Movement Migration, the new dance company founded by Associate Professor of Dance at UNC Charlotte Kim Jones, held its second annual “Work-in-Progress Residency Showing” at Open Door Studios in Plaza Midwood, June 14. The company performed three pieces-in-progress for more than 70 audience members who lined the perimeter of the dance studio.
Seven of the company’s 14 members performed this evening, with two members, Pauline Legras and Blakeley White-McGuire, serving as resident choreographers presenting work. Artistic Director Jones was quick to say at the end of the showing that not all dancers could participate in this showing because “some are on tour!”
Movement Migration is made up of a diverse set of seasoned professional dancers who are dancing around the world from New York City to Barcelona. Company dancers include former principals with the likes of the Jose Limon and Martha Graham Dance Companies (two of the most famous modern dance companies in the world) along with local, Charlotte-based dancers whose training range from classical ballet to post-modern dance. The majority of these dancers have had long and prestigious dancing careers, but they are in no way through dancing. White-McGuire, one of the choreographers for this evening, has found in working with the dancers that this maturity and dedication brings especial depth and power to her choreography.
“[They have] the desire to continue dancing no matter what,” White-McGuire, a former principal of the Graham company herself as well as active choreographer in New York City and beyond, said. “Something in them has to keep dancing to be fully alive.”
This is certainly evident in the way the dancers perform. Even in a space so limited with audience members sometimes only one inch away, the dancers moved so expressively, taking up every piece of the room whether it was left, right, up or down. Sometimes it seemed as if the audience was witnessing the dancers’ limbs growing right in front of our eyes; a reach of the arm could last for only half a second, but within that half-second something would change within the dancers, within the space and within the audience. These dancers know why they dance. More importantly, they know the value of dance.
Dance, specifically modern dance (the style in which the company mainly trains and performs), is “a means of expression that is not entertainment…it can be entertaining, but it is about kinesthetic intelligence, about understanding dance as communicating something about life.” White-McGuire said.
American modern dance was a creative way of responding to the turbulent climate of the early to mid-20th century, the time in which it was created. World Wars, the Great Depression and the Women’s and Civil Rights Movements all contributed to the birth of a new dance form, one focused on expressing the emotions of the people in a new way which broke with classical tradition. It spread ideas about what the world looked like then, but also what it could look like in the future. Artistic Director Jones found herself looking to take similar action after the most recent presidential election in 2016. Naturally, as her modern dance ancestors did before her, she decided to respond with modern dance.
“I founded this company now because the world is in pain and divided. This is a call to unify, to diversify and to heal.” Jones said.
Thus, Movement Migration was founded with the mission of “traversing cultural boundaries and transferring movement knowledge from person to person and community to community.” They hope to achieve this mission largely through performance, but also through dance education. Leading up to the showing, the company offered four masterclasses in the Limon and Graham techniques at Open Door Studios (which is owned by company member Jacqueline White), and as part of the showing, White-McGuire and the dancers demonstrated some of her choreographic process as a learning experience. The company also held a brief talk-back after the showing, allowing the audience members to comment and ask questions.
In the talk-back, the dancers had the opportunity to reiterate what they had expressed through movement: the vitality of the art form not just to themselves, but to everyone. One audience member commented that because the dancers were so close, he was able to have a really emotional experience: “My heart was pounding!” he said. Dancer Pablo Francisco Ruvalcaba (former principal with the Limon company) took this comment as an insight and emphasized the importance of supporting live dance. Ruvalcaba said dance companies need financial support, but more importantly they need audiences, and it is through this human contact that these important experiences are created.
Movement Migration hopes to make these kinds of experiences more frequent and accessible. The company has established Charlotte as its home-base and will be performing here next at the UNC Charlotte Faculty Dance Concert in September. In the meantime, company members will be traveling to Memphis, TN for a residency as well as abroad to the Netherlands, Mexico and Italy (for a second time) in the fall and the spring of the following year.
Movement Migration hopes that its performances and workshops will allow more communities to experience concert dance; a scene that can sometimes seem exclusive and even unenticing to the average person. In keeping with the mission, the company hopes it will bring together a diverse set of communities, re-emphasizing its overall goal of bringing people together.
“Our citizens have been cheated for generations,” White-McGuire said about the lack of dance education in public schools and accessibility to concert dance in general. “There’s something for you, you just have to open the door.”
Movement Migration hopes to be one of those doors.
Editor’s Note: The third paragraph of the article originally misinterpreted Movement Migration’s mission. The article has now been updated to correct this.