Saturday, April 18, 2015

Darla Johnson on the Austin Dance Festival

This year’s Austin Dance Festival has an amazing array of artists from all over Texas and even some from California. But there are also a few familiar faces. Our own Darla Johnson will be presenting her work, Center of Effort II with music by Steve Reich. You might recognize one or two of the dancers. Our lovely Catherine Solaas is joined by Michelle Nance from Texas State and Carissa Topham, who dances with Kathy Dunn Hamrick Dance Company. 

Darla Johnson discusses the concept for her dance and the differences between choreographing on students and professionals. She also shares why she can’t wait to attend the Austin Dance Festival.

Catherine and Michelle in rehearsal.

How did you come up with your concept?
The title comes from a sailing term that describes how the force of the wind meets at the intersection of the two sails and propels the boat forward … The constant drive of the music acts like the roiling sea moving the dancers through space and time. Trios, duets and solos are constructed and deconstructed throughout the work.  The dancers move like the tide, ebbing and flowing throughout the dance.  Movement glides, swirls, spirals and descends and ascends as the dancers move, and are moved by the image of the waves and the wind.

Michelle and Catherine in rehearsal.
Was your process different from how you work with students?
Working with students I'm constantly challenging myself to create work that is challenging for them but also allows them to perform at their best technical abilities.  It's a fine line of pushing them to grow and having them be comfortable on stage.  With the professional cast I have now, I was able to work more intricately with space and time creating a dance that for me really reflects the concept more fully. 

Carissa Topham in rehearsal.
If you had students in the audience, what would you want them to take away from your piece?
I hope the students can see a work that is conceptually full and recognize the choreographic elements at play.

What are you most excited about for the Austin Dance Festival?
I'm very excited to see all of the other choreographers’ work.  It's going to be a great day of dance and I'm sure I'll be very inspired by the end of it.  

Darla’s piece, The Center of Effort II, will be performed in the 8 pm show. Tickets and more information are available online. 

Photography by Anne Wharton.

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