Tag Archives: Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company

Q&A: Avery-Jai Andrews

Avery-Jai Andrews (bottom) in Notturno with Keyhole Dance Project. Photo: Mario Squotti

The Dallas native on coming home and starting Don’t Ask Why Dance Company, which makes its world premiere this Friday.

Plano — As in any industry, the Dallas dance market has seen its fair share of highs and lows since I moved to the city almost a decade ago. In the two years following the opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center in the fall of 2009, the Dallas dance community saw an impressive rise in the number of professional dance companies in the area, including Avant Chamber Ballet, Dark Circles Contemporary Dance, Danielle Georgiou Dance Group and Bruce Wood Dance. The dance scene’s next noticeable growth spurt happened around 2014 with the influx of more local dance festivals such as Dallas DanceFest, Rhythm in Fusion Festival and later, Wanderlust Dance Project. Since then the dance market has plateaued, with many dance companies and organizations struggling to find cost effective ways to increase funding and ticket sales without disrupting their bottom lines.

Now, the Dallas dance market is about due for another growth spurt and I believe it will come in the form of fresh talent like Avery-Jai Andrews, who grew up in Dallas but left to pursue dancing elsewhere and is now returning home to start her own dance company. Like many serious dancers here in Dallas, Andrews attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts (BTWHSPVA) before being accepted into New York University’s (NYU) Tisch School of the Arts. After graduating from NYU in 2014, Andrews decided to move overseas where she danced professionally with artists in Italy, Israel and Germany.

In 2016 Andrews made the decision to come home to Dallas and start making her own work, which is how her dance company, Don’t Ask Why, came into existence. The company’s first performance is this Friday, with performances at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m., at the White Theater, part of the state-of-the-art facilities that make up the new Dance Industry Performing Arts Center in Plano. Titled GESTALT, which is a German word meaning an organized whole that is perceived as more than the sum of its parts, the 45-minute piece features Italian-based contemporary dance company Keyhole Dance Project.

TheaterJones talked to Avery-Jai Andrews to find out more about her European contemporary dance style, the lessons she has learned abroad and what viewers can expect to see at Don’t Ask Why Dance Company’s premiere performance.

TheaterJones: What made you decide to come back to Dallas to form your own dance company?

Avery-Jai Andrews: Dallas is such a vibrant city, and I know for me and my dance friends when we come back home there is always something new happening in the dance community, and I think that is what’s pulling a lot us [professional dancers] back to the area. With that said, I have spent the last three years traveling between New York, Europe and Israel, and I finally had enough of that and wanted to come back to Dallas with the intention of settling down and creating my own work. So, in October 2016 I made the decision to start changing things so I could start to create my own non-profit.

Avery-Jai Andrews. Photo: Courtesy

How has your perception of the dance scene in Dallas changed since leaving for college in the fall of 2010?

I remember we moved into the new section of Booker T. at the end of my Freshman year, so I really got to experience the changes happening in Arts District first hand, but by the end of my Senior year I was ready to leave home and experience being a college kid. I feel like when I left that dance wasn’t something that I wanted to do here in Dallas. I thought that I needed to be in New York in order to make it as a professional dancer. My mind wasn’t opened up to the idea until I left America and I started seeing what was happening dance-wise in other countries and as my own voice started to become more clear. During this period of time I started to have more desire to share and to create, and I think that’s when the urge to find a place to settle down and start choreographing began to take over.

I mean when I went to college I had no idea that I really wanted to create and start my own company. I was just ready to be a dancer, join a company and to be living that New York fast-paced life. Now, don’t get me wrong. I absolutely love New York City, but I have started to realize that you are limited there. Everything is very expensive there, so when it comes to creating your own work in the city, you know outside of working to make money to pay your rent, you also have to find the free time and the money to be creative and I felt that would be more possible here. I just feel like Dallas is asking and wanting the young, different voices too. They want different flavors and there are a lot of people who want to support the arts. It’s so great to go to shows here and see an audience that is excited to be there and I feel like sometimes you miss that in the big cities where there are always dance performances happening.

Why did you chose to pursue a dancing career abroad after graduating from college?

