DANCECRUSH SPOTLIGHT: MARLO ARIZ

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DanceCrush Marlo Ariz is a woman of many hats. She runs eXit SPACE School of Dance, as well as The Nest, which currently provides residencies to six local choreographers. She runs programs like Rise Up, a pre-professional track for teenagers, Take Pause, an opportunity for adults of all skill levels to perform, and BOOST Dance Festival, a platform accessible to emerging artists. This weekend is the final BOOST, which started in 2010. “It’s time,” says Ariz, “In the past 3 or 4 years there’s been so many other pop-up festivals. Artists being able to self produce or co produce together…There’s a lot of opportunities now for lesser known artists. I don’t need to provide it.”

Marlo Ariz teaching at eXit Space. Photo by Joseph Lambert.

Aside from teaching and community building, Ariz has her own artistic pursuits, and she hopes letting BOOST take it’s final bow will allow her to spend more time with her own work in the studio. Her former company, badmarmarDANCE, a regular fixture in Seattle from 2010-2017, dissolved due to a combination of factors. She lost many company members to moving, school, and illness, and Ariz’s artistic needs were changing as well. The pressure to keep a company going, to continue to make opportunities for the dancers she had committed to, became overwhelming and creatively stifling. Rising out of the ashes is her new pick-up company The Marlo Ariz Dance Project, which has a more flexible project-by-project model. “Since I’ve changed company names, that was my new chapter in creating, I’ve been really self indulgent in rehearsal. I made it really obvious [to my dancers] at the beginning of the project, I don’t know how this is going to go, I don’t know what processes I’m going to use, and I just need you to continue to be open.” This more open-ended approach goes hand and hand with more collaborative, dancer generated movement, breaking from her signature style phrase work. “We do a lot more improv exercises in rehearsals as a tool of allowing them to make more choices than I have in the past…Me dictating every single moment of everything was feeling uncomfortable.” For Ariz, it’s about learning to trust herself, her experience, her intuition. She used to come in to a project with “a really clear design—from costumes to lighting to movement—everything.” For her new piece? “I’ve just had this concept and the rest is going to fall into place.”

badmarmarDANCE’s Ten Sides. Photo by Joseph Lambert.

The concept for TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, AND TO HOLD, and to hold stems from Ariz’s personal life. There’s a big part of her heart that wants to move closer to family in Michigan, but because she’s committed to co-parenting her son in Seattle that isn’t an option. It got Ariz thinking about hard choices, and “how it feels to be put in a place that we don’t want to be. What does it mean in your life, what does it mean in our culture, what does it mean in our politics?” The cast of sixteen, ranging in age from seventeen to artists in their fifties, contribute through their exploration of this situation in their own lives. “A gorgeous cast of people with big hearts, and big brains, they can invest quickly, they can jump in right there with me. It’s really apparent that they can both physically take risks, and then emotionally. That’s the hardest.”

Theory 11: Study Two, a 2017 DanceCrush. Photo by Joseph Lambert.

The new work will be featured this weekend along with works by Kimberly Holloway, Becca Smith/AU Collective, Melissa Sanderson, and fellow DanceCrush Daniel Costa. While it’s time to bid adieu to BOOST, the festival is survived by its little sister BOOSTMeUp!, a program that brings together youth from different studios throughout the area for a professionally-produced concert. The program has taken off since its inception three years ago, and Ariz lights up with ideas about ways to collaborate with more area dance groups, how to increase inclusivity, and how it functions as a way for students to build strong peer networks. “I’ve always thought this, but so relevant now, teenagers are amazing. If you give them a voice, if you listen to what they have to add, we will gain things from them…There’s a perception about teachers who educate kids, that it’s not as respected as if you were educating college students or professional dancers. I’m over that.”

Ariz directing her dancers. Photo by Joseph Lambert.

In a career built around so much support for others, this new chapter in Ariz’s career is also about giving herself permission to also prioritize her work without apology. “Either people will enjoy what I’m doing or they won’t. I’ll connect with new people and make new work. This project-based company gives me that feeling that I’m not beholden to a certain group of dancers and I don’t have to create opportunities for them, because that’s what I do with most of my life.” And at the end of the day, Ariz knows she needs to attend to her artistic needs first in order to make work that reaches an audience. “I think it’s of equal importance that it serves us as artists in our life, but also, I always want it to hit the audience in the heart and head. I don’t need them to know why it’s hitting them. It’s not a linear story I’m trying to tell. I’m not giving them any answers I would just like them to have a very human experience.”

BOOST dance festival runs March 23-25 at the Erickson Theatre. Buy tickets Here. Learn more about BOOST dance festival Here.