Conwell Dance Theatre hosted two performances on March 22 and 23 featuring The Green Chair Dance Group and The Real Shannon Stewart. Both groups were discovered by SCUBA, a national touring network for dance.
SCUBA, in part with Philadelphia Dance Projects, worked together to have the two groups come to Philly to perform.
Terry Fox, director of Philadelphia Dance Projects, helped to organize the performances.
“I was in Seattle for a conference and I met some of the people who had started SCUBA, and they invited us to participate,” Fox said. “That was about eight years ago, but SCUBA itself is probably ten years old.”
SCUBA represents an underwater breathing apparatus. The idea is that the artists “dive” into touring.
The groups that are chosen to perform go through a specific process of auditions.
“We do a call every year and so we get a number of artists who apply to SCUBA, and myself and some other people look at the entries,” Fox said. “We then email the artists that have applied and we pick three or four and send them to the city.”
These two groups were chosen to perform at Temple for a specific reason.
“I approached Conwell to see if we could partner with them because I knew they had a good audience and I thought it would be good for them to see developing work,” Fox said.
Philadelphia Dance Projects has been partnering with Temple for about the last four years.
“It’s been great,” Fox said. “Students can take classes with the artists and see their work. It would be a shame to take it somewhere else because we have a good relationship with them.”
Fox herself has a special tie to Temple.
“When I was a dancer in Philly, I knew many of the dancers then who were studying or coming from there,” Fox said. “I went to Temple for awhile but ended up graduating from NYU.”
One of the audience members at the performance was Marion Ramirez, an MFA student at Temple studying dance. She knew The Green Chair Dance Group prior to coming to the performance.
“I think it’s great that their work gets to be represented like this. It’s a lovely mixture of theater and dance and physicality,” Ramirez said.
“I enjoyed the fragmentation of the composition, yet how they insist in their motives and in their physicality. They show us a struggle of whatever they’re doing and they don’t mask it. And we’re kind of part of their process. They’re presenting stuff to us, and they’re inviting us in to see whatever they’re going through. [The two groups] work really well together.”
One of the dancers from The Green Chair Dance Group, Hannah de Keijzer, felt great about her performance.
“This is a piece that I love to perform. It’s very friendly and we really like to connect with the audience whenever we perform,” de Keijzer said.
The piece welcomed the audience numerous times throughout the performance when one of the three dancers would stop what he or she was doing, walk up to the front of the stage and give the audience a bit of insight about what to expect or what they were doing.
“[The piece] feels like a real expression of the joy that we get in moving and dancing together and the expression of what it’s like to be committed to other people over time, and the intimacy and difficulty of that,” de Keijzer said.
Aaron Swartzman, a dancer with The Real Shannon Stewart, got involved with the dance group when Stewart herself asked him to be in the piece they performed. He agreed since he was involved in doing a piece about memory, and the piece he was invited to join was about memory.
“To me, the piece connects to memory loss. It’s definitely a piece that’s still in progress, which I really like. After every show, we’re still making changes to it,” Swartzman said. “Shannon and [her artistic partner] think a lot about exactly what they’re trying to craft. I like this incarnation of the piece. It’s a little bit more physical than some of the other ones I’ve been in.”
Swartzman, just like de Keijzer, felt good about his performance, he said.
“For me, aerobics, the first section, is the most stressful one for me because it has the most counting in it,” Swartzman said. “Not my speciality.”
To Swartzman, the deeper meaning behind the piece was glitches in the memory.
“I guess I’d mix in a lot of my own work around how we manufacture our memories,” Swartman said. “As we forget stuff we sort of just make it up or we make it up before we forget it then it changes as we tell it that way.”
Both pieces were very similar in that they started off with the dancers all doing the same thing then branching out into intriguing solos of interpretive movement and interesting dancers. They also both had a deeper meaning in which the audience could ponder about.
Rebecca Zoll can be reached ar firstname.lastname@example.org.