The first thing you have to know is that unlike much of contemporary dance, the choreographed works by Brett Ishida have a narrative arc. The second thing to know is another first thing: she writes the story before planning the dance moves.
On August 19-21, Ishida brings her Faraway, So Close 80-minute program to the Midtown Arts and Theater Center for three performances. The former dancer (Boston Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre and Les Grands Ballets Canadiens) has established a base in Austin but plans on regular visits and performances in Houston.
Besides her own choreography, Ishida's program also contains a new work by former Batsheva dancer and USC Professor Bret Easterling and a work by Australian native Danielle Rowe, a former principal with Houston Ballet who has choreographed on San Francisco Ballet and Royal New Zealand Ballet.
Using classical ballet as a foundation, Ishida, who employs dancers from Houston Ballet and other professional companies, strives for a more theatrical approach with her work.
"First of all I start with a rigorous writing process. It's not in the studio. It's not with dance. It’s on paper. I create a story board over a play script. That framework is what I use then to start the basis of the movement.
"Once we get in the studio I have my guide, which is my play, my script, and then I start working with the dancers," she says. "So the movement, there will be this mesh. Yes there will be pretty, beautiful lines. But also very human and theatrical around it and very fluid.
"I am unique from a lot of contemporary dance companies because I am not abstract nor is my work based on a social justice theme. My work is driven by a poetic narrative. They are original scripts that I write."
Ishida says she has been a writer while growing up in a rural area of California, from very young age, she busied herself creating plays and choreography complete with lights and costumes. Also from that very young age, she decided she wanted to be a ballerina. Put into a variety of classes as a child — tap, lyrical jazz, gymnastics and ballet — she says "I disliked everything except ballet."
Ishida Dance has another planned performance in Houston in January 2022. Because they are a start-up that like many others had to cancel several 2020 dates, they don't have a set group of company members yet but hope some day to be a full time company performing five times a year.
She used the pandemic time to bring dancers together to continue creating, she says. "We didn't stop moving forward during the pandemic. When we had to cancel performances we decided to do creation periods. I brought dancers together who were supposed to be a part of the performances and they quarantined, they got COVID tested and I created work and those pieces are pieces people will see."
There are four pieces on the program; two choreographed by Ishida.One is a fragment of a full length work by Ishida that was canceled during summer of 2020. "Audiences will see a little hint of that full length work which is called dream of black, you come roaming. The excerpt is a dramatic scene; it's a scene of trauma," Ishida says.
The other piece is longing floats around you; a 25-minute piece with three couples. Ishida says that work explores observations on loneliness within intimacy. The Easterling work is True Love Will Find You in the End and Rowe's For Pixie is set to music by Nina Simone.
Dancers will not be masked. "We are being very careful with our group," Ishida says."We are extremely diligent. Our dancers are quarantining. So they can perform carefully and safely together."
Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. August 19-21 at Houston's MATCH, 3400 Main. The Thursday performance is at 25 percent capacity, the other two are full. For more information, visit matchhouston.org. $40-$110.