If you've never considered attending a contemporary dance performance, now is the time to rethink your decision.
The premiere of Idaho Dance Theatre's Movin' Out! opens April 20 at the Special Events Center at Boise State. This is the company's 17th season and this latest performance demonstrates the company's maturity with presentations that are breathtakingly staged and executed.
Idaho Dance Theatre (IDT) is conquering stubborn misconceptions of the art. After a period in recent history when contemporary dance expression grew theatrical, abstract and awkward, modern dance gained a reputation for being bizarre and difficult to understand. Much of what was produced seemed unfocused and audiences gradually fell away. The IDT troupe is changing past opinion with talent, athleticism and precision and they employ music in remarkable ways.
BW visited a rehearsal session and previewed the five unique pieces featured in the performance, choreographed for IDT by Marla Hansen, Carl Rowe, Lauren Edson and Yurek Hansen.
The first piece in the program is untitled. Choreographed by Yurek Hansen (who smilingly suggested empty brackets for the tune's name), the dance is powerful and abstract. The music, a song by the rock metal band Tool, has been transcribed for piano. Those who are familiar with the dark, heavy sound of Tool will appreciate the unlikely interpretation. Yurek has designed strong, lightning-fast moves and brings motions into sharp focus using broad strokes and incredible timing.
"Only One," choreographed and performed by Lauren Edson, is set to a Broadway-style song by Icelandic popster Bjork. The piece has stunning punctuation, falling into whispers then jubilantly leaping into vibrant passages. Edson has the perfect look and motion for this playful song ... the only tune in the program that isn't purely instrumental. Edson also choreographed the show's dramatic piece "Silent Past" and demonstrates a talented ability to evoke powerful, emotional dance imagery.
The other numbers in the performance include the elegant and haunting "The Ties That Bind" by Paul Giger, choreographed by Carl Rowe. This piece explores the bonds we have with others and within ourselves. "Silent Past" is a well-crafted and stirring piece choreographed by Edson to music by Michael Nyman from the film The Piano. This piece is a physically demanding expression of roles between the female dancers, their male partners and the music. The program ends on a lively note with a jazzy, upbeat piece entitled "Verve," choreographed by Hansen to music by Yoko Kanno.
IDT began in 1989 when Marla and Fred Hansen teamed with Carl Rowe, a Sun Valley dancer and choreographer. After a popular debut in Jackson, Wyoming, they decided to reprise the performance in Boise. They assembled a group of dancers and featured choreography the three of them created. In 1991, the Hansens and Rowe became co-directors and began the journey of many, many steps toward introducing Idaho to the beauty of eclectic dance.
Carl Rowe trained at UC Santa Cruz and in New York City. He has performed with the Baroque Dance Ensemble for the Smithsonian Institution as well as with several other dance theaters in New York, California and Texas. Besides his dance experience, he is a professional painter with gallery representation throughout the Northwest. He received the Artist Fellowship from the Idaho Commission on the Arts in 1999 with honorable mention in painting and was awarded the Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts in 2002.
Rowe's first exposure to dance was at the advanced age of 27. This is rare for a medium which harvests its performers nearly as soon as they can toddle. When he chose to dance, Rowe withstood discouragement from many sources. Today, he enjoys an enduring and successful career doing what he loves, proving that the experience of contemporary dance can be transforming. Rowe choreographs as if using his dancers as paintbrushes against the canvas of his interpretations. The individuality of each dancer brings a new palette to Rowe's vision. He's assessed their unique abilities and personalities and applies them to his creative process.
Marla Hansen is a full-time, tenured professor at Boise State. She has an extensive dance history and before founding Idaho Dance Theatre danced with several different companies including the American Festival Ballet from 1981-1989 (now known as Ballet Idaho) where she was a dancer, choreographer and acting-artistic director. She has choreographed for the Portland Ballet Company, was principal dancer with PBC and has received the 1988 Idaho Commission on the Arts Artist Fellowship for her choreography.
Hansen's early experiences in dance are opposite of Rowe's. She credits the encouragement of mentors, teachers and family for her dedication and perseverance. The consistent support and positive input she received kept her on course.
Fred Hansen performed with modern dance companies in San Francisco and Chicago. He also performed with the Portland Ballet Company, Spokane Ballet and was a principal dancer with the American Festival Ballet from 1981 to 1988. After performing and choreographing for years with IDT, he is now technical director and lighting designer. His creative genius is expressed in exceptional lighting effects. He has received the Idaho Commission on the Arts Artist Fellowship for excellence.
The "brushes" lending their color and texture to Movin' Out! are Yurek Hansen, Lauren Edson, Jessica Bastow, Mariko Reid, Lori Evans, Brandi Breshears, and Gonzalo Valdez. The athleticism of the gorgeous and talented dance troupe is Olympic-quality. Executing movements of amazing variety and complexity, IDT dancers push their physical limits relentlessly. Equal to any athletic competitor, each seeks perfection. As a group, they create masterpieces of grace and meaning with their bodies.
Boise has diverse musical venues and numerous galleries. The beauty, strength and athleticism of contemporary dance, combined with the precision required to master it, is complimentary to our popular cultural pastimes. Idaho Dance Theatre is certainly one cultural treasure of which we can be proud.
April 20-23. For time and location, see this week's Picks Page.
For more information about Idaho Dance Theatre, visit www.idahodancetheatre.org.