Westward movement

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Courtesy photo/Jesse Scroggins
Big Rig Dance Collective, a dance company based in Denton, performs “Face on the Ground,” an 11-minute dance that explores physical endurance, gender roles and the role of women in dance. The company will perform the piece during the 16th annual Las Vegas Dance in the Desert Festival next month.
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Big Rig takes dance to Vegas fest

Big Rig Dance Collective is getting ready to boogie in the desert.

Co-directors Amanda Jackson and Meredith Knight are packing up the company’s velvet costumes and a great big set so that six dancers can perform in the group’s first national festival.

Las Vegas, here they come.

“We still consider ourselves a local, do-it-yourself type of dance group, even though we have worked with national choreographers and have presented our work in regional festivals outside of Texas,” said Jackson, who earned her degree in dance at Texas Woman’s University. “We are all really dedicated to being a driving force in the D-FW experimental and modern dance scene.”

The trip to Vegas, where the New Dance Foundation for the Arts will stage its 16th annual Las Vegas Dance in the Desert Festival, happens July 25-26. The local company will perform one of its latest dances, “Face on the Ground.”

While the company gets ready, it’s also raising $2,975 on a crowd-funding site, at www.gofundme.com/faceontheground.

The dance premiered in Denton during the company’s May show, “Converge.” “Face on the Ground” is an 11-minute dance featuring six dancers. The piece focuses on physical endurance and gender roles — especially the role of women in dance.

Dance tradition casts women as ethereal, light and buoyant, with expressions of athleticism and explosive power reserved for men. It’s not that men aren’t buoyant or graceful in dance, but they typically do the heavy lifting — literally.

The six women in the piece are doing the so-called lifting, and Jackson said it’s a demanding 11 minutes.

“I actually made a joke to our cast, during our last rehearsal for Big Rig’s show ‘Converge,’ that they would have to retrograde the entire 11-minute piece and perform it backwards at the Black Box Theatre two weeks later. I thought one dancer was going to cry, but the others actually began working on it,” Jackson said.

Knight and Jackson choreographed the work. The two have been collaborating since 2007, when both were studying at TWU. Jackson described “Face on the Ground” as “an amalgamation of complex relationships.” The dancers meet obstacles in the piece — real and in the abstract.

“Some obstacles are dealt with in smaller groupings, some are dealt with at the walls,” Jackson said. “For example, Michelle Beard, Meredith and I developed a partnering trio where we worked with the task: ‘At least one person has to be upside-down at all times.’”

In rehearsal, the dancers started in a ritual 10 minutes of stillness and silence.

“We would individually track the small movements that naturally occurred in our bodies and developed some scenarios and larger movements based on those physical experiences,” Jackson said.

In a sense, the dancers were exaggerating natural gestures, postures and sensations.

They incorporated walls when dancers Haylee Barganier and Danielle Georgiou were working on some partnering material. They built a low-moving duet against a studio wall just following their intuition, Jackson said.

They rehearsed in a small yoga studio in Fort Worth with empty, windowless walls “that boxed us in,” Jackson said. “Naturally, the space played a role in providing new options for us, such as rolling on and pushing off of the walls.”

Later, they built wooden walls and brought them into the studio to play with supporting dancers from behind the walls. They also experimented with launching dancer Kayla Lane over the structures.

Music has been as important to the company as movement.

“We were so fortunate to work with composer Westin Ox-King Portillo on this piece,” Jackson said. “Meredith and I met Westin for coffee one icy afternoon in March to describe some sound ideas we had. We were interested in intensity, strong pulses and droning. Westin really ran with it and brought our piece to life with his original composition … ‘The Attrition of Exile.’”

Big Rig performed its first full-length show, “Homing Where I Roam,” in December 2011. Four co-directors were individually and collaboratively researching ideas about home, place and family.

“In our earlier years, we created work that was inspired by a concept or research that was interesting to us as a group,” Jackson said. “Not to say that this practice has dissipated, but looking at our second evening-length concert [“Converge”] and comparing it to work we’ve made in the past, I’d say that we are all starting to dig deeper into what we call physical experiences. Meaning, what can we learn and develop from our own bodies to create a dynamic range of physicalities? We are starting to work more from the inside out, rather than pulling a lot of external research into our bodies.”

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877.



What: Big Rig Dance Collective’s crowdsourcing fundraiser to send the company to the 16th annual Dance in the Desert Festival in Las Vegas on July 25-26

On the Web: www.bigrigdance.org, www.gofundme.com/faceontheground

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