This spring, opportunities to enjoy dance are abundant. Performances from BOCO’s many local dance companies are popping up like our very own superbloom. One to watch is Cindy Brandle Dance Company’s A World on Fire, premiering April 19 – 20 at The Dairy Arts Center. This work takes on “social privilege, racial discrimination, the #MeToo movement, LGBTQ marginalization, and the constantly evolving antics of the current administration. Utilizing fierce, compassionate and athletic movement, CBDC’s choreography is inspired by the writings of local poets to create an evening of compassionate, compelling dance and film.”
Sound heady? Brandle says, “This show is deep, a little dark, but also hopeful. I aim for people to be touched, and find entertainment within the conceptual work.” Most of us are familiar with the gymnastic and virtuoso dance we see on television with such shows as So You Think You Can Dance. While impressive and thrilling to watch, that intellectual connection that Brandle offers is so often missing from the experience. Not so much reaching for the stars as reaching for their audience, CBDC wants you to think and feel their work. Brandle finds dance to be a “richer and more satisfying experience when the work has substance and depth.”
Yet beautiful movement is also important to the company esthetic. “We are working hard for the dancers to present beautiful movement, executed in an advanced technical performance.” Discussing her movement theory, Brandle says, “the energy comes from the inside out, so everything you’re doing is connected to your chi, and it’s connected to your center sacral connections, so you are really utilizing what is happening inside of your body to inform what is happening outside of your body.”
Such internal motivation offers the audience a recognizable experience of dance. We recognize movement which comes from the dancer’s somatic experience because we also have bodies that house these felt experiences. The movement touches our own inner landscape, and we can be more viscerally connected to what we see. So, while perhaps you may be impressed by a dancer’s skill, you can also recognize the feeling of the movement within yourself.
Brandle is a choreographer who wants to go deeper. Discussing her love of dance, she says, “modern dance in particular brings a whole intellectual experience, because it will offer the audience a chance to interpret it as they see it, which I think is amazing. Sometimes people will come to me and talk to me about what they’ve seen, and it will be slightly different from my intentions, and that’s ok. I love that people are utilizing a thought process while they are watching. They are not just being entertained. There is something to digest and something to have a moment to contemplate. Abstract art makes you give pause and really think about what you saw and how you interpret it.”
I had the chance to peek at a final rehearsal while the dancers were doing a run through of the completed work. I saw strong dancers with long lines, moving fiercely and succinctly through Brandle’s choreography of large movement, punctuated by precise gesture. The full company of nine women on the stage, moving together, is powerful, the way a community can be powerful when unified by an ideal or purpose. When the dancers break into smaller groups, supporting, throwing and lifting one another, there is a sense of human interaction to the movement. Solo dancers convey vulnerability, but also a sense of self-sufficient resolve.
Some of the dancing is performed against a backdrop of original poetry layered over music. These poems give the work it’s socio-political content, discussing a variety of issues that are currently in the public discourse. There is a poem written by a transgendered woman, another by a member of the LGBTQ community, who is also a woman of color, about what it is like to be in brown skin, another speaks of the #MeToo movement, a man discusses race from the perspective of a person of color, and his wife speaks of gun control.
Brandle hopes the content of the work will “open a dialogue for a deeper appreciation and understanding of the intense division in the world when addressing racial discrimination, LGBTQ marginalization, gender inequality, and the #MeTOO movement.”
I missed the opportunity to see the stage technologies of film and lighting that will add more layers of content and visual interest to the performance. Multimedia performance such as this has been growing in popularity, offering a variety of facets for audiences to connect to the work.
So, why give dance a chance? As a dancer and choreographer for over 34 years, Brandle obviously has a great love of modern dance, although she laughs at the irony of choosing a career in such an obscure art form that gives little monetary reward. “I love the nonverbal communication of dance and how our bodies can create so much emotion. I think it inspires people. We are telling a story. We are communicating with our bodies. Seeing a live performance can be a rewarding experience to see live breathing people on a stage. I believe in my company and I think we are totally worth checking out. And I think there are some very talented people in the Front Range dance community.”
We all live in bodies that move and express ideas and emotions, even if we are not directly aware or deliberate about our expression. Watching this more intellectually driven dance can touch that awareness in each of us, making us remember our shared humanity. Remembering how we are all connected, despite our differences, is something we sorely need these days. A World on Fire offers an experience of connection, to ourselves, to issues that we are all dealing with in our communities, in relating to one another. It’s dance that we can relate to. We can see beautiful movement, and think and feel while we watch. Definitely worth checking out.
You can purchase your tickets here.