Q&A: Marlana Doyle of the Houston Met

Houston Met Artistic Director Marlana Doyle. Photo: Ben Doyle
Houston Met Artistic Director Marlana Doyle. Photo: Ben Doyle

The Artistic Director of the Houston Metropolitan Dance Company on wearing multiple hats and the third weekend of the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival.

Dallas — The Barefoot Brigade’s three week-long dance festival concludes with “All New Stuff.” This weekend is dedicated to premieres, debuts and works in progress by guest companies/artists from throughout the region. According to festival organizers, this incredibly diverse program will give audiences a chance to see a wide variety of dances at different stages in their creative development.

The program includes performances by Barefoot Brigade first-timers Brazos Dance Collective, Danielle Georgiou Dance Group (DGDG), Eyakkam Dance Company, FireWalk Dance, GORDONDANCE, impulse Dance Project and Houston Metropolitan Dance Company.

The Houston Met will be presenting a large group piece called There Are Things We Dont Know We Share, which the company premiered this past November.

Artistic Director Marlana Doyle has been dancing with the Houston Met for the past 12 years and was a major part of the Met’s reorganization in 2003. As the AD she has tried to keep the diversity and versatility of the dancers and choreographers a part of the overall artistic vision of the Company. The Houston Met has performed in Boston, New York City, California, Pennsylvania, Chicago, Indiana, Michigan and Louisiana.

TheaterJones asks Marlana Doyle about wearing multiple hats and working with choreographer Erin Reck on There Are Things We Dont Know We Share.

Week three of the Barefoot Brigade Dance festival takes place Jan. 24-26 at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas.

TheaterJones:  Is this your first time performing at the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival?

Marlana Doyle: Yes, this is our first time performing with them.

How did you hear about the festival?

We have a service organization here in Houston called Dance Force Houston where people post auditions, festivals and grants and that’s how I heard about the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival.

What motivated you to apply for the festival?

We are based in Houston, but if there are any opportunities for us to travel to festivals I try to apply to them just so we can get some exposure outside of our area.

Is the dance scene in Houston pretty competitive?

There’s a huge dance community here and it’s actually very supportive. We’re all involved in each other’s projects and we all go and support each other. You wouldn’t think of Houston as being a dance hub, but it actually is.

I’m originally from Boston and went to school in Pittsburgh, but I didn’t want to go to New York or Chicago to dance. The director of my school at the time told me to look into Houston and I was really surprised at how good the community was. I have been here 12 years and the community has expanded greatly.

What can you tell me about the piece the company will be performing this weekend? 

"There Are Things We Don't Know We Share." Photo: Ben Doyle
“There Are Things We Don’t Know We Share.” Photo: Ben Doyle

There Are Things We Dont Know We Share was created by Erin Reck who is one of our new choreographers for the season. She set it in September and we premiered it in November. She lived in New York and had a company there till she moved to Houston where she currently teaches at Sam Houston State University.

For this piece she had us do a lot of writing and a lot of group work. The general synopsis is about a group of people experiencing the same thing, but also having an individual experience. So, what the piece is actually about and what we wrote about was the topic of losing something or someone. Death became the main focus and each of us has had different experiences with it and yet there were common ties. It’s very impactful and very emotional.

This piece was a challenge for the dancers because we had to stand in a straight line and each be seen, but we also had to watch each other too. I know the festival space is small, but I think putting this group piece in such an intimate setting is just completing the vision that Reck had.

Is the movement more structured or improvisation?

Photo: Ben Doyle
Photo: Ben Doyle

Reck videotaped us improving individuality to what we wrote and then she pulled some of our movement and put it with her own. So, they are structured solos, but she would also come in and look at them and revamp them. So, even though the solos are pretty set there’s always room for growth.

How do you juggle being a dancer and artistic director?

It’s a lot of multi-tasking! I have received a lot training over the years from the executive director and the board about how things work and what my position is and I’ve just learned to balance it out. But it is a hard job and I am slowing stepping away from dancing. I also attend a lot of conferences for the arts and I get mentored by some of my colleagues who I really look up too. I am trying to get a group of individuals who I can really trust and who really trust me.

What do you look for in a guest choreographer?

I look for diversity in the choreography and the choreographer. There are people that I love who I will bring back every couple of years just because I trust them and their work has been audience favorites. I also look for who is hot and not so large yet that we can’t afford them.

Part of our mission is to acquire not only established choreographers, but emerging choreographers as well. There are so many young choreographers out there who don’t get a chance to set work on a professional company so, once a year we bring in an emerging choreographer.

 ◊ This interview was originally posted on Theaterjones.com.

The last weekend of the Barefoot Brigade Dance Festival titled “All New Stuff” runs Jan. 24-26 at the Bath House Cultural Center in Dallas.

Program includes performances by:

  • Beckles Dancing Company
  • Brazos Dance Collective
  • Christine Bergeron
  • DGDG (Danielle Georgiou Dance Group)
  • Eyakkam Dance Company
  • FireWalk Dance
  • GORDONDANCE (TX/IL) – Lonny Joseph Gordon
  • Houston Metropolitan Dance Company
  • imPULSE Dance Project
  • Tina Mullone (Louisiana/Texas)
  • Jessica Thomas (The Colony)

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