I was blessed to study abroad over the summer to Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance in Austria and that was my first taste of dance outside of the U.S. and more specifically the European contemporary style. It showed me a whole other world. I mean, just the way they use the space, sets, lights and costumes; it’s such an integrated feel that I think sometimes I’m missing out when I’m here in America. The experience opened my mind up to all that dance can be. That dance can be something more than I already see and so, when I got back and entered my last year of school I knew that I wanted to go back and felt like I needed to immerse myself in dance outside of the U.S. So, as soon as I graduated I ended up going to Israel to Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company’s Dance Journey program for five months.

Even with all the conflict that was happening between the Palestinians and the Israelis during this time, I still had a great time and the program helped me acknowledge that I have the tools and skills to be an artist and that I could go forth and be a professional. And because it is an international program I got to meet so many wonderful people from around the world and it is actually where I met Matteo Zamperin from Italy who started Keyhole Dance Project. I also met Elise Cleaver there, and I was in Hamburg with her in 2015 creating a new work. So, I still kept in contact with a lot of those people and that has afforded me the opportunity to travel more just from that program. The Dance Journey program really set me up to continue this deep desire of whatever was brewing in me to get out and explore the world. And just being in other cultures and living there, not just visiting or being there a week or two, but living in other countries has really expanded me as a human and had me questioning a lot about who I want to be and how I want to live my life.

As of today, how would you classify your movement style to audiences?

I am definitely not classical and I wouldn’t even say modern because I even see modern as a bit more classical so, I would say I am within the realm of European contemporary dance. What I like to focus on as a creative is, the dancers have to be physical and dynamic with their bodies but yet still relate to the people who are watching them. How can we still show that we are human, but then also be more expressive within our own bodies? So, I definitely put in those lines and we have big movements and we take the space and travel, but then I want us to be able to transition into just being human and being a body at the same time.

Can you explain Friday evening’s program to me?

The program is 45 minutes long with no intermission and I would describe it more as a performance experience.GESTALT is a collaboration with my friend Matteo and his Italian-based company, Keyhole Dance Project. He and I formed a good rapport through Kibbutz’s Dance Journey program and I knew that I wanted that again so, when I decided to produce my own show as a premiere for Don’t Ask Why I immediately reached out to him.

The theme of the show comes from its title GESTALT, which basically means the perceived whole is more important than the individual pieces that make up the whole image. That has served up very well in the creation process because Matteo hasn’t been here this whole time and just being a start-up we have been rehearsing here and there and so we were literally creating in pieces. And some of the material we worked with had been planned a year ago so most of our collaboration came into play when we started putting all these pieces of movement together. GESTALT is a very dynamic and layered piece and I’m personally enjoying that each of the seven performers is having an experience of their own throughout the work.

What is the inspiration behind the name Don’t Ask Why?

Well, when my mom came to my shows she would tell me ‘that was great, but why did that happen?’ and I would say, ‘Mom you don’t need to fully understand what I was thinking. I just want you to experience the movement.’ In my mind, as long as the show made her feel something then the job was done. I just want people to feel something when they see my work and that’s one of the reasons behind the name. The other is more personal and goes back to when my best friend Micaela White passed away right before I went to college and a year later I was in another scary situation with a close friend who was in the hospital and these experiences made me started questioning why me? Why am I in this place? At that time this felt like a very dangerous place psychologically to be in and so, I told myself that I was going to stop asking why and just keep moving forward. I have taken this philosophy with me since then and it has been a very productive thing for me to live by.

> This Q&A was originally posted on TheaterJones.com




Cultural Connections

Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. Photo: Uri Nevo
Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. Photo: Uri Nevo

For the first time, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company brings its stunning technique and savvy choreography to Dallas, part of the TITAS 2013-14 season.

Dallas — TITAS’ exhilarating 2013-14 season continues with one of Israel’s most prominent dance groups,Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company (KCDC). Led by Artistic Director Rami Be’er, KCDC will be bringing its raw energy and cultural themes to the Dallas City Performance for two performances on March 1, at 2 and 8 p.m.

The Israeli dance scene has been growing over the past couple of decades thanks to companies like Batsheva Dance Company, Inbal Dance Theater, Bat-Dor Dance Company and Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company. While Be’er says dance isn’t necessarily the first option for art enthusiasts compared to music and theater, it is certainly developing.

