Starr Foster and Shannon Hummell join forces in"Red," a performance at Artspace. 

Complementary Choreography

Starr Foster met Shannon Hummel several years ago when both women presented work in a dance concert at James Madison University. They appreciated each other's work and struck up a friendship. Since that meeting, the two dancers have maintained contact, despite the fact that Hummel lives in Brooklyn and Foster in Richmond. When Foster launched her dance company last year, she invited Hummel to participate in her choreographer's showcase. This weekend, Foster's latest concert, "Red," on Nov.10 and 11 at Artspace, will feature two new works of her own, plus a work by Hummel. "We spent a lot of time together discussing all sorts of thing," says Foster, speaking about the meeting in Harrisonburg. "We saw we had similar goals. Our dance is very different, but is complementary." Hummel realized they shared much in common, including what she refers to as a "difficult" past. She also recognized a great difference in their creative process. "Our work is polar opposite," she says. "I believe Starr is more intentional. She comes into the studio with a solid idea from beginning to end and sets it up on the dancers. I work differently. I have a sense of what I want to explore with my dancers and find it in the process of the dance." Hummel's company, Shannon Hummel/CORA, will present a section from an evening-length work, "Down A Small Road." She, along with Vanessa Adato and Donna Costello, collaborate in exploring relationships that derive from living in a rural community. "I was inspired by the women in my family who refused to let me go," says Hummel, who grew up about 30 miles northwest of Harrisonburg. "I'm part of their stories. They kept close track of me.... Unlike in the city, relationships in rural communities aren't disposable. There's a consistency, a lifelong attachment to certain people, whether you want them or not." A blend of high-speed dance with commonplace gestures, Foster's new work, "Cycles of Collapse," uses a chain-link fence to explore the limitations of social and physical behavior in a struggle for self-identity. "One moment, the dance punches you in the face," Foster says, "then moves into more pedestrian moves, then back again to punching you in the face." This work continues her interest into simple gestures like walking, challenging her to find clear connections to more kinetic sections. "Cycles of Collapse" uses the klezmerlike music of local band One Ring Zero. Her other new work on the program, "Snake in the Grass," reveals Foster's dry sense of humor. Set to '60s Big Band and striptease music, lively choreography often revels in campy antics. It was commissioned by James Madison University, and she describes it as a "fun piece." She'll be joined by local dancers Kendall Baltimore, Kelly Eudailey, Katie Harris, Blake Pearson, Matthew Rogers and Charles Scott.


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