Night Moves

Starr Foster Dance’s 20th Annual Mid-Atlantic Choreographers Showcase explores gender, sex and sexuality through dance.

Onstage, five women appear connected in a row like a paper doll chain. Their costumes have little tabs to emphasize the point, and over the next eight minutes they fold into each other and back out again.

“The imagery for the work is based on a lot of images, research I did on paper dolls and paper cutouts,” says Starr Foster of her new dance “Paper Dolls.” “You’ll see these moments where the dancers accordion and come back and are connected in interesting and unique ways. It’s about how we are all expected to be, those gender-specific ideas of that it’s like to be a girl and how it should be to be a girl.”

This dance will debut Saturday as part of the 20th Annual Mid-Atlantic Choreographers Showcase at the Firehouse Theatre, hosted by local contemporary dance company Starr Foster Dance. Inspired by Pride Month, the theme of this year’s showcase is gender, sex and sexuality.

The mission of the showcase is to create a platform for choreographers to present new work.

“Twenty years ago, when I was trying to have my work seen, I was having difficulty finding festivals that would accept work that hadn’t been produced,” says Foster of the showcase’s genesis. “It was a Catch-22. Everyone wanted to present work that had already been produced.”

Choreographers who wish to take part in the showcase send in an application that can include fully finished work, work in progress or simply an idea. A panel of artists decides which of the roughly 100 applicants makes the cut. Foster says the showcase is one of the few American dance festivals dedicated to producing new work.

“Festival producers don’t want to take a risk,” Foster says. “I don’t mind taking that risk.”

This year’s showcase will bring together choreographers from Richmond, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City, Houston, and Jacksonville, Florida. Given the show’s content, Foster recommends that audience members be 12 years old and up.

New York’s Suzzanne Ponomarenko Dance, founded in 2017, endeavors to create modern dance in combination with other artforms. Photo courtesy of Suzzanne Ponomarenko Dance.

 

Houston’s Prokop_Theory, led by Travis Prokop, is dedicated to bringing LGBTQ+ representation in concert dance to the stage.

“He’s showing a solo that’s super whimsical,” Foster says. “His solo is fun and a little sinister. He’s definitely a highlight this year. I fell in love with his work immediately.”

Jacksonville’s Emily Cargill + Dancers, now in their tenth season, previously appeared in the showcase in 2017.

“Emily has a really lovely way of creating work that moves you,” Foster says. “Her work is emotional and dark. She has such a beautiful voice, a really unique movement vocabulary.”

New York’s Suzzanne Ponomarenko Dance, founded in 2017, endeavors to create modern dance in combination with other artforms.

“She is bringing a duet that is super high energy with extraordinarily talented dancers,” Foster says. “A lot of these are not just premieres for Richmond, but also premieres for the artist.”

Zoe Greco is the only Richmond choreographer presenting work, aside from Foster.

“Zoe works as an assistant stage manager at Richmond Ballet, but she’s also a dancer and she’s created a solo specifically for the showcase,” Foster says. “I’m excited about her because Zoe has never shown a work in Richmond. This gives her an outlet.”

Foster views the showcase as a way to give back to a city that’s been so supportive of her dance company.

“This community of dancers would not normally come to town,” she says. “It’s something new and different.”

Starr Foster Dance’s 20th Annual Mid-Atlantic Choreographers Showcase runs June 8-9 at the Firehouse Theatre, 1609 W. Broad St. For more information, visit starrfosterdance.com.

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