This Friday, February 10, Spectrum Dance Theater’s world-class performers will take the stage at the Fox Cities PAC with its show, “Rambunctious 2.0,” a bold exploration of American tradition through rhythmic, riotous movement and arrangements by classical, African-American composers T.J. Anderson, Wynton Marsalis and Pamela Z. The Seattle-based dance troupe takes on social, cultural, ethnic and economic issues as choreographed by Spectrum’s executive artistic director Donald Byrd. Its current season is called “American – Identity, Race or Culture?” and seeks to explore our country’s modern-day identity.
Makaroff Youth Ballet: How does creating dance for a diverse audience of people from different social, cultural, ethnic and economic backgrounds affect the rehearsal process and performances?
Alex Crozier: I don’t think creating work that is seen by diverse audiences affects how you make the work, because if it did, then there would be something within the work that would not be fully formed in terms of its construction. When you’re performing the work, you certainly do take note of the different things that people react to nightly, but that shouldn’t change your performance, otherwise you end up pandering to your audience.
MYB: With so much of the work presented by Spectrum Dance Theatre being made accessible to diverse audiences and used for important social commentary, is there input from company dancers in the choreography, programming and presentation?
Alex Crozier: There is definitely input from the dancers in creating the words we do at Spectrum. Typically, Donald Byrd will create a long phrase of movement that we call a “base phrase”. From there, that phrase of movement is broken down into manipulations, which are a series of transpositions of the movement done on different parts of the body. One example of this is you take the phrase of movement and you have everything that your legs did in the phrase your arms do, and everything that your arms did in the phrase your legs will do. Much of the conceptual work and emotional contest will be added by Donald and he will direct the different phases of movement that the dancers have created to make a show. There are other times where the choreography is entirely constructed and directed by Donald himself.
MYB: So much of what Spectrum Dance Theatre presents is theatrical. What type of training backgrounds are seen amongst company dancers?
Nia-Amina Minor: Spectrum Dance Theater is comprised of dancers from very diverse backgrounds. Company members enter the company having trained and performed many different dance disciplines, including but not limited to modern and ballet. Depending on the project or performance, Donald Byrd works with the company extensively during the rehearsal process to make sure we are prepared for the demands of the piece.
MYB: How has the company changed since its foundation in 1982? Has it always focused on using movement and theater as a social and civic instrument?
Fausto Rivera: Spectrum Dance Theater began as a collective and evolved into a jazz-based company under the direction of Dale Merrill. Donald Byrd’s work has always dealt with social issues so when he took over at Spectrum, he introduced dance work that more overtly dealt with these issues.
MYB: What do you hope the audience will take away from Spectrum Dance Theatre’s performance at the Fox Cities PAC?
Fausto Rivera: The “Rambunctious 2.0” program is choreographed to music by African American composers. One of the goals for our performance is that audience members come away a bit more conscious that there are African American composers that aren’t being heard, that there are a multitude of composers that we don’t know about and they are worth recognizing.
Tickets to Friday’s performance are $30 and can be purchased here. In addition, the Fox Cities PAC and several young professional organizations are co-hosting “The Young Leaders Event” which includes pre- and post-show receptions with Spectrum dancers to celebrate the art of dance and discuss race within the arts and within our community. Click here to get tickets to the YP event!