Dig Baton Rouge

Small Stage, Big Show: Ten Tiny Dances

By Tara Bennett

“Really what this it is about is understanding how to express yourself within this really beautiful limitation.”

What are you usual expectations when it comes to dancing? Big stage? Sweeping motions? Ethereal grace? What happens when you take all of that away?

Such is the premise of “Ten Tiny Dances,” a concept originated by Portland choreographer Mike Barber, which will be replicated at the Manship Theatre. The event will be held on Thursday Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m. in the Hartley/Vey Studio Theatre at the Manship Theatre. Tickets $15 in advance $20 at the door.

Barber came up with the concept behind “Ten Tiny Dances” in 2002 as a way to show case a lot of different dance styles in a nontraditional format. Instead of allowing choreographers to work within the infinite spaces and settings that dance allows, the fun of “Ten Tiny Dances” comes from its constraint. The dances must be performed entirely on a 4×4 foot stage placed in the middle of the theatre. The restricted space challenges the choreographers and dancers to use the limited space to fuel their creativity, and encourages audiences to experience dance created for a specific location.

“I thought it was amazing, what a wonderful challenge to make a piece on a 4×4 stage,” said Mina Estrada, the education and outreach coordinator at the Manship Theatre. “I thought I would love to do this, especially because my work in particular is often really big and sweeping and takes up a lot of space, so I thought what a way to challenge myself as a dancer.”

Estrada is coproducing and co-curating the concert with Coco Loupe, a native to Baton Rouge who moved back to Baton Rouge at the beginning of 2014 from Columbus Ohio. Estrada and Loupe met 12 years ago and their friendship really began when Loupe moved back. Estrada and Loupe would talk about the things they would like to do creative-wise and Loupe brought up the idea about “Ten Tiny Dances.”

“I am often intrigued and moved by creating movement that takes up space,” said Estrada. “Really what this it is about is understanding how to express yourself within this really beautiful limitation.”

For the performance there will be 10 choreographers, which include Estrada, Loupe, LSU Dance Program Director Sandra Parks, Executive Director of Manship Theatre Renee Chatelain, New Orleans dance artists J Hammons and Maritza Mercado-Narcisse, New Orleans dance artist and Tulane faculty member Jeffrey Gunshol, Dallas dance artist Amiti Perry, Baton Rouge dance artist Anna Schwab, New Orleans dance artist Calvin Rowe, Baton Rouge dance celebrity Leonard Augustus and Arizona Flamenco dance artist Lena Jacome.

According to Estrada, there will be solos, duets, a trio and a variety of dance styles, which include contemporary and traditional.

“As the curators, Coco and I have actually no real idea what any of these pieces are going to look like,” said Estrada. “We trust all the choreographers because we know them, and we love them and we experienced their work.”

Estrada hopes to make this event an adjudicated show where people can submit their ideas and dances.

“This is sort of the first installment of what should become many Ten Tiny Dances,” said Estrada. “I think that the Manship is interested in producing concerts that are interesting, different and shed different perspectives on different art forms.”

The obvious challenge for the event is the 4×4 platform, which is 18 inches high, but another challenge with the event comes from not having any real opportunity to rehearse on the actual space.

“Because so many choreographers are from out of town, some of them are never going to be on that platform until the day of the show, so actually they have no idea what is really going to work until they get onto that space,” said Estrada.

For tickets please visit www.manshiptheatre.org or call 225-344-0334

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