As Denver seems poised for major positive artistic growth, with a host of world-class talent and adventurous dance companies of many genres, another resonant voice comes to join our collective thrust to become even more than we are. With years of teaching roots in Grand Junction and, more recently, classes conducted in Steamboat Springs, Colorado Springs, and Boulder as well as Denver, Jessica Taylor, Artistic Director and founder of DAMAGEDANCE (a now-and-forever Denver-based modern contemporary dance company with national and international connections), is thrilled to become much more of a part of the varied, welcoming, and energetic Denver and Front Range dance scene.
As Taylor puts it, “There are some magnificent companies here and I think DAMAGEDANCE can be a great addition in genre, but with the talent surrounding me everywhere, I am still feeling very encouraged and inspired by the Denver natives who are expressing their excitement about DD making this our new home.” Taylor considers the company’s geographical shift from New York City to Denver to a “reboot rather than a relocation.” Denver has some critical characteristics that make it the moving-and-shaking place for DD to grow, learn, and eventually connect the mission of the company to an education program and wellness center that would provide a multitude of jobs in the arts and arts administration, and become part of the swelling movement that can result in Denver becoming a more recognized and integrated central city/destination for dance and career dancers.
DAMAGEDANCE invites us to shine light on our “flaws” and utilize them as tools for growth. Our various imperfections make each of us who we are, which is individuals who deserve to be recognized and valued, especially by ourselves. Is that a hard thing to do? Maybe not for all, but certainly for many, and definitely for me. What if one were to take clear-eyed stock of that which makes one somehow less-than-ideal, and then viewed these characteristics (or experiences, or genetic predispositions, or trauma) as indicators of a useful and progressive path?
The DAMAGEDANCE ethos addresses a need that we have, culturally. DD proposes that true expression requires bringing the mind and the body together. That kind of self-awareness starts with the physical, with body awareness. One must thoroughly inhabit one’s body by owning and accepting one’s body, and recognizing oneself in it. That’s where the ability for authentic expression comes from, because it is coming from a more fully realized self. However, there may be repair that has to happen first.
It seems to me that DAMAGEDANCE is directly addressing that repair space when fears and “imperfections” are brought out in the open and acknowledged and used. It’s almost as though the result is the method, or, the journey is the result. Recognition moves to utilization, which becomes acceptance, which creates a self that can truly be, and fully express, and openly move. DD classes create a safe space for mistakes to happen, for limits to be tested and addressed, for fears to be dissected and unique strengths to be revealed. Mistakes have to happen so that it can be seen why they happen. Then that root can be tackled directly, resulting in a more seasoned dancer.
This intense process has honed the already considerable abilities of the company dancers, several of whom offer testimonies on the DAMAGEDANCE website speaking to their experiences. I was struck by the depth of feeling that was communicated, and how that translated to a strength of commitment to DD and to Jessica Taylor as Artistic Director. The dancers, the company, and perhaps even the Director, became greater than perhaps they knew they could be. Taylor’s athletically charged and technically challenging choreography continues to push the members of the company, all of whom Taylor does not hesitate to name “phenomenal artists.”
Taylor herself struggled in training and auditions, and had some negative experiences with teachers, partly because her body did not fit into the shape of prescribed expectation. She had to figure out what kind of movement and style worked for her body, and this was the root of the company’s mission: acceptance of oneself as one is (imperfect) and the utilization of these imperfections to make something true and real that expresses struggle, triumph, and the foundation of life’s journey: the making of the self. We are all “perfectly imperfect.” The best, and hardest, thing we can do is to become who we are.
The imminent (February 5th-20th, 2016) Colorado tour of DAMAGEDANCE includes shows/stops in Denver, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and Grand Junction. Mini-intensives, Q & A opportunities, workshops, master classes and even some volunteer community work will occur in addition to the theater – based performances. The Boulder show will be at the Dairy Arts Center (2590 Walnut St.), and will be the first performance in the newly renovated Gordon Theater. BRIAH Danse, Control Group Productions and more will be featured, celebrating the expansion of the Dairy as well as the expansion of the Front Range dance ecosystem with the fresh jolt that is DD. There will be a performance at Colorado College and other city venues, including the gorgeous Armstrong Center for Dance (1075 Santa Fe in Denver). This new home of the Colorado Ballet will host the closing performance of the tour in its black box theater on February 20th, with a post-show event at the Molecule Effect (close by at 1201 Santa Fe, Suite A). This will be the performance for Denver to see! Don’t delay securing your seats!
Keep in mind that DAMAGEDANCE is currently seeking “Vision Partners,” fellow proponents of the company’s focus. You might be a dancer, a teacher, a secretary, an intern, an administrator, an audience member, or something else entirely, but to find out how you can become involved, contact Jessica Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jane E. Werle: At three months of age Jane E. Werle, unable to protest, was removed from Loveland, Colorado by her well-meaning parents. In 2004 she was able to rectify this error when she relocated from Massachusetts to Boulder for graduate school. One M.F.A. and a husband later, Jane works to further the arts in the Front Range as a writer (reviewer, interviewer, curator) and enthusiast (no-shame, first-on-the-floor amateur– despite some training– dancer). Jane is also a longtime nanny and a visual artist, taking one of these very seriously and the other as a growth experience. Every child she’s cared for has experienced some form of the SDP: Spontaneous Dance Party.