," she says.
Sadly, I did not discover Frame Dance or NobleMotion, or any of the other fine artists and troupes performing in Weekend of Texas Contemporary Dance, including Catalina Molnari, Vault, Suchu Dance, iMEE, Erin Reck and Leslie Scates, many of whom I have written about in this very space.
Give me time, I will be making up those stories soon.
NobleMotion in Motion:
Revolve Dance Company in Synchronicity: