CO-CURATED BY NANCY WOZNY
Dance / 60 Minutes
Ten choreographers are asked to create ten short dances in one very large space on one very small stage: a raised cube that has a playing space of 4’ by 4’. This year’s return of the perennially popular format and festival highlight features choreographers and dancers from around the state of Texas who are known for breaking boundaries with their imaginative movement styles.
Showcasing artists of all ages, expect Ten Tiny Dances® to be an explosive mix of Texas’s past, present, and future dance makers.
Dances by Charles O. Anderson, John Beasant III, Roxanne Claire, Erica Gionfriddo/ARCOS, Courtney D. Jones, Alisa Mittin, SpareWorks.dance (Amber Ortega-Perez + Charles Perez), Joshua L. Peugh/Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Sixto Wagan, and Connor Walsh.
Created in Portland, Oregon, in 2002 Ten Tiny Dances® continues to be produced by founder Mike Barber and others, by permission. See www.tentinydances.org for more information.
ARTIST WORDS: Exclusive Interviews with this year’s Dancers (January 2017)
Charles O. Anderson
I was born in Richmond, VA. I was based in New York City and Philadelphia for sixteen years before moving to Austin in 2011. While I may career started professionally in New York, I feel Philadelphia is where I found a sense of community as an artist. I have performed in Ten Tiny Dances performances a few times in the past. I enjoy how the format requires a certain focus on the performer and movement that sometimes can be lost in a full performance space. I am presenting a duet excerpt of a larger piece I am currently developing with my company Charles O. Anderson Dance Projects (formerly dance theatre X). I am thinking very much about how being on the platform creates a site for vulnerability and confession and how standing in proximity to it facilitates bearing witness as well as vice versa.
John Beasant III
I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. I also lived in Cali, Colombia for a couple of years during my childhood. I currently live in the Montrose museum district area in Houston. I am drawn to the eager and committed energies of the many artists in Houston. The concept of Ten Tiny Dances®, of needing to create a work on a small platform intrigues me; the idea of confinement can mean many different things to people. As a choreographer, I welcome the constraint of space, as I believe that limitation can serve as a guide to help create answers within any movement investigation. I will approach the creation of this project with the idea of “anxiety through captivity,” researching various articles, photographs, documentaries, and through observing animals at the zoo. In order to create this sense of captivity, my rehearsal process will be to allow my dancer the fullness of space, to allow the individual to become empowered through physical exploration and abandonment, and to eventually strip all of those things away. The result of this working method will be to create animal-like, fully-embodied movement within the constraints of confinement.
I am from Nebraska. I’ve been living in Houston the past twenty-five years. Over that time, I’ve seen many changes in the dance community. It’s particularly exciting to watch the work of artists develop. The challenge of Ten Tiny Dances® of course is the limitation on space. Limitations stimulate creativity! As I begin to work on my piece, I’ve been thinking about limiting floor space heightens the concept of direction. I’ve been thinking about vertical space. And I’ve been thinking about the concepts of “having a platform” and “taking things to the edge.”
I was born and raised in Connecticut and came to Austin, by way of Santa Fe. When I came to Austin with my company, ARCOS, I was intrigued by the number of independent dance artists that seemed hungry for advancement and experimentation at their level. My Ten Tiny Dances® piece will be a step in developing a coded movement language for a larger ARCOS project: a man and a woman must first decipher if they can trust one another without overt language. Using veiled speech and physical gestures one must relay an important message to the other. We’ll be using the physical limits of the stage to focus attention on the detailed execution of movement and precise, calculated speech.
Courtney D. Jones
Born and raised in H-Town, moved to Miami at 17 then New York at 18 and was there about 10 years getting my BFA at SUNY Purchase and dancing with Jennifer Muller/The Works. After that I lived on the road for a year and a half touring with the Broadway National Tour of Wicked which brought me back to H-Town in 2010—where I currently live, dance, and am on the faculty at The High School for Performing and Visual Arts. Every time I’ve attended Ten Tiny Dances®, I’ve enjoyed seeing how each dancer/choreographer adapts to the space. I embrace the idea, but don’t see the size of the stage as a limitation. I’m curious I guess how large I can be in the space. I’m short in stature so maybe I’ll finally look like the long-legged swan I sometimes pretend I am. . . In some ways I feel like I’ll approach it the way I do all performances then adapt. I don’t think I’ll think about the size first, just create then adapt.
