This photo is Qaadir Hicks, one of dozens of dancers who will be onstage for Retro Fusion & Illusion, the fall dance extravaganza by Forward Motion Dance in collaboration with other studios and artists. The show is September 15-16, Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 at Thalian Hall. Listen to Director/Choreographer Tracey Varga and guest artist Liz White above; extended transcript below.
Works being reintroduced in this performance include two pieces from previous Dancealorus productions: "Endangered" (2011) and "450nm 660 THz" (2013), plus "Beat of the Soul" from 2015, set to music by Janis Joplin. A piece set to original music by Julia Walker Jewell was previously performed in an abridged version; this year, the entire piece will be performed, again featuring Julia onstage playing the piano alongside the dancers.
Tracey: An overview of the show is bringing back past creations, dance creations, that have been performed over the last I'd say eight years with the theme of, you know, retro, honoring past musicians and, and embracing their music. One that I'm real excited to bring back is entitled "Beat of the Soul" and it's a dance solo by Linda Webb with music by Janis Joplin as well as including a sculpture created by Doug Campbell, which will be onstage with her.
Gina: When you say a sculpture you mean like an actual physical sculpture? Tracy: An actual physical sculpture sculpture that's like 10 feet tall.
Gina: Oh wow.
Tracey: And it has allusion to Janis Joplin on stage with Linda.
Gina: Oh wow. And tell me about the Elvis Presley piece.
Tracey: The Elvis Presley piece is choreographed graphed by Linda Ann Webb. She's our guest choreographer for Forward Motion Dance this year. It's a piece that she created for the 2013 Dance-alorus with music by Elvis Presley "Blue Suede Shoes" as well as a film created by Patrick Ogilve.
Gina: How many dancers altogether do you have?
Tracey: Probably about 28. And then that's not including the guest dancers, teen dancers that we always do a piece with from local studios including Dreams, the Dance Co-operative, the Dance Element, and Wilmington School of Ballet and this year we have 11 dancers and it's all choreographed to music by Herb Alpert. Also, in addition to this, is collaboration with students from Noble Middle School. The art class they're directed by Margaret Cooley, who's going to do a collage to put as a backdrop with the teens as they dance on stage. So we're really excited about that collaboration also with local art students.
Gina: Tracey, you are such a collaborator. It is hard to collaborate.
Tracey: Well, I really think there's such a wealth of of talents in this area that to be able to embrace it and to be able to work with others, you learn a lot. And I find the artists that we work with, whether it be Julia Walker Jewel-she's going to be performing a live piece that she composed this year, it's going to be the full piece, 14 minute piece. Last year we did an excerpt from it, but now it's the full piece. And she's been great to work with. She's sharing her original composition with us and the dancers, so they'll be on stage with her.
Gina: This is the Coin piece?
Gina: I remember listening to that. She sent me a link to the music. Beautiful.
Tracey: Yeah, a lot of emotion in that piece.
Gina: And there's the story behind it.
Gina: So carry on about collaborating.
Tracey: Collaborating..also, so I'm really excited, there's a new piece that we're premiered at the Lumina Festival, used music by Nat King Cole and David Bowie to again honor these past artists musical artists who have, are very much alive in our minds and our souls. It's the piece called "Nature Boy" which was Nat King Cole's first recorded song in 1948. It was composed by Ethan Abez in 1947. It was an autobiography. He was studying different philosophies of life. The dance is a solo dance by Qaadir Hick's.
Gina: Have you choreographed this?
Tracey: All of them except for Linda and Webbs the guest choreographer who's, who choreographed the Elvis piece with a film by Patrick Ogilve.
Gina: Liz, tell me about the piece you'll be performing.
Liz: Well, I'm actually in three pieces for this performance and the one piece, the James Brown piece I performed in 2009, there's about, there's three of us that are, are doing it again and then we have some new dancers and it's three different pieces of music of James Brown. It's just really fun and funky and just a really fun piece to get out there and do and and have a lot of fun with it.
Tracey: The costumes---
Liz: We have these really cool, you know, big wide bell bottom costumes and we sewed boas on to them and so we're, we're really getting out there and funking out and it's, it's fun to be doing it again. It was, I was amazed at how when we started rehearsing, how some of the steps just, like, I just started doing them. So even all those years ago they just kind of came back. So that's a testament to muscle memory. That's been a lot of fun. And then Julia Walker Jewel piece I performed, last year we did the first about five-six minutes of it and it stood on its own, you know, well with that kind of time. But now Tracey decided to to complete it and so it feels really great to be in that the whole piece now, it feels more completed. There's a lot of really different music in the second part. There's some really strong music that comes out that we hadn't heard before and so we have some really kind of stronger movements and, and then in the end it kind of all kind of comes back together and you feel like that's a completed piece. So I'm really excited about to be a part of both of those pieces. And I started out dancing with Tracey's modern jazz dance class and that's how I got involved in it. And that class we always have a class piece that we do, perform to and that's, we're dancing this year to Earth Wind and Fire. So that's a lot of fun too.
Tracey: Three different pieces of Earth Wind and Fire. Patrick Ogilve, the film maker, he's also an incredible editor in terms of music audio edits and he always helps us with these. Earth Wind and Fire, he helps with the "Nature Boy," he helped with the James Brown piece.
One piece that we have brought back is called "Endangered," it's to music by Diane Reeves. We had it premiered in 2011 at Dancealorus, Cucalorus. Real excited about it, I love the music and there's a film by Joe Cordero who also has a stage prop sculpture on stage with the dancers. So I'm really excited to bring that back. There was three original dancers in it and then we've got seven total which, when I did it in 2011 there was five, so we've got a couple of more dancers joining us.
I'm really looking forward to the teen piece by Herb Alpert. I mean, to see the dancers out there having fun and enjoying it, especially some that are ballet trained for the most part and getting out there and do a more of a jazzy, modern piece, it's very fun to see. Plus, you know, exposing them to music that they may have not heard before. Herb Alpert, you know, like last year we didn't Nina Simone. We've done a piece by Michael Jackson, by Paul McCartney which none of the dancers have heard of in the past, so it's just very nice in terms of educating them to new music. So I'm looking forward to that as well as having the backdrop my Noble Middle School arts students, really looking forward to bring "Endangered" back. I mean you can get me excited about all of them. The piano piece to arrive with Julia Walker Jewel out there. And again, the Nat King Cole-David Bowie piece performed by Qaadir Hicks. I am really excited that he has a chance to perform it again.
Liz: One of the things that has been really fun is having this piece by Julie Walker Jewel where the piano is right on stage and we're dancing actually to the live music. And we hadn't had the opportunity to do that before last year so I think that that gets me very excited to see that. My father was a concert pianist and when I see her out there playing, I think that's a very exciting moment for me when we do that.
Gina: Having any kind of live music is different.
Liz: It can be challenging.
Gina: Do you adjust to one another?
Liz: We really do have to sometimes, you know, from what we've practiced. Her tempo might start out faster and, but we did talk to her, you know, and she would say, Is this OK? Is this good? And so we, you know, we worked together with it.
Tracey: So it's great too that sometimes Julia will extend certain parts of it if we want to have a little bit more flow of it. She's been great about that and working with us.
Liz:Yes, so we do, you know, talk to her. She'll, she'll ask us questions, you know, How'd that go? But then even, you know, even with that sometimes it changes a little bit. I mean, if she gets really into it you can kind of feel. So you kind of go with it.
Tracey: You feel the energy of it.
Liz: The energy, that's really exciting.
Transcription Credit: PopUpArchive & Production Assistant Lindsay Wright