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This Is Not Just a Dance Festival

Date: Jan 09, 2018

Roxy + Company's new fest showcases multidisciplinary collaborations


Growing up in Los Angeles, Roxanne Gordon never considered a career as a dance-maker. Yet she was always fascinated by movement and often used it as a mode to communicate when words failed her. At Kenyon College, she started studying dance as well as philosophy. Pursuing such different subjects clarified not only her technique, but also established her artistic focus: the collaboration between disparate elements, whether it be sound and movement, private identity and performative representation, objects and symbolism, or dance and philosophy.

In 2016 she founded the New York City-based Roxy + Company and this week the troupe kicks off its inaugural embodied spaces: a choreography festival at Alchemical Theatre Laboratory. The centerpiece is Gordon's duet Embody created with sound artists Ethan Primason and Dexter Dine. Works by emerging choreographers Thomas Moore, Justin Faircloth, Bree Breeden, and Maddie Schimmel round out the program.

All of the pieces use collaboration as a key component for creation, whether it's between different artistic mediums or more abstract concepts. "The piece I am showing of my own is about being in a space: How do you embody something and physically explore things at the same time," Gordon says. "What’s the interplay there? I thought that was interesting in that choreography is embodied thinking. It's blending two modes. It's thoughts in movement."

Gordon and Breeden dance Embody, which probes female identity. "For the audience, watching two females move through space, sometimes with their eyes shut, it looks like two skilled improvisers," Gordon says. "Having the feeling of natural interaction allows the audience to bring themselves and their own ideas to the performance."

Gordon began working closely with other artists while in college, and that creative approach continues today. "Every couple of weeks, the musicians come in, play, and improvise, often using looping and computer technology to create the sound," she explains. "We feed off that energy. We have a conversation, just like the conversation I have with the dancers."


Collaborating with a wide range of artists is integral to Roxy + Company. But since the troupe is tough to categorize, that has cost Gordon some gigs. "I tried to apply as a collaborative team for some projects, but they were looking for dance-only pieces," she says. "And when I looked for mixed-media shows, I couldn't apply because I was a dance artist. There was only a sliver of options for me. So I had to create a collaborative haven."

Gordon's fellow embodied spaces choreographers share her artistic philosophy. Schimmel created in the same space as ceramicist Sarah Allwine. "She's looking at bodies and objects," Gordon says. "We're at a similar place of inquiry. How do objects and bodies function together? How do they intermingle?"

Breeden pairs dance with mixed media in Zion, which parses the parallels between religion and technology. "She uses tech in an obvious way," says Gordon about its elaborate projections and environmental sound. And while Moore crafted his autobiographical father-son relationship piece Memory Study II on his own, Gordon notes that it's "deeply personal -- a collaboration with himself and his deepest insides."

In addition to inspiring more artistic connections, Gordon hopes the festival will encourage audiences to tap into their own collaborative power as viewers. "When people think about dance, it seems it exists on an isolated island unless it's hyper-commercial," she says. "Collaboration with others is my way of shifting that perception, and the audience plays a key role. We experiment, and the audience assists in that. Our collaboration in different ways as artists may not always be obvious, but the back and forth with the audience remains."


Lauren Kay regularly contributes to TDF Stages.

Top image: Roxanne Gordon. Photos by Peter Peregrine.

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