3rd Ave. Dance Company kicks
off third season with 'Devotion'
| 3rd Ave. Dance Company
dancers strike a pose during the dramatic opening
of “Him and Her and Her and Her and Her and
Her.”/Photo by Todd Newcomer
Since its inception four years ago, the
3rd Ave. Dance Company has been devoted to bringing quality,
professional dance to the local community. In the spirit
of that goal, the company is kicking off its third season
with a performance entitled “Devotion.”
“I think this show, more than anything we’ve
done, shows the versatility of the company,” says
Suzy DiSanto, a founding member. “You’re getting
every style of dance in one show.”
said that she, Lisa Bodwalk and Shannon Hyatt –
the company’s three founders/artistic directors
– commissioned several well-regarded choreographers
to come to Durango and create pieces for the company.
“They usually spend three to five days with us
– nine to five rehearsals – and then they
leave us with (the piece), and it’s up to us to
keep it polished,” DiSanto said, adding that the
group has been rehearsing since June for the show.
The first piece in the performance, “Him and Her
and Her and Her and Her and Her..." was created by
guest choreographer Wade Masden, of Cornish College of
the Arts and the Dance Spectrum in Seattle, Wash.
“He’s a really fun guy,” says DiSanto.
Indeed. The dancers employ their dance skills as well
as facial expressions and pantomime to convey ideas and
stories. Fred Houser is “Him” and behaves
like such a scoundrel to the female dancers – clutching
one to his lap, for instance – that the piece ends
with Bodwalk “shooting” him with her finger.
The satisfied women then drag his corpse offstage, smiling
proudly as they exit.
|Julia Fisher balances
in the spotlight as
Shannon Hyatt looks on in “A Brush of
Anguish - A portrait of Frida Kahlo.”/Photo
by Todd Newcomer.
In keeping with the program’s diversity, “Vertical
Life,” by guest choreographer KT Nelson, of ODC/San
Francisco, takes a more serious look at the fragility
of life. According to DiSanto, Nelson, whose mother was
killed recently in a hit and run accident, “likes
dancers to train balletically but be able to go to the
athletic extreme when they’re onstage.”
The 16-minute piece, which includes performances by Talia
Bamerick, Julia Fisher, Erika Wilson Golightly, Houser,
Amy Iwasaki, Chrissy Mosier, Laurel Schaffer, Elizabeth
Thomas and Eagle Young, gets the point across by showcasing
the dancers’ strength and grace interrupted by images
of “snatching” to show how life can be taken
away at any moment.
This year’s third new guest choreographer, Robert
Moses, of Robert Moses’ Kin, also of San Francisco,
taught the company “Portrait of Four.” It
was a coup to get Moses to come to Durango, DiSanto says.
“He’s really hot right now,” DiSanto
says. “A lot of people want him to choreograph for
them, and he came here. It was really cool.”
In the piece, Bodwalk, Golightly, Hyatt and Bamerick
play the picture of femininity. At one point, the four
women group together and sway as one, conjuring images
of tentacles of a sea anemone gently swaying in a light
Despite the influx of talent from across the country,
“Devotion” also features pieces choreographed
in-house. Company dancer Laurel Schaffer created “Red
Seven” in honor of her seven years of marriage to
her husband. The piece is performed by Schaffer and Houser
against a backdrop of red, meant to signify all the things
that red suggests, from passion to anger, Schaffer said.
Schaffer’s performance is sassy and fluid, and
she and Houser often seem like ice skaters. “Red
Seven” ends sweetly with Houser picking her up as
if he is carrying her over the threshold as she bends
her head toward him.
DiSanto also contributed a piece, “A Brush of Anguish
– A Portrait of Frida Kahlo,” which is danced
by three women portraying Kahlo at different stages in
her life. Julia Fisher plays Kahlo as a schoolgirl, who
is then impaled through the pelvis by a
|Erika Wilson Golightly
throws a glance toward the audience in “Him
and Her and Her and Her and Her and Her.”/Photo
by Todd Newcomer.
trolley axel. Bamerick plays Kahlo during her love affair
with Diego Rivera; and Hyatt (incidentally, five months
pregnant) is Kahlo near the end of her life. All three
women seem to embody each persona, and Hyatt’s performance
is particularly remarkable as she instantaneously transitions
from anguished to resolute to uninhibited to yearning.
Since last year, Hyatt, Bodwalk and DiSanto expanded
the company from eight to 12 dancers. This year, they
had hoped to pay dancers, but with the drastic state-funding
cuts for the arts, the group didn’t receive its
usual grant money.
“Colorado Council of the Arts had enough (money)
to stay open, but not to give out,” DiSanto said,
adding that several agencies called to apologize personally.
“But on the other side, we got a lot more community
support – big local support, which was very exciting.”
Still, the company had planned to perform “Devotion”
during two weekends, but decided to cut it back to one
because of cost.
The 3rd Ave. Dance Company is the resident dance company
of the Dance Center, a Durango-based dance school founded
by Bodwalk in 1995. Several members of the company teach
at the school, including its three artistic directors.
Bodwalk teaches jazz, tap and hip hop; DiSanto teaches
social dances like swing and tango; and Hyatt is the director
of the ballet program.
Bodwalk said that it is wonderful to be able to work
and dance with her partners and the other members of the
company. She said that the “Devotion” theme
is not only about the company’s devotion to bringing
dance to Durango.
“It’s also about our personal devotion to
creating really quality dance and to each other as a group,”
Bodwalk said. “We warm up together, rehearse together,
joke together, breathe together... you just spend hours
together. It feels like a family.”
And it’s this comfort that shines through in each
part of the performance. Whether in a salsa number, DiSanto
and Bodwalk’s musical theater number from “Damn
Yankees,” or the eight dancers in the show’s
finale, “A Long Walk,” the dancers share glances
and smiles and seem like they’re thrilled to be
together, doing their thing.
“To work with the same people all the time is a
really special experience,” Bodwalk said. “We
have the opportunity to explore together what the artistry
of dance is really about.”