I am originally from Buffalo, New York but have been living in Houston for 3 years. I’ve been fortunate enough to travel and live in many different cities and one city that I felt particularly connected to, dance wise, was Atlanta, GA. Moving to Houston, however, has been the best move for my career. I fell immediately into an incredibly energetic and supportive community of artists. I couldn’t have anticipated the amount of work I’d be able to create as well as participate in. For Ten Tiny Dances®, I love how parameters and a unique set of rules and challenges pushes my creative process beyond my first second or even third idea. I think I’ll begin be trying out a few different ideas, see how they develop within a restricted amount of space. Cast a wide net, see what I want to keep, and what to toss back.
Joshua L. Peugh
I was born and raised in Las Cruces, New Mexico. I live in Dallas, Texas, with my partner, dancer Chadi El-Khoury. Creating a work for a four-by-four platform is very challenging to me, but it will encourage me to focus on my mantra, which for years has been: simple, pure, transparent. When I’m creating a new work, I like to let it emerge through the process; I prefer not to make many decisions before I begin. Once I have seen the dancers and heard their stories, I begin creating. I gravitate toward dancers who have open minds and hearts. Dancers who have a passion for moving; people with curiosity. I try to create things honestly without prejudice, allowing my instincts to control my decisions. I encourage dancers to let go of theatricality and let the story come through the movement itself. I’m interested in “the human comedy” and why we do what we do.
SpareWorks.dance (Amber Ortega-Perez + Charles Perez)
We are both born and raised in San Antonio, and we currently reside in San Antonio. San Antonio is a place for collaborators. Even though the dance community can seem small in our city, there are many amazing artists of different mediums that have a great willingness to explore and try new out new ideas alongside other artists. Ten Tiny Dances is intriguing because it provides these unique restrictions which don’t limit the choreography but actually open up a wide range of new possibilities. With this framework, there is a kind of magnifying glass focused upon the central medium within dance—the human body. It challenges the choreographer to be body-centric, exploring the possibilities or range of the body technology. We’re not sure how this will play out, but I’m excited to begin trying out ideas and concepts dealing with the following: casual texting in place of verbal speech; misunderstandings brought about by casual and perpetual texting; autocorrect kerfuffle when texting; conversing without human contact, i.e. eye, physical, voice.
I grew up in St. Louis, but have been part of the Houston art scene since the mid-90s. It’s been incredible to see the growth and cycles of the dance/performance scene in Houston. I’m excited about how many generations of makers are still active in the scene. Ten Tiny Dances is exciting because the limitations—five minutes and a tiny stage—create such rich possibilities and opportunity for experimentation. It’s also an incredible way for me to re-engage my creative side since I haven’t performed this century. I’m simultaneously excited and terrified. I’ve been thinking about the performance for a while, trying to define a focus for the piece. There is so much I can respond to and years of thinking I could try to investigate. But the parameters of the event are helping me edit, refine, and prioritize the point of departure and exploration. I also need to explore what I’m capable of now, what the years away from performing means to my body, my language, and my presence on stage. I’ve been doing some writing, filtering through music, and oiling up my sewing machine to play with different ideas. One great thing is that since the stage is so small, it’s easy to find rehearsal space.
I’m originally from the DC area where I was first exposed to dance by my mother who had a dance school. As a young teen I started to pursue a career in dance much more seriously so I went to multiple dance academies until I ended up here in Houston. I immediately fell in love with the Houston Ballet Company and school and was exposed to ideas and styles of dance that I had never encountered. Fifteen years later, I’m still working with the company. As someone who is relatively new to creating work I’m very curious to participate in projects that can help expand my idea of what dance can be. I’m interested to see how the limitations of space can be turned into possibilities and how it will influence me as I try to create a vocabulary or language that works for such an intimate setting. I tend to be a very music-driven artist, so I will first be listening and listening until I find something that inspires an idea. The music usually drives every decision that I make whether it’s the cast, the process, or the overall concept.