KCDC International Director Yoni Avital largely attributes this growth to the fact Israel is situated at the crossroads of three major continents. “Thousands of years ago the region was the crossroads and home to the ancient Spice Trade Route, connecting the Roman empire and Africa with East Asia. Today, artists here in Israel also connect these regions via their own trade be it music or dance,” Avital says. “I believe here in Israel you find more fusion and artistic innovation more so than with any other country in the world.” In addition to his role as International Director, Avital is also a professional musician and performs regularly around the world with his group The Shuk. A native New Yorker, Avital moved to Israel with his dancer wife, Dorry Aben, who danced with KCDC from 2009 to 2012.

KCDC was founded by the late Yehudit Arnon in 1970. Born in Komárno, Czechoslovakia, Arnon was a Holocaust survivor of the Auschwitz concentration camp. After the war she traveled to Budapest before settling in Kibbutz Ga’aton, Israel in 1948. “The story of Yehudit Arnon is quite exceptional and moving,” Avital says. “For one woman to survive such atrocities and then see one of her young students develop into one of the leading choreographers and become artistic director of one of Israel’s premiere contemporary dance companies is really quite extraordinary.”

“She had an enormous passion for dance and she had such a unique ability to positively influence those around her,” Be’er says. “I think that passion for dance, creativity and creation are the things that Yehudit found in me early on in my own career as a dancer and artist.”

Growing up in Kibbutz Ga’aton, Be’er began taking dance classes with Arnon at the age of three. He studied a variety of styles including Graham, Cunningham, jazz, contact improvisation and dance theatre. He joined KCDC as a dancer in 1981 and was asked by Arnon to take over as artistic director in 1996. “This has been a natural process for me to develop this unique project of Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company and our International Village here in Kibbutz Ga’aton,” he says.

Photo: Uri Nevo
Photo: Uri Nevo

Arnon created the International Dance Village as part of her mission to bring dance and the local community together. Today, the Dance Village is home to the KCDC main company, second company, 5-and 10-month International Dance Journey program and other year-round programs. “It’s a true dance village and dance community in every sense of the word,” Avital says.

“KCDC’s Dance Village is quite an impressive place to visit for both dance enthusiasts and those who haven’t seen contemporary dance,” Be’er adds. “We currently have nine dance studios, dormitories and a professional 150-seat theater. We are looking to build a new structure in the future that will include more studios and accommodations for international tourists.”

“I love that they live and work in Kibbutz,” says Charles Santos, Executive Director of TITAS. “It’s a part of their lifestyle and not just a name which I think is great.” Santos came across KCDC on a trip to Israel in December 2012 and was immediately drawn to Be’er’s choreography. “I really liked Rami’s vision, the company’s performance quality and the fact they use their technique instead of just showing us tricks.”

Avital had a similar reaction the first time he saw KCDC perform. “From the first time I sat in KCDC’s Zichri Theatre in the International Dance Village and viewed Rami Be’er’s masterpiece Aide Memoire I was simply blown away. I quickly learned that Rami is a complete artist who not only choreographs, but also works on the set design, music, lighting and essentially every aspect of the polished and finished product.”

Santos adds, “They are really right at the top of the TITAS mission statement. They are international, high quality, somewhat boundary pushing and I think people are really going to like them.”

Dallas audiences will get their chance to experience KCDC for themselves when they come to the Dallas City Performance Hall on March 1, 2014. The company will be performing If At All, a 65-min piece created by Be’er in 2012. “The general theme of this work relates to our human existence in our own relationships; the relationships between the individual to the community; the individual to society, individuals in a two-person relationship and the individual with him or herself.”

In addition to the performance KCDC will also be holding auditions for its Dance Journey program at Booker T. Washington High School for the Visual and Performing Arts. “We are looking for talented dancers who have a passion to dance and want to see themselves as professional dancers,” Avital says. “We also want dancers who are creative and are looking for new experiences.” Dancers can register and reserve an audition spot at www.kcdc.co.il/en/auditionregistration

This feature was originally posted on TheaterJones.com.