Dance Month Celebrates Houston Choreographers X6

It's that time of year again: Dance Month at the Kaplan Theatre. Presented by the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center, Dance Month offers Houston audiences a taste of dance in a variety of styles and experience levels. A highlight of the festivities is Choreographers X6, an annual concert featuring the work of six local dance-makers.

To be selected for inclusion in the program is a top honor for emerging choreographers. After sending in their biographies and work samples, "the DVDs are viewed by an experienced dance committee made up of people who dance, have danced, or are dance enthusiastic," says the JCC's Dance Director Maxine Silverstein. "They look for choreographers in different disciplines. The disciplines include ballet, modern, jazz, contemporary, and hip-hop." The goal is to put together a dance bill that is both diverse in scope and appealing to different age groups. This year's line-up is an exciting mix of seasoned professionals representing a broad range of dance backgrounds.

Hope Stone's production manager Cori Miller will present her work My Rollercoaster, which takes its inspiration from the rollercoaster-like quality of life's moving trajectory. The dance will incorporate improvisation, speech patterns, comedy, and movement to portray the solitary journeys of four dancers and the companionship they find along the way. The quality of the movement is also inspired by the process of its construction. "There is a sense of urgency that I have felt throughout this process and that urgency/panic will be present in this piece to be sure," says Cori. "It reflects life and how we are always trying to keep up with others and ourselves."

Rebekah Chappell, who teaches at San Jacinto College South and who has worked with numerous choreographers since her relocation to Houston in 2011, will showcase Crowded, a dance that explores the ways people in crowds react to one another. "I am currently interested in exploring everyday movement and gestures and how those can be manipulated to tell a story through dance," says Rebekah. "My intent is to leave the audience with a greater awareness of the dance done to maneuver through a crowd."

Miller and Chappell will be joined by Randall Flynn, artistic director of Ad Deum Dance Company, and Heather Nabors, the assistant director of dance programs at Rice University. Rounding out the six are two of the Houston Press 100 Creatives of 2013: Ashley Horn and Kristina Koutsoudas.

Horn will present Mark Time, a dance about a marching band gone rogue. "It's a common thread in my choreography to work through dark or complex themes in a lighter or absurd scenario," she says. "The choreography, inspired by my high school marching band time, is athletic and high energy with dancers weaving and marching in patterns and drills."

Choreographers X6 is an inclusive concert, but historically it's had a modern and contemporary bent, which makes Koutsoudas' entry all the more interesting. Her piece will use classical Persian movement and gestures along with modern dance vocabulary. "I have long been fascinated by the depiction of Peris, or angels, from Persian mythology, in the beautifully adorned books of mystic writing and poetry," she explains. "The angels are said to be adoring, very beautiful, and very playful and mischievous." The narrative dance piece will be set to world dance music with a Slavic influence.

With so much variety, this year's concert will fulfill Silverstein's mission to showcase multiple dance disciplines in one evening, along with providing an opportunity for artists from different companies and organizations to collaborate on independent projects. Dance on!

Houston Choreographers X6 runs January 25 at 8 p.m. and 26 at 3 p.m. at the Evelyn Rubenstein Jewish Community Center's Kaplan Theatre. Motion Captured: Dance on Film pre-show begins 45 minutes before each performance.

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