Humanity on the Move 

Amaranth Contemporary Dance returns to the Grace Street Theater.

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Choreographer Scott Putman likes a challenge. He's been directing a quartet that has serious logistical problems -- two dancers live in New York and two reside in San Francisco.

So he's racking up the frequent flyer miles, and won't see all four dancers together until just before the Amaranth Contemporary Dance performance that will hit the Grace Street Theater on May 15.

Why work this way?

"Because I've been feeling this a lot lately when I'm going out to do a commission, with a limited amount of time," he says, "I had a formula I was working in, and I don't like it. When I started, it wasn't a formula. But now it's become one, and then you rely on it. And there's no art in formula. So I thought, ‘Let me try this and see what it forces me to do.'"

The quartet's work, "Memory Keepers," is one of four premieres in "Humanity in Motion," Amaranth Contemporary Dance's first full length evening concert in Richmond since 2006. Putting the piece together, Putman essentially created two duets with similar movement that will eventually converge on stage. "It's the convergence that I think is going to be really fascinating," he says. "But converging with the similar material, so they'll already know and understand the language."

The inspiration behind "Memory Keepers" and its anti-formulaic approach, Putman says, "came from looking at Joan MirA3 and his process of designing, which is using the automatic mind to create work." This quartet marks the first in a series of four related works Putman will be creating in the coming year, all inspired by certain aspects of the work or philosophy of the Spanish painter. "It's not necessarily about a particular work, or about him," Putman says, "but works with his philosophy in making. MirA3 never considered himself a surrealist artist. What I found fascinating as an artist is that people want to categorize you, but once you're categorized, you cease to exist. It's limiting."

In his work with Amaranth, Putman has wrestled with the challenges of maintaining a dance company, and recently his approach has been "trying to find unique ways of maintaining the essence of the organization without the expense of a large organization." In Richmond he works with his co-artistic director, Jill Brammer Ware, and a small group of dancers, as well the dancers in other cities. Ware contributes two new works to "Humanity in Motion."

The company has performed regularly outside Richmond over the last couple of years, and now, Putman says, "I'm looking forward to this concert and happy to be sharing the work in this community."

Amaranth Contemporary Dance presents "Humanity in Motion" at the Grace Street Theater at 934 W. Grace St., on May 15 at 7 p.m. Tickets $15-$25. For information, go to amarantharts.com.




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