Ballet Quad Cities executive director Joedy Cook likes to describe her outfit as "girl power," with an all-women staff. This weekend's "Love Stories" takes it to the limit, showcasing the romantic, energetic work of five female choreographers.|
Over the years, many ballet-company directors and choreographers have been men. "As a woman, I like to support other women in the field,"BQC artistic director Courtney Lyon said recently.
Ballet Quad Cities' last original ballet, "I, Vampire," was choreographed by Deanna Carter, and she's one of the five back this time for the Valentine's Day special, the second year BQC hasdone mixed repertoire under the name "Love Stories." The other choreographers are Ms. Lyon, Erica Attwood, Simone Ferro and Lynn Andrews.
Ms. Lyon is especially grateful to have Ms. Andrews -- a Bettendorf native and BQC alumna -- display her work. The 29-year-old Bettendorf High School graduate was here for a week in early January but won't be here for the actual performances. Ms. Andrews livesin Tuscaloosa, Ala., where she choreographs and dances with Sanspointe Dance Company and creates dances at the University of Alabama.
"Lynn is so creative, so positive and so whimsical at the same time," Ms. Lyon said. Of her varied, six-section piece, she said: "I love it. What I like about her movement is, it's more modern than what we usually do. It's more like everyday movement. She sees the humor in everyday movements.
"We need to make sure we do contemporary pieces," Ms. Lyon said. "As artists, people like to be continually challenged. By bringing in different choreographers and different styles, our dancers get to grow without leaving town."
Interpreting the world
Ms. Andrews came to the ballet biz relatively late, at the whopping age of 12. She saw"The Nutcracker" at the Capitol Theatre and fell in love with its stylized, silent expression in physical movement.
Onher website lynndances.com, Ms. Andrews says that the "moving body is a document of time, experience and place, and that dance is a means of defining and interpreting the world."
"I knew I wanted to choreograph when dancing," she said last month, remembering her time studying at the Q-C ballet school through high school. "It was so interesting how they came up with ideas, making up movements, making up dances. I think I love dancing and love being a dancer, but I love making dances. It's sort of this exhilirating puzzle I have to put together.
"I really like working with the dancers -- I like their input," Ms. Andrews said, noting that she's not a controlling director. She tailors the dance to the specific talents of her dancers.
"I have danced for a lot of crazy choreographers, and I think that stereotype that you have to be crazy, mad and radical is not true," she said. "You can be thoughtful and considerate. The dancers respond better when they are so much more involved and willing to share their creative juices, wanting to collaborate with you. I need them.
"To be a good choreographer, you have to adapt to different dancers, see what they do best, try to make them even better," Ms. Andrews said.
Coming full circle
While she hoped to study dance at the University of Iowa, Ms. Andrews at first wasn't accepted. She earned atheatre/dance degree from Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. During her junior year, she studied in London at Laban Centre for Contemporary Dance, receiving a professional diploma in dance studies.
Shemoved to Washington, D.C., in 2004, where she did a lot of modern dance and taught at Catholic University of America, Dance Place, and for a variety of outreach dance programs for Washington public schools.
Ms. Andrews exacted her "revenge" in Iowa City by getting a fellowship at the University of Iowa and completing hermaster's in dance choreography in 2009.
"It was kind of amazing -- it was really fun," she said, noting that she choreographed a BQC dance for "Ballet Under the Stars" the summer before grad school.
Ms. Andrews said BQC, now at 11 professional dancers, "has changed a lot in the years since I've been gone. It's definitely grown."
"I feel like coming home, I was really nervous about this. It's kind of like reinventing yourself," she said.
She moved to Alabama because her husband is in a graduate fiction-writing program at the University of Alabama. "The first year was really hard – it was hard moving South, finding a job, hard not knowing anyone," Ms. Andrews said. "This year, it's better."
Her 17-minute BQC segment is called"Delicatessan," with a wide variety of music from the 1991 French film of the same name,including Latin, Italian, and 1920s American styles. It hassome same-sex dance pairings, which is not unusual for her or for modern dance in general.
"That's what modern dance is – breaking the boundaries of what's OK to do," Ms. Andrews said. "I never had the opportunity to work with so many men.Places I've been were predominantly women in modern dance."
One pas de deux (between a man and woman) features acello and a haunting, howling saw, Ms. Andrews said. "It seemed like a duet where the saw and cello were having a conversation, kind of like the dancers."
If you go
-- What: Ballet Quad Cities' “Love Stories”
-- When: 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday.
-- Where: Holzworth Performing Arts Center, Davenport North High School, 626 W. 53rd St.
-- Tickets: $22; senior citizens, $15; students and children, $10. (309) 786-3779; balletquadcities.com.
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