Trip the Dark Fantastique with Juxtapose Arts' The Other Side

Madison Cooper and Marlon Grigsby in Melissa Ludwig and Dwain Travis's staging of Giselle.
Madison Cooper and Marlon Grigsby in Melissa Ludwig and Dwain Travis's staging of Giselle. Photo by Cara Shanks
What does a zombie house party have in common with a ballet fantastique? You can find both in the Juxtapose Arts Collective Company’s unearthly program The Other Side, an evening of dance, from classical and contemporary to tap and jazz, that flirts with the supernatural and extraordinary.

Choreographer and Juxtapose Arts Community Outreach Director Cara Shanks says the company, founded by dancers and choreographers and only in its second season, will offer a little something for everyone in The Other Side, a fact born from necessity.

“We have four different choreographers, so we have to make [an idea] broad enough to make sure we’re all on the same page, but also not completely limiting what we want to do,” says Shanks. “I think I’m actually the one who said what if we do something that’s like, everything not on earth, and it just took flight from there.”

Kicking off the otherworldly festivities is an adaptation of Adolphe Adam's 1841 romantic – and, according to Shanks, “kind of creepy” – ballet, Giselle, staged by Melissa Ludwig and Dwain Travis, which opens The Other Side and comprises the entire first act before a more traditional mixed rep-style program in the second.

Though Ludwig and Travis’s abridged rendition of Giselle utilizes preexisting choreography, the six works of Act 2 will not only be original, they will be brand new. All four of the choreographers on the bill – Travis, Avery Ballard, Heather Steele and Shanks herself – will be debuting new work, like Shanks’s zombified piece, Marcy.

Featuring the company’s youngest member, Johanna Miles, as Marcy, a young woman whose home is overrun by the undead, the scary-movie-turned-techno-dance-party incorporates a little all-ages-welcome horror, street jazz and pop, along with music from Tiny Tim, deadmau5 and Joseph Bishara, the man behind the eerie scores for Insidious and The Conjuring.

click to enlarge Zombies attack in Cara Shanks's undead dance party piece, Marcy. - PHOTO BY CARA SHANKS
Zombies attack in Cara Shanks's undead dance party piece, Marcy.
Photo by Cara Shanks
Company Manager and Director Heather Steele, meanwhile, will put her extensive musical theater background to good use in Dare to Be, the evening’s toe-tapping, hand-clapping finale inspired by and set to music from The Greatest Showman, and featuring vocals from Houston locals Carson Campbell, Travis Coombs and Chelsea McCurdy.

Though Marcy is quite playful and Dare to Be brings the excitement of a big musical production, the program is not without some heavier works that Shanks says are sure to strike a chord with audiences.

“There are a lot of different emotions through Act 2,” says Shanks, which also includes the second of her two works on the program, Stages 1 of 5, about a mother, unable to cope with the loss of her daughter, dancing a duet with her daughter’s spirit, and Travis’s For Maybe In Another World, a “very internal” nine-minute piece based on Shel Silverstein’s poem “Reflection,” published in his 1981 collection, A Light in the Attic.

“It’s about a person looking into a reflection in a puddle of water,” says Shanks. “Am I the puddle of water? Is the puddle of water me? Who is who and who’s in the real world?”

Ballard’s Solutions, featuring six tappers, and Travis’s second original work on the program, Brand New Craze, set to music from Róisín Murphy, round out the program.

Shanks says she hopes audiences will find the program thought-provoking, and that it offers them something they can carry with them when they leave, adding with a wry laugh, “A lot of these pieces are going to have a much deeper meaning than just this dance is about zombies.”

Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. March 29 and 30; 2 and 8 p.m. March 31 at The MATCH, 3400 Main. For more information, call 713-521-4533 or visit $10 to $20.
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Natalie de la Garza is a contributing writer who adores all things pop culture and longs to know everything there is to know about the Houston arts and culture scene.