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A True Inter-Arts Experience

Known throughout Maryland as a beacon for innovation, avant-garde collaboration and local outreach, Baltimore Dance Project provokes and enraptures new and loyal audiences each season. Founded in 1982 and originally known as the Phoenix Repertory Dance Company, the ensemble now celebrates its 30th anniversary on the stage of UMBC’s new Performing Arts and Humanities Building Theatre.

Co-directed by UMBC’s Carol Hess and Doug Hamby (associate professors, Dance), Baltimore Dance Project features interdisciplinary collaborative works with other faculty at UMBC, as well as with a broad range of artists throughout the greater Baltimore/Washington region.

As its name suggests, the Phoenix Repertory Dance Company was dedicated to the re-creation and performance of modern dance choreography already in the canon. Unlike similar repertory troupes however, the company focused not on preserving the choreography as it was originally tooled: along with co-founder Elizabeth Walton (associate professor, Dance), Hamby and Hess used the language of known works to inspire and challenge the traditional presentation of dances, laying the foundation for the completely original works they present today.

The company moved quickly into the types of interdisciplinary works it is known for today, commissioning original music and video for its performances—even working with Tony Farquhar (associate professor, Mechanical Engineering) to build a dancing robot. Audiences began to heartily applaud collaborative pieces “that demonstrated all the diverse forms contemporary dance can take,” and company premieres such as Hamby’s Quintet (1991) and Hess’ Unknown Territory/Credo in US (1993) began to define a changing aesthetic. The pieces integrated live music with spoken word, and traversed complex boundaries between disparate art forms, and by 2005 the company had rebranded itself as Baltimore Dance Project. Hess and Hamby continue to work this way today, and their success can be attributed to their extensive, diverse backgrounds in dance.

Baltimore Dance Project maintains its freshness each year, challenging its own choreography to improve by reworking pieces over seasons. The upcoming 2013 performances will be no exception as the company revisits old repertoire and presents two premieres. The lineup also features two dances featuring UMBC’s Sandra Lacy, and various works featuring some of Baltimore Dance Project’s most celebrated UMBC alumni. Tom Goldstein (associate professor, Music) will lead a percussion ensemble performance of John Cage’s Second Construction, and Tim Nohe (associate professor, Visual Arts) will collaborate on Common Axis, which blends movement with video images of past company works.

The complete program includes:
If I Told Him (premiere), in which a dancer creates a compelling and theatrical event as he dances, recites poetry by Gertrude Stein and manipulates a rope stretched across the stage.

Common Axis (premiere), created in collaboration with artist Timothy Nohe. In celebration of the company’s 30th anniversary, Hamby, Hess and Nohe blend movement with video images of notable Baltimore Dance Project works of the past.

Construction #2, re-created by Hamby in honor of American composer John Cage’s centennial year, is a dance set to the music of Cage, performed live by percussionist Tom Goldstein and UMBC Department of Music alumni.

Hamby’s Past/Forward, a visually stunning work in which today’s dancers perform with beautiful, silent dance films from the 1950s, originally created by choreographer Helen McGehee.

Once Again, in which Sandra Lacy shares the stage with 50 white balloons. A surreal journey into the haunting interior life of a performer, Once Again is performed in three sections—“Driven,” “On Display” and “Downward Spiral”—set to the music of Elvis Presley and Tom Waits.

Out to Play, choreographed and performed by Sandra Lacy and Adrienne Clancy. A fanciful and fun-loving duet that celebrates the ability to play, take risks and indulge in whimsy, with music composed and performed by Hazmat Modine.

Baltimore Dance Project performs Thursday through Saturday, February 7, 8 and 9 in the Performing Arts and Humanities Building Theatre. Admission is $20 general, $10 for students and seniors, and $7 for UMBC students. More information is available on UMBC’s Arts and Culture Calendar.

(2/7/13)