By James Steindler
In Carbondale, as of late, there’s been a trend of dancing in the street — well, at least outdoors — with the recent production of SHOES outside SAW studios and, coming up on July 17, a New York dance company called Konverjdans will perform outside The Contemporary in Willits.
While The Contemporary structure is not yet ready for indoor presentations, artists are more than ready to perform.
Konverjdans was invited by Dance Initiative (DI), a Carbondale-based nonprofit, for this year’s residency program.
The group scheduled for the residency was down to two dancers, from three, because the missing member is having difficulties getting back into the country. The remaining Konverjdans sought out a local star to fill the ballet shoes. Katherine Bolaños danced for over a decade with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, which disbanded last year in the wake of the pandemic. Bolaños has worked with Konverjdans before on projects with Aspen Santa Fe Ballet.
“It’s a really special program,” says DI Executive Director Megan Janssen. “The place we live in is just so beautiful and the Launchpad is a really wonderful space for dancers to work in and so people are really thrilled to come here and do that.” Not only do the visitors get this experience but, “conversely, our community gets to interact with these professional world class dancers through workshops and outreach events and then they get to see them in a really intimate setting with their performance,” Janssen explains.
Leading up to the show, the performers will be practicing daily at The Launchpad in Carbondale. They’ve been advised that curious onlookers will come in to check out the current visual exhibit at the gallery — “50 Years of Fair” — and may likely ogle at the talented dancers.
Simultaneously, as part of its summer camp, DI will work with young, local aspiring dancers in the secondary studio adjacent to the main dance room at The Launchpad throughout the week. The youngsters are tasked with opening the show — no small feat, especially with small[er] feet.
DI co-founder Peter Gilbert is generously providing overnight accommodations for the visitors throughout the week. During daytime hours, the troupe will be fine-tuning several choreographed pieces.
Part of the benefit of rehearsing in smalltown Carbondale is that the dancers won’t have the distraction that comes with their personal lives in the big city. No taking the kids to school, or running late for a second job… just dance.
Even better, the dancers will lead some workshops for the local community while they’re here. For instance, they’ll lead a TiKTock workshop for eight to 13-year-olds interested in learning how to execute the perfect dance for their own fans in less than a minute. Later in the week there will be an intermediate and then an all-levels class for adults.
“Konverjdans is really committed to collaborating,” Janssen says, “ they are a contemporary ballet group that likes to work with photographers, designers, musicians and poets — anyone they can find to collaborate and add more dimensions to their performances.” The dancers pushed Janssen to recommend locals from various modes of artistry.
Therefore, the dancers have choreographed a piece to a poem written by local poet Bianca Godina. Local musician MinTze Wu and designer extraordinaire Katie Browne are contributing their skills for the final performance.
Wednesday July 14: Youth TikTok Choreography Workshop, 3 p.m. – 4:30 p.m., ages 8-13 at the Launchpad.
Thursday, July 15: Intermediate Community Dance Class at The Launchpad, 6:15 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, July 17: All-Levels Community Dance Workshop,
Saturday, July 17: Live public performance at The Contemporary in Willits, 7 p.m.
Please visit danceinititiatve.org for details and to preregister.