When it comes down to it, pursuing dance is about heart and passion, both of which 127th St. Dance has in spades. And if performance is a sharing of those two qualities, audiences of the company’s upcoming performance of SPIRITO (July 18-19 at the Kirkland Performance Center) will be lucky recipients. A fairly new company on the Seattle dance scene, 127th St. Dance’s last few performances have established the group as a solid presence with a repertory of diverse dance styles. The company presents dance for the love of dance, for the communication of unsaid things, and to enable viewers to connect over the common human spirit. SeattleDances had the opportunity to chat with 127th St.’s Artistic Director, Barbara Caioli and hear more about this weekend’s performance.
SD: Tell us a bit about 127th St. Dance.
BC: I founded 127th St. Dance in 2010, after the birth of my son. My body, as happens to many women, did not recover in a way that is optimal for the continued stress of performance life. Still, I had a lot to say as an artist, so I decided to focus on choreography. I’d always expected to have a company at some point in my career. That time came sooner than expected, but here it is!
It is the company’s mission to inspire conversations of art and life. This is accomplished because of the relationship we have with the performers, as choreographers and audience.
It is an exchange. The choreographers are giving everything away to the dancers and these dancers brilliantly receive it, respond to it, and own it. Once it’s theirs, they give it away onstage. We use the language of movement to get through the tough conversations. We aim to talk about how it feels to be human.
SD: Where do the names 127th St. Dance and SPIRITO come from?
BC: There are several reasons the Company is called 127th St. Dance. The most sentimental is that 127th St. is the place of my son’s first home, and he is one of the reasons I started this company. It is important to me to show my children that my artistic voice isn’t silenced by the limitations of my body.
SPIRITO came about as an evolution of our curated repertory. The first time SPIRITO showed, at Broadway Performance Hall, it was a work called Spirito in Tre Parti that inspired the titled. The work inspired discussion of our triumphs and trauma through our shared experience. That is what SPIRITO does. The show, from beginning to end, takes the audience through a journey within and to an awareness that we are all sharing this life. SPIRITO is about the human spirit, as we are individuals and as we are a whole.
SD: In the past the company has performed works choreographed by both you, the Artistic Director, and Resident Choreographer, Rochelle Rapaszky. With this show, you are presenting works by new choreographer, Scotty Flores. How did you decide to expand your repertoire with Flores’ work, and how has this rehearsal process been?
BC: I knew that several of the dancers were feeling the urge to create their own work. I wanted to provide a safe space for them to begin to present their work. A few dancers submitted work for the show and Scotty’s blew me away. When I first saw his piece, it was much more timid than its final incarnation. But there was so much sparkling and bubbling brilliance I couldn’t resist it! It is not my preference to enter into someone’s rehearsal and give my opinion on their work. I think this confuses the artist’s process. Scotty rehearsed when I wasn’t there and then would show me the progress of the work. Each time he would ask what I thought and I’d say. “I think you need to make your work. Don’t worry about my brain.” Any time he got stuck, I encouraged him to get out of his own way. Don’t we all do that? I need to hear that sometimes!
SD: Though your last performance was on Capitol Hill, this upcoming concert will be on the Eastside. How did your partnership with the Kirkland Performance Center come about? Is this an effort to broaden the company’s audience base?
BC: I am always looking to broaden our audience, hoping to be touring globally someday. Most recently, we performed SPIRITO at The Capitol Theatre in Yakima. That was our first taste of performing out of town. For our local performance this season, I wanted to reach out to different parts of the Seattle area. It is also important for the dancers to experience stages, as many of them are at the beginning of their professional careers. I tend to take their success very personally.
SD: What do you hope audiences will take away from SPIRITO?
BC: I mentioned earlier about the dancers giving to the audience. That is what they do. In the spirit of giving there will be shared experience. Do not expect to watch a dancer have an experience onstage; expect to have an experience. Expect to giggle, expect to cry. Expect to remember that time you felt alone, then look around and realize you aren’t. That’s what we do. And that’s why we do it.
SD: 127th St.’s last performance showcased a great variety of choreographic styles. Can audiences expect the same diversity from this upcoming performance?
BC: Yes! The language of movement is wildly diverse and there is something for everyone in this show. You might be sitting back in your seat, letting a contemporary ballet piece wash over you, and the next moment be bouncing out of your seat to the live percussion of Andrew Rishikof. Diverse, yes; a great time, for sure!