It’s here! It is actually “go time” now, and we are in intensive rehearsals for our “State of Being” tour to NYC and Baltimore! Let me give you a little background.
It all started with the idea to tour my choreographic work nationally. Having been commissioned to create works and set some of my existing works on professional companies in the region, I was beginning to get a little itch to put my choreography in front of dance audiences elsewhere. New York was, of course, always a top choice, but to have a venue where we could afford to have a fully-produced concert, I looked at other East Coast cities. Baltimore/DC was always high on my list, because of the active dance scene in that area. After finding that many of the DC venues were either under construction or booked solid during the time of year I was considering, I looked to Baltimore Theatre Project, where they are wonderfully supportive with artists producing new work. I performed at Theatre Project years ago, and remember it as a fond experience. After speaking with Chris Pfingsten about dates, and how it all works, I knew this was the right place! Theatre Project actually co-produces productions with artists, so it was nice for them to be supportive of this project.
New York was always in the back of my mind as a possibility for this tour. I contacted Peridance Capezio Center back in the early fall about performing in their Salvatore Capezio Theater. We were not sure if we would be able to afford to add this leg of the tour, but the dancers all agreed they would prefer to perform there if possible, even if it meant they received no pay (or even per diem.) Our current tour includes:
Peridance Capezio Center, 126 E. 13th Street, New York, NY 10003
Sunday, June 16 @ 2:00 p.m.
Baltimore Theatre Project, 45 W. Preston St., Baltimore, MD 21201
Thursday, June 20 @ 8:00 p.m.
Friday, June 21 @ 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, June 22 @ 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, June 23 @ 3:00 p.m.
As the fall semester began, I applied for a summer research grant through the UALR College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. I knew that it would take a great deal of additional fundraising to make this whole thing happen (touring dance means taking dancers–10 of them–and lots of money for travel/housing), but was confident that I would find a way to make it work. As luck would have it, I received some info from the Arkansas Arts Council about USA Projects, a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that supports artist’s projects. Having received and Individual Artist Fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council, I was eligible to apply through USA Projects to conduct an online fundraising campaign to support this new project. I applied, and my project was accepted! This was going to be my biggest source of fundraising to make this tour possible!
I began inviting dancers to take part in this project back in October. Originally, my idea was to have a mix of UALR and non-UALR dancers, including professional dancers in the area. The schedule of the project was tied into the possibility of taking some of the dancers from Ballet Arkansas, where I had created American Dream. At one point, it looked like I may have 5 UALR dancers and 5 non-UALR, including one UALR alum. However, for the Ballet Arkansas dancers, this was their only time off after a long season; therefore, many of them opted not to take part in the tour. From the start, I made it clear that this was a tour of my choreographic work, with me as the Artistic Director. I wanted to show my work, and connect Arkansas dancers with the broader dance world. As it stands now, while every dancer in this company is a current UALR dance major, each was hand-selected by me because of his or her talent, commitment, and approach to rehearsal and performance. The dancers know they were hand-picked, and are treating this project with the utmost professionalism and dedication.
Starting in late November with the online fundraiser through USA Projects, fundraising became (necessarily) a big focus of preparing for this project. Many donors from across the country donated generously to help us meet our minimum fundraising goal. As part of the USA Projects fundraiser, a couple of our dancers, Ali Herring and Elizabeth Hartzell, conducted an aerial silk workshop. We also did other fundraisers, such as a bake sale, another aerial silk workshop through Absolute Aerial Silks, and jewelry bars through Origami Owl Custom Jewelry. The Department of Theatre Arts and Dance has helped us greatly by providing rehearsal space and even helping out with some expenses for this tour. Even though we leave in just over a week, we continue to raise funds to provide the dancers with at least some per diem (food money!). (Anyone interested in donating can write a check to Stephanie Thibeault, P.O. Box 7741, Little Rock, AR 72207, and the amount will be split evenly between the 10 dancers to help defray their costs while on tour.) We will also be taking donations at our open rehearsal on Monday, June 10, at 12:00 noon in CPA 129 (the large dance studio).
What works are we taking on this tour? Well, one of the new pieces to appear in this tour is Engendered Species, which debuted as part of UALR’s “BodyWorks” concert in April. It is a mesmerizing work that explores gender identity. Other works we are touring include American Dream (2012), Oui, Oui, Paris (2010), Covetous, the Bond Endures (2001), Alternate Realities (2005), So, Love…(2011), and possibly a new work called Place, which is still under construction. (Nail-biter!)
So far, this has been an amazing experience for everyone involved. I have truly enjoyed working with the dancers so intensively on this project; their hard work and dedication, both inside and outside the rehearsal studio, has been inspiring. I am encouraged that we are creating true professionals in the dance program here at UALR, and look forward to sharing what we have with the rest of the world. This is the first project for Tee-Bo-Dans (the name I have given this company of dancers), but I may decide to continue doing other projects under the same name.
The face of dance in Arkansas is changing, and I believe this project is a prime example of the potential of our talented dance artists!