2018 brought an interesting question to NobleMotion Dance’s husband-and-wife artistic directors Andy and Dionne Noble: How do you celebrate your company’s ten-year anniversary?
While many companies choose to revisit their classic pieces, Andy Noble was coming off a particularly productive sabbatical from Sam Houston State University, and it helped make the answer pretty clear. “We decided why do a retrospective when really what we’ve been about is moving forward,” says Andy Noble.
But even though Vortex, NobleMotion’s tenth-anniversary show, is an evening of premieres, Dionne Noble is quick to add that the work that will be presented on the Hobby Center stage is still a product of the last ten years. And some works on the program, like Andy Noble’s 9/tenths of the Law, go back even further.
Andy Noble says his first experiences with dance go back to the '80s, when he would breakdance before class in elementary school. Later, he joined a four-man breakdancing crew, and he says those early street dancing roots are still evident in a lot of his movement choices, like the aggressive athleticism on display in 9/tenths of the Law, a piece born from the idea of stepping into the middle of a circle to battle someone in a dance-off, but has since extended even further.
“It’s this idea of when there aren’t a lot of resources and there isn’t a lot of space, what happens,” says Andy Noble. “It also comments on this idea of following rules and structure and when is it okay to break outside the lines and when is it not.”
Sociopolitical undertones continue in Unsinkable, which Andy Noble describes as an effort to show the country at its best in these tumultuous times.
“My parents are immigrants, my stepdad who helped raise me is an immigrant, and I wanted to show the hope and optimism that this country represents,” says Andy Noble. “We feel that politically things are very challenging right now in this country, and there’s a lot of polarizing things that are being said and done, [but] I wanted to look at it from a place of what it must have been like for these people to come to this country, what it took for them to come here.”
The three sail boat frames of Unsinkable, designed with Jared Doster, allow for an increased physicality and a bit of aerial work that requires the dancers to work together, which Noble adds “is a statement in and of itself without even really trying very hard.”
Three large, 8-by-10 reflective walls frame the dance in Dionne Noble’s Axiom, changing orientation for each of the piece’s four different sections and creating a feeling similar to “moving from one painting to another” in a museum.
“[For me] it’s about finding ways to take this big open stage and pulling the audience’s eye to exactly where I want it to be,” says Dionne Noble.
Technology will be at the fore, directing audience attention, in both Fragment, created with frequent collaborator David Deveau, and Drone, in which Andy Noble will use the titular object to showcase the specifics of the dance. Though the choreography he says was drawn from watching their children interact with iPhones and iPads, the inspiration first came from the way dancers rely on their other senses when they dance with their eyes closed.
“I think [Drone] says a lot in terms of how aware are we of what’s going on in the world,” says Andy Noble. “How much are we really paying attention, or how much are we so busy in the side drama that we’re not really paying attention to the big issues that are in front of us?”
Andy Noble describes the last three works on the program as “straight dance dances.”
“These are dances made for dance lovers,” says Andy Noble.
Suite Nostalgia is comprised of three short, fun vignettes with a retro 1950s feel that will take audiences back to the childlike experiences of fighting over the last cookie or playing dress up in clothes pulled from an adult’s closet. Every Count Counts, a solo piece for dancer Dani Hammack, has the feeling of a dancer being in the studio trying to accomplish something. Andy it’s physically very taxing, with Andy Noble saying he’s purposely made it almost impossible to accomplish.
“I made the darn thing so hard that [Hammack] is slightly terrified of it,” laughs Andy Noble. “There’s at least one thing on every count if not multiple things.”
The final piece is the one Andy Noble says he spent the most time on, Couplet, a dance he choreographed for two long-time company dancers, Brittany Deveau and Seth McPhail.
“I stripped everything out of it to try to make the simplest, most honest, beautiful duet that I could,” says Andy Noble. Noble says he was inspired by the idea that in a couplet one line informs the next and they can’t exist without each other. “Brittany is her own line of poetry and so is Seth,” says Andy Noble. “They’re very different but they inform each other so beautifully.”
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With their first ten years on the books, the Nobles continue to look forward, asking what else they can do – maybe move into immersive work, use their background in dance film, or share their research in dance technology in a more academic setting. Regardless, they haven’t lost sight of their goal.
“A big part of our mission is to bring dance not just to the people who already love dance but to expand that audience,” says Andy Noble. “If you don’t do that the art form will recede and go away, or it will just become So You Think You Can Dance. There’s nothing wrong with that, but dance is a lot more than that.
“Dance can be beautiful and dark and mysterious and unknown.”
Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. August 24 and 25 at The Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby. For more information, call 713-315-2525 or visit noblemotiondance.com. $22 to $38.50.