Spring fling 

Bare Bait Dance takes a new step in company-choreographed show

Expect plenty of visual variety from Bare Bait Dance's Springboard show, including orange fruits, red shoes and pink beehive hair-dos. There's also boxing and bickering, business suits and floral costumes, giddy laughter and genuine tears. Oh, and some professional-quality dancing, too.

While this may sound like a disparate sampling of tone and style, the diversity makes sense. Springboard is Bare Bait's first company-choreographed performance, which means that each individual dance has been created by one of the members of the company. Since its inception last year, all of Bare Bait's shows have been choreographed by the company's founder and artistic director, Joy French. But, as much as she loves creating evening-length pieces, French says she felt that for this spring show it was high time to let company dancers showcase their own choreography.

"There are a lot of dancers in Missoula, but there aren't very many opportunities for them to create work," French says. "If you're a dance major, you can choreograph in college, but after you graduate, there just aren't really many options."

French also notes that just because someone is a highly skilled dancer, it doesn't mean that they're automatically a skilled choreographer. "Just like anything, choreography takes practice," she says. "I wanted to give Bare Bait dancers the chance to practice and work together on ideas that maybe they've been thinking about for a long time, but haven't been able to make a reality."

The resulting show is a nice mix of styles, offering insight into the company members' personalities and choreographic inspirations. Considering that some of the choreographers have only created a few dances before, the show feels remarkably coherent and professional.

French's piece, "1st/2nd," kicks off the evening with two alternating duets that explore the world of competition. It is at turns silly and poignant, effectively using sound (noise from an auction and a boxing match) and props (one duo dances exclusively with wooden chairs).

  • photo courtesy of Jessica Shontz

Other highlights of the evening include two pieces by Elizabeth Pertis. The first, "The Center Holds," is danced solo by Pertis, and offers a stirring portrait of emotional torment. Her performance holds a certain stark grace: Pertis is able to appear both powerful and fragile in the same moment. Her second piece, "Above the Waveline," is much lighter, with a trio of slip-clad dancers exploring the catty world of female competition.

"Past is Present" encompasses both joy and heartache, addressing the fraught world of race relations, both historically and today. Set to old-time jazz and Billie Holiday, and choreographed by guest dancer Capri Richardson and company member Roxanne Madler, its themes are familiar, but are no less affecting for being so.

Jordan Dehline presents a fun solo piece called "Atalanta in 9 Scenes," vignettes that offer a smattering of different ways to view, approach and dance with a certain unexpected prop. The piece is poetic, whimsical and, taking place as it does within a large circle of rope laid on the stage, feels almost like an old-time circus act.

Other performances include "Infloresence," a ballet-inspired piece by Madler, which, though somewhat diminished by its childish costumes, is well-performed. "Expectations" by Jilyn Debray is a cleanly choreographed modern piece that feels like it is set amid the hustle and bustle of an urban financial district. "Borrowed Diction," a lovely duet, features a series of phrases by choreographer Mark Haim, and "Compulsion: The Red Shoes Saga," a delightful company piece choreographed by Morgan Shaw, is reminiscent of both a fashion show and a military drill.

Springboard is a new step for Bare Bait Dance, and it's a smart one. For those who have been following the company since its inception, this sampler presents a fantastic opportunity to get to know the dancers not just as dancers, but as artistic creators as well.

Springboard continues at the Downtown Dance Collective, 121 W. Main St., Fri., April 26, at 8 PM, and Sat., April 27, at 2 PM and 8 PM. $12/$10 in advance at Downtown Dance Collective or online at ddcmontana.com.

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